Sorry, folks! I was in Australia. Things haven't changed much there, although there is one Japanese-style pastry shop (walk around the course piling things on a tray and then pay at the end) up near Flinders Street Station now.

Anyway, in unrelated news, I found this: Crumpled Leaves from Old Japan, a 1922 book(let) of Man'yōshū translations by Dan F. Waugh and Frank Prentice Rand (the former credited as translator, the latter as "do[er] into English verse" and sole copyright holder).

These are facing translations with the originals included "to suggest, if possible, the melodic beauty and the airy lightness of the Japanese." Here's a source-and-translation pair that conveys the general feeling:

hito mina wa/ ima wa nagashi to/ take to iedo/ kimi ga mishi kami/ midaretari tomo

My hair is so long
They have told me to bind it;
But 'twas down when you saw it,
And down you shall find it;
Though it snarl, I'll not mind it.

(This is Poem #124, in book 2, by Sono no Ikuha no Me 園生羽女, for those keeping track at home.)

I quite like the translation as a piece of light verse, but I think it's fair to say that it doesn't convey much of the Man'yōshū spirit as it has been understood since Keichū 契沖 & co. got their hands on it: i.e., a spirit of directness and clarity, whereby phenomena (external and in-) are represented without artifice or pretension. You could argue about whether rhyming counts as artifice/pretension (the original is in standard tanka form, after all), but words as twee as "'twas" are surely out.

More importantly, though, Rand's pat and orderly structure is nothing like the appropriately tangled and unbound, almost torrid nature of the original. A more direct translation might go something like this:

People all say/ "It is too long now,"/ "Bind it up," they say, but/ The hair you saw/ Though tangled it be...

... with an implied "... I shall never bind" or "... How can I bind it?" to follow. Note that (a) the object of everyone's criticism is not revealed as hair until the halfway point of the poem; (b) the criticism itself is expressed as two separate quoted sentences, in a sort of impressionism-of-the-crowd way; (c) the resolution is left unstated and indeed partly unclear, in opposition to both Rand's version (and indeed later Japanese poetry where what is unstated is nevertheless laboriously signposted, which is partly why Shiki hated it so much).

I mean, what Rand's done isn't as bad as, say, appending to "Ozymandias" a final line like "Alas! We'll be forgotten too, some day!", but it's a change in the same direction. You might enjoy the extra rhyme-kick, but if you knew the effect of the original you would grieve at the loss. (Actually, I see from Wikipedia that Horace Smith's version of "Ozymandias" does something very like this; I put it to you that this is one of the reasons that Shelley's is the poem we all remember.)

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L.N. Hammer:

Though yanno, for a translation from the era, that's doing pretty good. My objections aren't to rhyming per se, but the jingliness of these feminine rhymes. At the very least, in the tradition of the best light verse, make only the last rhyme falling.



It's too late. Wile you were one, I sold my shamisen, koto, and shakuhachi and decamped to the booming field of Belgian Studies. My 1,300 page manuscript on What Is a Belgian, Anyway? is expected this fall from OUP.


Oh, you Belgiophiles! I just hope you devoted precisely 650 pages each to the Walloons and Flemish.


"walk around the course piling things on a tray and then pay at the end" describes pretty much every bakery and small town cafe I know in NZ. I figured the same would go for Oz, but guess not, huh?


Nope, in AU it's more traditional to point at things behind glass and ask the person serving you to get them. It's true that there are also places where the register is integrated with a serve-yourself display case, but that's different from the model I meant, where the entire store is trays of food and you wind your way along the course, pay, and go. (No doubt Japan didn't invent it, but that's where I saw it first.)

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