On My River Journey
While young, I used to be carefree,
Only indulged in lute and books.
Plain dress did not reduced my glee,
Nor did course food impair my looks.
As chance would have it, disinclined,
I drove up my official way.
Staff in hand, I made up my mind
To leave my garden for a day.
Far, far away goes my lonely boat;
Long, long my home thoughts haunt my heart.
Is it not a long journey afloat?
A thousand miles keep us apart.
Changing river scenes tire the eye;
Of hillside cot my mind still dreams.
Seeing birds and clouds, I feel shy
And envy fish swimming in streams.
To nature I’ve ever been true.
Who says my mind is matter-bound?
But the current I must go through,
Then in seclusion I’ll be found.
A poem in five lines written by Tao Yuanming, a literary scholar of the Jin and Song dynasties. The poem was written on the way to his post, but repeatedly expresses his deep nostalgia for the free life in the countryside, reflecting the poet’s ambivalence between his career and his return. The whole poem can be divided into four stanzas. The first four stanzas are the first paragraph, in which the poet describes his youthful ambition to be indifferent and self-sufficient; the second four stanzas are the second paragraph, in which he explains the reason for his departure; the next eight stanzas are the third paragraph, in which the poet describes his feelings on the journey; the last four stanzas are the fourth paragraph, in which the poet describes his future plans to establish himself. The poem is a blend of scenes and scenes, and the language is seemingly bland but actually subtle.