Home > 1. Famous Poems, 3. My Poetry & Translations > Chia Tao and a New Year

Chia Tao and a New Year

The New Year has started, and it has been almost exactly a month since RT last posted. By way of explanation, he will say only that various transitions and plottings are afoot and have taken him away from his regular obligations and projects. More will be revealed as some of this work begins to bear fruit (which is to say, in the next post or two). Our distracted blogger’s first contribution of 2015 is his version of a poem by Chan Buddhist monk Jia Dao (old spelling, Chia Tao), 779-843 AD. Highly regarded during his life, JD is not now as well known as the small group of most famous T’ang poets that includes Du Fu and Bai Juyi; on the basis of the following poem, RT thinks this might be a mistake. JD seems to have combined a deep respect for natural process with indications of the intensity of his experience as a monk, linking his internal and external lives in unforgettable images.

Evening; Watching the Snow Stop

*

Clutching my staff, I watch the storm lift; 

hills and clouds braid tight, dissolve in dusk.

Woodcutters disappear into their cabins

as a weary sun drops to its bed.

*

And later: wildfire flowers in distant grass.

Tattered mist trailing; boulders, pine.

Hushed, I climb the monastery road—

night strikes the mountain like a bell.

Chia Tao/Jia Dao

version by Eric Quinn

copyright 2015, The Rag Tree

Photo: Tetons from Signal Mountain (1941); author, Ansel Adams. National Archives. Public Domain.   *

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  1. January 8, 2015 at 1:59 am

    feel almost
    like i’m there
    with those
    words 🙂

  2. January 8, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    “… night strikes the mountain like a bell” — such a powerful concept and evoked image.

    • January 9, 2015 at 12:42 am

      cg: a simply amazing image…what a poem! RT

    • January 11, 2015 at 2:14 am

      “… wildfire flowers in distant grass …” – this image smoulders in the imagination;

      “… night strikes the mountain like a bell” – profoundly sudden, breathtaking.

  3. January 12, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    atp: a poem like this reminds me why i’m a translator…thx as always for your enthusiasm! RT

  4. January 23, 2015 at 2:06 am

    ‘hills and clouds braid tight” – of course they do! Sometimes a phrase is so utterly correct and sublime that one can’t believe that it could have been put any other way. I’ll never see the merging of the dusk any other way – and I thank you for that!

    • February 1, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      aubrey–thanks for your enthusiasm–it means even more coming from a gifted poet! RT

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