Reading The Classic of Mountains and Seas by Tao Yuan-ming – translated by Dan Veach

Early summer, grass and trees are growing
Around my house in carefree disarray
Flocks of birds delight in shelter here
Like them, I’m glad to have someplace to stay.

My humble lane is far from the highway’s ruts
But old friends’ carriages still find the way
Planting and sowing done this year,
I’ll have time to read my books today

With pleasure I pour the spring wine
Pick my garden greens and mallows
A fine rain comes from the east
And a fair wind follows

I float through the tale of the King of Chou
Drift past the pictures of mountain and sea
Each glance embracing time and space, eternity
If not happy now, when would I ever be?
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.