Lakes, meadows, rising woods, and all your own

TANEDA Santōka on walking, one of my own favorite summer pastimes.




In Zen there is a saying: "Step by step, arrival" (hoho tōchaku, 歩々到着). It means that each step is itself an arrival, that each step is the shedding of a step. It seems to have something in common with the adage "Sit for a moment and for a moment you are a Buddha."

I walked, kept walking, because I wanted to walk—no, because I had to walk—no, no, because I was incapable of not walking—I walked, I am still walking. I walked yesterday, I walked today, and I must walk tomorrow too, and again the day after that—

Tree shoots grass shoots keep on walking
Tsuku-tsuku-bōshi cicada on a journey with no end
Today on today's road the dandelions bloomed
Idle useless me, walking

That "idle useless" in the last line corresponds to a dō shiyō mo nai in the original. This construction can often be translated almost literally as "there's nothing I/you/anyone can do [about it]", but when used in a sentence like this it gets harder: "I, about whom no-one can do anything, am walking" is in terms of tone a complete inversion of the original. I chose recreation over translation qua translation in order to retain the romantic self-deprecation of the original.

Also, Google produces evidence that the tsuku-tsuku-bōshi (Meimuna_opalifera) is known as the "last-summer cicada" in English, but that one's new to me. Tsuku-tsuku-bōshi is an onomatopoeic representation of its cry.

Popularity factor: 10

Leonardo Boiko:

You mean they don’t make-make their own hats?

L.N. Hammer:

No, they have to get Asagi-nee-san next-door to fold one from newspaper.


I see we have some Yotsuba fans in the house.

language hat:

So is shiyō mo nai equivalent to shikata ga nai?

L.N. Hammer:

I plead not guilty on grounds of Yotsuba&!'s awesomeness. And Asagi's awesomeness.


Your plea is accepted and understood. (At least Asagi is legal!)

LH: It's kind of complicated... those two phrases are interchangeable to an extent ("shikata" is slightly more formal) but, for example, you can't say "dō shiyō GA nai" (the "dō" and the "mo" have to go together) or "dō shikata mo nai" (I guess because "shikata" is a noun but "shiyō" is best understood as a verb form here?)


shiyō mo nai

What do you make of Stevens translation of this:
"There's nothing else I can do but walk on and on"?


Stevens is apparently reading it as a sentence in its own right ("Dō shiyō mo nai. Watashi ga aruiteru") where I read the "Dō shiyō mo nai" as modifying the "watashi". There is some ambiguity, but given the context both internal (the "ga") and external (long Japanese tradition of writerly self-deprecation), I think my interpretation is a better road to English. I guess I would, though, wouldn't I?

(Either way, I think Stevens should have cut the "else" out of his translation.)



Thanks -- I just enjoy hearing the logic and reasoning behind people's choices, rather than if one is 'better' or 'preferable' than another.


Sorry, one more point -- I mean, I really like your idea about the whole phrase modifying Santôka's state of being . . . I had never thought of it that way, to be honest.

I suppose I was kind of attached to Stevens because of this obsessive image I have of Santôka as the wandering mendicant . . . literally *having* to walk, and having to beg, because no other option was feasible. He couldn't call a time out just because the weather was rough.

But you're spot on about the playful (and cynical) sense of idlesness and uselessness. There's a real touch of Yoshida Kenkô here -- and I think from Santôka's own notes he was ashamed of himself (and his father) for being such failures at hard work and management.

As always, your blog has me thinking.

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