Fujiwara no Sanesada’s “Cuckoo” (Hyakunin Isshu #81)

Translation
By Minister of the Left Tokudaiji, Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139-1191)
Cuckoo
I look in the
Singing sound’s direction
But only the morning
Moon remains
Original Japanese
Pronunciation
後徳大寺左大臣
Go Tokudaiji no Sadaijin
ほととぎす
Hototogisu
鳴きつる方を
Nakitsuru kata wo
眺むれば
Nagamureba
ただ有明の
Tada ariake no
月ぞのこれる
Tsuki zo nokoreru
Literal Notes
         
Cuckoo
Cry/sing has direction
Stare/watch/see when
Just/only early-dawn/daybreak ’s
Moon remain
The Japanese cuckoo, not related to the European cuckoo, only cries once or twice a day, around sunrise or sunset. As he’s not seeing the bird, a poetic legend is that the bird is coming from the spirit world to warn the farmers that it is time to sow rice. Another legend is that the bird’s singing is inviting a tryst with him that will lead to the underworld.

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