Monday, July 09, 2018


I and the World Are Done With Each Other

Meng Hao-jan (689-740), "Seeking the Monk Chan on Fragrance Mountain," tr. Stephen Owen, The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T'ang (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), pp. 77-78:
At dawn I wandered to visit a famous mountain.
The mountain was far, set in blue mists of sky,
Its swelling vapors covered a hundred miles,
And I just arrived as the sun went down.
I heard a bell's sound at valley's mouth,
By wood's edge recognized incense in air.
So staff in hand, I sought my old friend,
Ungirthing my saddle, halted my mount for a while.
By the gate of stone a sheer ravine falls off sharply,
And the path through bamboo grew darker, deeper.
Dharma's companion rejoices meeting me,
In speculative discussion we do not sleep.
All my life I have yearned for true reclusion,
Days on end sought wonders beyond this world:
Here old peasants enter their fields at dawn,
And mountain monks return to their temples at night.
Clear sounds come from pine-shaded springs,
Mossy walls filled with ancient truths.
I will lodge on this mountain forever—
I and the world are done with each other.
The same, tr. Daniel Bryant with his notes, in Victor H. Mair, ed., The Shorter Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), p. 88:
On a morning ramble I visit a great mountain,
The mountain far away in the empty azure.
Billowing mist spreads over a hundred leagues;
As the sun goes down I reach my goal at last.
At the valley's mouth I hear a bell sound;
By the wood's edge scent a breath of incense.
Leaning on my staff, I seek an old friend;
Having loosened the saddle, give my mount a rest.
The stone gate is hard by a chasm's brink;
A bamboo-lined path winds through the forest depths.
I enjoy meeting with a "Companion in the Law";1
In "Pure Talk"2 we stay up until dawn.
All my life I have respected true reclusion,
For days on end sought spiritual mysteries.
An old rustic goes to his fields at dawn;
A mountain monk returns to his temple in the evening.
There are many pure notes in pines and streams;
These moss-grown walls are wrapped in a feeling of antiquity.
How I would like to retire to this very mountain,
"Casting off both self and world alike."

1. Someone who pursues a religious, usually Buddhist, life.
2. Abstruse, witty discourse that is often associated with Taoists.

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