Saturday, 15 June 2013

Kokinshu #406

Saturday, 15 June 2013 06:45
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Written on seeing the moon in China.

    When I look up at
the distant plains of heaven,
    the moon that arose
over Mikasa Mountain
in the shrine of Kasuga!

Regarding this poem, the story is told that long ago Nakamaro was sent to study in China; after many years of not being able to go home, he had the chance to accompany a returning envoy from this country. When they set off, the people of that country held a banquet to see them off on the seashore of a place called Meishiu (Mingzhou). As night fell, an especially beautiful moon rose, and on seeing it he wrote this.

—11 May 2010

Original by Abe no Nakamaro, who was born c.700 and sent to Tang China to study in 717, where he died 54 years later. While there, he took the civil service exam and rose through the bureaucratic ranks to governor-general of a border province, and became friends with poets Li Po/Li Bo and Wang Wei. The banquet took place in 753, before his second of four failed attempts to return to Japan -- he had bad travel luck. This is his only poem in the Kokinshu, not to mention its oldest datable poem, and I previously posted it as Hyakunin Isshu #7. ¶ On to Book IX, a short collection of travel poetry that starts with settings off -- of which, this poem has two: Kasuga Shrine, at the foot of Mt. Mikasa near the then-capital Nara, was where departing envoys such as Nakamaro prayed for a safe return. Mingzhou is an old name for what's now Ningbo in Zhejiang Province, China.

(The extensive notes in this book are going to give me a workout in parsing out bungo prose -- and there's a couple places I'm not entirely confident I've correctly handled what's a single sentence in the original.)

ama no hara
furisake mireba
kasuga naru
mikasa no yama ni
ideshi tsuki kamo

kono uta wa, mukashi nakamaro o morokoshi ni mono narabashi ni tsukawashitarikeru ni, amata no toshi o hete e kaeri maude kozarikeru o, kono kuni yori mata tsukaimakari itarikeru ni taguite, maude kinamu tote idetachikeru ni, meishiu to iu tokoro no umibe nite kano kuni mo hito muma no hana mukeshikeri, yoru ni narite tsuki no ito omoshikusashi idetarikeru o mite yomeru to namu katari tsutauru



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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