Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism

Harold Stewart

Autumn Landscape Roll
A Divine Panorama

Personages Represented
Cantos 5 to 8
Cantos 9 to 12
Cantos 13 to 16
Cantos 17 to 20
Cantos 21 to 24
Cantos 25 to 28
Cantos 29 to 32

[ Synopsis and Introduction ]



No leafage in the painted landscape fell
Until, in one surprising moment,
Wu over the nearest rise came into view.
But once his presence breaks the changeless spell,
The first five fingered maple leaf of all
That sunburnt days and frosty nights have dried
Crisply detaches from its twig to fall
And, pointing out the path, becomes his guide.
As Wu walks down this foot~hill's wooded side,
Birch trees that autumn has already dyed,
Still hanging overhead in time's suspense,
Release their shower, a yellow decadence
Of flickering leaves, which delicately shed
Ephemeral relics on the artist's head,
For they have come to life from deathless peace
Only to drop at once to their decease,
While Wu, continuing on his long descent,
Soliloquises gravely in lament.

Wu Tao-tzü

'The year and I are dying out together:
The cold, the damp, descend on all our weather.
The long warm afternoons that would extend
So late into the west there seemed no end
To those the abundant summer held in store,
Have long outworn the golden tone they wore.
Their ample warmth returns in me no more,
Too late now in our enervated day
To argue fruitlessly against decay,
When fading leaves have interspersed with sere
The head of verdure on the aging year.
Though with much twisting it, I should prepare
A long long rope out of my whitening hair,
Oh, still it would not fathom my despair
This green and yellow ache without relief,
This numb internal bruise, will not be brief:
Its melancholic present, evergreen,
Its yellow past, eaten by might have been.
Congealing in the core of bone and bole,
The once impulsive sap slows, and the soul
With branches bare hints at the shed leaf
Of nameless discontent, which is my grief.
0 weary leaf in exile, are you now
As homesick as my heart is for the bough?
And do you miss,as I, familiar leaves?
And is this rain that falls and wets my sleeves?
Sorrow corrodes the heart that doubt deceives.
My days turn sallow too, touched by the stain
Of tears. My tree stands rusting in the rain.
The dead leaf drops, the dying leaves remain,
Till those few.left to me break off at last,
And melting in the mould of autumns past,
Leave no remembered skeleton of veins
But in the mortal anguish merge their pains.
In these dejected woods the exhausted year
And I still linger, but it darkens here:
The skies grow overcast with rain and drear.
So with the first large drops at random starting,
Our lagging hour advances for departing.
Summer already dead, our day is set,
But still we cling, and still regret, regret .......'

Since Wu had once depicted by his art
This countryside, it strangely haunts the heart
With reminiscent hints of seen before.
For Cosmic Memory's scroll retains in store
All that the mind forgets. As soon as Wu
Can recollect that hereabouts he drew
A thatch roofed farmhouse, he beholds it stand
Amidst five willows in a quincunx, seen
Weeping their motionless cascades of green,
One at each corner that marks out the land
Of Tao Yüan-ming. But the midmost tree
Grows in his courtyard, arching with one bough
The home of that True Man, who followed Tao
To reach this earthly Centre, whence he can,
Climbing the sacred mountain's each degree,
Attain its summit as Transcendent Man.
For here Tao-ch'ien, the poet who retired
From public life, since he refused to bow
His backbone's menial hinges day on day
To earn five meagre pecks of rice as pay,
Preferred on this ancestral farm to plough
A bare laborious living. Here inspired
By virtue truly in accord with Tao
To write his verses on the natural Way,
His distant heart, desiring less and less,
Surrounds him with idyllic wilderness.

The downpour comes on heavier, driving Wu
To beg for shelter with the initiate
Who, seeking rural quiet here,withdrew
But still would greet him as a welcome guest.
Wu hurries toward this refuge from the west
And passing by two veteran pines that wait
On either hand to guard the bamboo gate
Steps up the path and knocks upon the door.

