Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CLASSICAL POETRY OF JAPAN - translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain


Methinks from the hedge round the garden
His bride the fair hemp hath ta'en,

And woven the fleecy raiment
That ne'er he threw off him again.

For toilsome the journey he journeyed
To serve his liege and lord,

Till the single belt that encircled him

Was changed to a thrice-wound cord;

And now, methinks, he was faring
Back home to the country-side,

With thoughts all full of his father,

Of his mother, and of his bride.

But here 'mid the eastern mountains,
Where the awful pass climbs their brow,
He halts on his onward journey

And builds him a dwelling low;

And here he lies stark in his garments,
Dishevelled his raven hair,

And ne'er can he tell me his birthplace,

Nor the name that he erst did bear.



In Ashinóya village dwelt

The Maiden of Unáhi,

On whose beauty the next-door neighbors e'en

Might cast no wandering eye;

For they locked her up as a child of eight,
When her hair hung loosely still;
And now her tresses were gathered up,
To float no more at will.

And the men all yearned that her sweet face
Might once more stand reveal'd,
Who was hid from gaze, as in silken maze

The chrysalis lies concealed.

And they formed a hedge round the house,
And, "I'll wed her!" they all did cry;
And the Champion of Chinu he was there,

And the Champion of Unáhi.

With jealous love these champions twain
The beauteous girl did woo,

Each had his hand on the hilt of his sword,

And a full-charged quiver, too,

Was slung o'er the back of each champion fierce,
And a bow of snow-white wood
Did rest in the sinewy hand of each;

And the twain defiant stood.

Crying, "An 'twere for her dear sake,
Nor fire nor flood I'd fear!"

The maiden heard each daring word,

But spoke in her mother's ear: -

"Alas! that I, poor country girl,
Should cause this jealous strife!

As I may not wed the man I love

What profits me my life?

"In Hades' realm I will await
The issue of the fray."

These secret thoughts, with many a sigh,

She whisper'd and pass'd away.

To the Champion of Chinu in a dream
Her face that night was shown;

So he followed the maid to Hades' shade,

And his rival was left alone;

Left alone—too late! too late!
He gapes at the vacant air,
He shouts, and he yells, and gnashes his teeth,
And dances in wild despair.

"But no! I'll not yield!" he fiercely cries,
"I'm as good a man as he!"

And girding his poniard, he follows after,

To search out his enemy.

The kinsmen then, on either side,
In solemn conclave met,

As a token forever and evermore—

Some monument for to set,

That the story might pass from mouth to mouth,
While heav'n and earth shall stand;

So they laid the maiden in the midst,

And the champions on either hand.

And I, when I hear the mournful tale,
I melt into bitter tears,

As though these lovers I never saw

Had been mine own compeers.



Tsunu's shore, Ihámi's brine,
To all other eyes but mine

Seem, perchance, a lifeless mere,

And sands that ne'er the sailor cheer.

Ah, well-a-day! no ports we boast,
And dead the sea that bathes our coast;
But yet I trow the wingèd breeze

Sweeping at morn across our seas,

And the waves at eventide
From the depths of ocean wide,

Onward to Watadzu bear
The deep-green seaweed, rich and fair;

And like that seaweed gently swaying,
Wingèd breeze and waves obeying,

So thy heart hath swayed and bent

And crowned my love with thy content.

But, dear heart! I must away,
As fades the dew when shines the day;
Nor aught my backward looks avail,

Myriad times cast down the vale,

From each turn the winding road
Takes upward; for thy dear abode
Farther and still farther lies,

And hills on hills between us rise.

Ah! bend ye down, ye cruel peaks,
That the gate my fancy seeks,

Where sits my pensive love alone,

To mine eyes again be shown !



Full oft he swore, with accents true and tender,
"Though years roll by, my love shall ne'er wax old!"
And so to him my heart I did surrender,
Clear as a mirror of pure burnished gold;

And from that day, unlike the seaweed bending
To ev'ry wave raised by the summer gust,
Firm stood my heart, on him alone depending,
As the bold seaman in his ship doth trust.

