lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
[personal profile] lnhammer

natsu no yo no
fusu ka to soreba
naku hitokoe ni
akuru shinonome

    While I consider
possibly going to bed
    of a summer night --
with a single cuckoo's voice,
the first breaking light of dawn.

By Ki no Tsurayuki.

Written for (or at least presented at) a poetry contest held in 893. I am intrigued by how in the first line "night" (yo) is followed by a genitive/locative case-marker instead of the expected topic-marking particle, which has the effect of de-emphasizing the time -- and so plays into the speaker's losing track of it. I shifted that image down to the third line to mimic that de-emphasis.
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
[personal profile] lnhammer
As part of learning Japanese, I've taken up translating from the Kokinshu, the first imperial anthology of Japanese poetry, compiled around 905 CE. This is of course as silly as practicing English with Chaucer, but, well, mastering two grammar sets at once, plus vocabulary shifts, just makes the challenge all the more fun.

Please tell me there are other people who do this ...

The following is my favorite waka from the anthology, so far. It's by Ono no Komachi (小野小町), an obscure lady-in-waiting active in the 850s, noted for being the most passionate classical Japanese love poet as well as one of the great technical masters of using words with double-meanings. In this one, every noun and verb has at least two operative senses (ranging from symbolic senses to idiomatic uses to outright puns meant to be read both ways at once), only some of which can come through into English intact. In addition, the adverbial middle line can be read as applying to the clauses before and after it. In short, an astonishing poem. The implied context is she's been waiting for a lover who hasn't visited.

花の色は うつりにけりな いたづらに わが身世にふる ながめせしまに

hana no iro wa
utsurinikeri na
itazura ni
waga mi yo ni furu
nagame seshi ma ni

    This flower's beauty
has faded away it seems
    to no avail
have I spent my time staring
into space at the long rains



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July 2014

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