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 banked with thick grass.
The moss is slippery, though no rain has fallen;
Pines sigh, but it is not the wind.
Who can break from the snares of the world
And sit with me among the white clouds?
I bought this liitle book many, many years ago, could be 1974, in a secondhand bookshop in Leuven, Belgium. I used it often to copy a poem on a small note, on a postcard or simply to read out loud on different kinds of occasions: birthdays, weddings, Christmas, even at funerals.
It is translated from Chinese by Burton Watson, a distinguished American Orientalist.
If Han-shan ever lived, he was probably a gentleman farmer, troubled by poverty and family discord, who retired from the world after extensive wandering to a place called Cold Cliff in the T’ient’ai mountains of China. Above all, these poems are famous for their incomparable descriptions of the natural world on Cold Mountain: the symbol, in Han-shan, for himself, his home and his state of mind when seeking the ‘Hidden Treasure’ of Zen Buddhism.
(Cape Editions, first published 1962, my copy 1972)