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.
עָלֶיךָ לְנַגֵּן לְבַד
אֶת מַנְגִּינַת הָאַיִן —
תֵּשַׁע הַפְּסָגוֹת מִתְמוֹטְטוֹת
שְׁמוֹנַת הַיַּמִים מִתְיַבְּשִׁים.1
- You must play alone
the melody of nothingness —
the nine peaks collapse
the eight seas go dry.
(Death poem, Zosan Junku, 14th century) ↩