Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Memory of a Summer Storm

 #japanese poetry #waka

This poem is about 1500 years old and was composed in the Asuka period by Empress Jito. Its 2 in the #hyakuninisshu anthology and 1.28 in the #manyoshu

Haru sugite / Natsu ki ni kerashi / shirotae no /
koromo hosu tefu / ama no kaguyama

Spring has passed
Summer Surprise!
"White sleeves"
robes spread to dry they say
on Amakaguyama.

Now this was probably written  when the Imperial Place was south of this mountain which has a shinto shrine and isn't actually very high (google a photo!)
though one commentator claims it was written at the fujiwara palace north of  mountain.

A point I have seen NO English language commentators make is that the use of kerashi a fusion of keri and rashi indicates that something most UNseasonal has occurred. A lot of articles and essays and notes draw attention to the use of shirotae which could be translated as white sleeves or white garment and often refers to other white things like snow or frost or fog anything white that covers something else.

These white sleeves are not those of modern kimonos but something more like the big sleeves you see in NO or Kabuki drama that Shinto priests wear so I do mean BIG sleeves!

A lot of scholars presume this is a reference to a legend about white robed heavenly dancers blah blah blah which leads to translators inserting references to angels that do not exist in the original text!

Tefu according to my Bungo Manual means or equals to iu they say and it is said and you may see it written as choo if you have a copy that changes the archaic Japanese into modern Japanese.

OH and the Yamato area while being surrounded by mountains ... well heavier snow usually occurs elsewhere and remember the reference to summer?

and yes I did take liberties with that line to emphasize kerashi !

This poem records a freak weather event!