Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Kokinshu #368

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 07:27
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Written by his mother when Ono no Chifuru left to become Vice-Governor of Michinoku.

    You barrier gates,
at least don't stop this heart of
    a doting parent
that accompanies her child
as protection from dangers.

—24-25 February 2013

Original author unnamed, and Chifuru and his mother are otherwise unknown. Some medieval traditions held that Chifuru was the son of Ono no Michizane, the founder of the distinctly Japanese styles of calligraphy, but since Michizane was born in 894 and the last datable poem in the Kokinshu is from 915, this is *cough* extremely unlikely. ¶ Again not in the traditional Chinese manner, as it's not written by a male friend, but at least it's for a departing official. Michinoku was the northernmost province of the main island of Honshu, comprising modern Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Aomori prefectures -- a decidedly frontier post in a region that had come under (read: was conquered by) the still-shaky control of the southern capital only in the early 9th century. Travel permits were required (at least by officials and aristocrats) to pass the barrier gates or check-points between regions. Tarachine no is a stock epithet for a parent of uncertain meaning: although it is now sometimes written with kanji meaning "breasts overflowing with milk," it originally was unisex and probably had a sense closer to "overflowing with affection." Omitted-but-understood: "her child," though it's strongly implied by a form of "accompany" that indicates an action done together. OTOH, "from dangers" is purely interpretive. Lost in translation: the doting parent comes right at the start of the poem.

tarachine no
oya no mamori to
kokoro bakari wa
seki na todome so



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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