Kokinshu #477

Wednesday, 4 December 2013 07:10
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    Knowing, not knowing --
why do you uselessly speak
    of distinguishing this?
It is love, and only love,
that can act as your guide.

—25 November 2013

Original by an unknown woman. So decoding the poetic persiflage, Narihira essentially asked, "Will I be able see you?" and she replied, "Why worry about seeing? If you really love me, you'd find a way for us to meet!" This is about as direct a come-on as you'll find in classical Japanese. Some commentaries claim that the hi, "fire," of omo(h)i, "feelings" here rendered as "love," suggests a torch lighting the way -- and maybe it would to someone steeped in the tradition of the time.

(One of these days I'll have to decide whether, when romanizing, to always treat the inflection of a nari-adjective as a suffix or, as for their modern Japanese descendents, a separate particle. For, yanno, consistancy's sake.)

shiru shiranu
nani ka aya naku
wakite iwamu
omoi nomi koso
shirube narikere


Date: 21 January 2014 04:48 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
All right! The 物名 poems are finally over! (I may have zoned out for a while there.)

One thing I find a bit artless about this poem is the abrupt switch to "knowing, not knowing", when the poem it replies to is about seeing vs not seeing. It's possible I'm missing some profound facet of Heian thought, but as far as I can tell the only reason for using "shiru" is to foreshadow "shirube" in the last line.

P.S. Possible typo in the original of #479; you would expect koishikarIkere instead of koishikarAkere



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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