Dwellers in the Peach Stream Valley

BY CHANG-HSÜEN

T'sing Dynasty

While the master was wrapped in slumber the fishing-boat slipped its stake,
And drifted, and swirled, and drifted far over the broadening lake,
Till islets, and mainland, and forests came into view once more,
While the fisherman gazed and pondered the lay of the new-found shore.
But erelong he espied an opening, shown by the broken wave,
And in venturous mood he steered his boat into a narrow cave,
Where an azure mist obscured the scenes through channels long and low,
As the current bore him gently into a world of long ago.
In this old, flower-bestrewèd land, at first no path the eye could tell,
For on the streams and on the banks the red rain of peach flowers fell;
Yet from the purple-shadowed mountains which screened this favoured land
Flowed forth the Peach-Fount river along its bed of silver sand;
But, winding with the stream, the thickset peach-tree groves with red-veined flowers
Hid the cooling waters flowing in and out the shady bowers.
And here and there along the banks, set in nooks of calm repose,
Were cottage homes of rustic work from which the wreathed blue smoke arose;
Showing that in this happy valley beyond the world's dull roar,
Life went on as sweet and simple as in the golden days of yore,
And the people of this valley in their ancient garments clad
Were courteous in their manners and rejoiced in all they had;
While the dogs and fowls beside them harmonized with all at hand,
And the mulberry-tree and flax-plant hid the former barren land.
When the dwellers in this favoured region saw the stranger guest,
They set before him food and wine and kindly bade him rest;
And when true courtesy allowed they asked of the things and men
In the world of sin and sorrow far beyond their quiet life's ken.
And when the time to leave them came, and the stranger could not stay,
They led him through the cavern's channels and saw him sail away.
In after life the fisherman often tried again, but failed
To find the opening to the Valley through which he once had sailed;
But when the sand of life through the glass its course had nearly run,
He thought he saw the way lay to it beyond the westering sun.