Spring at my farm, thinking of the ancients by Tao Yuan-ming – translated by Dan Veach

The ancient master left us a teaching:
“Care for the Way, care not about poverty”

I revered him, but he was beyond my reach
So I turned my mind to this life of toil

Grasping a plough handle, glad for the season’s work
Smiling and laughing, I urge on the farmers

The level fields welcoming winds from afar
The lovely sprouts holding new life in their hearts

Although the harvest has not yet come
These everyday things still give us great pleasure

Ploughing and planting have their times of rest
No traveler stops to ask about the way

At sunset we’re all headed home together
A jug of thick wine will cheer up the neighbors

Singing long, I close my brushwood gate
Somehow, I’m now one of the farmers
Tao Yuan-ming was China’s first great lyric poet, and a beloved grandfather figure for the great Tang and Sung poets: Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, and Su Tung-po. Though less well known than his “grandchildren,” Tao may well be China’s greatest and most personally engaging poet.

Dan Veach is the founder of Atlanta Review and author of Elephant Water. His translations from Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon have won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Independent Publisher Book Award. Editor of Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq (Michigan State University Press, 2008), Dan has performed his poetry worldwide, including Oxford University, People’s University in Beijing, the American University in Cairo, and the Adelaide Festival in Australia.