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Winter 2007, vol 5 no 4
 

Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
newly translated by David Callner*

This is the ninth in a series of new translations of selected tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
(1893-1984).

 
   
老友と酌めば話題の大方は過去のことなり春宵といふに
Drinking with an old friend the conversation
is of things past - despite a spring evening
 
   
一合が二合となり三合となりて良夜は淫酒に更ける
One glass becomes two then becomes three
the moonlit night grows late in drunkenness
 
   
亡き母が拝みし月に旅かせんと六人の壮者今は選ばる
My lamented mother revered the moon
now six fine young men are chosen to go there
 
   
世の中は加速度なして遷りゆき明治の我はただに戸迷う
The world changes faster and faster
a man of Meiji I stand bewildered
 
   
百十六ケ国の代表も皆頭下げ「ワーネバーアゲン」の誓を聴けり
Representatives from one hundred sixteen countries bow their heads
and listen to the pledge - "War never again"
 
   
科学の粋人智の極を誇り競ふ機械は総て殺戮に繋り
Vying for pride in the heights of science and human knowledge
all these machines are designed to kill
 
   
堂々と広場を練るは皆殺人機ヒューマンセンスの何処かが狂ふ
Machines of death are maneuvered grandly in a public square
something is deviant with human sense
 
   
米国に支那にロシアに踊らされ同胞相殺のベトナム哀し
Forced to dance by America China and Russia
brother kills brother - Vietnam is sad
 
   
気負ひたつ放送苦々しスイッチを手荒く切りて忿懣抑ふる
The excited broadcast is loathsome
I violently turn it off and quiet my indignation
 
   
国聯に於ける毒舌も過去となりクルスチョフの童顔を愛す
His invective at the United Nations forgotten
now Khrushchev's baby face is "dear"
 
   
強訴して首刎ねられし父祖我にあり髪つむ椅子に瞑りて偲ふ
I have ancestors who were beheaded for violent protest
I shut my eyes and think of them while my hair is trimmed
 
   
妻子の外日本人をみざる既に半歳コスモポリスに我れ蟄居して
A half year without seeing any Japanese except my wife and children
I am confined in a cosmopolis
 
   
同種同文といふ明治の言葉ふと思ふ東洋系の貌をバスに見出て
I discover an Asian face on the bus
and suddenly recall the Meiji expression "Homogeneous in race and character"
 
   
オリンピックを迎へん為と東京は掘返されゐき何処も彼処も
To host the Olympic Games
Tokyo is dug up everywhere and anywhere
 
   
オリンピック迄の標語にて運ばれし突貫工事も背伸びの一つ
Advanced under the slogan "To the Olympic Games"
flash construction is one type of posturing
 
   
あこがれて訪ひしかど東京は面影もなくいこひもなかりき
I visited yearning for Tokyo
but not a trace remained - nor was there any relaxation
 
   
車にあき顔寄せあうて眠る幼孫等覚むればまたも喧嘩を始め
Tired of the drive my grandchildren sleep on each other's shoulder
when they awake they start fighting again
 
   
山峡の湖に糸垂れて魚待てばそこはかとなく風に秋あり
As I dangle my line in a lake in a glen
the breeze somehow speaks of fall
 
   
微風に押され湖を渡り来て穂絮一つ我が釣り糸に絡みて光る
Wafted across the lake by a gentle breeze
a single cotton tuft catches on my fishing line and shines
 
   
反撃の武器一つなき野兎は事あればひたに逃げ走るのみ
Without a single weapon for striking back
the hare just fervently runs away
 
   
逃ぐるほか方途を知らぬ野兎逃げ逃げて果は禿鷹に喰はれ
Ignorant of any means but flight the hare flees
and in the end gets eaten by a hawk
 
   
猫はなき犬咆え鳥は歌へども野兎にはうたふ声さへもなく
Cats yowl - dogs bark - birds sing
the hare doesn't even have a voice
 
   
永遠の沈黙に閉ざすハドソンの浮氷に鈍く冬の陽は射し
The Hudson - ice-bound in eternal silence
a winter sun shines dimly down
 
   
クリスマスを間近に控へ幼児九人おとな三人が災火に呑まる
With Christmas waiting just ahead
nine little children and three adults are swallowed up in a fire
 
   
煙の中を探し求めしか相擁しうずくまりて死に居たり孫等兄妹は
Did they search through the smoke?
crouching in each other's arms and dead are my grandson and granddaughter
 
   
学校一の優秀児童と謳はれし孫は十才にして早や世を去りぬ
Extolled as the most excellent child in his school
my grandson at ten years old leaves this world so soon
 
   
成人ぶり手を引き我をいたはりし孫八才にして我に先立つ
Leading me by the hand with the air of a grown-up - caring she was
my granddaughter at eight years old dies before I do
 
   
父を呼び母を呼びしか幼等は毒煙にまかれ踞る瞬間
Did they call for their father - call for their mother?
as the little children crouched overcome in poisonous smoke
 
   
起きて泣き臥して又泣き室を変へて老の涙は渇く術を知らず
I rise and weep - lie down and weep again - I change rooms
how to dry up this old man's tears I do not know
 
   

*Readers who have enjoyed this series of tanka translations may now add them to their personal libraries in the perfect bound, 136 page book:

Hudson: A Collection of Tanka by Kisaburo Konoshima
Translated into English by David Callner
Tokyo, Japan: Japan Times, 2005.
ISBN 4-7890-1179-8

 
   

David Callner David Callner was born in 1956. His youth was spent in France, England, Italy, and America. Since 1978 he has lived in Japan. He has written four novels. He teaches English as an adjunct at Nagano University.