SIS XX: 1342

Composed and sent to the Monk Shoku (ca. 917-1007).

暗より暗道にぞ入ぬべき遙に照せ山の葉の月

kurasa yori
kuraki miti ni zo
irinubeki
Faruka ni terase
yama no Fa no tuki
From darkness
On a shadowed path
I must make my way;
Let it faintly shine,
The moon upon the mountain’s edge.

Masamune’s Daughter [Izumi] Shikibu
和泉式部

5 thoughts on “SIS XX: 1342”

  1. Is 山の葉 a standard expression? It seems to suggest that the moon lights up a sliver of the mountain as slender as a blade of grass or a pine needle.

    1. It’s a bit of orthographic play: it would normally be written 山の端, meaning the ‘edge’, that is, ridgeline of the mountains, which the moon sinks towards when it sets. By using 葉 ‘leaf’ instead, it suggests the more blurred line of the mountains around the capital and in the Yamato region, which aren’t rocky, knife-edged peak, but covered with trees.

  2. You made this translation and transcription in 2015, seven years ago. I’d be interested to see how you would do it now and a comparison (by you) of the differences, if you have time.

    1. That’s a good question. I think I would change the final two ‘lines’ to make them a more direct address, and pluralise the mountains (this is more appropriate given the topography around Kyoto): ‘Faintly shine, / O, moon upon the mountains’ edge!’
      The change would give the poem a more personal tone, which would be in keeping with its allegorical nature – a plea by Izumi Shikibu for the light of Buddhist salvation.

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