“The autumn gloaming deepens into night”

Elin Sütiste’s “A Crow on a Bare Branch” is an exhaustive analysis of 32 translations of Bashō’s famous kare-eda poem:

kare-eda ni / karasu no tomarikeri / aki no kure

The autumn gloaming deepens into night;
Back ‘gainst the slowly-fading orange light,
On withered bough a lonely crow is sitting.
(Walsh, 1916)

Lo! A crow sits on a bare bough,
‘Tis a dreary autumn evening.
(Miyamori, 1930)

Bare barren branch on
which a crow has alighted autumn
Nightfall darkening.
(Unknown, 1964)

The three translations above are the three that most caught my interest. The first two are largely notable for their period charm. As Sütiste observes, placed in chronological order the 32 translations form a sort of ape-straightening-up-into-man (sic!)–style diorama, revealing the gradual coalescence of a “haiku style” in English at the expense of diversity. (Note, though, that Aston’s 1899 translation, the first, was already in something very like that final haiku style; I suspect that close examination of the style’s development would reveal that it was more a story of specific influential figures, probably starting with Aston, than non-directed evolutionary change in the community.)

The last of the three I like because of the pleasing off-kilter effect of the “autumn” at the end of the second line. Is the wandering autumn justified by the source text? Maybe; the aki “autumn” in the original doesn’t show any sign of enjambment, but it could be argued that the shocking inclusion of nine (!) morae instead of seven in the middle section should be represented in the English somehow.

Songs of People at Work and Play

Arbiter have released the fifth volume of their Japanese Traditional Music series: Songs of People at Work and Play. As usual, there’s a long blog post about it with background, plus links to the liner notes, additional notes (texts and translations), and Japanese notes. So note enthusiasts are very well served here.

For those who came in late, the Japanese Traditional Music series is a cleaned-up and digitized version of a government-sponsored 60-shellac-disc anthology of traditional Japanese music from the early 1940s. 60 discs = 120 sides, and since there are 24 tracks on each of Arbiter’s releases, this fifth volume concludes the set. They’re all on Apple Music, too.

No-one tells me anything (Medieval French edition)

Last October, the Works of Guillaume Machaut project finally released volume 1 of The Complete Poems and Music: The Debate Series. (You can read the whole thing, including translation by R. Barton Palmer, online at that link.)

Car tant m’a fait compaignie
Que c’est niant dou depart,
Ne que jamais, par nul art,
Soit sa pointure garie.