Gary Snyder’s lively translations of Hanshan (Cold Mountain), along with their fictional account in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, have since inspired numerous poets and translators to mimic Hanshan’s raw poetic style. Most are unaware, however, of their participation in a millennium-old tradition of composing Cold Mountain verses.
Bring me the sunflower so I can plant / it in my salt-scorched patch of earth, so it can throw / back to the day’s reflecting blue / the anguish of its upturned, yellow face.
We were seduced, Madame, by /
mutual machinations, duped, /
you and I, by summer’s mayhem /
pounding on our overheated craniums.
Incandescent, gold and red, / the world vibrates and hums / with the last of the autumn. / Carmel and rust, / sable, tan and chocolate leaves ornament the ground, / while necklaces of green and gold / twist down off the sturdy trees.
Approaching a poem written in another time and/or place, the translator faces a literal dilemma, a double problem of conflicting loyalties. . .
I set off walking south on the shoulder / Of these high cliffs, through kissing gates and over stiles, when summer / Was a crude suggestion yet among the broom and gorse.
An excerpt from Marc di Saverio’s epic poem Crito Di Volta. Here, after some introductory material, Crito delivers his sermon on the mount, as it were. . .
Picture T. S. Eliot as Magus, stopping a rain drop mid-air,
asking of it how it turns the world on its head, inquiring
whence it came. . .
This quiet roof where doves stray and dip
Pulsates between the pines, the tombs.
Out of fire even-handed noon composes
The sea, the sea, ever recommencing.
O what recompense after thought’s travail
This long gazing on the gods’ repose!
As I came drifting down unruffled rivers,
I could no longer feel the haulers’ guiding pulls.
Redskins had taken the boatmen for bull’s-eyes
and, hooting, nailed them naked to painted poles.