The fifth and youngest son, who opens it,
Conducts this rare distinguished visitor
Into his father's study, who today
Is out, though not for long nor far away;
So he invites the courtly guest to sit
And, if convenient, prolong his stay
Until his rustic host comes home once more.


Wu reads the hanging scroll that down one wall
Says in the poet's calligraphic scrawl,
Like autumn grasses in its cursive line:
'The heights of poetry, the depths of wine,
'And endless length of days: may these be mine.'

The Book of Chuang tzü, opened at the page
On which that Tao intoxicated sage
Relates his dream of metamorphosis,
Lies on the desk. Again Wu ponders this:
'I dreamt that I was once a butterfly,
'Fluttering where it fancied, low or high,
'Content to sip the summer's honeyed hour
'And gather happiness from flower to flower,
'Oblivious of having been Chuang Chou.
'Suddenly I awoke, and there I lay
'Myself again. But now to my dismay
'I found that I was lost : I did not know
'Which was the dream! If all that seemed were so,
'Could not my waking life have been the lie
'And I a man, dreamt by a butterfly?'

So T'ao-ch'ien adds this comment in reply:
'Perhaps some drowsy caterpillar span
'A silk cocoon from which emerged - a man?
'Or did the chrysalis of sleep unroll
'That peacock winged imago in his soul?
'Ah nol These metamorphoses that seem
'So separate, so substantial, are by day
'As fugitive, false, and fitful as the gleam
'On iridescent wings that flit away.
'Our lives are dreams, but not our own; for we
'Who dream have selves no less illusory.
'Even the wings of universal night,
'Dusted with golden worlds, are but a flight
'Of figments through the Only Dreamer's Dream.
'And if from dreaming countless lives of men
'And butterflies and all the starry scheme,
'One Day that Dreamer should awake ... what then?'

Here, through the study window, Wu can gaze
Out on the garden, which a rainy haze,
Veiling the trees and bushes, faintly greys,
But stains their trunks and branches black with wet,
Meshed in its evanescent silver net,
Its liquid spheres are hung from leaf and twig,
Reflecting all in each and each in all,
Till raindrops run together,swell too big,
And let translucent constellations fall.
For single glistening instants everywhere,
As though a broken necklace were to spill
Its beads of crystal sprinkled through the air,
Some dripping here and now, then others there ....
Wu watches visible music played, as mute
As this poetic scholar's ch'in, his lute
Which lacks its seven silken strings, but still
Unfingered on his desk, awaits his skill.

Leafing through chapters often read before
To reach the last but one, Wu reads once more:
"When Chuang-tzü was at last about to die,
His old disciples, who were standing by
In grave devotion round the Master's bed,
Out of their depth of reverence desired
To give him, as solemnity required,
A splendid burial that would mourn the sage
Whose wisdom shone as pole star in that age.
But with supreme detachment Chuang-tzü said:
'Do not inter me after I am dead,
'But lay me on the good maternal Earth,
'Whose hills and valleys cradled me at birth,
'Nurtured me all my days, which now are done,
'And will embrace again her grateful son.
With Heaven's vast magnificence, the night's
Vaulting enriched with rare celestial lights,
'As starry coffin lid above my head,
'With Sun and Moon as jewels on the pall
'That covers my mortality, and all
'Creation for my escort toward the grave,
'What grander funeral could an Emperor crave?'
'Yet' his disciples argued, drawing near
To catch his failing answer, 'still we fear
'That if deprived of worthy tomb and rites,
'Your corpse may be devoured by carrion kites.'
'Left above ground, my body will provide
'Food for the birds of prey that plane around
'Waiting on patient wings; whilst underground
'Mole crickets, ants, and worms will soon begin
'To riddle my remains and feast within.
'So why. when this impartial flesh has died,
'Rob one to feed the other?' he replied."
The rain has ceased, but T'ao has not returned,
Though by the master's absence Wu has learned
More of the Tao than if he had been here
To entertain him,warming wine as cheer.
Wu thanks the family for roof and rest,
But pleads that he must now resume his quest.

