murphy’s tao qian

drinking wine

preface: me? i’m retired and living has few pleasures. right now nights have been lengthening. so when i have good wine there is no night free from drinking. i sit alone watching shadows finish to darkness, and suddenly find i am drunk. and finding myself drunk i manage to jot down a few verses. this is all self amusement. paper is here. ink is here. so the verses pile up. they have no order of composition and an old friend has copied them out. they are good for a lighthearted laugh, that’s all. (20 poems)

tao qian 01 things get worse, things get better, they always change
tao qian 02 a man of virtue is said to reap a just reward
tao qian 03 the dao has been lost for a thousand years
tao qian 04 the lonely bird having lost its flock
tao qian 05 build your house in the middle of people
tao qian 06 a thousand reasons can be given for an action
tao qian 07 chrysanthemums have brought their intense colors
tao qian 08 there is a magnificent pine in my eastern garden
tao qian 09 as dawn filled the world with light a knock on my door
tao qian 10 once when i was young i made a great trip
tao qian 11 master yen hui was known by all to be good
tao qian 12 chang gong was once ensconced in office
tao qian 13 i always had two permanent guests in my home
tao qian 14 my friends seem to think they know my tastes
tao qian 15 being a poor man i can’t afford any servants
tao qian 16 when young i eschewed the pursuit of wealth
tao qian 17 an orchid grows in the shade of my courtyard
tao qian 18 yong xion had a natural taste for wine
tao qian 19 in the past i was most often continuously hungry
tao qian 20 fu xi and shen nong lived far back in past times
tao qian 21 i remember when i was young and fit
tao qian 22 louring clouds
tao qian 23 out of tune with the crowd since i was young
tao qian 24 it continues to rain, i drink alone
tao qian 25 wild grass covers miles upon miles






the first

things get worse, things get better, they always change
there is that, there is this, then there is both together
remember master shao working in his melon field
how changed from the marquis he was in dong ling times

things get cold, things get warm, back and forth, back and forth
man’s lot has always been like this
a wise man understands this way of the world
and will never come to doubt it

here i am with a filled cup of wine
it is evening, i face it with joy, hands full

murphy sipping beer below the dam on the yang zi






the second

a man of virtue is said to reap a just reward
but two loyal brothers perished on the western hill
so if good or evil both can end without fruit
why should we pay attention to moral lessons

when at 90 rong still had a rope for a girdle
one can only imagine his life of hunger and cold at 25
one is reminded of the principle of firmness in adversity
how else could his name resound for a thousand years

murphy sitting at the bar arguing philosophy over a few guinesses






the third

the dao has been lost for a thousand years
and now men are too careful of their status
disdaining wine in fear of societal blame
straight and narrow their supposed road to fame

placing all value on the approval of others
ignoring inevitable end of death awaiting
for how long is the singular life one is given
isn’t it much like the flash of a lightning strike

why spend one’s hundred years upright and boring
wherefore the joy in such a sober demeanor

murphy sipping suds while his money lasts






the fourth

the lonely bird having lost its flock
flits aimless, uneasy, as day approaches night
back and forth, back and forth, no place to rest
day becomes night and his cries more sad

his cry grows shrillest just before dawn
far from home with no other for support
then, far away, he spots a solitary pine
folds his wings and prepares, at last, to roost

a harshness of wind has stripped the other trees
but the needles of the pine extend their shade
a shelter for rest, a refuge from a ceaseless search
a thousand years he could discover no better

murphy a singular hawk in his snug aerie






the fifth

build your house in the middle of people
but don’t listen to the sound of traffic
just try to imagine how to do this
let your heart go to somewhere out of the way

pick chrysanthemums in a small garden
and look up over everything else to mountains
you can see sun’s glorious leaving
you can see birds fly home to roost

then you can know that to hear anything
you want to hear, forget the words

murphy sitting at the kitchen table






the sixth

a thousand reasons can be given for an action
to do or not, which path right, which path wrong
yet once the result is known, the truth below the surface
all chime in with their thoughts of praise or blame

this is especially true since the three dynasties
but a wise scholar never follows the herd
rather he is contemptuous of fad following fops
he would never have backed either huang or qi

murphy cautious and careful in his research






the seventh

chrysanthemums have brought their intense colors
i pick a few petals glistening with the dew
and float them in the thought relaxing cup
to distance self from the worries of the world

i drink alone with a largish jar of wine
the cup is empty and the jar tilts as if by itself
sun disappears and nature eases to its rest
birds flying home singing their happiness

i sit outside on the eastern veranda
at peace with the life i have chosen

murphy snug in his den, sipping his irish






the eighth

there is a magnificent pine in my eastern garden
though most of the year its beauty is obscured
but come the black frost and the leaves disappear
then tall green needled majesty is fully revealed

thick leafy forest foliage impresses few
but a singular great tree makes a lasting impression
i lift the jar of wine and hang it on a cold branch
staring for a time into the clear air distance

when one can perceive life as a dream illusion
why be satisfied with the dust of the world

