Spring is here: Poem Number 33

March 27, 2011

Spring is here!

久方の Hisakata no
光のどけき hikari no dokeki
春の日に haru no hi ni
しづ心なく shizu gokoro naku
花のちるらむ hana no chiruran

Porter’s translation is:

THE spring has come, and once again
The sun shines in the sky;
So gently smile the heavens, that
It almost makes me cry,
When blossoms droop and die.

For comparison, here is Mostow’s translation from Pictures of the Heart (mentioned in a related post):

In these spring days
with the tranquil light encompassing
The four directions
why should the blossoms scatter
with uneasy hearts?

Ki no Tomonori (紀友則) passed away somewhere between 905 and 907 (date of birth is unknown) and is the cousin of the composer of poem 35. He is one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry, and helped to compile another famous collection of poetry, the Kokinshū (古今集). The Kokinshū, formerly known as the Kokin Waka Shū (古今和歌集 “Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry”) was completed in 905 and was the first of many efforts by the ancient Court to compile the best poetry, past and present, into an official anthology. The Hyakunin Isshu by contrast was one man’s effort in his retirement. More on that in a later post. As for Tomonori, it is said that he didn’t live to see the completion of the Kokinshū, sadly.

As for this poem, this is one of the most famous in the collection and emblematic of Spring, but also the fleeting nature of the world, and the touch of melancholy that comes with it. Truly this is a lovely poem.

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