MYS XVI: 3869

大船に小舟引き添へ潜くとも志賀の荒雄に潜き逢はめやも

opobune ni
wobune piki sope
kaduku tomo
sika no arawo ni
kaduki apame ya mo
If a great ship to
A little boat were attached, and
Dived down, even so
Would Arao from Shika
Meet them beneath the seas?

It is said that the above poems were composed in the years of Jinki [724-729], when the Dazai provincial government ordered a peasant by the name of Munakatabe no Tsumaro from the district of Munakata in Chikuzen province to captain a boat taking provisions to Tsushima. So, Tsumaro went to the home of a fisherman called Arao in the village of Shika in the district of Kasuya, and said to him, ‘I have a request to make of you. Will you hear me out?’ Arao replied, ‘The district in which I live is different from yours, but we have sailed on the same ship for many years. I feel closer to you than to my brothers. Even should we be about to die together, I would not dare to abandon you.’ So Tsumaro said, ‘The officials of the Dazai government have ordered me to captain a boat carrying provisions to Tsushima. However, I am grown old and my strength is failing me, and I do not think I would survive the voyage. Thus I have come to you. I beg you, please take on this duty in my place.’ Arao agreed and in due course, in line with his duty, set sail from Mineraku Point in Matsura in Bizen Province. As he was sailing straight across to Tsushima, suddenly clouds filled the sky, the wind and the rain arose, he could not catch a favourable breeze, and his ship sank to the bottom of the sea. His wife and children, unable to endure feeling like a calf which has lost its mother, composed these poems. An alternative explanation is that the Governor of Chikuzen, Yamanoue no Okura felt sympathy for the woman and her children, and composed them in their stead.

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