Four sad poems from the Japanese.

I picked four of the One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, collected and translated by Kenneth Rexroth in 1964. Why did I choose these in particular? They have a couple of things in common in that they are not obviously love poems, and they are sad and melancholy. The last one, by the “deified poet” Hitomaro, was his death poem. Next week I will post some verse that is less lonely, but it’s worth considering how some long-ago poets expressed this universal condition.

This is not the moon,
Nor is this the spring,
Of other springs,
And I alone
Am still the same.

-Ariwara No Narihira, 9th century


I may live on until
I long for this time
In which I am so unhappy,
And remember it fondly.

-Fujiwara No Kiyosuke, 12th century


All during a night
Of anxiety I wait.
At last the dawn comes
Through the cracks of the shutters,
Heartless as night.

-The Monk Shun-e, 12th century


My girl is waiting for me
And does not know
That my body will stay here
On the rocks of Mount Kamo.

-Hitomaro, 7th-8th centuries

4 thoughts on “Four sad poems from the Japanese.

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