His style is vulgar and his grammar is suspect

Two poems by Ch’en Ts’ao-An from Jerome Seaton’s The Wine of Endless Life: Taoist Drinking Songs.   Seaton’s biographical note is less than enthusiastic – “Little is known of this man. His style is vulgar and his grammar is suspect. Perhaps non-Chinese, at least poorly educated” and I can find nothing else except a mention in the Columbia History of Chinese Literature’s glossary of names.  I enjoyed him at least.

I’ve clambered high
to this spring in the grove
salt and onions
I’m poor enough
I’ve seen beyond man’s prisons
seen beyond the tigers in my mind
what’s wealth, what’s rank?
silence has a music of its own
heaven and earth make an ample goblet
all directions in me


A worldly man I sit
with a big glass tumbler full
pluck the lotus, peruse the dance, break into song
sing as I drink, see demons when I’m done
all of this
so many motes of dust and chaff
men’s right and wrongs? I make the best of them
loftiness is possible
lowliness, that too

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