Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fujiwara no Teika: Genius II

I came across a few more obscure poems from Fujiwara no Teika which I thought would be good to translate.  I devoted the last post to Teika and I will probably do several more to him since he more than deserves this iota of homage. 
Can be found here
One interesting thing about his life is that he began his poetic career a rebel and died a reactionary. He caused waves in the very rigid and hierarchical community of Japanese poetry with his audacity to break the norms and blaze his own path. He ruffled a lot feathers and it was during that period of his life that he showed the most creativity.
Towards the end of his life, his attitude changed greatly. He became more and more rigid with his proteges and became the same kind of person that he had tried to defeat during his ascendance to poetic artistry. I think there is a lesson here. The process of rebellion and thus creativity is essentially an ephemeral concept. The fallibility and weakness of the human spirit eventually will corrupt those deemed incorruptible. 

Can be found here


The traveler,
Sleeves flapping in the wind
On an autumn night,
How lonely the bridge
Across the gorge.

Fujiwara no Teika

I took a couple liberties when translating this poem but I believe the essential meaning has been preserved. The actual poem reads "秋風" or akikaze which literally means "autumn wind". It is a recurring image in waka and has a solemn connotation. I instead constructed a scene around an "autumn night" which in my opinion is better because "autumn wind" doesn't have the same feeling of loneliness like: "Wind blowing in an autumn night." 


Can be found here

Blades of grass, like sleeves
Futilely beckon to the house,
For this humble home
Has long been neglected,
A decrepit fence, roughly woven.

Fujiwara no Teika

This poem comes from a very obscure anthology called Shuuigusou which I could hardly find any mention of on the internet. This poem also has got a lonely tone and I think it fits well with the preceding poem. There is nothing to complicated or profound about it in my opinion, but I just like the imagery.



Can be found here

Tonight, only tonight
Let us share this pillow,

I’ve always relied
On the honesty of my dreams
As though it was reality.

Fujiwara no Teika

This poem is actually part of renga sequence compiled after his death called Tsukuba-shuu. This is about as openly erotic poetry was at this time. You have to wait for the rebellious haiku and renga poets later for something more explicit. Anyway, I like this poem because of the juxtaposition of them "sharing a pillow" in real life and his mention of the fallibility of his sense of reality. It's like he might not even know that he is dreaming. 

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