Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Kokinshu #387

Wednesday, 8 May 2013 07:01
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Written while seeing off Minamoto no Sane at Yamazaki when he was traveling to Tsukushi to bathe in the hot springs.

    If only our lives
somehow corresponded to
    our hearts' desires,
would separation still be
something so agonizing?

— 2 May 2013

Original by Shirome. In Tales of Yamato, this is ascribed to a ukareme or female entertainer named Shiro who wrote another poem for Emperor Uda. Nothing more is known of Shiro(me) other than that this must have been written before Minamoto no Sane's death in 900, and this is the only poem ascribed to her in the Kokinshu. ¶ For Sane, see the next poem. Tsukushi was a province corresponding to modern Fukuoka Prefecture but could also refer to Kyushu as a whole, and Yamazaki on the Yodo/Uji River (it's a waterway that changes name frequently), downstream from the capital at the border of modern Kyoto and Osaka prefectures, was the embarkation point for travelers to the western provinces. That Shirome was an entertainer rather than a court lady may explain why she could travel that far with Sane. (As a side-note, being an ukareme does not necessarily mean being of a commoner -- Tales of Yamato mentions one who was a younger daughter of a middling courtier -- but it does imply some freedom of behavior, and the role, later called asobi, came to imply a sexual component. So it has too often gone for freer women.) As for the poem itself: whose life, whether hers, his, or both, is ambiguous -- hers is the traditional reading, reasonably enough given the Lonely Lady trope, but the arduousness of the journey to Kyushu suggests the hot-springs are intended as a cure for serious health issues, making his also a topic of concern.

inochi dani
kokoro ni kanau
mono naraba
nani ka wakare no



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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