A Hundred Verses from Old Japan (the Hyakunin-isshu), translated by William N. Porter :
This is a collection of 100 specimens of Japanese Tanka poetry collected in the 13th Century C.E., with some of the poems dating back to the 7th Centry. Tanka is a 31 syllable format in the pattern 5-7-5-7-7. Most of these poems were written about the time of the Norman Conquest and display a sophistication that western literature would not achieve for a long time thereafter. These little gems are on themes such as nature, the round of the seasons, the impermanence of life, and the vicissitudes of love. There are obvious Buddhist and Shinto influences throughout. Porter’s notes put the poems into a cultural and historical context. Each poem is illustrated in this edition with an 18th century Japanese woodcut by an anonymous illustrator… In this text I have put the Japanese, English and the notes on one virtual page per poem, and supplied page numbers for the apparatus.
A fine web presentation (by John Bruno Hare) of a fine (if antiquated) translation-cum-annotation. (Via wood s lot.)
THE RETIRED EMPEROR YOZEI
Tsukuba ne no
Mine yori otsuru
Mina no kawa
Koi zo tsumorite
Fuchi to nari nuru.
THE Mina stream comes tumbling down
From Mount Tsukuba’s height;
Strong as my love, it leaps into
A pool as black as night
With overwhelming might.
It was a frequent custom in the old days for the Emperors of Japan to retire into the church or private life, when circumstances demanded it. The Emperor Yôzei, who was only nine years of age when he came to the throne, went out of his mind, and was forced by Mototsune Fujiwara to retire; he reigned A.D. 877-884, and did not die till the year 949. The verse was addressed to the Princess Tsuridono-no-Miko. Mount Tsukuba (2,925 feet high) and the River Mina are in the Province of Hitachi.
Koi here means the dark colour of the water from its depth, but it also means his love, and is to be understood both ways. Note also mine, a mountain peak, and Mina, the name of the river.