Monday, November 4, 2013

Fifty-Four




ぎどうさんしのはは


わすれじの
ゆくすえまでは
かたければ
きょうをかぎりの
いのちともがな




54

Gido Sanshi no Haha (Gido's mother)

If "not to forget"
Will for him in future years
Be too difficult –

It were well this very day
My life should close.





54

I thought, as I drove
by the river's edge —
I might do better

by mistaking
this sharp curve.





Notes

There is no extant Hokusai image for this poem. Here is one by Hiroshige:

http://www.heliam.net/One_Hundred_Poems/54_SanshiHaha.html

The poet is the wife of a nobleman, Fujiwara no Michitaka, and the mother of, among others, a Japanese official who was demoted (his title in the line identifying her is an empty one). It is said to be a wedding poem, alluding to her husband's wedding vows. Should things go awry, she would rather die now, while she is still happy. But the marriage may have been a good one.

Risa takes the opposite stance. She remembers a moment when things had indeed gone awry, and briefly contemplated driving into the river (so that it could be called an accident and thus relieve her family of the burden of a suicide). As it turned out, her marriage also remained a good one. Would-be suicides often forget that the horrible future they are avoiding might not happen in any case. Such succumb to their own imaginations.