Friday, 22 March 2013

Kokinshu #376

Friday, 22 March 2013 07:05
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Written and sent to Fujiwara no Kimitoshi when travelling to Hitachi.

    Since I can't rely
on you, a Kimitoshi
    not constantly seen,
my decision is to sleep
on grass pillows in Hitachi.

—17 March 2013

Original by Utsuku (supposedly that's how her name is pronounced -- the kanji's common modern reading is Megumi). A daughter of Minamoto no Kuwashi (a high-ranking minister), her birth and death dates are unknown but she seems to have been active in the years around 900. (Kimitoshi, an upper-level official active in the decades around 900, was probably born around 870.) She has 3 poems in the Kokinshu. ¶ Textual note: my base text has the first line asa na ge ni, which is pretty much nonsense and most editors remove two dots to emend this to asa na ke ni, "(every) morning and day" = "constantly." A "grass pillow" is a metonymy for traveling, as that is what travelers conventionally sleep on, though how often they did in practice is another matter -- "to sleep on" is added as a gloss-within-the-text for clarity. In the headnote, it's ambiguous who's going to Hitachi (in modern Ibaraki Prefecture), but in the poem the speaker is clearly the traveler. The recipient's name is worked into line 2 and the destination into line 4, though this latter is obscured by modern orthography. The working in is done in much the way of the acrostics of book 10, but given their relevance and that it's possible with a little stretching to read them as pivot words, I've double-translated them as such. Utsuku's manner is in the tradition of the Lonely Lady of Chinese models.

asa na ke ni
mibeki kimi to shi
kusamakura nari



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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