Ki no Tsurayuki, “Spring wind begins today” (Kokinshu #2)

Translation
Composed on the First Day of Spring
Spring wind
Begins today:
The frozen
water melts,
I cup my hands
And wet my
sleeves.
Commentary
Derived from a passage in the Book of Rites, one of the five Confucian classics, “In spring’s
first month, an eastern wind melts the ice.” This poem can be read either
literally or symbolically. It was written on the first day of spring;
literally, the ice of winter is melting and he catches the melting water in his
hands. Symbolically, “wet sleeves” was a common poetic expression of sadness,
as in wiping off one’s tears. The meaning could be that the poet experienced
sadness, perhaps from a relationship, in the previous spring or summer. He
forgot about it during the winter (the memory froze), but is worried about the
memory coming back as he gets closer to the time of year when the sad event
happened. Supporting this, another reading of “musubishi” is “to tie” while
another reading of “toku” is “to untie,” as in memories being tied up, then
untied by the change of season. Further, another reading of “kyou” can be “bad
luck, bad fortune.”
Japanese
Pronunciation
紀貫之
Ki no Tsurayuki
袖ひちて
Sode hijite
むすびし水の
Musubishi mizu no
こほれるを
Kooreru wo
春立つけふの
Haru tatsu kyou no
風やとくらむ
Kaze ya toku ran
Translation Notes
Sleeve cup hand
Unite/to-tie/to-bind/ending/conclusion
water ’s/of
To-freeze/to-be-frozen-over/to-congeal
Spring begins/stand/rise today/bad-fortune/bad-luck/Buddhist-sutra/mirror
’s/of
Wind/breeze and dissolve/melt/unfasten/untie/benefit/rebirth-in-paradise/
explain/shelter brilliant/bright/rebellion/war

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