murphy arguing for the primacy of shakespeare






the ninth

as dawn filled the world with light a knock on my door
climbing into my gown wrongside out i opened to see
and spoke loud to the caller, who is it there
a farmer from down the road with kindly feelings

he had carried the wine for a long distance
his first question, why was i at odds with my life
you sir, are dressed in rags under an old thatch roof
that is hardly the setting for a gentleman’s life

everyone knows the way one should live and prosper
he said he hoped i would join in the muddy game
i answered with thanks for his well meant cautions
but it is my nature which always keeps me out of tune

though i know i could pull the reins with confidence
to go against my nature would be a sad mistake
so let’s take our joy and share the drink you have brought
my carriage will go its way and can never turn back

murphy keeping out of trouble by hiding his star






the tenth

once when i was young i made a great trip
all the way to the shore of the eastern sea
the way i went was a long and hard way
chaos and war beset me as i journeyed along

and who was it who set me on my course
my own self, i was driven by an innate hunger
all my efforts were to fill my empty belly
for only a little food had been my usual fare

by the time i reached the sea i saw the flaw in my plan
reversed my carriage and made my way back home

murphy counting the different hungers he is prey to






the eleventh

master yen hui was known by all to be good
old man rong qi qi was considered a sage
yen was often empty and lived only a short time
rong was always hungry throughout his long life

they both left behind honored names
but the cost was a life of want and withering
what indeed can one come to know after death
to know one’s heart in this life should be one’s goal

we care for the bodies we only borrow for a while
but as the end of this life draws near value vanishes
we are buried with the flesh we are born to
and wisdom lies beyond common thought

murphy unsteady on his tired feet






the twelfth

chang gong was once ensconced in office
but while still young he suddenly lost his pace
he returned home, shut his gate, and never returned
he renounced the world for all his remaining days

when yang zhong returned home to his estate
his high renown had just begun to bloom
but having stepped down his suasion disappeared
so, having decided one’s course, why hesitate

get out of the messy world, what more should i say
this world has deceived and depressed me long enough
let’s stop the arguments for service before they start
i prefer to walk my own peculiar and solitary path

murphy retiring late, but soon enough






the thirteenth

i always had two permanent guests in my home
yet they were as different as they could be
one always drank to oblivion, alone, by himself
the other was tee-totally sober all year long

the drunk laughed at the sober and was laughed at back
they never talked so either could understand the other
narrow minded both, what a lost opportunity
but if i were to choose, drunkenness would be better

i send a message to my drunken guest
when the sun sets, bring wine, and a candle

murphy oblivious to advice, still pouring it down






the fourteenth

my friends seem to think they know my tastes
and they always bring a jug of wine when they visit
we retire under a pine tree and sit on the ground
several cups later we are drunk together again

we gabble like children, delighting in words
and replenish the cups for those who are empty
when i have reached the place where my self disappears
who could ever talk to me of values and other such things

i leave the assembly, my mind drifts away
the flavors in the wine profound on my tongue

murphy deciphering his drunken jottings the day after






the fifteenth

being a poor man i can’t afford any servants
thick growth crowds my garden and courtyard
though this brings birds to flit here and there
amongst their twitter i sit silent and alone

how limitless is the cosmos before me
how few men live to their hundredth year
months, then years, disturb the mind in their passing
the hair at my temples grown prematurely white

yet i have resigned myself to the whim of fate
my early ideals seen to be egregiously in error

murphy summing up a few stray ideas






the sixteenth

when young i eschewed the pursuit of wealth
my entire being wrapped up in the study of the classics
and so my days passed by and i am now nearly forty
with the nothing i’ve gained through all these years

what i now espouse is firmness in adversity
cold and hunger has afflicted me enough
a cold dismal wind whistles through my shack
a waste of weeds spreads before my door

i wear a simple felt coat to warm my nights
now cocks have started to refuse to crow of a morning
and as meng gong is no longer here to share his wine
my feelings remain hidden, unshared with others

murphy wondering how being rich would really feel






the seventeenth

an orchid grows in the shade of my courtyard
waiting for a fresh breeze to share its perfume
and when the wind comes freeing its scent
one immediately knows which plants are the weeds

as my life has progressed i lost the high road
but now, sticking to the dao, i might refind my way
finally awake i thought of turning to try again
but the bow is laid away after the birds are killed

murphy, eyes going bad, feeling his way ahead






the eighteenth

yong xion had a natural taste for wine
but he was poor so he often went without
he relied on his friends to slake his thirst
they brought him wine to hear his words

he would drink til there was nothing left
and while in his cups answered questions
the only times he was reluctant to proffer opinion
were those that pertained to attacking neighbor states

a man of virtue speaks from the well of his heart
and full well knows when to speak, when to be silent

murphy hardly ever without a strong opinion






the nineteenth

in the past i was most often continuously hungry
so i left my farm and entered into officialdom
for i had failed in my duty to provide for my family
and cold and hunger held us in their cruel grip

after a time i was at the age to make my mark
but i was ashamed at having abandoned my lost ideals
so i determined to fulfill my lonely destiny
sloughed the robes of office and returned to the farm

