Monday, 2 December 2013

lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
On the day of the archery meet of the Right Horse Guards, when a woman's face was faintly visible through the lowered blinds of a carriage across the way, he wrote and sent [her]:

    Both not unseen
and yet not seen -- if I long
    for such a person,
will I be spending today
uselessly lost in thought?

—24 November 2013

Original by Ariwara no Narihira. From rumors to tantalizing glimpses: aristocratic women traveled in ox-drawn carriages enclosed with hanging blinds to prevent them from being seen, or at least seen clearly. And with the love poems, Narihira enters his forte -- here he evokes several emotions and shifting realities in a poem that sounds beautiful as well. The exact nature of the occasion is uncertain, but the most common explanation is that the imperial Horse Guards held an annual ceremonial competition involving archery and horseriding on successive days for the left and right divisions -- with the Right Horse Guards, which Narihira commanded, holding theirs on the Sixth Day of the Fifth Month. The incident, including the woman's reply (see next), also appears in both Tales of Ise and (with a different reply) Tales of Yamato, suggesting it had strong contemporary interest -- or maybe it was Narihira's popularity as a famous playboy.


mizu mo arazu
mi mo senu hito no
koishiku wa
aya naku kyou ya
nagamekurasamu


---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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