Sleeping Alone: Poem Number 3

May 2, 2011

Stavenn Syrmaticus soemmerringii ijimae

This is one of my favorite poems as of late:

あしびきの Ashibiki no
山鳥の尾の Yamadori no ō no
しだり尾の Shidari no ō no
ながながし夜を naga nagashi yo wo
ひとりかもねむ hitori kamo nen

Porter gives a lovely translation here:

LONG is the mountain pheasant’s tail
That curves down in its flight;
But longer still, it seems to me,
Left in my lonely plight,
Is this unending night.

The yamadori (山鳥) is actually a species of bird called the Copper Pheasant, known for its long tail. The poem is otherwise pretty straightforward. One thing I like about this poem, and why I have a particular interest in it, is the repetitive sounds using の (no) throughout. If you recite the poem out loud, it has a particular nice rhythm to it, and for me it is particular easy to memorize/recite. Try it out and you’ll see what I mean.

In a later post, I’ll talk about the Hyakunin Isshu iPhone app I purchased, which has a particularly nice recitation of this and other poems.

As for Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, the author, he was one of the pre-eminent poets of the Asuka Period in Japan, and you can probably see why. While the poem looks like any other love poem, the composition, imagery, rhythm and such, make this one really stand out. 🙂

3 Responses to “Sleeping Alone: Poem Number 3”

  1. well that was nice and i love the photo aswell from kevin well done i shall read somemore on your blog.

  2. keep up the good work doug it fascinating we learn something everday and this is interesting as its historical to gives everyone a insight into japanese poetry and history.

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