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Han-Shan: The Cold Mountain Poems

Han-Shan: The Cold Mountain Poems
  
Photo: The Cishou Pagoda (慈寿塔) or Yong'anwanshou Pagoda (永安万寿塔), in Beijing was built in 1578 AD during the late Ming Dynasty
 

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1


The path to Han-shan's place is laughable,
A path, but no sign of cart or horse.
Converging gorges - hard to trace their twists
Jumbled cliffs - unbelievably rugged.
A thousand grasses bend with dew,
A hill of pines hums in the wind.
And now I've lost the shortcut home,
Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

2

In a tangle of cliffs, I chose a place -
Bird paths, but no trails for me.
What's beyond the yard?
White clouds clinging to vague rocks.
Now I've lived here - how many years -
Again and again, spring and winter pass.
Go tell families with silverware and cars
"What's the use of all that noise and money?"

3

In the mountains it's cold.
Always been cold, not just this year.
Jagged scarps forever snowed in
Woods in the dark ravines spitting mist.
Grass is still sprouting at the end of June,
Leaves begin to fall in early August.
And here I am, high on mountains,
Peering and peering, but I can't even see the sky.

4

I spur my horse through the wrecked town,
The wrecked town sinks my spirit.
High, low, old parapet walls
Big, small, the ageing 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.

5

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 havn't gone back home
I've even forgotten the way by which I came.

6

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.

7

I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,
Already it seems like years and years.
Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streams
And linger watching things themselves.
Men don't get this far into the mountains,
White clouds gather and billow.
Thin grass does for a mattress,
The blue sky makes a good quilt.
Happy with a stone under head
Let heaven and earth go about their changes.

8

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the word's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?

9

Rough and dark - the Cold Mountain trail,
Sharp cobbles - the icy creek bank.
Yammering, chirping - always birds
Bleak, alone, not even a lone hiker.
Whip, whip - the wind slaps my face
Whirled and tumbled - snow piles on my back.
Morning after morning I don't see the sun
Year after year, not a sign of spring.

10

I have lived at Cold Mountain
These thirty long years.
Yesterday I called on friends and family:
More than half had gone to the Yellow Springs.
Slowly consumed, like fire down a candle;
Forever flowing, like a passing river.
Now, morning, I face my lone shadow:
Suddenly my eyes are bleared with tears.

11

Spring water in the green creek is clear
Moonlight on Cold Mountain is white
Silent knowledge - the spirit is enlightened of itself
Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness.

12

In my first thirty years of life
I roamed hundreds and thousands of miles.
Walked by rivers through deep green grass
Entered cities of boiling red dust.
Tried drugs, but couldn't make Immortal;
Read books and wrote poems on history.
Today I'm back at Cold Mountain:
I'll sleep by the creek and purify my ears.

13

I can't stand these bird songs
Now I'll go rest in my straw shack.
The cherry flowers are scarlet
The willow shoots up feathery.
Morning sun drives over blue peaks
Bright clouds wash green ponds.
Who knows that I'm out of the dusty world
Climbing the southern slope of Cold Mountain?

14

Cold Mountain has many hidden wonders,
People who climb here are always getting scared.
When the moon shines, water sparkles clear
When the wind blows, grass swishes and rattles.
On the bare plum, flowers of snow
On the dead stump, leaves of mist.
At the touch of rain it all turns fresh and live
At the wrong season you can't ford the creeks.

15

There's a naked bug at Cold Mountain
With a white body and a black head.
His hand holds two book scrolls,
One the Way and one its Power.
His shack's got no pots or oven,
He goes for a long walk with his shirt and pants askew.
But he always carries the sword of wisdom:
He means to cut down senseless craving.

16

Cold Mountain is a house
Without beans or walls.
The six doors left and right are open
The hall is sky blue.
The rooms all vacant and vague
The east wall beats on the west wall
At the center nothing.

Borrowers don't bother me
In the cold I build a little fire
When I'm hungry I boil up some greens.
I've got no use for the kulak
With his big barn and pasture -
He just sets up a prison for himself.
Once in he can't get out.
Think it over -
You know it might happen to you.

17

If I hide out at Cold Mountain
Living off mountain plants and berries -
All my lifetime, why worry?
One follows his karma through.
Days and months slip by like water,
Time is like sparks knocked off flint.
Go ahead and let the world change -
I'm happy to sit among these cliffs.

18

Most T'ien-t'ai men
Don't know Han-shan
Don't know his real thought
And call it silly talk.

19

Once at Cold Mountain, troubles cease -
No more tangled, hung up mind.
I idly scribble poems on the rock cliff,
Taking whatever comes, like a drifting boat.

20

Some critic tried to put me down -
"Your poems lack the Basic Truth of Tao."
And I recall the old timers
Who were poor and didn't care.
I have to laugh at him,
He misses the point entirely,
Men like that
Ought to stick to making money.

21

I've lived at Cold Mountain - how many autumns.
Alone, I hum a song - utterly without regret.
Hungry, I eat one grain of Immortal medicine
Mind solid and sharp; leaning on a stone.

22

On top of Cold Mountain the lone round moon
Lights the whole clear cloudless sky.
Honor this priceless natural treasure
Concealed in five shadows, sunk deep in the flesh.


23

My home was at Cold Mountain from the start,
Rambling among the hills, far from trouble.

Gone, and a million things leave no trace
Loosed, and it flows through galaxies
A fountain of light, into the very mind -
Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:
Now I know the pearl of the Buddha nature
Know its use: a boundless perfect sphere.

24

When men see Han-shan
They all say he's crazy
And not much to look at -
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don't get what I say
And I don't talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
"Try and make it to Cold Mountain."


(Han-Shan; 'Cold Mountain Poems' trans. by Gary Snyder)
 

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Quote Reference & Recommended Reading:

'Cold Mountain Poems'
By Han-Shan; trans. by Gary Snyder  (Author)

Purchase Book:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk


Description:

In 1953, Gary Snyder returned to the Bay Area and, at age 23, enrolled in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, to study Asian languages and culture. He intensified his study of Chinese and Japanese, and taking up the challenge of one of his professors, Chen Shih-hsiang, he began to work on translating a largely unknown poet by the name of Han Shan, a writer with whom the professor thought Snyder might feel a special affinity. The results were magical. As Patrick Murphy noted, "These poems are something more than translations precisely because Snyder renders them as a melding of Han Shan's Chinese Ch'an Buddhist mountain spirit trickster mentality and Snyder's own mountain wilderness meditation and labor activities." The suite of 24 poems was published in the 1958 issue of The Evergreen Review, and the career of one of America's greatest poets was launched.

In 1972, Press-22 issued a beautiful edition of these poems written out by hand in italic by Michael McPherson. We are doing a new augments edition based on the old, with a new design, a preface by Lu Ch'iu-yin, and an afterword by Mr. Snyder where he discusses how he came to this work and what it meant to his development as a writer and Buddhist.

On May 11, 2012, for the Stronach Memorial Lecture at The University of California, more than fifty years after his days there as a student, Snyder offered a public lecture reflecting on Chinese poetry, Han Shan, and his continuing work as a poet and translator. This remarkable occasion was recorded and we are including a CD of it in our edition, making this the most definitive edition of Cold Mountain Poems
 ever published.
 

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