Walking with weary feet to the plains of the sandy south,
Traversing the boundary of a land surrounded by the pit
of dark seas,
Pulling the thread of my life—precious and cherished—
across a sword’s
   sharp blade,
Consuming long years and months of hardship, I have
somehow finished
   this book.

Although there is no one to beseech me
With mandates from on high or mandalas of gold,
I have taken on the burden of hardship alone and written
this,
Concerned that the treasury of knowledge will be lost.

Though terrified by the orange eye of envy
In the burning flame of those bloodthirsty for power,
Accustomed to the habit of gathering what I have learned,
My mind is attached to reasonable talk.

If it somehow enters the door of a wise person, intent of
learning,
Then the fruit of my labor will have been achieved.
For the smiles of stupid and the approval of the rich,
I have never yearned even in my dreams.

When this ink-stained body’s need for food and drink is
finished,
When this collection of bones—its thread of hope for
gain and honor
   snapped—is scattered,
Then may the forms of these letters, a pile of much
learning amassed
   through hardship,
Reveal the path of vast benefit in the presence of my
unseen friends.

University of Chicago Press (2009)

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