In Reply to Liu Chaisang
Hills and lakes attract me for long.
Should I stay away from their song?
It’s for my kinsmen near and dear
That nowhere else I would appear.
Fine morning enters curious breast,
Cane in hand, I head for Cot West.
Along the way no passers-by
But ruined huts arrest the eye.
I have repaired my thatched cot
And plought new furrows in my plot.
When valley wind turns chill at first,
I drink spring wine to quench my thirst.
A daughter cannot help as man
But she will comfort as she can.
The court affairs seem far away
From us with each year and each day.
I plough and weave enough for me;
From other needs I am carefree.
A hundred years will come to end,
Then life and fame with death will blend.
A poem in five lines written by Tao Yuanming, a literary scholar of the Jin and Song dynasties. The poem praises his friend Liu Chengzhi’s attitude of returning to nature and cultivating and weaving for himself, and reveals the author’s interest in seclusion and lack of fame and fortune. The structure of the poem can be divided into three layers. The first four lines are the first layer, in the form of questions and answers, in which Liu Chengzhi confesses his heart and recalls his past hardships of looking forward to the mountains and wandering the officialdom; the middle ten lines are the second layer, in which Liu Chengzhi’s life in seclusion is imitated and he talks with his friend about the fields and gardens; the last six lines are the third layer, in which he discusses the matter and laments the world, expressing more of his own opinions, both as a comfort and exhortation to his friend and as a self-examination. The language of the poem is simple, as plain as words, and it speaks in an intimate and touching way, giving people a sense of sincere and easy-going.