Four poems of Kuan Hsiu (832-912)
Translated by J. P. Seaton
Written in the Cold, Viewing Nine Peaks
Nine tall green stalks
the tops snow white
the lotus, opened.
If Wang Wei didn't paint it
it's not been painted yet.
Layer upon layer
to each its own cascade.
One, and all, together
a place I would live.
When the rain ceases they thrust through again.
Stern frost won't wither them.
In the world of men there's still so much left undone,
yet in this place I linger,
A Monk, Begging Food
The monk who lifts the bowl's
pure, and poor, and plain. It's
cold, and he's late, leaving the
temple on the mountain. By the red
doors of the rich that face the high road,
he stands and waits as the wind drifts the snow.
As the moon, so clear and constant.
Numb, and always in service, not knowing
the world's ways: Don't mock, you passers-by:
the Buddha of old was just so.
Late Autumn sent to a gentleman at Wu-ch'ang
Heard you're at War-bright Town, living by the River:
Cypress withers, locust rots, in these wartime winds.
I know you're addicted to poetry still: the drug you crave
is hard to come by in a place like that.
Take this: frost sparkle and reed flowers, in bright moonlight.
Passing the Graves of My Sisters and Brothers
Tears that never fell 'til now, this day fall.
Before real mountains these grave mounds loom.
My elders, no more than I, had strength to stop this . . .
The home so poor they cast you off: a long time ago.
A goose in the emptiness, where the frost has snapped the weeds.
Marsh orchids, a jungle, wither on your graves.
"The pain of family love": a karma I haven't cast off yet.
I can't bear it: turn away, but walk so slow, so slowly.