View from

Journey Through Mountains

(“Twelve Views from a Thatched Hut, Detail Two” by Xia Gui (1195-1224)

So many stars and mountains, crests and sky,/Are we not fools to think that we can know/What underlies such intricate designs?”

The Waterfall


“So noisy are the towns and villages,” remarked

The sage as he and his young pupil made


Their way across the bustling thoroughfares,

Heading toward the mountains and the mist.


The boy, only accustomed to the sound

Of rustling towns and city happenings,


Half-listened as he looked ahead toward

The snowy mountains, so near, yet so far.


Rising up from the earthly surface to the sky,

Piercing the sprawling cloudscapes up above,


The glistening peaks arrested his young eyes,

Their crests adorned with all the elements:


The pristine snow and careless alpine winds,

A gentle frost and pines that fear no cold.


But back below and far from busy towns,

After trekking for many quiet hours,


They heard a faint and playful murmuring

Beckoning them toward the leaf-dimmed light:


Soon, deep amid the forest’s evergreens,

Solacing caves and gnarled untrodden paths,


They found themselves before a waterfall

Whose rushing cataracts and foaming floods


Somehow inspired in them the calmest thoughts.

“The truth, though men forget, is never lost,”


Said the sage as he and the boy sat down;

They watched the foaming floods rush on for hours.




They crossed the rickety and cursed old bridge

And finally made it to the other side.


Surmounting gaping chasms far below,

They crossed the fear-fed gorges and abysms.


Alas, the gnawing fear and raving dread

Had only just begun to rear its head.


“Master, the end seems but the beginning,

The beginning the end, there’s never here,


Here’s never there; yet we’ve already climbed

So many mountainsides and trekked along


So many paths—should one not choose to live,

Instead of seeking what may never be?”


“The danger’s only going half the way,”

Said the sage as he watched the dim-lit stars.


“How to become a real master, then?”

Questioned the student as he trailed behind.


“There are no masters,” answered the old sage,

“Just students of the sacred Word and Way.


For, those who fail at being masters have

Not failed to reach their long-awaited goal


They’ve failed at being students,”—the sage smiled,

Then disappeared into bamboo groves.




The sage and boy sat on a path which lay

Atop one of the highest mountain crests.


Yet, neither sage nor boy looked down upon

The star-like speckles they knew as their towns.


Rather, they looked above, gazing upon

The star-strewn skies that blushed with unknown fires.


“So many stars and mountains, crests and sky,

Are we not fools to think that we can know


What underlies such intricate designs?”

Asked the boy as he eyed the twinkling schemes.


“The Truth is simple,” answered the old sage,

“The details are infinite.” Then he paused,


Turning his gaze towards the many stars,

Unnamed, yet lighting up their weathered paths.


The sage looked on, “You need only remove

All that which blinds you from the simple Truth.”


He gazed upon the distant starscapes up

Above, musing upon their twinkling fires.


David Gosselin is a poet, writer, and translator based in Montreal. He is the founding editor of The Chained Muse and New Lyre Magazine. His epic in iambic blank verse, Athena, appears in New Lyre Magazine—Winter 2024. His ongoing series of philosophical poems, “Journey Through Mountains” is an ever-expanding poetical journey, currently consisting of 25 visions, which he periodically posts and reads on his Substack, Age of Muses.


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