Time and Romance

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From the 14th century Japanese text, “Essays in Idleness” (tsurezuregusa 徒然草), composed by Buddhist monk Kenkō:

26) When I recall the months and years I spent as the intimate of someone whose affections have now faded like cherry blossoms scattering even before a wind blew, I still remember every word of hers that once so moved me; and when I realize that she, as happens in such cases, is steadily slipping away from the world, I feel a sadness greater even than that of separation from the dead. That is why, I am sure, a man once grieved that white thread should be dyed in different colors, and why another lamented that roads inevitably fork.

Translation by Professor Donald Keene

From here, Kenkō quotes a poem that was “among the hundred verses presented to the Retired Emperor Horikawa”:

Original JapaneseRomanizationTranslation by Donald Keene
昔見しmukashi mishiThe fence around her house,
妹が垣根はimo ga kakine waThe woman I loved long ago,
荒れにけりarenikeriIs ravaged and fallen;
つばなまじりのtsubana majiri noOnly violets remain
菫のみしてsumire no mi shiteMingled with the spring weeds.
(According to Keene, this poem came from an anthology called the Horikawa In Ontoki Hyakushu Waka, compiled from 1099 to 1103)

Finally, Kenkō ends the passage with:

What a lonely picture — the poem must describe something that really occurred.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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