As he departs, again the day grows bright.
Rain drenched chrysanthemums of gold and white,
Leaning against the eastern brushwood fence,
Sparkle with intermittent drops of light
But, shaken by the slightest breeze, let slip
Immortal dew from every petal's lip.
They waft to him a drift of redolence,
Whose greenly piquant sweetness, fresh yet faint,
Beyond his artistry to catch in paint,
Eluded even Tao ch'ien's eloquence.


Briskly the wind drives clouds away that dare
To shroud the heavenly altitudes of air,
And while it clears the sky, their counterchange
Patches the spacious day with blue and white,
Until their flock of shadows, put to flight
Across the valley toward the distant range,
Is routed by a solar burst of light.
But on this path, where lingering puddles lie,
A fallen wu t'ung leaf can still retain,
With russet palm upturned, a pool of rain
Holding a glimpse of that reflected sky
Whose scraps of blue and white are scudding by.

Wu enters next a shadow dappled wood,
And soon is deep among secluding trees
Of seven tribes which, he remembers, stood
Amid his scroll. Their trunks disposed in space
Are covered by deciduous canopies
Just as he painted them, each leaf in place,
Enriched by tinctures so diversely bright
They seem to glow with infiltrating light.
At Wu's approach, awakened from their trance
As sunlight through the ruined ceiling streams,
They instantly begin a downward dance.
One liquidambar, pierced by slanting beams,
Releases variegated leaves to free
All autumn's colours from a single tree,
Unreeling airy spirals in descent.
Or pirouetting till their life is spent.

A yellow plane leaf, launched on level air,
Pauses to float, swaying a moment, where
Uplifted by the atmospheric tide
That turns it slowly over once in space
To cipher endless Nought, it leaves no trace
But lapses in a smoothly dipping glide,
Scooping the shallow air from side to side,
And lightly lands with acquiescent grace.

Each little gingko leaf of pure bright gold
That flutters down is like the open fan
Of gilded paper, pleated fold on fold,
Waved by elegant dancers from Japan.
So twinkling in and out of sun and shade,
Their play reveals to Wu as they cascade
Glimpses of Heaven, which on breaking through
Their golden clusters, looks a deeper blue.

Leaves of the lacquer trees from youthful green
Mature to orange, like a mandarine,
Or redden till they rival cinnabar.
After the breeze has strewn them near and far,
One solitary leaf without a sound
Settles upon the path, of rain soaked ground,
And trodden under by the artist's heel,
Imprints the mud with its vermilion seal.
Maples have interwoven overhead
The foliage in which their limbs are gowned,
Whose scarlet, crimson lake, and copper red
Faintly suffuse the hazy air around
Their galaxy of leaves, from which they shed
A fiery shower that falling star on star
Asperges Wu, a presage from afar
To intimate that all are earthward bound.

As Wu's serenely elegaic mood
Mourns for the lost autumnal multitude,
Another boldly plundering gust bereaves
The cornel trees of their magenta leaves,
And loots entangling creepers that festoon
With drooping sleeves of purple or maroon
Denuded branches, which gesticulate
As vine leaves,too, reluctantly migrate.

Dead oak leaves, turned to darker shades of brown
From cinnamon to bronze, are drifting down,
Fretted or galled by insects, weather tattered,
With blotches oxidized by sun and frost;
But caught on contrary draughts are roughly tossed
And tumbled, so that wanderers loosely swarm
Into a cloud, a wild gyrating storm
No sooner gathered up than widely scattered.....

Emerging from the woods, Wu turns to gaze
Once more where leaves in warp and weft have laid
Autumn's vermilion and gold brocade
Over the range, a rich imperial pall.
The westering sun has set the hills ablaze,
While shadowed valleys fill with smoke blue haze,
And down that cleavage in the far rock wall
Depends a white silk thread : the waterfall.

Wu Tao-tzü

"Ah, all my autumns from the past are rolled
Into this glowing paragon of gold,
This sky blue archetype of afternoon,
Where Heaven, Earth, and Man as one commune,
So pure, so clear, so calm it breaks the heart
That such supernal radiance must depart,
Such rare perfection disappear so soon
To realms beyond the slow encroaching cold."

