春と修羅 Spring and Asura 

by 宮沢賢治 Miyazawa Kenji
English translation by Moss Quanci

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Translator’s Introduction

I wanted to provide a free and accessible translation of Miyazawa Kenji’s poetry collection, Spring and Asura. The text is that found at Aozora Bunko—that is the published text of 1924, not taking into account the textual variants found in Kenji’s manucripts.

The translation as it stands is incomplete. It is also unedited as it stands—this is a first draft. I will be updating it continuously as I complete new sections and revise old translations. As always, please contact me if you have comments, suggestions, or corrections.

Contents

[TRANSLATION INCOMPLETE]

   mental sketches
      Spring and Asura
            Taishō 11, 12 (1922-23)

Opening

the phenomenon called I
is a single blue illumination of
a hypothesized alternating current lamp
(a composite body of every transparent ghost)
is a single blue illumination of
a karmic alternating current lamp
that will surely stay lit
while busily busily flickering
together with landscapes and everyone
(the light endures its electric lamp is lost)

from the twenty-two months
that are in the direction I feel is the past, these words
I join with paper and mineral ink
(all flickering with me
 things that everyone feels at the same time)
scene after scene of shadow and light
that have endured until this point
they are mental sketches just as they are

concerning them, people or galaxies or asuras or sea urchins
as they eat cosmic dust or breath air and saltwater
may each come up with fresh ontologies
but in the end those will be but single scenes in their minds
yet surely these recorded landscapes
are recorded landscapes just as they are
and if they are nothing then that is just as nothing is
and to a certain degree they are shared by all
(because just as everything is everyone within me
 I am everything within everyone)

however, these words, supposed to have been correctly copied
in the accumulation of hugely bright time
of the Cenozoic era and Holocene epoch
in the light and dark that is equal to a meager point
  (or an asura’s billion years)
already change their structure and character
moreover there may be a tendency
for I and the printer
to feel that they are unchanging
perhaps just as we all feel our sense organs
and landscapes and personages
just as we merely feel them in common
the things called records and history or geological history
together with their various data
(under the spatio-temporal restrictions of karma)
are nothing more than what we are feeling
perhaps when two thousand years have passed
an appropriately changed geology will be diverted towards
appropriate evidences appearing from the past one after another
so all will think that two thousand years before
there lived colorless peacocks that filled the clear sky
and promising new scholars will excavate fantastic fossils
from the dazzling frozen nitrogen
of the upper stratum of the atmosphere
or maybe will discover
in a plane of Cretaceous sandstone
the giant footprints of a transparent humankind

all of these propositions are asserted
as the nature of mental image and time itself
within the four-dimensional extension

      January 20, Taishō 13 (1924)

Japanese Text

Spring and Asura

Refractive Index

even though the closest one of these seven woods
is even brighter than it is in the water
and is also so much bigger
must I step on this knobby-holey road
step on this knobby-holey snow
must I hurry
like a gloomy postman
  (again Aladdin takes up the lamp)
towards the wavy zinc clouds over there?

      (1922, 1, 6)

Japanese Text

Saddle-stand Snow

the only thing that’s reliable
is the snow on Saddle-stand’s line
both fields and groves
looking bedraggled and dull
can’t be counted on one bit
really in that yeasty
hazy blizzard
the only thing that sends you dim hope
is the snow on Saddle-stand Mountain
  (this is one of the old-fashioned faiths)

      (1922, 1, 6)

Japanese Text

The Sun and Taichi

the sun today is a small heavenly skating rink
the clouds one after another
are invading its surface
the blowing snow shone out
and so Taichi wore a red blanket for pants

      (1922, 1, 9)

Japanese Text

Hills’ Dazzlement

as each fragment cleanly shines
snow drifts down from the sky
the indigo shadows of the telegraph pole and
the reflections off the blazing blazing hills

  the way that farmer’s sleeveless coat over there
  has been sharply cut at the hem by some wind
  seems like it belongs in a Sanoki woodblock
  from the 1810s

the edges of the field are the heavenly reaches of Siberia
the translucent joins made of turquoise stone shine too
    (Mr. Sun
     far off in the sky lights
     a roaring roaring white blaze)

snow on the bamboo grass
burns down burns down

      (1922, 1, 12)

Japanese Text

Carbide Warehouse

even though I was reminded of the dear old lamps in town
when I hurriedly emerged from
the ravine of snow and serpentinite
these are the cold transparent electric lights
in the eaves of the carbide warehouse
  (I’m soaked in the twilight sleet
   so it’d be nice to light up a rolled cigarette)
this abrasion of fond recollection
has not come only from the cold
but neither just from the loneliness

      (1922, 1, 12)

Japanese Text

Cobalt Mountains

in the icy fog of the cobalt mountains
the flame of a doubtful dawn is burning
it is a guess at the trace of the Hairless Forest’s edge
surely a white fire of mentality
is roaring roaring burning stronger than water

