A Life of Pomp and Regret

In Professor Donald Keene’s biography about the life of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利 義政, 1436 – 1490), includes a poem composed by Yoshimasa, now retired and living in his villa, the Silver Pavilion, ruminating on his former life as the supreme military commander of Japan:

くやしくぞKuyashiku zoToday I recall
過ぎしうき世をSugoshi uki yo woThe sad world I lived
今日ぞ思ふKyou zo omouWith bitter regret —
心くまなきKokoro kumanakiMy mind serene as I gaze
月をながめてTsuki wo nagameteAt a moon free of shadows
Translation by Donald Keene

Ashikaga no Yoshimasa, arguably one of the most influential people in Japanese art and aesthetics, yet ironically one of the worst military leaders in Japanese history, was never a serious student of Buddhism (though he was nominally ordained as a Rinzai Zen monk) but it’s interesting to hear him regret his life of luxury and power. To me, it is a contrast with Miyazawa Kenji’s famous poem Unbeaten By Rain (雨にも負けず).

A life of honesty poverty is probably better than wealthy lifestyle full of discord.

P.S. Photo taken of the Silver Pavilion, by me, in 2010.

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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