Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Kokinshu #411

Tuesday, 25 June 2013 07:18
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
They arrived at the bank of the Sumida River between Musashi and Shimotsufusa provinces, and dismounted and sat for a while on the riverbank as they recalled the capital with great longing -- "Ah, how far we've endlessly traveled!" they grieved, lost in thought as they gazed into space. When the ferryboatman said, "Come on, get in the boat, it's getting dark," they boarded the boat to cross over, but everyone was wretched, not a one not thinking of someone in the capital. At that moment, a white bird with red bill and legs was idling on the riverbank. Because it was a bird not seen in the capital, no one could identify it. When they asked the ferryman, "What kind of bird IS this?" he said, "Why, a capital-bird," and on hearing this, [Narihira] recited:

    Since you bear that name,
well then, I shall ask you this:
    "O capital-bird,
the person I long for --
is she still alive or not?"

—17 June 2013

(Original by Ariwara no Narihira.) Later that same trip, according to Tales of Ise. The Sumida flows through what's now the east side of downtown Tokyo -- at the time, not much was there. The "capital bird" (miyakodori) could have been the black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus, called yurikamome today) or possibly the Eurasian oyster-catcher (Haematopus ostralegus), no longer resident in Japan. Once again, Narihira sifts through conditionals, wrapped this time around a pun.

na ni shi owaba
iza koto towamu
wa ga omou hito wa
ari ya nashi ya to



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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