Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jewels of melted snow...

Poem 3 of the Shinkokin wakashuu (新古今和歌集), from the book of spring poems.


hyakushu uta tatematurishi toki, haru no uta
yama fukami haru tomo shiranu matsu no to ni taedae kakaru yuki no tamamidzu
Shikishinai shinnou

Presented at the time of a One Hundred Poem Meet, a spring poem

Deep in the mountains / where one wonders if spring comes, / waiting at the gate / of pine branches, pure drops of / melting snow fall here and there

Princess Shikishinai


This is another poem about the coming of spring. In this case, the drops of melting snow signify the slow approach of spring, coming in drop by drop. Additionally, the pine in the pine branch gate (matsu in Japanese) operates as a kakekotoba--the homonym of matsu (pine) is, again, matsu (to wait). As such, I have incorporated "waiting" and "pine" into the same sentence, as closely as possible, in an attempt to signify their connection. Additionally, the Japanese for the "pure drops" of melting (tamamidzu) is literally "jewel water"--metaphorical language for pure, clean water drops. Finally, in the Japanese, the poet does not literally "wonder" if spring will come, instead she doesn't know if spring will come this deep in the mountains. Obviously this is a hyperbolic description of the poet's Hermitage, but it is an image full of miyabi (or elegance) that so thoroughly informs classical Japanese poetry--and, indeed, most of classical Japanese culture.


Thanks for reading today! This is a much shorter post than usual, but I expect to continue with shorter posts (maybe not quite this short) as I'm trying to spend more time studying Japanese with the goal of taking the JLPT ikkyu by the end of next year. But that doesn't I'll stop posting! Please keep reading!

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