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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Japan: Niphon (Nippon), the Island

The Journey of Tonase and Konami from Kamakura to Yamashina

By From the Japanese

Anonymous translation

WHO first on thee, O fleeting world,

Thy name bestowed, O Aska stream, I pray

Thee tell me who art onwards whirled

Mid shifting sandbanks, so changeful is the way

Of life to us from happ’ness hurled,—

A wavelet now hath touched thy well-known strand

Whom Yenya welcomed as the bride

Of his esquire who long had sought her hand,

Low-fallen with Yenya’s fall her pride!

She was betrothed, and Kakogawa’s child

Fond hope deep in her being bore,

But adverse Fortune ne’er upon her smiled,

No bridal gifts exchanged, no more

By lover sought, her soul is sad.

Peace, daughter, peace, thy mother bids thee haste

Towards Yamashina, where glad

By bridegroom thou shalt surely be embraced.

Alas! a bride-train thus forlorn

Hath never yet in all the world been known;

With doubt and grief my heart is torn,

Without attendant, mother and child alone,

On foot must urge their weary way,

And strive Yamato’s far-off land to gain.

My body ’s white as snow, men say,

The chilly winds with crimson hue it stain

Such as the wild-plum’s flower make gay,

My fingers all are sore benumbed with cold,

Apt name Kogoye Pass is thine:

O’er Satta’s ridge our further way we hold,

Thence gazing back the curling line

All pensive watch of vaguely erring smoke

That issueth from Fuji’s peak

And vanishing in the lofty sky is broke;

How sweet if ’t were the bonfire’s reek

At threshold lit my welcome home a bride,

How ’t would our sadness charm away!

With pines o’ergrown Matsbara’s plain so wide

Now traversed crowded in the way,

The sea-coast way, by some great Daimio’s train,

I know not whose, how blithe and gay

They seem, ah! when shall we know joy again.

O would that Fortune smiling were

Upon us, proud thy bridal train should be:

Than thee, none happier, none more fair;

Now yonder may we Sur’ga’s Fuchiu see,

The omen cheers thy mother’s heart,

Her child shall yet the marriage pledge exchange,

By husband yet be led apart,

In bridal bower sweet vows to interchange

In tender whispers heard by none.

Narrows the path through the briers hardly seen,

To parent as to child unknown,

Fain wouldst thou now on lover’s strong arm lean.

On Mariko’s sunny bank we stand,

His rapid stream shall bear our griefs away,

Dear mother; now on our right hand

High Utsu’s hill we leave behind, O, say

Shall I my lord’s new pillow press,

Half sleeping, by a bridegroom’s arms embraced,

What mighty cares my mind distress!

Ohoi river, thou whose waters haste

In rapid tumult onwards sped,

As fleeting often is the love of man,

Yet ’t is not fickleness I dread

In him I love, but ’neath misfortune’s ban

Our love’s full flower can hardly blow.

Our feet upon Shiradska’s bridge now stand:

Past Yoshida we further go

To Akasaka; our wearied limbs demand

Repose; the beckoning women cry,

That throng the door of every inn, “Fair bride,

To Kymid’s far-famed temple nigh,

To Otowa’s roaring falls choose you a guide;

Say, lady, will you not delay,

Adore the temple’s deity and view

How to the god the Pilgrims pay

With sacred dance and music homage due,

And join in the applauding shout,

And share the merry throng’s loud happiness.”

“Ah, no; I cannot linger; doubt

And fear us restless towards the city press.”

Right, daughter; were thy lover here,

Three suppliants we would Ise’s god revere.

Thus we our clownish verses sing;

To Nar’migáta’s town we come. Success

The happy name I trust may bring.

Ha! Atsta’s shrine descry we yonder,—yes,

Full seven leagues across the bay.

Haul taut the sail, bend, mother, bend to the oar,

With measured stroke,—away, away,—

Haste, mother, haste, far yet the further shore.

Hark! as we steer how loud the cry.

Is it the scream of some tiny súdsu fly,

Or is it rather the chirruping shriek

Of the grasshopper that, as the old song tells, doth cry

Through the chilly nights when the hoar-frosts lie.

The even latens fast, and darksome night

Us threatens ere we have attained

Yon nearing shore, while yet the day is light.

O mother, every nerve be strained.

How fierce the hail drives through the windy air;

We cover from the storm our heads,

Now side by side our barques through the waters tear

Now one the laggard other leads;

Sh-kame’s Hill we pass, awhile

At Seki rest, wherefrom the Eastern way

Parts stretching south for many a mile,

The road that leads through Isé,—the merry play

Of packhorse bells we hear as thee

We reach, Sudsuka, Ainotruchi’s peak,

Rain-dimmed, now hardly may we see.

Rain ever dims, men say, its summit bleak.

O Minaguchi,—the rocky vale

Of Ishite we next fatigued toil through,

Pass Ohods’, Nii’s temple hail,

The hillside skirt, our further way pursue,

And now a petty hamlet nigh

Yamashina,—our journey’s end,—descry.