The poem that rhymed too much

Courtesy of TSUBOI Shōgorō (1863-1913), archaeologist/anthropologist. Note that it also uses a 7/5 mora pattern, as most "free" poetry of the time did.

Iki no deiri to/ karada no chi
Shika no mi narazu/ yoki kokochi
Kiyoki tamashii/ kore inochi
Tokei no meguri/ hayaku tachi
Niwaka ni kawaru/ hari no ichi
Toshi wa sugu to mo/ waza to sachi
Naki wa sunawachi/ munōmuchi
Ōku kangae/ ki o tamochi
Yoki hataraki o/ naseru nochi
Nagashi to iwan/ kono inochi

Prose translation:

The in-and-out of the breath, the blood of the body—not only this, but also right feelings, a pure spirit: this is life. Around the clock we quickly move—how eagerly the hands change! Who though years pass has no trade or fortune is, in short, incompetent and ignorant. Think widely and deeply, maintain your spirits, and let us call this life long only after we have done good works.

Popularity factor: 4


Is this proof that Japanese should know what to do when we play the rhyming round of circle of death?

language hat:

If it has a strict meter and every line rhymes, what makes it "free"? (Other than the fact that I didn't have to pay to read it, of course.)


Claytonian: Well, it's proof that this guy would have. But only if the rhyme he got was "chi".

Languagehat, you raise an excellent point there. "Free from the standard restrictions of haiku and tanka" is the main idea, I think, but many "free" poets of the time did indeed seem to think of it as "free to make up new, equally strict rules".


(Probably I should have said "New" instead of "Free", as that was the more common Japanese term, and nowadays "Free" does indeed mean Free-like-English-Free-Poetry.)

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