BRIEF INTERVAL

Another loose translation of a very old Chinese poem, this time by Chen Zi’ang (661-702)

A Song on Climbing Youzhou Tower

Unseen are those who came before;
Unseen are those to come after.
Thinking how endless are heaven and earth,
Alone and disconsolate, the tears drip down.

前不見古人

後不見來者

念天地之悠悠

獨愴然而涕下

Qián bù jiàn gǔ rén
hòu bù jiàn lái zhě
Niàn tiān dì zhī yōu yōu
dú chuàng rán ér tì xià

We cannot see the people of old times who came before us, nor can we see those who will come after we are gone.  On thinking of the vastness of time, the endlessness of heaven and earth and the brief interval of our short lives, the poet is filled with sadness and cannot hold back the tears.

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ONLY WHITE CLOUDS….

Here is a loose translation of a poem by Wang Wei (王維; 699–759):

Amid the hills are many Dharma friends;
Meditating, chanting, gathering in groups;
But look out from the far city wall,
And only white clouds are seen.

山中多法侶
禪誦自為群
城郭遙相望
唯應見白雲

shān zhōng duō fǎ lǚ ,
chán sòng zì wéi qún 。
chéng guō yáo xiāng wàng ,
wéi yīng jiàn bái yún 。

“Dharma friends” refers to those who practice the Buddhist way.
Meditation 禪 (Chán) is the Chinese word for Jhana — Buddhist Meditation, the same character that in Japan is used for “Zen.”

The point of the poem is the separation — physical and psychological — of the Buddhist practitioners from the busy world of the city — the “world of dust.”  When one looks from there to the far mountains where they live and meditate, only white clouds are seen.  It reminds me of the title of the Thomas Hardy novel Far From the Madding Crowd.