To make amends for misreporting Han Yw's dates in our original note to LY 2:4, we may here look in on him a few years later. He is about 45. He has long been burdened with poverty. He has a lot on his mind. He is grumpy. Normally, the energy derived from his sense of contact with the past sustains him in his labors. Here, the past (in the form of a lesson poem chanted by his young son) is merely one more irritant. This poem is the eighth of a set of eleven, written in c812 and called Autumn Thoughts:Swirling leaves are fluttering to the earth,
Wherever breezes blow them, they are shed;
There seems a meaning in their rustling sounds
As headlong, with no purpose, they are sped
In empty room the dusk declines to dark,
I sit in silence, not a word is said.
The boy comes in the room and up to me,
He trims the lamp and moves it near my head
He asks a question, but I don't reply,
He brings me dinner; I'm not interested;
He goes and sits against the western wall,
He starts to chant, and several poems are read -
The author isn't of our present age,
A thousand years and more he has been dead;
His words are of the sorrows he had met,
They make me all the more dispirited
I turn around and say to him "You, boy -
Just put the book away and go to bed!"
A grownup has a lot of work to do:
Years of it stretch endlessly ahead
Poverty entailed by principle is the standard cost of principle. One pays the cost as a gesture of homage due to principle. When the cost is paid also by others, one's willingness to incur that cost may waver. Han Yw's young son died not long afterward, in part due to the effects of poverty. Han Yw would make his most principled stand only seven years later, and would himself be dead five years after that. The years ahead of him, as he wrote this poem, were thus not all that endless. The prospect at which Han Yw was looking was not that still unknown future; it was a more general vision of futility. Effort made in vain. That note is struck by the meaningless falling of the autumn leaves with which the poem begins. They fall, brilliantly it may be, but to no purpose.
This was just a mood; Han Yw did in fact stay the course until the end. It is because he did so that we still remember him. His poem remains to remind us that such things are sometimes more comfortable to read about than to do.
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