‘These rulers, so cruel’

"The Poetry of Zen," compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill.

“The Poetry of Zen,” compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill.

I’ve been reading a little poetry of an evening, much of it from the collection “The Poetry of Zen,” compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill, and recently stumbled across a couple works that, alas, confirm my suspicions that the assholistic Reign of the Morons Charles P. Pierce has been following so assiduously is nothing new.

The first is “Bad Government,” from T’ang dynasty poet and painter Kuan Hsiu (832-912):

Sleet and rain, as if the pot were boiling.

Winds whack like the crack of an axe.

An old man, an old old man,

at sunset, crept into my hut.

He sighed. He sighed as if to himself,

“These rulers, so cruel. Why, tell me

why they must steal till we starve,

then slice the skin from our bones?

For a song from some beauty,

they’ll go back on sworn words;

for a song from some tart,

they’ll tear down our huts;

for a sweet song or two,

they’ll slaughter ten thousand like me,

like you. Weep as you will,

let your hair turn white,

let your whole clan go hungry . . .

no good wind will blow,

no gentle breeze

begin again.

Lord Locust Plague and Baron Bandit Bug,

one east, one west, one north, one south.

We’re surrounded.”

The second is an untitled piece from the mythical Han Shan, an eighth-century Chinese construct I first heard of via Jack Kerouac in “The Dharma Bums”:

I stand here and watch the people of this world:

all against one and one against all,

angry, arguing, plotting and scheming.

Then one day, suddenly, they die.

And each gets one plot of ground:

four feet wide, six feet long.

If you can scheme your way out of that plot,

I’ll set the stone that immortalizes your name.

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8 Responses to “‘These rulers, so cruel’”

  1. Dale Says:

    P’OG, nice work. The Han Shan really speaks to today. I’ve been reading Donald Culross Peattie lately – currently “Green Laurels”. He was perhaps a botanist, who could keep me enthralled even if he was writing about boiling water. Nearly everything he wrote is out of print. His son released an edited version of his two volumes on eastern and western trees not too long ago. Herself, being a librarian, may know of his work.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Why are so many of the good ones out of print? (This, of course, is a rhetorical question.)

      If you like that Han Shan poem, J.P. Seaton has collected a bunch of them in “Cold Mountain Poems,” another book I’ve been thumbing through lately. I find poetry a tough hustle — rumormongers tend to get the message right out front, while a poet makes you hunt for the sonofabitch — but I’m enjoying these very much.

  2. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    I need to get that first book. I frequently refer to chapter 59 of Stephen Mitchell’s English translation of the Tao te Ching.

    “For governing a country well there is nothing better than moderation.

    The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas. Tolerant like the sky, all-pervading like sunlight, firm like a mountain, supple like a tree in the wind, he has no destination in view and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way.

    Nothing is impossible for him. Because he has let go, he can care for the people’s welfare as a mother cares for her child.”


  3. Larry T. Says:

    Pierce has got it right. I too wondered what happened to the “zombie-eyed grannie starver” (aka Eddie Munster) and now he’s BAAAAACK! Who’s next, “Princess Dumbass of the North”? I’ve been happy not to hear her fingernails on the chalkboard screeching of late, but if Munster is back can she be far behind? Doesn’t take much to show more cojones than John “The Tin Man” Boner these days!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      They’re all steaming out of the dungheap now. It’s never too early to start running for the ’16 nomination, don’t you know. Tail Gunner Ted is the one currently giving me the heebie-jeebies. Talk about a guy who spends too much time in the mirror, admiring his reflection and the sound of his own voice.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        From what I read, he has a portrait of himself arguing a case before the Supreme Court hanging in his office.

  4. Steve O Says:

    The Benefits of Ignorance, by Hal Sirowitz

    If ignorance is bliss, Father said,
    shouldn’t you be looking blissful?
    You should check to see if you have
    the right kind of ignorance. If you’re
    not getting the benefits that most people
    get from acting stupid, then you should
    go back to what you always were —
    being too smart for you own good.

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