[Editor’s note: A millennium before Charles Frazier, before Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, there was the original “Cold Mountain”, a modest group of poems thought to have been authored by the mysterious hermit Han-shan, who scribbled them on rocks and trees around his humble abode and left them. The story goes that they were collected by an official who wished to be enlightened. And that, fittingly, is how the most influential Zen poetry in history has come down to us. Or at least, that’s how the story goes. The poems cover a lot of ground, but the following one hits home at the moment (although I would switch groundhogs for mountain monkeys). This poem, seventh in a series, is from Burton Watson’s translation.]
From: Cold Mountain
My house is at the foot of the green cliff,
My garden, a jumble of weeds I no longer bother to mow.
New vines dangle in twisted strands
Over old rocks rising steep and high.
Monkeys make off with mountain fruits,
The white heron crams his bill with fish from the pond,
While I, with a book or two of the immortals,
Read under the trees — mumble, mumble.