Recently, my wife and I were talking about how lately we’ve been feeling extra drowsy and lethargic, and she reminded me of a famous Chinese poem from the Tang Dynasty that is often quoted in Japanese culture as a figure of speech:
shunmin akatsuki wo oboezu
This phrase can be loosely translated as “while sleeping through the Spring morning”.
The original poem, titled “Spring Dawn” (春曉 Chūn Xiǎo) was composed by Chinese poet Mèng Hàorán (689/691–740, 孟浩然) in the Tang Dynasty. In Japanese he was called mōkōnen. The original poem is:
春眠不覺曉 Chūn mián bù jué xiǎo
處處聞啼鳥。chùchù wén tíniǎo
夜來風雨聲，Yè lái fēngyǔ shēng
花落知多少。Huā luò zhī duōshǎo
Further, in Japanese this is translated as:
春眠暁を覚えず shunmin akatsuki wo oboezu
処処に啼鳥と聞く sho sho ni teichō to kiku
夜来風雨の声 yarai fūu no koe
花落つること hana otsuru koto
知んぬ多少ぞ shinnu tashōzo
But most people in Japan only know the first line, and that is enough to evoke the popular image of a hazy, lazy Spring morning. Hence, it is often quoted as a phrase.
In English, one translation I’ve seen (among others) is:
I slumbered this spring morning, and missed the dawn,
From everywhere I heard the cry of birds.
That night the sound of wind and rain had come,
Who knows how many petals then had fallen?
After all the craziness of winter holidays, getting through snow storms and being shut in at home, it’s so nice to finally relax with warm weather, sunlight and seeing Nature wake up again! No wonder people get drowsy in Spring! 🙂
1 The Tang Dynasty, in addition to being one of the most powerful and dynamic in Chinese history, had a huge, huge impact on Japanese culture, especially during the Nara and Heian Period. The court aristocracy of Kyoto was deeply influenced by cultural trends in Tang Dynasty China, as was Buddhism at the time (and even beyond).
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