Minamoto no Kanemasa’s “Singing voices” (Hyakunin Isshu #78)

Translation
By Minamoto no Kanemasa (~1120)
Singing voices—
Awaji Island beach birds
Going back and forth:
How many sleepless nights
For the Suma gatekeeper?
Original Japanese
Pronunciation
源兼昌
Minamoto no Kanemasa
淡路島
Awaji shima
かよふ千鳥の
Kayou chidori no
なく声に
Naku koe ni
いくよねざめぬ
Ikuyo nezamenu
すまの関守
Suma no sekimori
Literal Notes
Awaji Island
[Commute/back-and-forth/song/ballad/in-such-a-way] plover/sandpiper ’s
[Sing/cry-out/weep/not-having] voice
[Generations/ages/years/number-of-nights/go] sleep not
Suma gatekeeper

The Suma barrier gate is near Kobe and across from Awaji Island. The poet is said to have written this poem after spending the night there and hearing the birds’ cries. Exiled officials also frequently went to Awaji Island and the Suma Barrier was a in Tale of Genji.

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