Friday, November 5, 2010

Once more with gusto...

Let's pretend it hasn't been over a year since I've updated this.

It's autumn! Let's have an autumn poem from the Kokin wakashuu...


Poem 249 of the Kokin wakashuu (古今和歌集) from the second book of autumn poems.


Koresadanomiko no ie no utaawase no uta
fukukara ni aki ni kusaki no shihorureba mube yamakaze wo arashi to ifuramu
Bunya no Yasuhide

From the poetry meet at Prince Koresada's house

The moment wind blows/ the autumn grasses and trees/ wither and die, so/ of course bitter winds blowing/ from mountains should be thus named

Bunya Yasuhide


As with much classical Japanese poetry, the poetics of this poem rely on the multiple meanings あらし (嵐・荒らし, arashi)can have. In the first sense, arashi simply refers to heavy winds. However, arashi can also refer to a state of violence or disarray (like what may result from the destructive force of heavy winds). Rendering this English, while maintaining the syllable count, seems nearly impossible. As such, I've chosen "bitter" to function in the place of violence. I've done this for two reasons. First, I wanted to maintain the turn that arashi provides in the original, and "bitter winds" could also be taken by an English speaker to mean either storm winds or the winds of fate, as it were. Second, I wanted to capture the lament that flows through the poem. As many have mentioned before, there is no clear distinction between love and season in waka. Often spring is seen as the beautiful beginning of a relationship, and autumn is thus seen as the inevitable parting and sorrow it entails. With this in mind, we see that the bitter (or violent) winds blowing down from the mountain can be seen as the disarray one may find in one's heart after a particularly painful split. This image is enhanced by mentioning the trees and grasses, which function simultaneously as a potent image of autumn and the lack of joy that seeps into the lovelorn poet's life.


That's it for today! We'll (hopefully) be back soon with more!

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