Tao Yuanming Poems: Abstinence – 陶渊明《止酒》





















Living within the city bound,

I pass my days freely at leisure.

I take a seat on shady ground,

Or stroll within the gate with pleasure.

I only eat my herbage fine

And enjoy playing with my son.

I never abstrain from drinking wine;

Without wine, life is joyless one.

At night in bed I can’t well stay;

Nor can I rise with rising sun.

If I abstain from day to day,

No harm to my health will be done.

I knew that unhappy I’d feel,

But not what good is done to me.

Now I know abstinence brings weal,

I will abstain today with glee.

If I could abstain as I’m told

Until I reach celestial spheres,

A young look would replace the old

And youth might last a thousand years.


“Abstinence” is a five-line poem written by Tao Yuanming, a literary scholar during his leisure time in Jin and Song dynasties. The first six lines of the poem describe the simple life and the happiness of heaven and earth; the second six lines express the unstoppability of wine; the next four lines are transitional, like a persuasion and a reply; the last four lines explain that stopping wine is beneficial to the body until one becomes immortal. The poem uses humorous and witty language to explain the poet’s attachment to wine and his intention to stop drinking, and the word “stop” is used in each line, which makes the poem interesting to read and has the mood of a folk song.

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