Sami Mansei

Here is another famous poem, which is even older than Ise Monogatari. Its poem 352 from Manyoushuu, by Sami Mansei:
Yo no naka o
nani-ni tatoemu
kogiinishi fune no
ato naki gotoshi

Living in this world -
to what shall I compare it?
Its like a boat
rowing out at break of day,
leaving no trace behind.
The text is relatively easy (compared to its age)
tatoeru means to compare, to liken something to something.
The mu suffix is very common in classical Japanese: it means intention or conjecture.
kogiinishi is a compound verb from kogu (to row) and inu (to leave, to go away). inu is not used in modern Japanese; it was replaced by iku and saru. So kogiinu means "to leave/go away by rowing [in a boat]".

The shi suffix is the Rentaikei form of the ki, which signifies past tense. The Rentaikei form is needed when we use a verb before a noun like an adjective. In this case, kogiinishi is an adjective to fune (boat).

ato = trace, track,
gotoshi = as if, as though

If you want to see the poem in Japanese script, be prepared to be kinda shocked. While the Ise Monogatari is written mainly in hiragana, the Manyoushuu is written using only Chinese characters, with no kana at all:

I cannot read it at all, but in some cases we can recognize how Kanji was used phonetically, as if it were hiragana: eg. the kanji 師 (SHI: teacher, master) is used for the SHI suffix, meaning past tense...

You can find the whole text of Manyoushuu on the webserver of the Japanese Text Initiative project ( - both in kanbun and in modern script. This poem is transcribed as below:


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