Tanka: Ono No Kamachi

Tanka is a poetic form that is made up of 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic pattern which can be divided into two parts: the first one is a hokku (5-7-5) and the second is a wakiku (7-7). The term haiku that we are familiar with today was not used in classical Japanese poetry. It was only made popular during the modern age by Matsoka Shiki (one of the four Haiku master). The following tanka by Ono No Kamachi (a mid-ninth century poet) should be read as it is by English readers since many of the original syllabic pattern has been lost due to translation.

I've gone to him
by dream paths,
my feet never resting -
but it can never match
one glimpse of him in real life

Because I fell asleep
thinking of him -
was that why he appeared?
If I'd known it was a dream
I'd never have waked up

Ever since I dozed off
and met the one I long for,
I've begun to count on
these things called dreams

My thought of you are endless,
and now that night has come
I'll visit you by dreams paths -
they can't blame me for that

Sheer fiction,
that autumn nights are longer -
we've hardly met
and before we know it
dawn breaking through!

In waking hours
natural perhaps,
but even in dreams -
how misreable, to be forever hiding
form the eyes of others

When longings
press too fiercely,
in the night,
black as leopard-flower seeds,
I wear my robe turned inside out

What do you tell me now,
I who grow old
in this rain of tears?
Your words, like the leaves,
have changed their hue

They change,
though you can't see it
in the colour of their faces -
these blossoms that are the hearts
of the people of this world

A time comes when
leaves yellow in the blustering wind,
pile up before you know it
like heaps of gloomy words -
is it that time now?

I've grown so wretched,
I'd break this sad body
off from its roots,
drift away like a floating weed
if the current were to beckon

The beauty of the flowers faded -
no one cared -
and I watched myself
grow old in the world
as the long rains were falling

Those who were here are gone,
and the gone grow in number -
in this world I sorrow,
wondering how long
I myself can go on sighing


Anonymous said…
very nice! hahahahaha
Diana said…
Beautiful Tanka and beautiful picture :)

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