Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sone no Yoshitada: Badass

Sone no Yoshitada was a Japanese poet who lived from 930~1000 A.D. There isn't a lot known about this guy. He was considered an inferior poet during his lifetime because his poetry didn't fit well with the conventions at the time. His poetry was published in the relatively unknown imperial anthology Shikawakashuu compiled by Fujiwara no Akisuke. 
Can be found here

From what we know about Sone no Yoshitada, he didn't get along with most people. He seemed to be kind of a recluse. Although his poetry wasn't respected in his lifetime, his style of poetry fit well with the later Fujiwara no Shunzei's notion of yuugen, so poets of Shunzei's time reexamined Yoshitada's poetry and gave his work more acclaim. I consider him a badass because he disregarded the stifling conventions of his contemporaries. In my opinion, the problem with a lot of Japanese poetry is that too many poets lacked courage to try new things. There are countless poems in which the poets merely repeat old images and metaphors. Yoshitada broke boundaries and demonstrated creativity which made his life difficult but put him on the right side of history.
The next three poems are all from the Shikawakashuu and these are my translations.



The insects with their song
Are still not being honest,
In those tufts of grass
Autumn has long ago arrived,
Bound and tied, with drops of dew.

Sone no Yoshitada

This poem is interesting and I had a hard time translating the last line. It could go a couple different ways but from my knowledge of classical Japanese, the "bound and tied" and "dew" are separate but I could be wrong. 
Can be found here



The drops of dew
In those tufts of grass
In the autumn field,
Perhaps they are tears
From insects, crying in the night.

Sone no Yoshitada

I like the imagery here, that dew drops are the tears of insects. This is a completely different take on dew drops compared to the poetic conventions of the time.



A logging river,
The padding on the raft
Makes a fine pillow,
In the summer it’s become
A cool place to rest my head.

Sone no Yoshitada

I like this poem because all although Yoshitada was clearly an affluent man, his poem praises the life of someone much poorer than him. This is isn't completely new. There were a lot of poets in his time idealizing the life of farmers, making romantic associations with rather mundane things. This poem is nice because of its apparent simplicity but it could have different layers of meaning

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