陶淵明不是王維那種隱士，他親自種田過活。 如果我們有機會講陶淵明另外一組「歸園田居」的詩，我們就會看到他是「晨興理荒穢，戴月荷鋤歸 」，天還沒亮就到田裏去工作，直到月亮都升上來 ，才披著滿身的露水回家。一個出身於讀書仕宦家庭的人，回到農村當了農民，這是脫離了他原來所歸屬的那個階層。所以他也是一隻失群的鳥。
Unlike Wang Wei, Tao labored in the fields to make his living. If we have an opportunity to discuss another series of Tao's poems entitled "The Return," we will see that he was "working on the desolate land in early mornings, shouldering a hoe back home in the moonlight” (working on the uncultivated field from pre-dawn till moonrise, going home covered with dew). Originally from a family of scholars and officials, Tao left his social circle and returned to a farming village to be a farmer. Therefore, he was like a bird that had left its flock.
You know, we human beings often are very weak. It takes tremendous courage for us to choose or decide differently than our peers would. A distressed bird strayed from the flock is a bird that leaves its original group and makes a different kind of choice. Although this line is a brief five words, it conveys many meanings and is excellently crafted in all aspects—from word usage to tones.
Why didn't Tao Yuanming remain an official? It was because he had seen the darkness, corruption, bribery, and twisting of the laws that went on among government officials. He did not want to be swept along in such corruption, so he quit. However, where could he go without a government job? Tao wrote in another great poem: Clothing and food are basic to human life. Without attending to either, how can one obtain peace of mind? (From the poem "Harvesting Early Rice at the West Field in the Middle of Ninth Month of the Year Gengcu.") Of course, we should pursue our ideals and figure out the purpose of life. However, clothing and food are basic to survival. If we pursue ideals to the exclusion of everything else, we will starve. What ideals will there be to discuss then?
That's why I said that it needs tremendous courage to leave one's group. However, leaving the group is still comparatively easy. What path will you take after you have left? There are many jobs in the world in which you can cheat both others and yourself. The only one in which you cannot do that is farming. You can cheat people by teaching, or by doing research experiments, but how can you cheat the land when you farm it? The land cannot be cheated. The harvest you reap corresponds to the amount of work you put in. If you try to cheat it, it won't yield any crops. Tao Yuanming chose the farming life, in which he can neither cheat others nor himself.
However, such a decision comes with a price. First, there is the hard physical work. Second, there is no guarantee of a harvest. You pay the price of going hungry in times of drought. Although Tao Yuanming loathed the bribery and corruption of government officials, he really struggled with himself before choosing his life path.
He said: A distressed bird, strayed from the flock, still flies alone at dusk. Why did he say "dusk"? Dusk indicates a time of rest. A man who is past middle age should have already found a place to settle down. But Tao was saying: I have not found a place settle down yet, just like that solitary, distressed bird still flying to and fro at dusk, finding no place to land.
Fluttering here and there without a roost describes how Tao speculated in the beginning: Should I choose the farming life? Will it be worth paying the prices of hard labor and hunger? “Fluttering here and there" indicates indecisiveness. The Chinese, "pai hui," has a rhyme to it. Since the bird cannot find a roost, her cries grow sadder each night. Each night, the bird whimpers more sadly than the night before.
What is her voice like? Her sharp cries express a pure and lofty ideal. "Sharp” means strong; it describes a high-pitched, powerful sound. A Chinese proverb says: "Words are the voice of the heart.” The words you speak reflect the type of person you are. The subjects of your speech reflect your interests. This applies not only to humans, but also to animals. Sometimes you can tell an animal's emotions from the sounds it makes.
There is a birdnest in a tree in my yard. One night, I sensed something wrong in the birds' calls. The usual peaceful calls now carried a note of fear. I quickly opened the door and saw a cat about to climb the tree. Thus, we know that animals also express emotions in their voice.
Tao Yuanming said: I heard that bird's loud, sharp call and knew what was on her mind. She was looking for a pure and lofty place to land. However, she had not found the place yet, and so flying back and forth, she feels such yearning. Usually the word "yearning" denotes a nostagic longing for something in the past.
But Tao Yuanming used the word to refer to something in the future. What does she yearn for? She yearns to find a place that is "pure and lofty." Deep in her heart, she has a strong yearning for such a place. Had she found that place yet? The next line says: Encountering a tall and solitary pine, she gathers her wings and comes to land. She finally found a roost.
To be continued