A bulbul's shrill alarms abruptly shatter
The woodland quietude with startled chatter,
Where layered leafage as it rots away
Exhales the sour dank odour from decay.
The poplar's yellow leaves, which still retain
As they grow older one red centrevein,
Defend their final flags that bravely cap
The topmost twigs, on which they twirl and flap.

But they defy in vain the hostile blast,
For pallid fugitives are forced to flee
On ventures into air's uncharted sea
Over whose undulations they must steer,
With stalks as rudders, while they luff or veer,
Till all are swiftly whirled away at last
By sudden chilling flurries, which have shaken
And left the shivering branches leaf-forsaken.

Stripped by the wind, the woods look grey and thin.
The first bare twigs that brush against the sky
Their misty sketches, let the sunlight in,
And delicately trace in leafless dearth
A filigree of shadows on the earth,
Whose mire has now begun to drain and dry,
Though as the pale gold sunset loses strength,
The shades have stealthily increased in length.
Wu shuffles, ankle deep, through shrivelled leaves,
Whose rustling carpet, which the autumn weaves,
Is laid along the woodland path ahead
To pattern it in brown and gold and red.
Trampling them underfoot, he hears a hushed
Crashing, as dry and brittle waste is crushed,
Till this obscure and narrowing track at last
Is choked by withered leafage from the past.

But where with brushwood broom the peasant swept
The leafy refuse into conic heaps,
Or raked with bamboo tines the runaways,
Fire with its brightly biting fangs has crept
And set the autumn's mortal pyres ablaze.
With flaming tongues it wildly licks and leaps,
Devouring fallen splendour that decays
Till burning, with its hunger glutted, sleeps.

The baffled sunset radiates its spokes
Wherever in the woods a bonfire smokes,
But slim blue pillars that would once divide
The sky in sunny panels far and wide,
As afternoon becalmed the countryside
In drowsy warmth, now rise aloft to lose
Wavering capitals : dimly they diffuse
Where heaven blends their two aethereal blues.

Wu Tao-tzü

"What old nostalgias can the smell of smoke,
Reeking with acrid sweetness, still evoke!
The last dead leaves are burnt as winter nears:
My wayworn selves, cast off in yesteryears
Watching their fiery funeral smoulder out
Till smothered in extinction's final doubt,
Why am I moved more easily to tears?
Why do the aged so desperately cling
To valedictory days of bleak distress.
And dread the ultimate dark of nothingness,
When always from that gulf dawn reappears
And trees awake in leaf again next spring?"


Wu Tao-tzü, still continuing his stroll
Into the landscape on the silken scroll,
Comes to the misty shores around a sheet
Of broad water that reaches from his feet
To where a promontory's rock strewn bar
Lies in the evening sky, it looks so far.
The wild geese rowing over at a height,
With taper necks stretched out in line of flight
While they relay their one long throated cry,
Tow the full moon into an autumn sky.
Waves that untwine obliquely from a wake
Lattice the wide and tranquil surfaced lake,
When in the lapping ebb they intervene
And travel through its pleated shade and sheen:
A clear grey green, yet in its depths opaque,
As though four ladies smoothing silk should take
Layer on layer of green gauze and of grey,
And stretch them taut across the vacant bay.
To skirt these shores, the painter has to pass
Where the long legs of flowering river grass
Stand in the margin shallows : feathery rushes
Drawn by his most meticulous of brushes,
Their tufted tops of seed are light and loose
As the soft underdown of a grey goose.
In a flat inlet hereabouts he sees
How, warily protruding out of these,
A narrow blackened prow nuzzles the bank:
The grasses thriving here are lush and lank.
Lulled by the idle suction from the tide
And the slap of lapsing water along the side,
The anchorite who snoozes at the stern
With chin on elbow, smiles in unconcern
As round his line a school of fishes feeds.
Under an overcoat of plaited reeds
He wears the faded scholar's robe he wore,
To shade his: head, a limpet shell of straw.
His scant beard and moustache's straggling hair
Are lightly lifted, flow along the air
Like water weed that sways this way and that,
Or as one fish tailed ribbon from his hat
Follows the other's fluctuating motion.

