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This is the archive for 17 June 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I am reading some essays on the "Man'yo shuu", a compilation of 10,000 poetry slices from ancient Japan. Today, I have stumbled on a poetry that deeply impressed and moved me, so I want to share it. This is from a priest of the Gengouji temple in ancient Nara, filed as n. 1018. The most common poetry form in the Man'yo Shuu is the tanka (5-7-5-7-7), but this is a 5-7-7-5-7-7 form called Sendaika (revolving theme poetry).

白玉は
Shiratama wa
White pearls...
Le perle più preziose...

人に知らえず
hito ni shiraezu
are unknowable by the many.
sono inconoscibili alle genti.

知らずともよし
shirazu to mo yoshi
If they don't know, then fine!
Ma anche se non le conoscono, sta bene.

知らずとも
Shirazu to mo
Even if they don't know
Anche se non mi conoscono

我し知れらば
wareshi shireraba
just, if I am able to know my true self
se almeno io so conoscere il vero me

知らずともよし
shirazu to mo yoshi
if they don't know, then fine!
Anche se non mi conoscono, sta bene.

This poetry is really outstanding in the Man'yo Shuu. It breaks almost any rule, respecting just the sendaika metric, which is uncommon by itself. There are poetry with repetitions, but repeating a whole verse is quite "daring" alone; the doubling of the repetition with the second 5 syllable verse makes this even more daring. Then, this poetry talks directly of a personal feeling, it's very intimate and warm; no metaphors and just no parallels with the surrounding natural environment. It's just as it is.

And mostly astonishing, while this poetry is 1300 years old, except for shireraba, now spelled as shirareba, and the term wareshi that sounds quite old, it uses words and grammatical forms that are absolutely still used today. It's a message that traveled through more than a thousand years, with its emotional charge still powerful as the day it has been written.

I wish I was able to reach this same detachment and self-completeness.