Drinking Wine

by Tao Yuanming (Tao Qian) + + +

Plucking chrysanthemums along the East fence;

Gazing in silence at the southern hills;

The birds flying home in pairs

Through the soft mountain air of dusk—

In these things there is a deep meaning,

But when we are about to express it,

We suddenly forget the words.

Quoted from The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts, New York: Vintage Books, 1951, page 113, where the poem and translation are both uncredited. For me, this poem speaks of what haiku does not have few enough words to say.

I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,

Then gaze long at the distant summer hills.

The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day:

The flying birds two by two return.

In these things there lies a deep meaning;

Yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.

Arthur Waley, translator. A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919.