The fan

There is a rather famous bit near the start of the "Yūgao" chapter of the Tale of Genji where Genji is so moved by the sight of a flower growing on a poor person's fence ("How lamentable a fate for a flower!", 口惜しきの花の契りや) that he orders one of his attendants to go and pick a bunch for him. A servant then emerges from the house and gives Genji's attendant a fan to put them on. I just noticed the other day that all three four major English translations of the chapter translate the servant's words differently.

Original: kore ni okite mairaseyo, eda mo nasake nage nanmeru hana o
Suematsu: Let us put them on this, those with strong stems.
Waley: Would you like something to put them on? I am afraid you have chosen a wretched-looking bunch.
Seidensticker: Put it on this. It isn't much of a fan, but then it isn't much of a flower either.
Tyler: Here, give them to him on this — their stems are so hopeless.

This is a great little illustration of the character of the three four translations. Suematsu, totally off in the weeds ("Let us...", "strong stems"); Waley, master of polite reserve ("Would you like...?", "I am afraid...") and either a little bit wrong or a little bit misjudged ("wretched-looking bunch"); Seidensticker, gunning for the Hemingway Memorial Prize and also wrong (the whole second sentence); and Tyler, correct in the detail and pleasantly casual.

(There's lots of room for argument about meaning, of course, but no less an authority than Motoori Norinaga points out that the flower in question grows on a vine, making it hard to just carry loose; the servant also specifies the stem/branch [eda] as the problem, and this is not a common synecdoche or anything like that. So on the whole I am inclined to agree with Tyler and Motoori.)

I would be remiss if I failed to note that a few lines later Waley translates the word rōgawashi (crowded, noisy, unpleasant; an early combination of Chinese root [乱, disorder] and Japanese affix) as "hugger-mugger". For the record, Tyler uses "grubby", Seidensticker "not ... very nice" (of course), and Suematsu skips it.



Has it really been twenty days? Sorry! I was moving. My books are all on shelves now. To celebrate, here's an Edo-period senryū with universal book-nerd appeal:

ashioto ga/ suru to rongo no/ shita e ire
On hearing footsteps, he hides [it] under the Analects

Ōmagari Kuson 大曲駒村, in whose Great Dictionary of Senryū 川柳大辞典 I found the above, notes that "it" was "probably porn" (春宮冊子). Thanks, Ōmagari Kuson.



No time for a proper post today, but here's a couplet from a Fang Xiaoru 方孝孺 poem that I think many No-sword readers will identify with:


A man of this age I am not, and yet
I bear in vain this age's many woes.

Is "and yet" the right glue there, I wonder?