A poem from Monk Ryokan ( 良寛 )

Yo no naka wa
nani ni tatoen
yamabiko no
kotauru koe no
munashiki ga goto
Translation by Steven D. Carter:
Our life in this world -
to what shall I compare it?
Its like an echo
resounding through the mountains
and off into the empty sky.
This poem is an allusive variation of a famous poem of Sami Mansei

tatoen is shortened from tatoemu, an inflected form of tatoeru, to liken something to something. Eg. the modern word tatoeba: "for example" comes from this verb. The mu suffix expresses intention.
yamabiko means the echo, and yamabiko no koe is the sound of the echo.
kotauru is an old form of kotaeru, to answer, to reply.
munashii means "empty, void, vain, futile".It is a shiku adjective, so munashiki is its rentaikei form.
ga goto at the end of the sentence is the same as gotoshi: it expresses that thing X is like thing Y. In this case, "our life in this world" is likened to the "echo resounding into the empty sky".

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