My previous post about the poetry of Ryokan and Wang Wei brought to mind a poem by W. H. Davies (1871-1940). Davies's poetry is mostly forgotten now, but his work was praised by the likes of Edward Thomas. (Thomas provided financial assistance to Davies, even though Thomas's own finances were always precarious. They became friends, and Davies wrote "Killed in Action (Edward Thomas)" after Thomas's death in 1917.) Davies's style is perhaps quaint by "modern" standards, but there are gems to be found in his work.
How Sordid Is This Crowded Life
How sordid is this crowded life, its spite
And envy, the unkindness brought to light:
It makes me think of those great modest hearts
That spend their quiet lives in lonely parts,
In deserts, hills and woods; and pass away
Judged by a few, or none, from day to day.
And O that I were free enough to dwell
In their great spaces for a while; until
The dream-like life of such a solitude
Has forced my tongue to cry 'Hallo!' aloud --
To make an echo from the silence give
My voice back with the knowledge that I live.
W. H. Davies, Complete Poems (1963).
Davies (who was a sociable fellow) suggests that, in the end, a life of retreat might be too much for him. In this regard, Ryokan, who lived in his hut for 25 years, is forthright in his depiction of such a life, and faithfully records both the good and the bad. But his contentment, I think, underlies everything he wrote.
The vicissitudes of this world are like the movements of the clouds.
Fifty years of life are nothing but one long dream.
Sparse rain: in my desolate hermitage at night,
Quietly I clutch my robe and lean against the empty window.
John Stevens (translator), One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (1977).