August 10, 2007

"Men ask the way to Cold Mountain ..."

From Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan. Translated by Gary Snyder.

I spur my horse through the wrecked town,
The wrecked town sinks my spirit.
High, low, old parapet walls
Big, small, the aging tombs.
I waggle my shadow, all alone;
Not even the crack of a shrinking coffin is heard.
I pity all those ordinary bones,
In the books of the Immortals they are nameless.

I wanted a good place to settle:
Cold Mountain would be safe.
Light wind in a hidden pine -
Listen close - the sound gets better.
Under it a gray haired man
Mumbles along reading Huang and Lao.
For ten years I haven't gone back home
I've even forgotten the way by which I came.

Men ask the way to Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain: there's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You'd get it and be right here...

"Han-shan" means "Cold Mountain," and part of the delight of these 8th-Century poems is that Cold Mountain is the narrator, the place, and the state of enlightenment that he is trying to tease us into "getting."

Posted by John Weidner at August 10, 2007 8:19 AM
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