Kokinshu #466

Saturday, 2 November 2013 08:59
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Embers (okibi)

    A river of tears
so deep the source it flows from
    can't even be seen --
when this ocean has dried up,
will its bottom then be known?

—27 October 2013

Original by Miyako no Yoshika, the literary sobriquet (meaning "good fragrance of the capital") of scholar, historian, and poet-in-Chinese Sukune no Kotomichi (834-879), whose erudition was famous enough to become the subject of literary anecdotes, many involving Sugewara no Michizane. This is his only poem in the Kokinshu. ¶ Hiding "embers" in a decidedly drippy poem looks to me like deliberate irony. This is the only place in the Kokinshu where a "river of tears" is appears outside of the love poems; given that usage, we have here an exaggeratedly weeping lover claiming to be completely unnoticed by absolutely everyone. Untranslatable wordplay: soko, "bottom/bed," can also be heard as "that place," referring back to the wellspring. "So deep" is interpretive, added to clarify the ocean metaphor.


nagare'izuru
kata dani mienu
namidagawa
oki himu toki ya
soko wa shiraremu


---L.
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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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