Ono No Komachi (825 – 900)

The more I look into Ono No Komachi, the more I fall in love with her story. A strikingly beautiful woman, Komachi made a name for herself 1000 years ago in Japan that went beyond her aesthetic appeal. She was a recognized waka (traditional Japanese lyric) poet, even earning “Immortal” status from the emperor.

The translations of Ono No Komachi’s poems I read remind me of the short but passionate observations of Emily Dickinson. See for yourself:

1.

“Was I lost in thoughts of love

When I closed my eyes? He

Appeared, and

Had I known it for a dream

I would not have awakened.”

2.

“The color of this flower

Has already faded away,

While in idle thoughts

My life goes by,

As I watch the long rains fall.”

3.

“No exchange of glances- a barren beach-

How I hate myself for it!

Doesn’t he realize it,

Heedless of distance, the fisherman,

Coming and going on weary legs?”

4.

“How sad,

to think I will end

as only

a pale green mist

drifting the far fields.”

5.

“‘It’s over!’

Upon me drizzle

Falls and with my years

Even your words, too,

Have turned sere.”

6.

“Placing burning coals

To burn my body hurts less than

The sorrow of

The capital and island shore

Parting.”

Note: I assigned numbers to the poems in this post for the readers’ convenience, as all of these translations are otherwise untitled.

Here is one of Komachi’s poems in its original language for readers whose Japanese is better than mine:

花の色は
うつりにけりな
いたづらに
わが身よにふる
ながめせしまに

(“So the flower has wilted during the long spring rains, just as my beauty has faded during my forlorn years in this world.”)

Sources:

http://mypoeticside.com/poets/ono-no-komachi-poems

http://thehypertexts.com/Ono%20no%20Komachi%20English%20Translations.html

http://onethousandsummers.blogspot.com/2012/07/ogura-hyakunin-isshu-poem-9-ono-no.html

Image from < https://ukiyo-e.org/image/met/DP13902

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