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Unformatted text preview: many watching eyes—
Men would know of our troth,
Had I sought her too often.
So our love remained secret like a rock-pent pool;
I cherished her in my heart,
Looking to aftertime when we should be together,
And lived secure in my trust
As one riding a great ship.
Suddenly there came a messenger The Introduction of Buddhism 45 Who told me she was dead—
Was gone like a yellow leaf of autumn,
Dead as the day dies with the setting sun,
Lost as the bright moon is lost behind the cloud,
Alas, she is no more, whose soul
Was bent to mine like bending seaweed!
When the word was brought to me
I knew not what to do nor what to say;
But restless at the mere news,
And hoping to heal my grief
Even a thousandth part,
I journeyed to Karu and searched the market place
Where my wife was wont to go!
There I stood and listened
But no voice of her I heard,
Though the birds sang in the Unebi Mountains;
None passed by who even looked like my wife.
I could only call her name and wave my sleeve.5 One of the most famous of the Man’yòshû poems is the “Dialogue on
Poverty,” which begins with these lines:
On the night when the rain beats,
Driven by the wind,
On the night when the snowflakes mingle
With the sleety rain,
I feel so helplessly cold.
I nibble at a lump of salt,
Sip the hot, oft-diluted dregs of sake;
And coughing, snuffling,
And stroking my scanty beard,
I say in my pride,
“There’s none worthy, save I!”
But I shiver still with cold.
I pull up my hempen bedclothes,
Wear what few sleeveless clothes I have,
But cold and bitter is the night!
As for those poorer than myself,
Their parents must be cold and hungry,
Their wives and children beg and cry.
Then, how do you struggle through life?6 The poem cited above on the death of a wife is by Kakinomoto no
Hitomaro (dates unknown), the finest poet represented in the Man’yòshû
and perhaps the greatest in all Japanese literature. Few details remain
about Hitomaro’s life, although it is known that he was of low courtier
rank, held some provincial posts, and served as court poet during the
late seventh and eighth centuri...
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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 The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13