Sunday, 23 June 2013

Kokinshu #410

Sunday, 23 June 2013 08:13
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
He had invited one or two friends to go with him to the eastern provinces. When they arrived at a place called Eight Bridges in Mikawa Province, they saw rabbit-ear irises blooming especially beautifully on the river bank. Dismounting in the shade of a tree, he said he'd write [a poem] on the feelings of traveling with the characters of "kakitsubata" (rabbit-ear iris) placed at the start of every line, and then wrote this.

    Because I've a wife
as familiar as a cozy,
    well-worn Chinese robe,
I feel like a traveler
who has come from far away.

—16 June 2013

Original by Ariwara no Narihira. Now for some actual traveling. Mikawa Province is now Aichi Prefecture, and the site is now an iris garden on the grounds of Muryoju Temple in the modern city of ChiryĆ». In addition to the acrostic, Narihira has included an adverbial stock epithet (the Chinese robe), at least one pivot-word (nare- is "well-worn" for the robe and "familiar" for the wife, creating an implicit comparison), and five imagistically associated words -- thus showing he was as much a technical master as Komachi, though he didn't often show off this way. (Tsuma meaning "wife" / "hem/skirt" of a robe is another possible pivot, but I don't see how to join the phrases together -- I read the double-meaning as one of the associated words.) The rabbit-ear iris (Iris laevigata) is a purple Japanese species that grows in marshy ground. (The acrostic, btw, is more evidence that the 5-7-5-7-7 divisions (ku) of a poem were functionally equivalent to our "lines," despite the orthographic convention of writing poetry continuously.) (Note that the acrostic word's ba and the fourth line's ha- are different in modernized spellings, after a thousand years of language change, but were identical at the time. I'll have to figure out how to deal with this routinely for the book of acrostic poems.)

kitsutsu narenishi
tsuma shi areba
harubaru kinuru
tabi o shi zo omou



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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