Jun 082013

Since I speak little Japanese and no variety of Chinese (in which the Zen poems like this were composed), all the Japanese poems on this site are drawn from (Israeli!) scholar Yoel Hoffman’s excellent Japanese Death Poems, and translated into Hebrew from his English prose translations. For legal reasons and because I am lazy, the English translation you’ll find below is actually a re-translation from the Hebrew, rather than Hoffman’s original English. Whether a translation is still valid after all these games of cross-linguistic telephone I don’t know, since I can’t read the originals (which Hoffman doesn’t provide anyway), but they maintain their internal logic, I think, so…s’all good.

טומודה קינפיי (המאה השמונה־עשרה)
שיר מוות

בְּחַיַּי לֹא נִמְצֵאתִּי
בֵּין הַפְּרָחִים הַיְּדוּעִים
וְעִם זֹאת, בִּנְבִילָה,
אֲנִי בְּהֶחְלֵט
טוֹמוֹדָה קִינְפֵּי1.
  1. During my life I never was found
    among the well-known flowers
    yet nevertheless, in wilting,
    I am without a doubt
    Tomoda Kinpei.

    (Death poem, Tomoda Kinpei, 18th century)

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