Thursday, December 6, 2012

ryokan and the art of poetry

Chinese poems

Walking beside a clear running river, I come to a farmhouse.
The evening chill has given way to the warmth of the
morning sun.
Sparrows gather in a bamboo grove, voices fluttering
here and there.
I meet the old farmer returning to his home;
He greets me like a long-lost friend.
At his cottage, the farmer's wife heats sakè
While we eat freshly picked vegetables and chat.
Together, gloriously drunk, we no longer know
The meaning of unhappiness.

Yesterday I went to town begging food from east to west.
My shoulders are getting thinner and I cannot recall the
last time I had a heavy rice sack.
The thick frost is a continual reminder of my thin robe.
My old friends, where have they gone?
Even new faces are few.
As I walk toward the deserted summer pavilion,
Nothing but the wind of late autumn blowing through
the pines and oaks.

Autum night -- unable to sleep, I leave my tiny cottage.
Fall insects cry under the rocks, and
The cold branches are sparsely covered.
Far away, from deep in the valley, the sound of water.
The moon rises slowly over the highest peak;
I stand there quietly for a long time and
My robe becomes moist with dew.

Returning to my hermitage after filling my rice bowl,
Now only the gentle glow of twilight.
Surrounded by mountain peaks and thinly scattered leaves;
In the forest a winter crow flies.

My life may appear melancholy,
But traveling through this world
I have entrusted myself to Heaven.
In my sack, three sho of rice;
By the hearth, a bundle of firewood.
If someone asks what is the mark of enlightenment
or illusion,

I cannot say -- wealth and honor are nothing but dust.
As the evening rain falls I sit in my hermitage
And stretch out both feet in answer.

The Long Winter Night: 3 poems 

The long winter night! The long winter night seems endless;
When will it be day?
No flame in the lamp nor charcoal in the fireplace;
Lying in bed, listening to the sound of freezing rain.

To an old man, dreams come easy;
I let my thoughts drift.
The room is empty and both the sakè and the oil are used up --
The long winter night.
When I was a boy studying in an empty hall,
Over and over I had to fill the lamp with oil.
Even now, that task is disagreeable --
The long winter night.

Green mountains front and back,
White clouds east and west.
Even if I met a fellow traveler,
No news could I give him.

Deep in the mountains at night, alone in my hermitage,
I listen to the plaintive sound of rain and snow.
A monkey cries on top of a mountain;
The sound of the valley river has faded away.
A light flickers in front of the window;
On the desk, the water in the inkstone has dried.
Unable to sleep all night,
I prepare ink and brush, and write this poem.

Winter -- in the eleventh month
Snow falls thick and fast.
A thousand mountains, one color.
Men of the world passing this way are few.
Dense grass conceals the door.
All night in silence, a few woodchips burn slowly
As I read the poems of the ancients.

Loneliness: spring has already passed.
Silence: I close the gate.
From heaven, darkness; the wisteria arbor is no longer
visible.  The stairway is overgrown with herbs
And the rice bag hangs from the fence.
Deep stillness, long isolated from the world.
All night the hototogisu cries.