The Mountain Poems of Hsieh Ling-Yun

The Mountain Poems of Hsieh Ling-Yun

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Overview

In our own time the "wilderness" has emerged as a source of spiritual renewal, both as idea and in actual practice. But Hsieh Ling-yün (385-433 C. E.) was there before us. 


During the last decade of his life, living as a recluse high in the mountains of southeast China, he initiated a tradition of "rivers-and-mountains" (shan-shui) poetry that stretches across the millennia in China, a tradition that represents the earliest and most extensive literary engagement with "the wild" in human history. These poems were hugely popular in Hsieh's own time and established him as one of the most innovative and influential poets in the history of Chinese poetry as well as a founder of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. Once again David Hinton, a recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and The National Endowment for the Humanities and the winner of a Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from The Academy of American Poets, has produced a fluid and supple translation that does full justice to the rivers-and-mountains of Hsieh Ling-yün's inspiration.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811214896
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 11/28/2001
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

DAVID HINTON’s original Selected Poems of Tu Fu was the first full-length verse translation of Tu Fu published in America. The author also of singular books of essays and poetry, Hinton has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, numerous N.E.A. and N.E.H fellowships, both major awards given for poetry translation in the United States, and a lifetime achievement award by The American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


    ON A TOWER BESIDE THE LAKE


Quiet mystery of lone dragons alluring,
calls of migrant geese echoing distances,

I meet sky, unable to soar among clouds,
face a river, all those depths beyond me.

Too simple-minded to perfect Integrity
and too feeble to plow fields in seclusion,

I followed a salary here to the sea's edge
and lay watching forests bare and empty.

That sickbed kept me blind to the seasons,
but opening the house up, I'm suddenly

looking out, listening to surf on a beach
and gazing up into high mountain peaks.

A warm sun is unraveling winter winds,
new yang swelling, transforming old yin.

Lakeshores newborn into spring grasses
and garden willows become caroling birds:

in them the ancient songs haunt me with
flocks and flocks and full lush and green.
Isolate dwelling so easily becomes forever.
It's hard settling the mind this far apart,

but not something ancients alone master:
that serenity is everywhere apparent here.


INSPECTING FARMLANDS, I CLIMB THE BAY'S
COIL-ISLE MOUNTAIN


If anything can ease the grief of exile travels
it's these morning winds and seascape vistas,

vast swells stretching away beyond knowing
to the east, that unfathomable Great Valley.

I'll follow the way of water-chestnut foragers,
traces of drifting song thinning sorrow away,

roam along beaches of jade-green sand at ease,
wander these cinnabar-red peaks of eternity.


CLIMBING GREEN-CLIFF MOUNTAIN
IN YUNG-CHIA


Taking a little food, a light walking-stick,
I wander up to my borne in quiet mystery,

the path along streams winding far away
onto ridgetops, no end to this wonder at

slow waters silent in their frozen beauty
and bamboo glistening at heart with frost,

cascades scattering a confusion of spray
and broad forests crowding distant cliffs.

Thinking it's moonrise I see in the west
and sunset I'm watching blaze in the east,

I hike on until dark, then linger out night
sheltered away in deep expanses of shadow.

Immune to high importance: that's renown.
Walk humbly and it's all promise in beauty,

for in quiet mystery the way runs smooth,
ascending remote heights beyond compare.

Utter tranquillity, the distinction between
yes this and no that lost, I embrace primal

unity, thought and silence woven together,
that deep healing where we venture forth.


    THE JOURNEY HOME


* * *


It's late autumn, heaven's compassion-deep
skies bottomless above a world gone frail.

Geese climbing beyond clouds to soar away,
grasses tattered beneath shrouds of frost,

I leave familiar shores of desolate shadow
and sunlit vistas laced with delicate scents.

Leaves tumble through windblown forests.
The moon's radiance filling mirrored waters,

I sail from Green-Field's meandering isles
to the ease of White-Shore's empty pavilion,

the way treacherous, full of strange forms,
mountains on every side all transformation.

I put ashore to rest there, linger on and on
probing traces flushed clouds leave behind,

then drift a crystal-pure hundred-mile lake,
gazing at lone cliffs thousands of feet high:

they've endured forever here, changeless
through this world all flourish and perish,


* * *


I'VE PUT 1N GARDENS SOUTH OF THE FIELDS,
OPENED UP A STREAM AND PLANTED TREES


Woodcutter and recluse—they inhabit
these mountains for different reasons,

and there are other forms of difference.
You can heal here among these gardens,

sheltered from rank vapors of turmoil,
wilderness clarity calling distant winds.

I ch'i-sited my house on a northern hill,
doors opening out onto a southern river,

ended trips to the well with a new stream
and planted hibiscus in terraced banks.

Now there are flocks of trees at my door
and crowds of mountains at my window,

and I wander thin trails down to fields
or gaze into a distance of towering peaks,

wanting little, never wearing myself out.
It's rare luck to make yourself such a life,

though like ancient recluse paths, mine
bring longing for the footsteps of friends:

how could I forget them in this exquisite
adoration kindred spirits alone can share?


THERE ARE TOWERING PEAKS ON EVERY SIDE
OF MY SPIRIT'S TRUE HOME ATOP STONE-GATE
MOUNTAIN'S IMPOSSIBLE CRAGS, WINDING
STREAMS AND ROCKY FALLS, THICK FORESTS
AND TALL BAMBOO


Reaching my hut built of quiet mystery
I sweep clouds away and settle into repose.

There's no one left to climb with me beyond
slippery moss and frail vines to this peak

where autumn winds bluster and breeze
and spring grasses grow lush and green.

You're traveling beyond hope of return
now, no interest in those tender reunions

where fragrant dust frosts jewelled mats
and crystalline wine lavishes golden cups,

so why stand watch on stormy lakeshores
or on lookouts among cinnamon branches?

My thoughts wander Star River distances.
A single shadow alone with forgetfulness,

I swim in a lake down beneath cliff-walls
or gaze up at gibbons haunting treetops,

listen as evening winds buffet mornings
and watch dawn sunlight flare at sunset.

Slant light igniting cliffs never lasts long,
and echoes vanish easily in forest depths:

letting go of sorrow returns us to wisdom,
seeing the inner pattern ends attachment.

O but to set out on the sun's dragon-chariot
and soar—that's solace to nurture my spirit,
for these aren't things people understand:
I need to talk them over with a true sage.


INAUGURATING THE SANGHA'S NEW
MONASTERY AT STONE-SCREEN CLIFF


Confused and stumbling inside city walls
though time's three regions are boundless,

life's vagrant pleasures blinding the eye
though insight plumbs beginning and end,

we spend our youth awaiting tomorrow,
then watch twilight ruins of age close in.
Sudden as a lightning storm, this dreamed
sleight-of-hand scatters away in a flash:

even good fortune that never leaves you
can't slow the steady vanishing of a life.
We imagined another Spirit-Vulture Peak,
another Jetavana of temples and gardens,
and now, cascades tumbling free at the hall,
we'll sit gazing into all perfect emptiness,

and sunlit forests gracing these windows,
we'll talk out the inner pattern's mystery.

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