Seeking the Master, Disappointed

Jia Dao (779 – 843)
Beneath the pine I asked a little boy,
Who said, “the master’s gone somewhere alone
To pick the herbs among the mountain midst—
Within the clouds, along a path unknown.”

尋隱者不遇Xún Yǐn Zhě Bù Yù
賈島Jiǎ Dǎo
松下問童子Sōng xià wèn tóng zǐ
言師采藥去Yán shī cǎi yào qù
隻在此山中Zhī zài cǐ shān zhōng
雲深不知處Yún shēn bù zhī chǔ

Transliteration and Notes
Seek Hidden Master Not Found
Pine beneath ask boy child
Says master picking herbs departed
Alone in this mountain midst
Clouds deep not know place
     Born into a poor family, Jia Dao first entered adulthood as a Buddhist monk, but later moved to the capital, Chang’an, attempting to become a government official. However, he failed the civil service exam several times and abandoned the project. Nonetheless, his poetry was noticed by a prominent poet, Han Yu (768-824), who mentored him. Jia Dao gave up the life of a monk and devoted himself to poetry instead, earning his living by a low level government job.
     In this poem, the poet is seeking a spiritual or poetic master who lives deep within nature. When he asks the master’s young disciple his whereabouts, the disciple says his master is away in the mountain gathering herbs and natural medicine. Hence, the poet was unsuccessful in meeting the man he sought.

Author of original: 
Jia Dao