Is it some cruel god that hath bereft me?
Or hath some mortal stol'n away his heart?

No word, no letter since the day he left me,
Nor more he cometh, ne'er again to part!

In vain I weep, in helpless, hopeless sorrow,
From earliest morn until the close of day;

In vain, till radiant dawn brings back the morrow,

I sigh the weary, weary nights away.

No need to tell how young I am and slender—
A little maid that in thy palm could lie:—

Still for some message comforting and tender,

I pace the room in sad expectancy.

The Lady Sakanouhe.


Oft in the misty spring
The vapors roll o'er Mount Mikash's crest,

While, pausing not to rest,

The birds each morn with plaintive note do sing.
Like to the mists of spring

My heart is rent; for, like the song of birds,
Still all unanswered ring

The tender accents of my passionate words.

I call her ev'ry day
Till daylight fades away;

I call her ev'ry night
Till dawn restores the light;
But my fond prayers are all too weak to bring

My darling back to sight.



The gulls that twitter on the rush-grown shore
When fall the shades of night,

That o'er the waves in loving pairs do soar

When shines the morning light—

'Tis said e'en these poor birds delight
To nestle each beneath his darling's wing

That, gently fluttering,

Through the dark hours wards off the hoar-frost's might.

Like to the stream that finds
The downward path it never may retrace,

Like to the shapeless winds,
Poor mortals pass away without a trace:
So she I love has left her place,
And, in a corner of my widowed couch,

Wrapped in the robe she wove me,

I must crouch,
Far from her fond embrace.



When the dawn is shining,

He takes it up and fondles it with pride;
When the day's declining,

He lays it by his pillow's side.

Hark to the twanging of the string!

This is the Bow of our great Lord and King!

Now to the morning chase they ride,

Now to the chase again at eventide:

Hark to the twanging of the string!

This is the Bow of our great Lord and King!



When winter turns to spring,
Birds that were songless make their songs resound,

Flow'rs that were flow'rless cover all the ground;

Yet 'tis no perfect thing:—
I cannot walk, so tangled is each hill;

So thick the herbs I cannot pluck my fill.
But in the autumn-tide

I cull the scarlet leaves and love them dear,
And let the green leaves stay, with many a tear,

All on the fair hill-side:—
No time so sweet as that. Away! Away!

Autumn's the time I fain would keep alway.



Ne'er a melon can I eat,
But calls to mind my children dear;

Ne'er a chestnut crisp and sweet,

But makes the lov'd ones seem more near.

Whence did they come, my life to cheer?

Before mine eyes they seem to sweep,
So that I may not even sleep.

What use to me the gold and silver hoard?

What use to me the gems most rich and rare?

Brighter by far—aye! bright beyond compare—

The joys my children to my heart afford!

Yamagami-no Okura.


Japan is not a land where men need pray,
For 'tis itself divine:—

Yet do I lift my voice in prayer and say:—

"May ev'ry joy be thine!

And may I too, if thou those joys attain,

Live on to see thee blest!"

Such the fond prayer, that, like the restless main,

Will rise within my breast.




Spring, spring has come, while yet the landscape bears
Its fleecy burden of unmelted snow!

Now may the zephyr gently 'gin to blow,
o melt the nightingale's sweet frozen tears.



Amid the branches of the silv'ry bowers
The nightingale doth sing: perchance he knows

That spring hath come, and takes the later snows

For the white petals of the plum's sweet flowers.



Too lightly woven must the garments be—
Garments of mist—that clothe the coming spring:—

In wild disorder see them fluttering
Soon as the zephyr breathes adown the lea.



Heedless that now the mists of spring do rise,
Why fly the wild geese northward?—
Can it be
Their native home is fairer to their eyes,
Though no sweet flowers blossom on its lea?



If earth but ceased to offer to my sight
The beauteous cherry-trees when blossoming,

Ah! then indeed, with peaceful, pure delight,
My heart might revel in the joys of spring!



