Long Winter Night - a Chinese poem from Ryokan

Many Japanese poets wrote Chinese poems as well. You dont have to speak/read mandarin Chinese to read these poems; a good knowledge of Japanese kanji will suffice.

Lets have a look at a famous Chinese poems of Monk Ryokan ( 良寛 ) :


In English, translated by Steven D. Carter:
Long Winter Night

Its all I think of: of when I was young,
reading books in the empty temple hall -
refilling the lamp again and again with oil,
never lamenting the long winter night.
Of course, most Japanese find the pronounciation of Chinese words extremely difficult, - just like us Europeans. So Japanese scholars usually dont read Chinese poems in mandarin, but as if it were Japanese: using the on/kun readings of kanji, adding kana particles when necessary. This is called Kanbun Kundoku ( 漢文訓読 ). For example the poem above would read as below:
hitotabi omou shounen no toki
sho wo yonde kuudou ni ari
touka shibashiba abura o souredomo
imada itowazariki touya no nagaki wo
Some notes:
hitotabi means "once".
souredomo comes from souru, the old form of soeru: "to add to, to attach".
souru is a ichidan verbs, soure is its izenkei form. The domo suffix, added to the izenkei, means "although...". So souredomo means "although [I] add [oil to the lamp]"...

itowazariki is from itou: "to dislike, hate, be weary of". The zu suffix, expressing negative, is added to the mizenkei stem: itowa+zu. zari is the renyoukei form of the zu suffix, needed before the ki suffix, expressing past tense. So itowazariki is the shuushikei form of the past tense of itowazu, meaning "[I] did not dislike" or "I did not get tired of [the long winter night]".
Huhh, that was complicated.

Anyway, I like this poem.
For another (Japanese) poem of Ryokan, please click here.

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