Tuesday, May 31, 2011





Sarumaru Dayu

In the mountain depths,
Treading through the crimson leaves,
Cries the wandering stag.

When I hear the lonely cry,
Sad — how sad — the autumn is!


I walk along
the ridge crest
with nothing in my hands.

Where are you now?
and how is it
I am alive here —

as snow begins
to fall?


Risa laments the death of someone -- who had thoroughly captured her heart -- from brain cancer at the age of forty-two. They had gone to lunch together only a month before the end. The friend had concealed the condition, and focused on other topics. Some years later, as Risa's health was mysteriously deteriorating, the doctor suddenly asked -- are you carrying a hidden grief? Risa burst into tears.

Sarumaru Dayu, dating from around 700 CE, is almost unknown other than through poems, and is one of the 36 immortals. This poem seems to parallel a buck's loss of a beloved doe with the poet's loss of a beloved through death. It rings true.

Hokusai's Old Nurse, on the other hands shows a buck and doe together on a distant hill at sunset, as women return home from work with rakes and pack baskets. One of the women turns and points out the two to her friends.