Monday, May 25, 2015

The Poetics of Saigyō in Eight Poems Plus One

When I was about to flee the world, I sent this message to the house of an acquaintance:

I have completely
Turned my back upon the world.
I'll leave this word,
Even if there be none
To understand it.

If I can find
no place fit to live,
let me live "no place" —
in this hut of sticks
flimsy as the world itself.

If I no longer think
of reality
as reality,
what reason would I have
to think of dreams as dreams?

At the time that the priest Jakunen invited others to contribute to a hundred-poem collection, I declined to take part. But then on the road where I was making a pilgrimage to Kumano, I had a dream. In it appeared Tankai, the administrator of Kumano, and [the poet] Shunzei. Tankai said to Shunzei: “Although all things in this world undergo change, the Way of Poetry extends unaltered even to the last age.” I opened my eyes and understood. Then I quickly wrote a verse and sent it off to Jakunen. This is what I composed there in the heart of the mountains:

`Even in an age
gone bad the lyric's Way
stays straight' -
Not seeing this in a dream,
I'd have been deaf to truth.

Hearing that the Lord Steward of the City Left, Shunzei, was collecting poems and sending my uta with the accompaning poem:

Although my poems be
Mere leaves of words
Still may you find in them
A charm and coloration of
their own.

Deep in the mountains
now the moon of the mind
shines clearly,
I can see enlightenment everywhere
in the mirror of my mind.

I cannot be moved to pity
reflecting on my detestable life
that I have spent
by composing verses
on the moon.

I have spent my life
more than sixty years,
seeking consolation
in cherry blossoms
spring after spring.

This is my prayer:
To die beneath the blossoms
In the spring
In the month of kisaragi
When the moon is full.

(tr. Burton Watson: 1,2)
(tr. William R. LaFleur: 3)
(tr. Manabu Watanabe: 5,6,7)
(tr. Takagi Kiyoko: 0,8,4)

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