Monk Sogi

Sougi ( 1421 - 1502 ) was a zen monk and a poet: a master of renga, the linked verse. The renga follows the usual 5-7-5-7-5 pattern of the waka, but it is divided in two loosely coupled parts: the first two lines and the rest; the last three lines constitute a poem themselves, the first two lines giving a hint, a "link" to the meaning.
Hito wo yume to ya
sumi suteshi,
sono wa kochou no
yadori nite
Translation of Steven D. Carter:
That man's life is but a dream -
is what we now come to know.

Its house abandoned,
the garden has become home
    to butterflies.
omoishiru is a compound verb from omou and shiru, "think-and-know". The ramu suffix, added to the shuushikei stem, expresses conjecture: probably we know well that man's life is but a dream...

hito wo yume to: "thinking of man/person/self as a dream" - is a reference to the Chinese philospher Zhuang Zhi, who had a dream of being a butterfly; then woke up and was not sure if he is a man who dreamt to be a butterly, or he is a butterfly and now dreaming to be a man.

sumi means "dwelling", suteshi is "abandoned". The modern verb suteru, "to throw away", comes from this old adjective. The shi ending indicates renyoukei, which is often used to express continuation: "(the house) is abandoned, and..."

sono is an old word for "garden", nite expresses similarity, just like in modern Japanese.

And here is another poem of Sougi, my favourite:

suzushisa wa
mizu yori fukashi
aki no sora
Translation of Steven D. Carter:
Ah, for coolness,
    it rivals the water's depth -
this automn sky.

Back to main page

This webpage is printer-friendly, free of ads, banners, CSS, and JavaScript.
(C) 2002, Zoltan Barczikay