For a long time I wanted to live in South Village
Not because an oracle advised me
I heard that plain and simple hearts lived there
With them I would gladly spend mornings and evenings
I thought about this for a number of years
At last the day has come. A humble cottage
And a roof of thatch--who needs more room
As long as it covers a bed and a mat?
Often the neighbors will drop by, day or night
We’ll chat at leisure about the ancient times
Rare writings we’ll admire with delight
And clear up any passages in doubt
Begging for Food
Hunger came, and I had to go
I walked until I reached a town
Knocked on a door and said some stumbling words
The master guessed what I was after
He gave me that and so much more
We chatted on from day’s end into night
Draining our cups as the wine jug passed around
Joyful in our new-found friendship
We sang the old songs, then composed some new ones
You are as kind as Han’s old washerwoman
I am embarrassed that I lack his talents
How can I thank you for these precious gifts?
I must repay you from beyond the grave
Note: When Tao says "You are as kind as Han's washerwoman," he is referring to the general who founded the Han dynasty, who was saved from starvation as a youth by an old washerwoman, whom he richly rewarded once he became Emperor.
Dan Veach is the founder and editor emeritus of Atlanta Review. For over two decades Atlanta Review has featured poetry from around the world, including wartime Iraq, pro-democracy Iran, and mainland Communist China. Dan’s own translations from Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon have won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and an Independent Publisher Book Award. He is the editor and co-translator of Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq (Michigan State University Press, 2008). His poems and Chinese ink paintings are collected in Elephant Water, winner of the Georgia Author of the Year Award. Dan has performed his work worldwide, including Oxford University, People’s University in Beijing, the American University in Cairo, the Atheneum in Madrid, and the Adelaide Festival in Australia.