A Lover’s Cruelty: Poem Number 82

Il triste messaggio

A poem I stumbled upon today:

思ひわび Omoi wabi
さても命は Satemo inochi wa
あるものを aru mono wo
憂きに堪へぬは Uki ni taenu wa
なみだなりけり Namida nari keri

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

nonetheless, somehow
I cling to life, but
it is my tears
that cannot endure the pain!

The author of the poem, Fujiwara no Atsuyori (1090-?1179), took tonsure in 1172 and became a Buddhist priest named Dōin Hōshi (道因法師, “Dharma master Dōin”), but it’s not clear if this poem was written before or after he took up the religious life. Also according to Mostow, it’s not clear if the poem is a real expression of pain or part of poetry contest. Unfortuantely, none of the poetry collections of Dōin survive, though he frequented poetry contests since 1160. He became a member of a famous poetry group called the Karin-en (歌林苑), though, and spent much time around other influential poets of the day.


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