The Western Mountain Village
By Lu You
Say not the farmers have but last year’s muddy wine!
After harvest you’re offered pork and chicken fine.
Beyond the hills and rills the path seems lost to sight;
A village’s seen ‘mid shady willows and flowers bright.
Flute songs and drumbeats announce vernal sacrifice;
Simple dress preserves ancient way of living nice.
If I’m allowed to come at leisure by moonlight,
Cane in hand, I’d come anytime to knock at night.
This poem was composed in the early spring of the 3rd year of the Qiandao period of Emperor Xiaozong in the Song Dynasty (A.D.1167). At that time the poet was back to his home village and stayed idle after he had been dismissed from office for the first time. Returning to the honest and warmhearted ordinary people and away from official circles full of overt contention and covert struggle, the poet sighed with deep feelings over the sharp contrast between dishonesty and the peasants’ plain life, good nature, hospitality and sincerity. However, the reason why this poem is so well-known is mainly that it contains the couplet “Beyond the hills and rills the path seems lost to sight; A village’s seen ‘mid shady willows and flowers bright.” which originally describes the beautiful scenery of the southern villages by the hills and rivers with trees and flowers clustered everywhere and village paths winding and cottages among the trees half covered-up and half seen. Later generations have discovered a profound philosophy from the lines and often use them to encourage people to o make unremitting efforts for new success in times of difficulty.