Poetry of Zen: Wang Wei

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Wang Wei's poetry

Answering Vice-Prefect Zhang

As the years go by, give me but peace,
Freedom from ten thousand matters.
I ask myself and always answer:
What can be better than coming home?
A wind from the pine-trees blows my sash,
And my lute is bright with the mountain moon.
You ask me about good and evil fortune?
Hark, on the lake there's a fisherman singing!

Answer to P'ei Ti's Question About My Life

Vast, wide, the expanse of the cold river.
Gray, blue, the curtain of autumn rain.
You ask if Mt. Chung-nan's still there—
my heart knows what's beyond the white clouds !

On Leaving Monk Wen-Ku in the Mountains

I remove my hemp robe to head back to the court,
leaving my master, rejoining the sages of our time.
It's not just this man of the mountains 1 leave—
I'm turning my back even on the moon in the pines.
These past days we've wandered, taking life easy,
going right to the edge of the pinkening clouds.
Opening a window over the river's north bank,
from bed we watched birds fly till they vanished.
We enjoyed meals sprawled on the flat rocks,
lounged often by a plunging stream.
In orderly times, people rarely enter seclusion.
When the Way prevails, why leave the world?
My younger brother holds a high position;
an elder relation has become a monk.
Keep the path to your reed gate clear—
whenever time allows, I'll come knock.

Fall Night, Sitting Alone

Sitting alone, I mourn my thinning hair.
The hall is empty at not yet nine o'clock,
wild fruit thuds down in a rainstorm,
insects from outdoors chirp beneath the lamp.
White hair's very, very hard to change,
and real gold can't be manufactured.
To get rid of the ailments of age,
there's just one thing: study the Unborn !

A Message to Commissioner Li at Zizhou

From ten thousand valleys the trees touch heaven;
On a thousand peaks cuckoos are calling;
And, after a night of mountain rain,
From each summit come hundreds of silken cascades.
If girls are asked in tribute the fibre they weave,
Or farmers quarrel over taro fields,
Preside as wisely as Wenweng did,
Is fame to be only for the ancients?

My Retreat at Mt. Chung-Nan

In midlife, I've come to cherish the Way;
for late life, I've built a home near Chung-nan.
I head out there alone anytime the urge strikes.
It's glorious the things an empty self sees!
I walk the stream to its very source,
sit and watch the clouds rise.
If by chance I meet an old woodsman,
we talk and laugh--no rush to get home!

Sent to a Monk at Ch'ung-Fan Monastery

Ch'ung-fan monk! This Ch'ung-fan monk!
Went home to the mountains last fall, didn't return this spring.
Falling flowers, warbling birds--so many, all mixed up.
A door on the creek, a window on the peaks--so quiet, closeted.
Up there on the cliffs, who knows the affairs of people below?
Seen from the city's distance: just an empty, cloud-covered range.

In the Mountains

Up Bramble Creek, white stones jut out.
Cold weather hardly any red leaves left.
Along the mountain trail, there's no rain;
the vacant blue itself soaks one's clothes.