Featured Post

The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Bird Returns Home (parts 1- 4)

I've just published a new issue of the Tang Spirit Newsletter.  I hope those of you not already subscribed will sign up for it by clicking here.

This new issue features my translation of the complete poem A Bird Returns Home by T'ao Yuan-ming, the first part of which I had previously published on the blog.  So now I'd like to share with you all four verses of T'ao's wonderful lyric about homecoming.  I've been thinking about this poem a lot recently as a result of my own recent return home after an extended absence.  And I've also been pondering the rhetorical question T'ao poses at the end of this poem -- why does a bird sing if it's already immersed in peaceful contentment?  I'll share with you my response to that question after you read through the poem ...

Song 1

Fluttering its wing
A bird returns home  
After flying off at dawn
Into the woods
Far away it pursued
Eight different routes
Resting near a cloudy peak
Until the breeze made
It uneasy and it flapped
Its wings again
Elsewhere seeking
Its heart’s content
Attending to the cry
Of other birds nearby
It then withdrew
To the shelter
Of a shady spot

Song 2  

Fluttering its wing
A bird returns home
How high it had soared
How far it had flown
Although not naturally
Inclined to wandering
Seeing the forest
It felt fettered
Encountering clouds
It climbed and descended
Until the cry of other birds
Made it return home
Abandoning the road
In preference for leisure and
The pursuit of more
Instinctive pleasures 
Without interruption  

Song Three

Fluttering its wing
A bird returns home
In the midst of a flock
Darting through the forest
Unsure which route
It should choose
Yet joyful upon reaching
Its native roost
Even without its
Former companions
Its voice resounds
Each note in harmony
Day and night
The air so pure
Leisure suffusing
Every breath

Song Four

Fluttering its wing
A bird returns home
With feathers ruffled
Shivering on a bare branch
Far it wandered but never
Abandoning the forest
Sheltering in the treetops
Arising at daybreak
In a freshening wind
With habitual song it
Marks the sun’s passage
Why does it sing if
It’s already immersed in
Peaceful contentment  

 *  *  *  *  * 

At the risk of taking some of the magic out of this poem, I want to hazard this answer to the closing question.  Songs of contentment are much like songs of freedom.  They come to us all of a sudden.  And they need no justification.  We are drawn into the song whether or not we have auditors simply because the expression of what we are feeling becomes part and parcel of the sensation itself. And that's why these songs, coming unbidden and unexpectedly, sound sweetest of all.  

No comments:

Post a Comment