Early Spring by Kuo Hsi (1072, Sung dynasty)

Cold Mountain Songs
Robert Morris


I. (Meeting Cold Mountain)*

Anyone who meets Cold Mountain
Will say he's touched.
A plain face, not attractive to the eye,
A cloth robe wrapped about him.
What he says, no one knows,
Nor does he grasp their words.
He responds to those who happen by,
"Can you come to Cold Mountain?"

II. Interlude

III. (A Coat)

I have a coat,
Not gauze or twill.
What color?
Not red, not purple.
Summer sky, my shirt,
Winter sky, my cape.
Winter, summer, always used,
For decades, only this.

IV. (Today)

Today I sat before the sunny cliffs,
A long time, until the mist had cleared.
The trace of one clear stream bank,
A thousand yards away the green ridge crest.
Quiet white clouds' dawn shadows,
The floating bright nighttime moon.
Body free from dust, unsoiled,
How could cares disturb my mind?

V. Interlude

VI. (Home)

Thatched rafters, a rustic home,
Horses, carts: few pass the gate.
Deep woods, birds roost,
Wide streams, spawning fish.
Father and son pick mountain fruit,
Mother tills the field,
And what is inside the house?
Just one bed with books.

VII. (A Dream)

Last night, I dreamt I went home,
I saw my spouse at the loom,
Stopping the shuttle in thought
Then raising it as if without strength.
I called, he turned his face.
He did not know me,
So many years had passed,
The hair on my temples without color.

VIII. (A White-Haired Man)

My body, seeking refuge, rest,
Cold Mountain eternally protects,
Faint wind blows, stirs secluded pines,
Listen closely, sounds better.
Under trees, a white-haired man,
Mumbling sacred texts,
Ten years, unable to return,
Forgotten the road he came.

IX. Interlude

X. (Cold Mountain is a House)

Cold Mountain is a house,
No fences or walls inside,
Six gates, left, right, open,
The hall is blue sky,
A bare, empty room,
East wall hits West wall.
No valuables within
To attract visitors.

When cold, he makes a feeble fire,
When hungry, he cooks vegetables to eat.
He doesn't ape the gentry,
Amassing homes, estates, and villas.
All that hell is karma:
Once begun how ended?
Think it over well;
Heed the basic laws.

XI. Interlude

XII. (Dark and Eery)

Cold Mountain, dark and eery,
Climbers always get scared.
Moon shines, water sparkles,
Wind blows, grasses rustle.
Flowers: snow on plum trees.
Leaves: branches filled with clouds.
When touched by rain: fresh and alive.
Only on a sunny day can you get through.

XIII. (Girls Playing)

Third month: silkworms still small,
Girls come, picking flowers,
Passing time against the wall, playing with butterflies.
Near the river, pelting frogs and prawns,
They gather plums in gauze sleeves,
Dig up bamboo-shoots with gold latches.
No need to haggle about merit,
This place outdoes my home.

XIV. (Climbing up Cold Mountain)

Climbing, struggling up Cold Mountain Trail,
The path that never ends.
Rocks, stones, winding brooks,
Rustling grass, thick, tangled.
Slick moss, without rain,
Pines sing, no wind.
Who can transcend worldly bonds
And sit here among white clouds?

XV. (No One There)

Cold Mountain Road, hostile,
Vacant, deserted stream bank.
Birds, ceaseless chatter,
Yet bare, no one there.
Wind in face, harsh,
Snow flakes, on my clothes,
No sun for days,
No sign of spring in years.

XVI. (A Critic)

A guest deplored Cold Mountain,
"Your poetry's far-fetched and wild."
But I observed the Ancients
Were unshamed of poverty.
In response he laughed and said,
"Your talk is loose and wide."
"Then I wish you all the best,
For money is your major quest."

XVII. Interlude

XVIII. (The Bird of Five Colors)

The bird of five colors, elegant,
Rests in the Paulownia trees and eats bamboo fruit,
Now majestically moves slowly
Singing in the light and dark scales.
Why did it finally come yesterday,
And appear to me only for awhile?
When it hears soundsÄstrings, voices--
It joyfully dances the day.

XIX. (The World is Space)

Clear water in an emerald spring,
White moonlight on Cold Mountain.
Radiant center, silent knowledge,
Contemplate the void: the world is space.

-Han Shan(T'ang Dynasty), translated by Robert Morris

* The original poems are untitled; the present titles (by R. M.) are only for use in concert programming.

Travellers Among Mountains and Streams by Fan K'uan (Sung dynasty)