Everyone's favorite Ryōjin hishō 梁塵秘抄 song...

... in Arthur Waley's 1921 translation!

Dance, dance, Mr. Snail!
If you won't I shall leave you
For the little horse,
For the little ox
To tread under his hoof,
To trample to bits.
But if quite prettily
You dance your dance,
To a garden of flowers
I will carry you to play.


I love the very English translation of makoto ni ("verily", "in truth") as "quite." I seem to recall a Pillow Book translation of similar vintage that used "rather nice" for ito okashi.

Yamaguchi Misa 山口美佐's Ryōjin hishō page observes that the message of this song (i.e. "if you don't do what I want, I'll kill you") really brings out the hardass (強硬) nature of the times (i.e. the crumbling, violent end of the Heian golden [for nobles] age). Yamaguchi also mentions a derivative poem by Jakuren 寂蓮:


Let not the garden snail be trampled by the little ox! Horns he may have, but he is not so strong.

(Other versions are addressed to the snail himself.)

Here's one more Ryōjin hishō poem for good measure:


On my head sport head-lice, the nape of my neck they ever bite, they descend from the teeth of the comb as if from heaven, and on the barrel's lid do their lives end.

Momoyama Harue 桃山晴衣 has recorded versions of these songs (with music by herself, of course, since none has survived). You can hear her version of the head-lice song as part of this medley.

For good measure, here's another video of Momoyama playing a reconstruction of the oldest known shamisen tune, "Renbo nagashi" (Roughly and idiomatically, "Lookin' for love blues," although there is debate over what "renbo" really means... for example, many in the shakuhachi community feel that "renbo" 恋慕 in the "love" sense must be derived from their "reibo" 鈴慕 "yearning for the bell" rather than the other way around, if the two are related at all.)

Popularity factor: 7


Reflective of the age, it may be, but I daresay that there isn't an age that wouldn't enjoy a good and violent snail-stamping song. (There just might not have been enough degenerates around to collect them, perhaps.)


Dude, you just called Emperor Shirakawa II a degenerate. The black vans will be at your residence shortly.


<i>If the shoe fits.</i>

Hey, how do you suppose they react to stories about Yozei, particularly as told by Kitabatake?


I stepped on a snail the other morning.

Fittingly for a Japanese poem, the cause of my distraction from the ground in front of me was the sight of a lovely young maiden.

Felt guilty about it all day. (Still do, actually.)

Paul D.:

まことに corresponds to verily in the Japanese and King James translations of the Bible, and the the author was probably aware of that.


You mean God?

Leonardo Boiko:

> She leaved from master and researched many different japanese traditional fork song through the traveling all of japan.

I feel so terrible for drawing attention to this, but it never gets old…

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