Friday, 19 July 2013

Kokinshu #422

Friday, 19 July 2013 06:57
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Bush warbler (uguisu)

    Of his own free will
he keeps soaking himself with
    drops from the flowers --
so why does this bird only cry,
"Sadly my wings never dry"?

—30 June 2013

Original by Fujiwara no Toshiyuki. Kokinshu book X, "Names of Things," is wordplay poems, most of them a game called "hidden topic" though there's also a couple acrostics. The challenge here is to work the sound of the topic word or phrase into the text of a poem without actually using the word itself. This is similar how pivot-words work, only without using the secondary meaning as part of the poem, resulting in something of a word-find puzzle. I make no attempt to replicate this in English -- just ain't gonna happen -- but I do underline the hidden topic in the romanized original (though note that in modernized texts, these may not exactly match after a millennium of pronunciation drift and spelling reforms). Sometimes the poem relates to the topic -- some, as here, even are implicit riddles the topic answers -- but much of the time the topic is irrelevant. ¶ The first group of topics are flying animals, starting with our old friend from early spring. "My wings" is omitted-but-understood: as part of courting displays, bush warblers flutter their wings while perched in trees. Sorry 'bout the rhyme, but it just fell out without trying and for once it feels appropriate for a translation. Replacing "sadly" with "oh noes" would be Too Much, though.


kokoro kara
hana no shizuku ni
sohochitsutsu
uku hizu to nomi
tori no nakuramu


---L.

About

Warning: contents contain line-breaks.

As language practice, I was translating classical Japanese poetry -- most recently, book 11 (love part 1) of the Kokinshu anthology. This project is, however, on hiatus. Past translations are archived here. Suggestions, corrections, and questions always welcome.

There's also original pomes in the journal archives.

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