Archive for June 17th, 2018

Sunday, 17 June 2018

On Seeing a Dead Man When Crossing the Pass of Ashigara by Tanabe no Sakimaro

Your loving wife
No doubt spread out and bleached the threads
For your white hempen robe
Upon the brushwood fence that stood about
Your modern eastern home.
Perhaps she wove that robe for you to wear
In your labors for the court.
You must have toiled long, not stopping to untie
Your hempen belt for sleep,
But winding it more tightly round your waist
Girded yourself not once but thrice.
And then at last you earned a few brief days,
Time to set out for your home,
Thinking to see your parents and your wife.
At last you reached the east—
Land of crowing cocks—you reached this pass,
Awesome abode of gods.

But in such rugged mountains
Your softly woven robe
Could not have kept your wasted body warm;
For you look cold,
With your hair as lustrous black
As jewels of jet
Lying loose and tangled round about you.
Though I speak to you
To ask about your native land,
You do not reply;
And though I ask you of your home,
You do not speak,
But lie outstretched, courageous man,
Asleep forever on your journey home.

From: Miner, Earl, An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry, 1968, Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, p. 57.

Date: c740 (original in Japanese); 1968 (translation in English)

By: Tanabe no Sakimaro (fl. 740s)

Translated by: Earl Roy Miner (1927-2004)