Autumn Night: Depicting Busyness in the Midst of Silence
White-haired, in clear autumn touched by scenes and emotions,
among hills, moon my companion, living out the last of my life:
night deepens, no lingering echoes from the ten thousand pipes;
all I hear is the sound of the sōzu tapping the rock.
Ishikawa Jōzan (1583-1672) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Kanshi: The Poetry of Ishikawa Jōzan and Other Edo-Period Poets (North Point Press 1990), page 25.
Watson provides a note on the sōzu: "The sōzu is a device made of a bamboo tube that periodically fills with water from a stream, tips to pour out the water, and then returns to its original position, striking a rock and producing a sharp rapping sound as it does so. It was intended to scare deer away from the garden." Ibid, page 25.
Eustace Nash (1886-1969), "Poole Quay from Hamworthy, Dorset"
Watson also provides a note to the phrase "ten thousand pipes" in the third line of the poem: "The 'ten thousand pipes' . . . is a reference to the famous passage on the noises made by the wind in the forest in the second chapter of Chuang Tzu." Ibid, page 25. Here is a portion of the chapter referred to by Watson:
"Tzu-yu said, 'By the piping of earth, then, you mean simply [the sound of] these hollows, and by the piping of man [the sound of] flutes and whistles. But may I ask about the piping of Heaven?'
"Tzu-ch'i said, 'Blowing on the ten thousand things in a different way, so that each can be itself — all take what they want for themselves, but who does the sounding?'
"Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy. Great words are clear and limpid; little words are shrill and quarrelsome. In sleep, men's spirits go visiting; in waking hours, their bodies hustle. With everything they meet they become entangled. Day after day they use their minds in strife, sometimes grandiose, sometimes sly, sometimes petty. Their little fears are mean and trembly; their great fears are stunned and overwhelming. They bound off like an arrow or a crossbow pellet, certain that they are the arbiters of right and wrong. They cling to their position as though they had sworn before the gods, sure that they are holding on to victory. They fade like fall and winter — such is the way they dwindle day by day. They drown in what they do — you cannot make them turn back. They grow dark, as though sealed with seals — such are the excesses of their old age. And when their minds draw near to death, nothing can restore them to the light."
Chuang Tzu (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (Columbia University Press 1964), page 32. The brackets appear in Watson's original text.
Explaining Chuang Tzu's meaning, Watson says this about the use of the word "Heaven" in the passage: "Heaven is not something distinct from earth and man, but a name applied to the natural and spontaneous functioning of the two." Ibid, page 32.
Charles Kerr (1858-1907), "Carradale"
Yes, it all becomes quite tiresome. Best to let it go. The soul's home is in other places.
In paddies among the mountains
rice seedlings —
the sound of their singing
drifts up from far away.
Ryōkan (1758-1831) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Ryōkan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan (Columbia University Press 1977), page 30. The poem is a waka.
Robert Coventry (1855-1914), "The Haven" (1908)