The idea of escaping the bustle of the city for a quieter life is a common one in literature all over the world. Tao Qian and Xie Lingyun both wrote about leaving politics and the city, but neither was doing so to become a solitary loner. This can be seen when comparing Tao Qian’s poem Returning to Dwell in Gardens and Fields I and Xie Lingyun’s poem Visiting the Southern Pavilion.
Both of the poets were unhappy in city and political life. Tao Qian describes his life in the city as falling “in the snares of dust” (Owen, 316), and shows the country as a paradise in comparison, where “No dust pollutes my doors or yard” (Owen, 316). Xie Lingyun has also had a life of difficulty in the city, “long unwell and deluged by sufferings” (Owen, 322).
Both men escape from their unhappy lives by returning to nature, but in slightly different ways. Tao Qian throws away his political career and returns to the country side where he grew up as a boy. He becomes a “plain” (Owen, 316) farmer, and takes pleasure in his simple lifestyle. In contrast, Xie Lingyun visits the Southern Pavilion in the mountains. It is a remote location, where he can sit and admire the view. It is worth noting that based on the title, he does not live at the Southern Pavilion. We are unsure if he lives in the mountains, or if he is still based in the city and is just on a vacation.
Both men are comforted in nature. Besides enjoying his work in the fields, Tao Qian shows the sense of being protected by nature. In the sixth couplet, he describes “Elms and willows” (Owen, 316) that shade the rear of his house, providing relief on a hot summer day; on another side “peach and plum” (Owen, 316) provide sweet nourishment. Similarly Xie Lingyun describes woods “infused with a lingering cool” (Owen, 322) and the beauty growing around him, like when “Marsh orchids gradually blanket the trails” (Owen, 322). I personally get the image of him relaxing by the lodge window and realizing nature’s beauty and its...
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