Tell me, doth any know the dark recess
Where dwell the winds that scatter the spring flow'rs?

Hide it not from me! By the heav'nly pow'rs,
I'll search them out to upbraid their wickedness!



No man so callous but he heaves a sigh
When o'er his head the withered cherry-flowers

Come flutt'ring down.—Who knows? the spring's soft show'rs

May be but tears shed by the sorrowing sky.



Whom would your cries, with artful calumny,
Accuse of scatt'ring the pale cherry-flow'rs?
'Tis your own pinions flitting through these bow'rs
That raise the gust which makes them fall and die!



In blossoms the wistaria-tree today
Breaks forth, that sweep the wavelets of my lake:—

When will the mountain cuckoo come and make

The garden vocal with his first sweet lay?

Attributed to Hitomaro.


Oh, lotus leaf! I dreamt that the wide earth
Held nought more pure than thee—held nought more true:—

Why, then, when on thee rolls a drop of dew,
Pretend that 'tis a gem of priceless worth?



Can I be dreaming? 'Twas but yesterday
We planted out each tender shoot again;
And now the autumn breeze sighs o'er the plain,
Where fields of yellow rice confess its sway.



A thousand thoughts of tender, vague regret,
Crowd on my soul, what time I stand and gaze

On the soft-shining autumn moon; and yet
Not to me only speaks her silv'ry haze.



What bark impelled by autumn's fresh'ning gale
Comes speeding t'ward me?—'Tis the wild geese arriv'n

Across the fathomless expanse of Heav'n,

And lifting up their voices for a sail!




The silv'ry dewdrops that in autumn light
Upon the moors, must surely jewels be;

For there they hang all over hill and lea,

Strung on the threads the spiders weave so tight.




The trees and herbage, as the year doth wane,
For gold and russet leave their former hue—
All but the wave-toss'd flow'rets of the main,

That never yet chill autumn's empire knew.




The dews are all of one pale silv'ry white:—
Then tell me, if thou canst, oh! tell me why

These silv'ry dews so marvellously dye

The autumn leaves a myriad colors bright?




The warp is hoar-frost and the woof is dew—
Too frail, alas! the warp and woof to be:—
For scarce the woods their damask robes endue,

When, torn and soiled, they flutter o'er the lea.




E'en when on earth the thund'ring gods held sway
Was such a sight beheld?—Calm Tatsta's flood,
Stain'd, as by Chinese art, with hues of blood,
Rolls o'er Yamáto's peaceful fields away.




When falls the snow, lo! ev'ry herb and tree,
That in seclusion through the wintry hours

Long time had been held fast, breaks forth in flow'rs
That ne'er in spring were known upon the lea.



When from the skies, that wintry gloom enshrouds,
The blossoms fall and flutter round my head,

Methinks the spring e'en now his light must shed

O'er heavenly lands that lie beyond the clouds.




A thousand years of happy life be thine!
Live on, my lord, till what are pebbles now,
By age united, to great rocks shall grow,

Whose venerable sides the moss doth line!




Of all the days and months that hurry by
Nor leave a trace, how long the weary tale!

And yet how few the springs when in the vale

On the dear flow'rets I may feast mine eye!




If ever mortal in the days of yore
By Heav'n a thousand years of life was lent,
I wot not; but if never seen before,

Be thou the man to make the precedent.




Mine oft-reiterated pray'rs in vain
The parting guest would stay: Oh, cherry-flow'rs!

Pour down your petals, that from out these bow'rs

He ne'er may find the homeward path again!




With roseate hues that pierce th' autumnal haze
The spreading dawn lights up Akashi's shore;
But the fair ship, alas! is seen no more:—

An island veils it from my loving gaze.

Attributed to Hitomaro.



Miyako-bird! if not in vain men give
Thy pleasing name, my question deign to hear:—

And has she pass'd away, my darling dear,
Or doth she still for Narihira live?