This poem is by Saigyo, the Japanese medieval poet extraordinaire:
shibashi tate koso
Next to a quietly flowing stream
In the willow’s shade.
I said, ‘Just a while’
Stopping, standing there
These short poems by Wang Wei, the Buddha Poet of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. They contain veiled references to Buddhist ideas, such as sunyata – the essential ‘emptiness’, or non-substantiality when not viewed through the prism of human conceptualization of reality. They are essentially symbolic meditations on the nature of reality. I have tried to keep parallelism between couplets when I think it may be important.
In the Mountain – Wang Wei
In Bramble Stream, white stones jut out
Cold weather; red leaves are sparse
The Mountain road, originally, has Nothing of Rain
The Sky’s greenery wets My Robe
Alone I sit, amidst a dark bamboo grove.
I strum the lute and make another long whistle
This Deep Forest, which no man can Know
The Bright Moon comes, and together we Shine.
Empty mountain, No Sight Of Man
But one can hear Men’s Chattering Sounds
Returning Shadows enter the deep forest
Returning again to Shine upon the green moss.
My interpretation: Even in a secluded place, the ‘men’s voices’ return, you cannot run from the cares of the world. Like the moss, upon which the sun returns to shine every day and the shadows obscure, a person’s mind lies in the coordinates of reality to where it has been conditioned and must suffer the cares and voices which it has been conditioned to hear
Taiyi Peak approaches the capital
Mountains linking till the edge of the sea
The white clouds, glancing back - meeting
A green haze, entering and looking – nothing
The divided lands round Middle peak, changing
Shade and shine on all the valleys, changing
Wishing for a place where one might stay
Across the river, call for the woodsman.
Villa at the Foot of Mount Chungnan – Wang Wei
Middle years: one with the Way
Late years: a home in the Southern mountainside
I go off often on solitary walks.
These scenes, known only to me.
Walking to the source of the stream,
Sitting, watching the clouds rise up
Sometimes a meeting with an old woodsman
We talk, laugh not knowing when to return.