To a Daughter More Precious than Gems
by Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume (c. 700-750)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Heaven's cold dew has fallen
and thus another season arrives.
Oh, my child living so far away,
do you pine for me as I do for you?
I have trusted my jewel to the gem-guard;
now there's nothing to do, my pillow,
but for the two of us to sleep together!
I cherished you, my darling,
as the Sea God his treasury's pearls.
But you are pledged to your husband
(such is the way of the world)
and torn from me like a blossom.
I left you for faraway Koshi;
since then your lovely eyebrows
curving like distant waves
ever linger in my eyes.
My heart is as unsteady as a rocking boat;
besieged by such longing I weaken with age
and come close to breaking.
If I could have prophesied such longing,
I would have stayed with you,
gazing on you constantly
as into a shining mirror.
I gaze out over the fields of Tadaka
seeing the cranes that cry there incessantly:
such is my longing for you.
Oh my child,
who loved me so helplessly
like bird hovering over shallow river rapids!
Dear child, my daughter, who stood
sadly pensive by the gate,
even though I was leaving for a friendly estate,
I think of you day and night
and my body has become thin,
my sleeves tear-stained with weeping.
If I must long for you so wretchedly,
how can I remain these many months
here at this dismal old farm?
Because you ache for me so intently,
your sad thoughts all confused
like the disheveled tangles of your morning hair,
I see you, dear child, in my dreams.
Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume (c. 700-750) was an important ancient Japanese poet. She had 79 poems in Manyoshu ("Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves"), the first major anthology of classical Japanese poetry, mostly waka. The compiler of the anthology was Otomo no Yakamochi (c. 718-785). Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume was his aunt, tutor and poetic mentor. In the first stanza, Lady Otomo has left her children in Nara, possibly to visit her brother. In the second stanza, it is believed that the jewel is Lady Otomo's daughter and that she has been trusted to the care of her husband. As for the closing stanza, according to the notes of the Manyoshu, it was popularly believed that a person would appear in the dreams of the one for whom he/she yearned. Keywords/Tags: Otomo, Sakanoue, Iratsume, Japanese, translation, mother, daughter, precious, gems, gem, jewels, jewel, pearls, pearl, Koshi, Tadaka