Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ki no Tsurayuki's soaked sleeves.

In shuuji we've been writing tanka and haiku by some of the great poets, so recently we've also been practicing reading (ie, deciphering) poems handwritten with hentaigana in addition to kanji and kana. すごく難しいと思いますけど、頑張っています。When I get home I try to google them, to read up on the poets and their context. This is one of my favorites so far:

sode hichite (浸?)
musubishi mizu no
kooreru o
haru tatsu kyou no
kaze ya tokuramu 

Soaking my long sleeves,
I took up in my cupped hands
   waters that later froze.
And today, as spring begins,
will they be melting in the wind?
(Steven Carter's translation)

   On this first spring day,
might warm breezes be melting
   the frozen waters
I scooped up, cupping my hands
and letting my sleeves soak ("hijite") through?
 (Helen Craig McCullough's translation)

Interesting differences. "Diagramming" as one would do with an English sentence probably wouldn't be fruitful, but the grammar seems to go like this: 

subject: kaze, wind
what kind of wind? harutatsu kyou no—of today, the start of spring
object: kooreru, frozenness
frozenness of what? mizu, water
what kind of water? musubishi, scooped
what kind of scooped? sode hichite, sleeve-soaking 
verb: tokuramu, (questioning) melt

So—will the breezes of today, the first day of spring, melt the now-frozen water that (I) (earlier) scooped (with cupped hands), soaking my sleeve(s) in the process?

Interesting play of meanings, too, between musubu and toku(ramu). Originally when we read this I thought musubu meant to tie; maybe it was that sode had given me the image of kimono and obi (musubi, the knot in the obi). But it also has the sense of joining hands together, as when scooping water. Toku can mean melting or dissolving (「湖の氷は解けて。。。」), but it can also be (with various kanji) untying, untangling, etc. We also have kooreru (to freeze) nominalized by を, as also happens with aru in the tanka we're doing now (「久しくも。。。」); 先生 tells me the の is commonly omitted in classical poems.

Anyway. I like it because it makes me think of the tsukubai, the basin outside a tearoom by which one stoops to "wash" (purify) one's hands and mouth. What does one do in the winter, when the water's frozen? This would be fun to write someday, to hang up for tea at the start of spring.

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