Old masters instruct us
From the grave
Exactly how it is
We’re supposed to behave
And by the age of 40 they say
One already should have
Achieved a well-known name
But unworried by any such lacking
I’m still scheming to ride off one day
On a noble steed and chariot of fame
A thousand miles may lie ahead
But who dares not to keep trying
All the same
Part of what draws me to T'ao's poetry is his continuing ambivalence in his withdrawal from society and rejection of the prevailing Confucian orthodoxy. He turns his back on the social conventions of his day and yet embraces them in his own independent way.
I'll be publishing my translation of the complete poem from which this verse is extracted in the next issue of the Tang Spirit Newsletter, so please click here sign up for your free subscription if you're interested in reading more.