When I am in need of a sense of perspective, I often turn to the poetry of Ryokan (1758-1831) or Wang Wei (c. 701-761). Ryokan was a Zen monk who lived much of his life in a hut in the wooded hills near the coast of the Sea of Japan. (Present-day Niigata Prefecture.) He is one of the most beloved of Japanese poets, valued for his humility, his simplicity, and his integrity.
My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.
John Stevens (translator), One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (1977).
Wang Wei was one of the four great poets of the Chinese T'ang Dynasty. (The others are Po Chu-i, Li Po, and Tu Fu.) He was also an artist and a musician. Like most of the T'ang poets, he served as a government official. He was a devout Buddhist, and this is reflected in his poetry. This may explain the affinities between his poetry and that of Ryokan.
In Answer to Vice-Magistrate Zhang
Late in my life I only care for quiet.
A million pressing tasks, I let them go.
I look at myself; I have no long range plans.
To go back to the forest is all I know.
Pine breeze: I ease my belt. Hill moon: I strum
My lute. You ask -- but I can say no more
About success or failure than the song
The fisherman sings, which comes to the deep shore.
Vikram Seth (translator), Three Chinese Poets (1992).