Saturday, 5 October 2013

Kokinshu #453

Saturday, 5 October 2013 08:30
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Bracken (warabi)

    These fronds of grasses
where, even when they break out,
    smoke cannot be seen
rising up -- who was it to
first gave it the name "straw-fire"?

—4 September 2013

Original by Shinsei, a Buddhist priest whose parentage and birthdates are unknown, but according to the headnote of #556, he was active during the time of Ono no Komachi (see #113) and Abe no Kiyoyuki (see #456) in the mid-9th century. He has two poems in the Kokinshu. ¶ Bracken can be associated with any season, but is most commonly a spring topic for its edible fiddleheads. Warabi, "bracken," sounds like wara + bi, "straw + fire," and moyu can mean both "sprout" and "burn." I read the latter as a pivot (here both rendered in "break out" -- WIKTORY!) though doing so makes the statement make only marginally more sense. Frankly, I'm not sure how this counts as "hiding" the topic word. Compare #249, which also plays with etymology but does it using kanji and less naivete.

keburi tachi
moyu to mo mienu
kusa no ha o
tare ka warabi 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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