To bait this napping angler seems a notion
Well timed to Wu, for judging by his creel,
Scarcity's pinch will be his evening meal.

Wu Tao-tzü

"Among the Hundred Surnames, mine is Wu.
Pardon my mannerless presumption, who,
Ancient and solitary sage, are you?"

The hermit archly opens up one eye
To view this doze disturbing stranger by,
Yawns like a fox, and stretches out to rouse
His cramped limbs from their pictorial drowse.

The old Fisherman

I came here twenty years ago or more.
And yet these hands have never once before
Shaken themselves in salutation's hold.
Then I was Chang Chih-ho, but now the Old
Fisherman, Friend of Lonely Meres and Mists,
Tells you of what my way of life consists."

Wu Tao-tzü

"Why did you quit humanity and home
And choose this wilderness in which to roam?
Why in a humble sampan hold aloof,
Its wicker cradle for your only roof?"

Chang Chih ho

"I find it serves quite well to keep me dry.
After the autumn rains stop, and the sky
Rapidly clears, all space will cover me.

The moonrise, pale and golden, on the sea
Fulfils my modest wishes for a door,
While the sea's jade pavement lays the floor.
These, with the valley walls, make up my home:
What do you mean by saying that I roam?
Here cares and creditors no more infest
The house of mind : poverty brings it rest.
Possessing nothing, I am not possessed.
The State's a monstrously despotic plan,
Man's mobilised insanity, and man
Believes it real. Afraid of being free,
He fights to keep his cangue, and cannot flee.
An intimate I would far rather be
Of the white gull, which climbs and squalls aloud
Sailing across that sombre cliff of cloud,
Than have my spirit's lofty freedom furled
And flung upon the dust heap of the world."

Wu Ta-tzü

"From vain repute and rank you may retire.
The lust to rule, that menial's desire,
The web of power, possessions that degrade:
These you may shun; you cannot thus evade
Your unlived life, the fate you left unpaid."

Chang Chih-ho

"No debts or duties did I set aside,
For one who under Su Tsung occupied
The post of minister, was no misfit:
I fled not from the world, but into it."

Wu Tao-tzü

"Go where you will you take your troubled mind,
Whose fears you cannot face, nor leave behind.
In vain your doubts and sorrows you suppress.
In vain avoid society's distress:
Escape has no road from its loneliness."

Chang Chih-ho

"The Emperor's own entreaty I would spurn:
I feel no need to hasten my return
To where the simple Way is stifled in
The court's incessant fuss; where dust and din
Smother the capital beneath their pall;
Where I could keep no peace of mind at all.
No doubt the case of Chuang-tzu you recall?
Two high officials from the State of Chu,
Who called on him to seek an interview
While he was fishing in the River P'u,
Announced: 'Our Prince proposes we transfer
'The government to you -- an office, sir,
'Only your wisdom can administer,'
The Taoist did not deign to turn his head.
With rod in hand, he watched his line and said:
'In Ch'u there is a tortoise, which you hold
'Sacred for divination, so I'm told.
'It has been dead three thousand years, and since
'Kept in a covered casket by the Prince,
'Who heats its shell in his ancestral shrine
'And reads the cracks, from which he can divine.
'Given the choice when caught, which would it choose:
'To stay alive, draggling its tail in ooze,
'Or to be reverenced by men but dead?'
'To be alive, of course,' the officials said.
'Off with you then, and let me' he replied,
'Draggle my tail, too, in the muddy tide!'
And like Hsü Yu, the sage cleaned out his ears
To wash away political ideas,
So that downstream a cowherd then complained
Of waters that pollution had profaned."


Personages Represented
Cantos 5 to 8
Cantos 9 to 12
Cantos 13 to 16
Cantos 17 to 20
Cantos 21 to 24
Cantos 25 to 28
Cantos 29 to 32

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