I forgot to be unflagging, content to have my daily drink.

From The Poetry of T’ao Ch’ien (Hightower translation – though there’s also a more recent and easily available one by David Hinton):


Trees in Bloom
In ‘Trees in Bloom’ I am mindful of approaching old age. Days and months prod one another along, and already now it is summertime. When I wore my hair as a child, I was instructed in the doctrines of Confucius. Today, white haired, I have accomplished nothing.

I.
Brightly shine the blooming trees,
They have taken root right here.
their blossoms radiant this morning
By night already they have died.
Human life is like a visit;
There comes a time of decrepitude.
In silence, very much I brood,
By this my inmost heart is grieved.

II.
Brightly shine the blooming trees
Right here where they have taken root.
This morning blossoms in profusion
No longer there, alas, this evening.
Steadfast or pliant depends on the man,
For fortune or trouble there is no gate.
On what rely, if not the Way?
For what to strive, if not the good?

III.
Ah, like a little child am I
So crude in manners, lacking polish.
The passing years have flowed away,
And nothing added to my stock.
I forgot to be unflagging,
Content to have my daily drink.
What I carry here inside
Is worry and an inner guilt.

IV.
The Former Teacher left the message,
One that I may not forget:
‘If he’s still unknown at forty
That’s no one you need respect.’
Grease my carriage wheel for me
Whip up my famous racing horses —
A thousand miles is far to go,
But how dare I not make the trip?

By Confucius’ tally I unfortunately have still over a handful of years left before I’m freed from needing to worry about anyone respecting me.

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