Today I read Ōno Yasuhiro 大野雍煕's "Man'yōshū to kosenryū bungei ku", an article about early literary senryū (as opposed to senryū about daily life, love, etc.) that refer to the Man'yōshū. This is the funniest example it records.

The Man'yōshū poem referred to is #1511, in volume 8:

暮去者 小倉乃山尓 鳴鹿者 今夜波不鳴 寐宿家良思母
yupu sareba/ wogura no yama ni/ naku sika pa/ koyopi pa nakazu/ inenikyerasi mo

It is attributed to Emperor Jomei (593-641), and because it is so famous I can offer you three different translations (thanks, Google Books!):

  • The deer at Ogura Mountain, which cries when evening arrives, appears to have fallen asleep without crying (Shirane: 29)
  • The deer in Ogura Mountain cry, when the evening comes, but they are not crying tonight, so they have probably gone to sleep (Frellesvig: 117)
  • The deer that cry/ On Ogura when evening falls/ Have not cried out/ Upon the mountain slopes tonight—/It must be they have gone to sleep (Cranston: 165)

And here is the senryū parodying it:

妻を乞ふ 鹿に寝兼る 嵯峨の奥
tsuma wo kou/ shika ni nekanuru/ Saga no oku
Can't sleep for deer crying for a mate:/ Outer Saga

Ōno acknowledges that there are several other well-known poems about deer calling at night, but still believes that this refers to the MYS poem in particular (or the closely related #1664), I suppose because of the shared reference to a specific place.

Works cited

  • Cranston, Edwin A. A Waka Anthology: Volume One: The Gem-Glistening Cup. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.
  • Frellesvig, Bjarke. "On the interpretation of written sources as evidence for the phonology of earlier language stages - with special regard to the reconstruction of early Old Japanese." Copenhagen Working Papers in Linguistics 4 (1996): 97-130.
  • Ōno, Yasuhiro 大野雍煕. "Man'yōshū to kosenryū bungei ku" 万葉集と古川柳文芸句. Man'yō to sono dentō 万葉とその伝統. Ed. Ōkubo, Tadasi 大久保正. Tokyo: Ōfūsha, 1980. 342-369.
  • Shirane, Haruo. Japan and the Culture of Four Seasons: Nature, Literature and the Arts. Chicago: Columbia University Press, 2013.

Popularity factor: 8


I know he wasn't even trying, but that Frellesvig translation may be the least poetic translation of poetry ever translated. Also I really want to read his article :(


I wasn't able to see all of it myself! But as far as I could tell, there's not much there that you wouldn't already know (OJ orthography works like so, these characters represent sound, these meaning, and thus... etc.) Although the introductory section was enjoyable because his examples of how the problem has been understood historically are from 19th-century Old Norsists and similar figures unfamiliar to me.


Also: what surprised me about F's translation is that although it clearly isn't intended to be "poetic", it doesn't seem to be "literal" either, in that the "...naku" part isn't rendered as a relative clause (as it is in the other two). Which made me wonder if he actually was interpreting the structure differently from the others, e.g. with a "sentence break" after "sika pa". That's probably overthinking it though.


I... don't get it. Where is the humor? (Turning German, I think I'm turning German, I really think so...)

At least I can contribute another translation, from my ancient Columbia paperback (the Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai translation):

The stag of the Ogura Mountain
That cries when evening comes,
Cries not to-night--
Is it that he sleeps?


The original poem describes noticing the absence of the lonesome deer's melancholy cry one night. The senryu extrapolates the obvious conclusion (most nights, the deer must be audible) and exaggerates for comic effect: who can sleep with all these melancholy love-cries going on?

Thanks for translation #4!


Ach ja, now I am seeing ze humor! I laugh! Also, you're welcome!

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スーパーコピー オメガ http://www.wtobrand.com/lvc1.html

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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