Ono no Komachi

Long ago I found on the web a poem from Ono no Komachi, in English translation. It is still one of my big favourites:
Though I go to you
ceaselessly along dream paths,
the sum of those trysts
is less than a single glimpse
granted in the waking world.
The poem appeares as No. 658 in the Kokin Wakashu, an old anthology of poems from the 12th century. Komachi was a classic even at that time: she lived in the 9th century.


yumeji ni wa
ashi mo yasumezu
utsutsu ni hitome
mishigoto wa arazu
A line-by-line translation:
in [my] dreams / along dream paths
without resting my legs
[I] go often [to you]
in the real world, a single glimpse
is different.
kayoedomo is from kayou "to commute", "to come and go". kayoe is the izenkei form; domo is a suffix like keredo, meaning "although...".

hitome means "a glimpse". Usually it is written as 一目, but hito also means "a person", so hitome implies by this ambiguity that its a glimpse of a person, and a loved one. Anyway, this is a love poem...

mishi is the rentaikei of miki, the past tense of miru, "to see". In modern Japanese, it would be mita.

arazu means "there is no" (arimasen in modern Japanese), and "it is not, it is different" (de wa nai). Actually, somewhere I read another translation of this poem, I cant recall it exactly, but something like this:

"I go often to you in my dreams, but I never see you in the real world."

In a way, this is a possible translation too, but then, where is the poesie?

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