Another Nishiwaki poem

I had no idea you people were so Romantic.

I thought I had the Iwanami collection of Nishiwaki's poetry, but apparently either I don't or it's buried too deep in one of the boxes (I have no shelves). So I went prowling on the web and found what appears to be the entirety of 旅人かへらず ("The Traveler does not Return"), a very long work of his that begins like so:


Traveler, wait!
Before you wet your tongue
at this humble spring,
think, traveler through life!
You, too, are but a waterdrop
wrung from between the rocks.
Nor will this water of thought forever flow;
One day within forever it will run dry.
Ah, the jays, they cry too loudly.
Sometimes, from the water,
Phantom figures clad in flowers emerges.
To seek eternal life: this is a dream.
To long to throw one's thoughts
into the trickling, vanishing runnels of life,
and then fall from the precipice of forever
and fade away: this is reality.
So says the phantom kappa, leaving
the water to sport in villages and towns
when the river-weed grows long
in shadows cast by drifting clouds.

(Full disclosure: I got led astray by the movie Mizuchi, which is written 水霊 as well, but I'm pretty sure Nishiwaki meant what we in the modern word write 水玉 ("water-jewel", drop of water) here...)

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Such nice translations of such nice poems.Thank you.
I'm sure that reading Kaze no Matasaburo is clouding my judgement but I wonder if this isn't the kind of work a more mature Miyazawa might have written.


Aw, thanks! Through a glass darkly and all that ("mirror" meaning acknowledged with glee.)

I have read shamefully little Miyazawa (I'm sure someone else who reads No-sword knows more), but wonder if his folksy Japaneseness could ever turn into Nishiwaki's (self) conscious Euro-classicist fusion thing. The basic "nature hike" theme does ring a few bells, though.


Great posts!

I think if I had to pick one aspect of modern Japanese culture that will NOT transfer to the global market, it would be the poetry, so I was amazed to find that apparently someone actually got a book published on Nishiwaki. In English! Maybe he'll break out yet. Him or Tawara Machi.

You inspired me to try my hand at a poem today. But the results were...disappointing.


Oh, I don't know, it has a certain Poundian quality... the part about wolves and "new ghosts" (what a great image) is a bit Old Englishy, which I like. The ending is very nice too.

That book on Nishiwaki's published by Princeton University Press! They'll put any old thing out. (As long as it's supported by years of painstaking research and original scholarship.)

I wonder about Tawara Machi. I like her stuff a lot, but it seems like the main thing setting her apart from other good poets is the way she radically revamped traditional Japanese forms and made them directly relevant to modern readers... Anyone who could appreciate that kind of technical accomplishment would (by necessity, even) be able to read her in the original. It would be interesting if one of the scholars who've made a career out of Manyoshu (etc.) translations applied those carefully and specificallyt honed techniques and styles to her work, though.


I speak from a position of near total ignorance on Tawara Machi (e.g., one copy of Sarada kinenbi on my bookshelf I've paged through a couple times), but it seems like her success was tied not so much to modernizing tanka as to fusing it with a particular image of globalizing, hip, Bubble-era Japan, that wouldn't necessarily have much relevance for a reader even 10 years later. However, I know she's published stuff since then and must have managed to adapt to changing circumstances.


Ah, subtle but important distinction! Good point.


Nishiwaki is one of the few "modern" Japanese poets I've read and really liked. (The only other one that comes to mind is Koutarou Takamura.)

Tabibito kaerazu is an old favorite. Thanks for that link! I tried to find a complete copy on Amazon Japan a while back but didn't have any luck.



Hoho, you like the Chieko-shou, eh? I read a great article by a feminist scholar who believed that he actually drove her to insanity. Doesn't change the poetry, though. "まして石を投げ込んではいけない"

I probably ran across Nishiwaki secondhand book shopping a while ago -- most likely the Iwanami Bunko edition, since I pick up virtually any of those I see. I haven't read a whole lot of his work, though.


Yeah, I got this romance-insanity-death-regret thang going. One of my favorite passages is


Better to burn than yearn.

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