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Unformatted text preview: earlier work of Tsubouchi and
Japanese poetry, while subject to much the same pull between traditional and modern (i.e., Western) influences that afflicted prose literature and nearly all other aspects of culture in the Meiji period, had its
own special problems. First, poetry had always been the most “serious”
of Japanese literary pursuits and hence brought an infinitely more weighty
tradition to the modern era than the slightly regarded practice of prose
writing. Second, although constricting rules of diction and vocabulary
could be broken, the special qualities of the Japanese language that so
fundamentally determined what could and could not be done poetically
(for example, rhyme could not be used as a prosodic device) prevented
Japanese poets from emulating much of Western poetry. And finally, in
Japan as in the West, poetry could not hope to compete in popularity
with the novel as the dominant literary form of modernization.
To many early Meiji poets, the classical waka—or tanka (short poem),
as it has been more commonly called in modern times—was so buried in
the past that there was little sense in even trying to exhume it. And, at
any rate, both the tanka and the haiku were forms so limited in scope as
to be useless for the expression of modern ideas and sentiments. Poets Encounter with the West 263 should instead turn their attention to the translation of Western poetry
and to the development of new kinds of verse based on Western models.
The first major step in this direction was the publication in 1882 of the
Collection of Poems in the New Style (Shintaishò), compiled by three professors of Tokyo Imperial University and consisting of nineteen translations from English and five original pieces by the compilers themselves.
Like the political novels of the same time, much of the poetry written in
the new style during the next few years dealt with the subjects of governmental and social reform.
Meanwhile, as a result of the conservative winds that had begun
blowing forcefully by the middle and late 1880s, devotees of the older
poetic modes, and especially the tanka, were given som...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13