Ten Tanka by Fujiwara no Teika (part I)

First (relevant) post! How exciting!
I guess I should start with some explanations about Tanka and Fujiwara no Teika.
Tanka 短歌 (Short poem) is a type of Japanese poetry composed by 31 syllables divided in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. One of the master of this kind of poetry was Fujiwara no Teika (or Sadaie) 藤原定家 (1162-1241) poet, critic, calligrapher and much more. Like his father, he was a true authority in the field of poetry and compiled two imperial anthologies: the Shinkokinwakashū 新古今和歌集 and the Shinchokusenwakashū 新勅撰和歌集.
He also compiled the famous Hyakunin isshu 百人一首(one poem by a thousand poets), maybe you heard about this one thanks to anime.
But enough with the history lesson, let’s take a look at two tanka.

Poem n.38 from the Shinkokinwakashū
Haru no yo no yume no ukihashi todaeshite mine ni wakaruru yoko kumo no sora

Traduzione italiana
Il ponte galleggiante
del sogno di una notte di primavera
si è interrotto.
Nel cielo, le nubi si fendono
sulle cime dei monti.

English translation
The floating  bridge
of a spring night’s dream
is broken.
In the sky, the clouds are split
by the mountain peaks.

Most Italian translation use “ponte sospeso” (suspension bridge) instead of “ponte galleggiante” (floating bridge), maybe I’m more accurate but less poetic?
“The floating bridge of a dream” it’s a metaphor for a dream that vanishes as soon as you wake up.

Poem n.40 from the Shinkokinwakashū
Ohozora ha mune no nihohi ni kasumitsutsu kumori mo hatenu haru no yo no tsuki

Traduzione Italiana
Come foschia
si accumula nel vasto cielo
il profumo dei prugni.
Luna di una notte di primavera
in cui le nubi non finiscono mai.

English translation
Like mist,
the scent of plums
is gathering in the vast heaven.
Moon of a spring night
of endless clouds.

This one was a bit more tricky because of a word-play: kasumitsutsu means “gathering” but kasumi also means “mist”. I didn’t notice it back when I had to study it for the Japanese Philology exam.
I know that those translations aren’t exactly “poetic”, but I think they convey the meaning pretty well. There’s still some words that I’d like to adjust, but tanka allows a very wide range of possible translations.
Well, thanks for reading all of this stuff. Next time, I’ll post two other tanka.

Source: Tollini, Aldo – La concezione poetica di Fujiwara no Teika

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