Thursday, 25 July 2013

Kokinshu #424

Thursday, 25 July 2013 06:59
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Cicada shell (utsusemi)

    Looking at the shoals
struck by the waves, there are gems
    all scattered about.
If I gather them up, though,
won't they vanish in my sleeve?

—4 July 2013

Original by Ariwara no Shigeharu. A summer/early-autumn topic, one metaphorically rather than literally related to the content: the shell from the final juvenile molt of a cicada was a common Buddhist symbol for a world that is empty and "fleeting," as this poem puts it -- though I rendered that a little idiomatically. (#443, for example, uses it as a stock epithet for the world.) The gems are, of course, drops of spray (or possibly bubbles), and sleeves are where one conventionally gathers up drops (of tears). A better reading may be "the rapids where waves strike (each other)," but I'm not strongly enough convinced of that to change my rendering.

nami no utsu
se mireba tama zo
hirowaba sode ni
hakanakaramu ya



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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