Learn Japanese From Monk Sougi

Written byIchika Yamamoto

Monk Sougi lived between 1421 and 1502; he was a Zen monk and an admired poet in Japan. He's known as the master of Renga, the art of the linked Verse, formed from five to seven lines, making the first two an introduction or hint to the meaning of the poem and the last three verses, which could, on their own, constitute a poem.

Since most pieces of work from the Fifteenth century got lost, a lot of his poetry that could be saved is titled as unknown; the followings are two examples.






Hito wo yume to ya


sumi suteshi,

sono wa kochou no

yadori nite

That man's life is but a dream -

is what we now come to know.

Its abandoned house,

Where the garden is now home

to butterflies.

Where \93hito wo yume to ya\94 means \93Thinking of a man or one's self as a dream"; this verse is a reference to the quote of the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhi, where he claims having a dream where he was a butterfly and upon his wake not being sure whether he was a man who dreamt being a butterfly or a butterfly who's dreaming being a man.

\93Omoishiru\94 is a compound verb made of omou (think) and shiru (know), where the suffix \93ramu\94 is added to express conjecture so a more accurate translation would be \93we probably know well that man's life is but a dream.\94

\93Sumi\94 means dwelling while \93suteshi\94 is abandoned, and \93shi\94 indicates continuation so "(the house) is abandoned, and..." \93Sono\94 is the old word for garden and \93nite\94 indicates similarity.

涼 し さ 輪

水 よ り ふ か し

秋 の 空

suzushisa wa

mizu yori fukashi

aki no sora

Ah, for coolness,

it rivals the water's depth -

this autumn sky.

These are adaptations of the translation of Steven D. Carter.

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