IN A JAPANESE GARDEN
(The Ryoanji Temple Kyoto),
Green dwarf trees of stunted pine,
Their dark fresh branches there entwine,
While cherry blossoms pink and white,
Gay sun-blessed shrubs of purple, red,
All flower to the eye's delight,
In the clear crisp morning bright,
The beauteous blood of nature shed,
Tears of heaven in my sight.
And on the iris-fringed lakes,
Drift lotus leaves like green snowflakes,
Still pools of silent, restful balm,
Where tiny islets dream their time away,
And golden carp swim slowly through the calm,
Reflected stillness of the simple charm,
Of temple roofs or sloping silver grey,
Where song-birds pipe their sweet, thanks-giving psalm.
And in a shaded bower by the shrine,
A garden or yet more pure design,
A garden that is to perfection planned,
A message to the seeking minds of men,
A garden using only rocks and sand,
And tended by some careful, loving hand,
The essence of the Buddhist world of Zen,
In harmony of Nature, God and Man.
Those moss-grey rocks in scattered groups arrayed,
Each rock on rock with fine precision laid,
Upon the virgin sand, a smooth-raked plain,
A softly-rippled sea of gleaming White,
Where the mind or man can suddenly attain,
The breaking of its all-retarding chain,
And hold one moment in his groping sight,
The meaning of his True God once again.
Those scattered rocks, so very plain to me,
Are islands in one all-embracing sea,
Of ignorance that spans from shore to shore,
A pinnacle of faith is every peak,
Where reverent disciples do adore,
Their gods of gentle love -- or savage war,
And with slaughter or with prayer, salvation seek,
Through Allah, Buddha, Christ -- and many more.
And if some dazzling, all-enlightening day,
That all-dividing sea were drained away,
And ignorance was banished from our eyes,
Then all religious faiths would be revealed,
And man at last the Truth would realize,
That all those island havens he so prized,
Are but the peaks of one vast mountain now unveiled,
And priests who still say nay choke on their lies.
All Gods are but reflections of the whole,
All aspects of the Universal Soul,
Nature, God, and Mind and Man entwine,
The garden says, though all is not complete.
But in that peaceful bower by the shrine,
Where stone lanterns to departed spirits shine,
Written in the rocks and sand so neat,
A priest of Zen has left a pointing sign.
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