Drinking Wine V

Drinking Wine V










Drinking Wine never stops mesmerizing a reader. Whether it is the first, second, fifth or even tenth reading, there is always that captivating element in the poem that keeps the reader lingering for longer on the words of the poet. Perhaps it is the selection of the words in the poem or the divine use of symbols and imagery that leaves the reader in literary awe. A famous Chinese scholar once said that a Chinese poem compares to an artichoke. Just like with an artichoke, one must peel off the layers to get a taste of the fleshy inside. Therefore, one cannot analyze merely by restating the words of the poet. One must use their understanding of Chinese culture and tradition to be able to have an in-depth understanding of the poem.

Drinking Wine V

This essay will analyze the poem Drinking Wine V with the aim of discovering the secret behind the poet’s genius in the construction of this legendary Chinese poem. The question is where the secret of such finesse in the poem lies. It could be in the way the poem communicates something powerful in a quiet way, like a whisper in the wind or maybe not. Without plunging into a monotonous analysis of the poem, this essay seeks to dissect the poem, tear it into pieces, study it, and carefully put it back together at the end.

The poem is a reflection on what it means to be in solitude. The poet introduces the poem with a paradox in the first two lines of the poem. A paradox is a literary style used by writers where they put two opposite things together. In this poem, the persona says that his hut is in a crowded place yet he does not hear the noise that comes from the commotion and activity that is taking place around him (lines 1&2). These two lines are paradoxical in their nature since it is impossible to live in a noisy place and not hear the noise unless one is deaf in which case there is nothing in the poem to suggest so of the persona. With this knowledge, one can ask himself why the poet put the paradox there in the first place. At a closer analysis, the use of the paradox shows that the solitude goes beyond one’s environment. This is evidenced in the fourth line where the persona says that the mind is what determines solitude or lack of the same. One can live in a crowed place, like the persona, but still lead a lonely life. The opposite also reads true. One can live in a secluded place yet feel as if their world is crowded with noise and clutter.

The chrysanthemums in the poem symbolize the persona’s desire to remain in the freshness of present day. The chrysanthemum was a favorite flower of Tao Qian. He pays tribute to this flower in the poem. Flowers are by nature beautiful and scented. They also represent a peaceful and calm existence. The persona says that he picks one of these flowers from his fence at his home, as he stands staring into a distance place. Therefore, he picks the flower as a symbol of hope and proceeds to think about the future that lurked in the distance. The flower also represents the persona’s effort at resisting the effects of time and decay. Therefore, by plucking the flowers, the persona hopes that his solitude will not turn him into a decayed person. The poet’s allusion to the south mountains, as explained below, is a further proof of this assertion.

Another striking image that pops out of the poem is the south mountains that the persona refers to in the poem. The poet says that he gazes at the southern mountains. To understand this, one must utilize their knowledge of Chinese traditions and culture. The Chinese traditions associate mountains with strength, long life, and supreme power. Whereas people are born and they die, mountains live for an eternity. Therefore, they observe the world in the silent way, watching the coming and going of different seasons. Hence, their longstanding and immortal presence makes them take upon a larger role in the life of human beings. The Chinese often refer to mountains as a link between earth they live in and the heavens they are yet to see. The poet reflects the same belief when he uses the image of the south mountains. This reference indicates that the persona desired a greater life beyond himself and his present solitude.

The poet also describes the sunset and the birds that he observes returning home. This evokes a strong feeling that the persona has reached his homestretch. Just like the birds, he was ready to come back home. The theme of the return lingers in lines 7-8. The reader also realizes that the persona is psychologically prepared to settle down. In fact, he longs for his return. This is because the persona uses words such as ‘lovely’ and ‘glows’ to describe his sunset years (line 7). In addition, he uses the term ‘flight birds’ meaning birds that are constantly flying around without one single habitat. He compares himself to a bird that has always been in flight but is finally ready to come back home to roost.

A common argument between literary connoisseurs is usually centered on the couplet in the poem. The couplet is central to the meaning of the poem. From it, we draw the understanding that the persona sees himself close but also far from the future that he desires. This is because the persona uses the words ‘distant’ and ‘see’ in the same line. Physically, it is not possible to see distant things. These two words show that the persona felt a mixture of eagerness and anxiety as he awaits his future.

A point of contention in this couplet is about the use of the word ‘see’ (Chien) and ‘gaze’ (wang). The use of the word ‘see’ indicates that the persona was consciously looking into the distance, reflecting upon it with all his senses. ‘Gaze’ on the other hand indicates that the persona was looking at the mountains without actually seeing them. Gazing is a subconscious practice while seeing is deliberate. Therefore, the poem indicates that many people actually look without really seeing what they are looking at.

This poem draws one’s mind to look inside them and reflect the meaning of the words in the poem. The use of conscious images such as chrysanthemums and mountains draws the mind of the reader to natural elements. The reader is therefore attached to the poem, feeling more than the words communicate. This tactic, combined with the use of paradox and natural elements, helps in building a concrete image of the ‘I’ in the poem and also allows the reader to fit into the ‘I’ and experience the motions that the subject experiences.