Two sneers for writing

Two more verses from Ikkyū, this time on the theme "Two sneers for writing" (嘲文章 二首):


Man is as foolish as a beast, as an ox or a horse;
Literature is a contrivance of Hell.
The woe of pride, vanity, and obstinacy:
How lamentable! The devil draws nearer and nearer.

A poetic masterpiece, a gold-and-jade voice:
Word by word, line by line, all the audience is stunned—
But when has Yama ever shown leniency to those who can turn a phrase sublime?
The iron rod! Fear the demon's gaze!

I like how Ikkyū carefully doesn't say that writing actually causes pride, vanity and obstinacy. As a prolific poet himself, he surely knew it was the other way around.

Pic related; it's a writer Jigoku Dayū (by Yoshitoshi).

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I like Yama. I hope he doesn't have to spend too many super-kalpas suffering in hell before he gets himself sprung by Amida. Working the gates of hell is a crummy job, but someone had to do it!

Leonardo BOiko:

I like the way portrayals of skulls and skeletons vary with the ages.


If you like that, Leonardo, there's almost a whole chapter on that for China (pre-Jesuit influence, then post) in On Their Own Terms by Elman.


Is it unusual that 地獄 bridges the caesura of the second line? Seems odd to me, but maybe my sense is off...


Yama is harsh, but fair. I felt bad killing him at the end of Tenchu.

Taemin, that's a good point. It is unusual, I think. (And I don't think a 4+3 reading is possible... so it's not just my mistake, I guess.)

I'm not sure what the critical response to Ikkyu's poems as Chinese poetry (rather than as "literature" in general) is, though. Maybe he's celebrated for daring rule-breaking.

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