slowly and steadily the stars have circled the heavens
high above they now start another cycle
the paths in this world are broad and far reaching
and to choose in his time brought yang zhu to weeping

i myself have no money to squander on gifts
and my offer of cheap wine is the best i can do

murphy always ready to buy a round of drinks






the twentieth

fu xi and shen nong lived far back in past times
and few today preserve their truth as did these two
there was an old man in lu who worked assiduously
he mended and patched what he found, to make it more pure

although he did not attract the phoenix to nest
rituals and music were for a time refreshed, renewed
but by the time of the xhu and the si
his harmonic tones were unappreciated

and the unbalance persisted into the time of qin
what was the problem with the odes and the history
that they should be reduced perforce to mere ashes
all the ancestors were careful and devoted

how was it that their age was to fall into decay
and the six classics to fail to find friends
all day i see carriages dash to and fro
but none stop to ask for the way to the ford

if i forget to drink to my heart’s content
i betray the covering atop this old head
yet even today i admit my false sayings
and request you allow me to mutter in my cups

murphy resolute in his most iniquitous ways






i remember when i was young and fit
i was happy whatever came my way
my ambitions then were limitless
i thought i could spread my wings and soar

but months and years passed me by
and wore away this glad certitude
now i feel no joy within life’s pleasures
and my life is filled with worry

the vigor of my youth is well into its ebb
and each new morning brings its fresh ache
the boat on this river is now rushing ahead
pulling me along with no oar to resist

how much further is my wandering way
til i come to where i stop and stay
the ancients begrudged the loss of a speck of time
and when i think of them i begin to fear for myself

murphy waiting for the border guards to check him through






“louring clouds” is a poem on thinking of a friend. my wine cup is full of new wine and the trees in the garden are filled with blossoms. i have no way to get what i yearn for and sorrow creeps into my heart.

louring clouds

thick all around, louring thickness of cloud
a fine spitting rain befits the season
in all directions the same dank gloom
the road beyond, mud, impassable
take a quiet ease at the east window
fresh spring wine fills my cup—i drink alone
my great good friend too far away to come
i scratch my head, settle in to linger on

the louring clouds are thick all around
the season greets with its fine spitting rain
a steadiness of gloom stretches in all directions
the nearby roads are now turned into rivers
fresh spring wine, i have plenty of fresh spring wine
i sit in idle quietude beside my eastern window
wishing for someone to drink with and be here with me
but no carriage or boat is of any use at all

the trees loom out in the eastern garden
their branches thickened now to bloom
each single blossom cries out for my attention
each one i note evokes fresh a feeling response
the people have a favorite saying
the sun and moon both march toward change
yet here i sit in vain waiting for a boon companion
to come sit with me and share, to rehash our lives

birds are on the move, flitting through the trees
some rest for a while here in my courtyard
they fold their wings and idly take their ease
they fill the air with the sweetness of their song
not that there is no one else that i think of
but it is you i think of quite the most
my yearning grows stronger the more i sit here deprived
why should my desire bring such sorrow to my heart

murphy on a cruise ship befogged in the harbor






out of tune with the crowd since i was young
my instinct was all for the love of mountains
by luck’s chance i fell into the world’s dusty net
that one fall cost me the last thirty years

the caged bird sings the loss of the forest
the fish in the pool long for remembered deeps
now i seek fresh land at the wilderness edge
to return to simple ways of my old garden farm

there are ten acres or so surrounding this house
my thatched hut neighbors number ten or so
elms and willows shade my back eaves
peaches and plums lie outside my front hall

far in the distance the smoke of a village
thin and wispy it can hardly be seen
dogs bark just down the old rutted lane
the rooster crows from the top of a mulberry tree

i keep my home spotless, swept clean of dust
my rooms empty for the hush of solitude
kept too long in the crowded cage of life
i can now relax and return to my nature

murphy squared away and ready for anything






it continues to rain, i drink alone

life will run its fated course, then finish
since olden times it’s been like that
once the world knew such as song and qiao
now where have they gotten to

an old man sent me some wine
he said drink this and become an immortal
i poured it, sipped, a hundred notions leapt forth
another cup and suddenly i forgot the heavens above
heaven, how far away from here does it start

i trust in the dao without anticipating
and believe in the wonder wings of the cloud crane
to reach to the eighth sphere in a moment, and then return

since i accepted the embrace of solitude
i have spent full forty years of effort
the body has been changing all along
the heart steadfast, that’s all i need say

murphy facing a steady headwind






wild grass covers miles upon miles
the wind in the poplars soughing their breath
a harsh frost comes in the ninth month’s middle
i say goodbye to visit the outlands

i look four directions and see no man
only old slabs bemarking the tombs
my horse neighs, his head to the sky
the wind itself brings a bleak sadness

the dark chambers around all once closed
never again see the fingers of dawn
never again see the fingers of dawn
no man on earth can change this fact

all the mourners who came gone their own way
though relatives may come to visit and grieve
all the others here have already sung

where goes the song after one’s death
beneath the earth on a shoulder of mountain

murphy wishing to be burned and not buried





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