Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stopping By rain to visit Master Shu

Stopping By rain to visit Master Shu

By Su Tung-P'o

(Translated by David Hinton)

Bamboo scratches at the window-screen,
and rain clattering in bamboo clatters.

Shutters wide-open tranquility, no dust,
mist rises from a table's cold ink-stone.

You relish in this solitude in quiet mystery
and returned to origins, wanting nothing,

sit ch'an stillness on sackcloth and mat,
stand listening to wind's voice in a bowl.

Presence and absence blank here, in cold
cap and sandal, you sprinkle and sweep,

offer thick tea rinsing depths of night,
light incense drifting all worry away,

and on my way home, fireflies meander
north-hall darkness one by one by one

This life tangled in sorrow and trouble
somehow offers such repose in idleness.

Roaming vultures regret former laughs,
earthworms lament their late awakening,

and I'am no T'ao Ch'ien for quiet integrity.
But where's karma in all this idleness?

( ch'an is derived  from 'Dhyana' in sanskrit , meaning meditation . T'ao Ch'ien is Chinese poet and Ch'an buddhist who seems to have cultivated a melancholy sort of contentment in his life.)

Some poems can be nectar for the soul like the above one by Su Tung-P'o 

One of the greatest poets of the Buddhist tradition, Su Tung-P'o (1037-1101) has been a model and source of inspiration for a millennium of Chinese and Japanese poets. He wrote from direct, verifiable experience.

A man from a family of modest means, west central China, upper reaches of the Yangtze, travels downriver at 18 and passes, first time he takes it, the most prestigious civil service examination in the empire. Same year he marries a 15-year-old bride, and goes out on his first government assignment. He serves as a major administrator, then falls into disfavor and serves time in jail and is exiled. He develops a hardscrabble farm in the south, studies with a Zen master, runs rivers and climbs peaks, writes hundreds of letters, drinks wine with friends, and through it all is always writing poems. Brought back, he serves again, and then is exiled to a remote tropical island. Two wives having died, he travels south with his lover. Back in favor once more, he dies before he can get settled in a new home. He was also a marvelous calligrapher, whose large firm free writing can be seen in the museum in Taipei. He is considered one of China's top poets. He lived in the 11th century A.D., when China was in some ways more 'modern' artistically and intellectually than 20th century America.

Su Tung-p'o's elegant, diverse poems are full of compassion, vision, the sense of the moment, the sweetness and hardness of life. It is a  a joy to meet his bright, undefeated spirit through his wonderful poems.

Source of poem:Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology [Paperback] David Hinton (Editor, Translator)

No comments:

Post a Comment