Cold Mountain - Selected Poems

By Han Shan (Cold Mountain)

Here we languish, a bunch of poor scholars,
battered by extremes of hunger and cold.
Out of work, our only joy is poetry:
Scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains.
Who will read the works of such men?
On that point you can save your sighs.
We could inscribe our poems on biscuits
And the homeless dogs wouldn't deign to nibble

Hermits hide from mankind
Most go to the mountains to sleep
Where green vines wind through woods
And jade gorges echo unbroken
Higher and higher enraptured
On and on simply free
Free of what stains the world
Minds pure like the white lotus

If you are looking for a place to rest,
Cold Mountain is a good place to stay.
The breeze flowing through the dark pines
Sounds better the closer you come.
And under the trees a white-haired man
Mumbles over his Taoist texts.
Ten years now he hasn't gone home;
He has even forgotten the road he came by.

High on the mountain’s peak
Infinity in all directions!
The solitary moon looks down
From its midnight loft
Admires its reflection in the icy pond.
Shivering, I serenade the moon.

I climb the road to Cold Mountain,
The road to Cold Mountain that never ends.
The valleys are long and strewn with stones;
The streams broad and filled with thick grass.
Moss is slippery though no rain has fallen;
Pines sigh but it isn't the wind.
Who can break from the snares of the world
And sit with me among the white clouds?

Have I a body or have I none?
Am I who I am or am I not?
Pondering these questions,
I sit leaning against the cliff as the years go by,
Till the green grass grows between my feet
And the red dust settles on my head,
And the men of the world, thinking me dead,
Come with offerings of wine and fruit to lay by my corpse.

The place where I spend my days
Is farther away than I can tell.
Without a word the wild vines stir,
No fog, yet the bamboos are always dark.
Who do the valleys sob for?
Why do the mists huddle together?
At noon, sitting in my hut
I realize for the first time that the sun has risen.

Today I sat before the cliffs
Sat until the mist blew off
A rambling clear stream shore
A towering green ridge crest
Cloud's dawn shadows still
Moon's night light adrift
Body free of dust
Mind without a care.

People ask about Cold Mountain Way;
There's no Cold Mountain Road that goes straight through:
By summer, lingering cold is not dispersed,
By fog, the risen sun is screened from view;
So how did one like me get onto it?
In our hearts, I'm not the same as you --
If in your heart you should become like me,
Then you can reach the center of it too.

Among a thousand clouds and ten thousand streams,
Here lives an idle man,
In the daytime wandering over green mountains
At night coming home to sleep by the cliff.
Swiftly the springs and autumns pass,
But my mind is at peace, free from dust or delusion
How pleasant to know I need nothing to lean on
To be still as the waters of the autumn river!

Thirty years ago I was born into the world.
A thousand, ten thousand miles I've roamed.
By rivers where the green grass grows thick,
Beyond the border where the red sands fly.
I brewed potions in a vain search for life everlasting,
I read books, I sang songs of history,
And today I've come home to Cold Mountain
To pillow my head on the stream and wash my ears.

You have seen the blossoms among the leaves;
tell me, how long will they stay?
Today they tremble before the hand that picks them;
tomorrow they wait someone's garden broom.
Wonderful is the bright heart of youth,
but with the years it grows old.
Is the world not like these flowers?
Ruddy faces, how can they last?

I spur my horse past the ruined city;
the ruined city, that wakes the traveler's thoughts:
ancient battlements, high and low;
old grave mounds, great and small.
Where the shadow of a single tumbleweed trembles
and the voice of the great trees clings forever,
I sigh over all these common bones --
No roll of the immortals bears their names.

When I see a fellow abusing others,
I think of a man with a basketful of water.
As fast as he can, he runs with it home,
but when he gets there, what's left in the basket?
When I see a man being abused by others,
I think of the leek growing in the garden.
Day after day men pull off the leaves,
but the heart it was born with remains the same.

Cold Cliff's remoteness
Is what I love
No one travels this way
Clouds lie around on the peaks
A lone gibbon howls on the ridge
What else do I cherish?
It's good to grow old content
Cold and heat change my
Appearance;the pearl
Of my mind stays safe

Cold Mountain is a house
Without beams or walls.
The six doors left and right are open
The hall is blue sky.
The rooms all vacant and vague
The east wall beats on the west wall
At the center nothing.
Borrowers don't bother me
In the cold I build a little fire
When I'm hungry I boil up some greens.
I've got no use for the kulak
With his big barn and pasture --
He just sets up a prison for himself.
Once in he can't get out.
Think it over --
You know it might happen to you.