Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831)
"Ryo" means "good,: and "kan" signifies "broad," in the sense of generous and large-hearted. "taigu" (his adopted name) means "Great Fool," implying childlike simplicity and luck of pretense or sham. Ryokan, the Zen master and hermit, is one of the most influential Japanese poets. That I love him so much, can it be just an accident?

Here are a few samples of his haiku and other poems most taken from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan (tr. by John Stevens, Shambhala). Please enjoy them: 

orchid
lotus
love poems/letter to and from Teishin

 

* * *
Who says my poems are poems?
My poems are not poems.
When you know that my poems are not poems,
Then we can speak of poetry.
 

* * *
The winds gives me
Enough fallen leaves
To make a fire
 

* * *
This world
A fading
Mountain echo
Void and
Unreal

Within
A light snow
Three Thousand Realms
Within those realms
Light snow falls

As the snow
Engulfs my hut
At dusk
My heart, too
Is completely consumed

 * * *
At dusk
I often climb
To the peak of Kugami.
Deer bellow
Their voices
Soaked up by
Piles of maple leaves
Lying undisturbed at
The foot of the mountain

 

* * *
The plants and flowers
I raised about my hut
I now surrender
To the will
Of the wind
 

* * *
Wild peonies
Now at their peak
In glorious full bloom:
Too precious to pick
To precious not to pick

O lonely pine!
I'd gladly give you
My straw hat and
Thatched coat
To ward off the rain

*  *  *
In my little begging bowl
violets and dandelions
Mixed together
As an offering to the
Buddhas of the Three Worlds

Picking violets
By the roadside
I absent-mindedly
Left my little bowl behind --
O poor little bowl!

I've forgotten my
Little begging bowl again --
No one will take you,
Surely no one will take you:
My sad little bowl!

 

 ORCHID
Deep in the valley, a beauty hides:
Serene, peerless, incomparably sweet.
In the still shade of the bamboo thicket
It seem to sigh softly for a lover

 

THE LOTUS
First blooming in the Western Paradise,
The lotus has delighted us for ages.
Its white petals are covered with dew,
its jade green leaves spread out over the pond,
And its pure fragrance perfumes the wind.
Cool and majestic, it raises from the murky water.
The sun sets behind the mountains
But I remain in the darkness, too captivated to leave.

 

LOVE POEMS 
BETWEEN RYOKAN AND TEISHIN
Was it really you
I saw
Or is this joy
I still feel
only a dram?
--Teishin

In this dream world
We doze
And talk of dreams --
Dream, dream on,
As much as you wish
--Ryokan

Here with you
I could remain
For countless days and years
Silent as the bright moon
We watched together
--Teishin

have you forgotten me
Or lost the path here?
I wait for you
All day, every day
But you do not appear
--Ryokan

The moon, I'm sure
Is shining brightly
High above the mountains
But gloomy clouds
Shroud the peak in darkness
--Teishin

You must rise above
The gloomy clouds
Covering the mountaintop
Otherwise, how will you
Ever see the brightness?
--Ryokan

 

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