Sunday, 7 July 2013

Kokinshu #417

Sunday, 7 July 2013 07:32
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
While traveling to the hot springs of Tajima Province, he stopped for the night at a place called Futami Bay. The company recited poems as they ate a meal of dried rice, and he composed this.

    In the moonlit night,
it's obscure -- the jeweled box-lid
    that's Futami Bay:
it's when the dawn opens up
that we'll see its underneath.

—30 June 2013

Original by Fujiwara no Kanesuke. Approaching the end of the book, the tone gets lighter. Tajima is now the northern half of Hyôgo Prefecture; the hot springs in question would be the resort area of Kinosaki (now part of Toyooka city), but the exact location of Futami ("twice-seen") is uncertain. Rice that was cooked and then dried was common rations for soldiers and travelers. Tamakushige, "(of) a jeweled comb-box," is a stock epithet for Futami because the futa part can mean "lid." Usually this would be just a decorative phrase, but the sense is carried forward with more pivot-words: ura = "inlet" / "underside" and akate = "dawn and" / "open and," giving the whole second half two overlaid readings: "as for the Inlet of Futami, when it dawns we'll see it" and "as for the underside of the lid, when we open (it) we'll see it." The result of all this punning is something very clever that does not render well in English. To gain a ghost of coherence, I've arbitrarily placed their lodgings on a hill overlooking the bay and ignored the "twice-seen" meaning, and even then it requires pretending "its" and "it's" are spelled the same. We should set Robin Gill on this one.

yûzuku yo
obotsukanaki o
futami no ura wa
akete koso mime



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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