Jun 102013

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.

דיידו איצ’יאי (המאה הארבע־עשרה)
שיר מוות

מַנְגִּינַת הָאַיִן
מְמַלֵּאת אֶת הָרִיק:
שֶׁמֶשָׁ אָבִיב
לֹבֶן הַשֶּׁלֶג
עָבִים בְּהִירִים
רוּחַ צְלוּלָה1 .
  1. The melody of nothingness
    fills up the void:
    springtime sun
    whiteness of snow
    bright clouds
    clear wind.

    (Death poem, Daido Ichi’i, 14th century)

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