Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Kokinshu #433

Wednesday, 14 August 2013 07:01
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Hollyhock, katsura (aoi, katsura)

    Now that the days
when we meet have become as
    infrequent as this,
how can I not believe that
this person is hard-hearted?

—12 July 2013

(Original author unknown.) This has two topic words hidden separately. The katsura is the easier to explain, being either of two trees of genus Cercidiphyllum resembling the redbud or Judas tree, cultivated for their drooping branches and vivid, scented autumn leaves. The aoi is more complicated: in modern Japanese, it means hollyhock, but in the Nara era it meant a type of wild ginger, now usually called futaba-aoi (Asarum caulescens), after which the Kyoto Aoi Festival was originally named, during which the Kamo Shrine in eastern Kyoto was originally decorated with that aoi as well as katsura. The transition between the two names had already started in the Heian period, which means the topic could be either plant. Since commentaries disagree which it is and the identity is not actually relevant to the poem, I threw up my hands and picked the prettier. Aesthete me, ya. The sequencing here seems to be based on the May festival, as katsura is ordinarily an autumn topic for either the leaves or its winged seeds. In the poem itself, the speaker could be either gender -- a waiting woman or a man who keeps getting put off. Omitted-but-understood: "infrequent."

kaku bakari
au hi no mare ni
naru hito o
ikaga tsurashi 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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