The Years Gone By

Kitagawa Utamaro ukiyo-e woodblock print


I talked about the Kokinshu poetry collection recently, and since it is the end of the year (nenmatsu 年末 for you language-students 😉 ), I wanted to share some fitting poetry. This is poem 342 in the Kokinshu, and the final poem in the Book of Winter:

ゆくとしの Yuku toshi no
おしくもあるかな oshiku mo aru kana
ますかゞみ masu kagami
みるかげさへに miru kage sae ni
くれぬとおもへば kurenu to omoeba

Which Professor Laurel Rodd translates as:

the passing year too
leaves regrets as it departs—
in the clear mirror
the reflection dims as I
think of time now gone by.

This poem was composed by Ki no Tsurayuki himself, the man who led the compilation of the Kokinshu. This poem is a somewhat tragic sounding, so I found another poem that is similar, but with a different message. This is poem 903 from the Book of Miscellaneous Poems by Fujiwara no Toshiyuki:

老いぬとて Oinu to te
などか我が身を nado ka waga mi wo
せめきけむ semekiken
老いずは今日に oizuba kyou ni
あはましものか awamashi mono ka

Which Professor Laurel Rodd translated as:

Why should I berate
my aging body complain
of growing older —
if we did not age would I
ever have known this blessed day.

Happy New Year!


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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