“Blaming Sons.” Tao provided for his aging aristocratic parents in his twenties, holding minor official posts and serving as a county magistrate. Having grown weary of the governmental grind and corruption by his thirties, he removed himself and his family to a village beside the Yangtze River, where, in addition to farming, he grew chrysanthemums and drank wine—both of which became important themes of his verse. Writing in a simple and direct style unpopular at the time, Tao is now considered to be among China’s greatest poets.
White hair shrouds both my temples,
my skin and flesh have lost their fullness.
Though I have five male children,
not one of them loves brush and paper.
Ashu’s already twice times eight—
in laziness he’s never been rivaled.
Axuan’s going on fifteen
but cares nothing for letters or learning.
Yong and Duan are thirteen
and can’t tell a six from a seven!
Tongzi’s approaching age nine—
all he does is hunt for chestnuts and pears.
If this is the luck Heaven sends me,
then pour me the “thing in the cup”!
© 1995 by Columbia University Press. Used with permission of Columbia University Press.