Friday, 21 June 2013

Kokinshu #409

Friday, 21 June 2013 06:15
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
(Topic unknown.)

    Faintly, faintly,
Akashi Inlet at dawn --
    in the morning mist
a boat goes concealed behind
an island -- my thoughts with it.

Some say this poem is by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro.

—12 June 2013

(Original author unknown.) After starting off, we get a border crossing: Akashi ("bright rock") Straight, a little west of modern Kobe between Awaji Island and the mainland, was the dividing line, when sailing west, between the Inner and Outer provinces -- to pass through it into Akashi Inlet was to leave the "home counties," as it were. Because of the bright part of its name (which can be read as a pivot-word also meaning "dawn"), it sometimes appears with the stock epithet "dimly" -- which here plays into the delicate conceit, one closer to the manner of Hitomaro's time than others dubiously attributed to him in the Kokinshu. This poem was cited by Fujiwara no Teika as an model of writing with "elegant beauty," and in medieval times, allegorical interpretations of this poem were handed down as esoteric teachings by each textual tradition (one held that it is mourning an imperial prince). One result of reproducing the order of images, an important effect, is not just breaking the long smooth sweep of the last four lines but doing so in a way that enforces one particular interpretation -- it's possible to read the original as the speaker imagining the scene rather than directly observing it. Also possible: the speaker doesn't just think about but longs for the boat (and presumably its departing passenger).

honobono to
akashi no ura no
akagiri ni
fune o shi zo omou

kono uta wa, aru hito iwaku, kakinomoto [no] hitomaro ga uta 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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