饮酒 Drinking Wine
陶渊明 (Author: Tao Yuanming, 4th century)
结庐在人境， Build hut at man place
而无车马喧。 But no carriage horse noise
问君何能尔？ Ask you possible can like this
心远地自偏。 heart far place naturally remote
采菊东篱下， pick chrysanthemum east fence under
悠然见南山。 far leisurely see south mountain
山气日夕佳， mountain air sun set lovely
飞鸟相与还。 fly bird each other and return
此中有真意， this inside have true meaning
欲辨已忘言。 want explain already lost words
I built my hut in a world of men,
But there’s no sound of carriages and horses.
You ask me how this is possible.
When the heart is far away, surroundings become remote.
I pick chrysanthemums by the east fence,
And idly gaze at the southern mountain.
The mountain air is so beautiful at sunset,
As the birds fly home together.
There’s true meaning in this.
I want to explain, but I’ve already forgotten the words.
Tao Yuanming is sometimes considered the father of Fields and Gardens poetry, a literature that celebrates contemplative life outside the city walls. Certainly, this poem exemplifies the Field and Garden style. It is set not in the wilderness, but in “the world of men,” yet its subject is natural beauty and contemplation. Much Fields and Gardens poetry is Taoist, and at least one translator has gone so far as to translate the penultimate line as: “Within this natural scene lies the artistic mood necessary for creation, and the real meaning of the Dao.” https://www.learnancientchinesepoetry.org/2016/09/11/tao-yuanming-drinking-wine-no-5/
We translate poetry much more literally than this, but we agree that this line of translation sums up much of the spirit of this poem and of Field and Garden poetry generally. The meaning reflected in the last couplet is very similar to the last couplet of “Painted Zither,” which we have also translated. Both couplets point to the ineffable nature of life.