      (1922, 1, 22)

Japanese Text

Thief

at daybreak under the pallid Skeleton constellation
crossing the diffuse reflections in the freezing mud
the one who stole Devadatta’s pot
the single one placed outside the store
abruptly halts their long black legs
and covering their two ears with their two hands
listens to the electric line music box

      (1922, 3, 2)

Japanese Text

Love and Fever

today my soul fell into illness
I can’t look straight at even crows
 from this moment on, that one
 in the chilly bronze sickroom
 is burning in a fire of transparent roses
truly but sister—
because today I’m doing terrible
I can’t even gather you willow flowers

      (1922, 3, 20)

Japanese Text

Spring and Asura

(mental sketch modified)

from the gray steel of mental images
chocolate-vines are growing entwined with clouds
thicket of wild roses and humus wetland
all around all around a state of devious flattery
(when even more frequently than mid-day woodwind music
 the amber fragments pour down)
the bitterness the blueness of anger
the bottom of the light of April’s atmospheric layer
spit it out grinding teeth, back and forth
I am asura
(the landscape swaying in tears)
shattered clouds the field of vision’s limit 
 in heaven’s brilliant sea
  winds of sacred glass circulate
   spring’s row of Zypressen
    breathes in deep black and ether
     from its dark paces
      even though the very snow ridge of Tian Shan shines
      (waves from heated air and white polarized light)
      true words are lost
     clouds torn to shreds soar through the sky
    ah the bottom of radiant April
   grinding teeth, burning up, back and forth
  I am asura
  (chalcedony clouds stream by
   where sings that spring bird?)
  when the sun shimmers blue
    asura resonate with the forest
     from heaven’s bowl that falls into shine
      clusters of black trees grow out
       their branches sadly grow full
      all landscapes duplex
     from the treetops of abstraction’s wood
    flashes up the crow to flight
    (the atmospheric layer clearer clearer
     as the cypress stand up silent in heaven)
someone passing through the grassland’s gold
a human form assumed easily
that farmer clad in straw coat looks at me
am I really seen?
at the bottom of the atmosphere’s dazzling sea
(sadness lush and deep)
Zypressen quietly sway
birds again slice the blue sky
(the true words aren’t here
 the asura’s tears fall to the dirt)

when breathing in the sky anew
the lungs contract faintly white
(this body scattered in the atoms of the sky)
the tips of the ginkgo’s branches shine again
the Zypressen blacker blacker
the sparks of clouds rain down

      ⸨1922, 4, 8⸩

Japanese Text

Springlight Hex

just what are they?
do you know what kind of thing they are?
hair black and long
mouth shut silent
there’s nothing more to them
  spring is befuddled by grass gone to seed
  its beauty disappears!
    (this place is bluish-black empty)
cheeks pale red eyes brown
there’s nothing more to them
       (oh this bitterness blueness coldness)

      (1922, 4, 10)

Japanese Text

Dawn

the undulating snow
has bright peach broth poured on it
the moon on the verge of melting into the blue sky
gently purrs to heaven
and once again drinks the diffuse light
  (pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā)

      (1922, 4, 13)

Japanese Text

Valley

in the dregs of light
behind the three cornered field
on top of the layer of dried grass
what I saw was
faces marked all over with red spots
incessantly quarreling amongst themselves
with glass-like steel-blue words
as they discussed
a group of three enchantresses

      (1922, 4, 20)

Japanese Text

Sunlight and Dry Grass

    from somewhere a chisel stabs in
    the blue haze of light paraffin
    circling tracing circles a crow
    crow’s creaking... crow machine...
(will this change?)
(it will change.)
(will this change?)
(it will change.)
(and what about this?)
(it won’t change.)
(in that case hey! here
 bring the cloud’s thorns! hurry!)
(no it will change it will change)
    ...............................................stabs in
    the blue haze of light paraffin
    circling tracing circles a crow
    crow’s creaking... crow engine

      (1922, 4, 23)

Japanese Text

Cloud Signals

ah this is nice this is refreshing
the wind is blowing and
and the farm tools are glittering and
the mountains are faint
even the lava necks even the lava cones
all are dreaming a dream of when there was no time
  at that time the cloud signals
  are already hoisted up to fly in pale spring’s
  restrained sky so high
the mountains are faint
surely into those four cedars
the wild geese will descend this evening

      (1922, 5, 10)

Japanese Text

Landscape

when the clouds are vague carboxylic acid
and the cherry blossoms bloom shining in the sun
and the wind comes blowing through the grass
the pruned angelica trees sway too
 a little while ago they covered the sandy soil in manure
   (now it is the bottom of a green glass model)
when the expanding bullets of skylarks abruptly shoot off into the sky
  the wind blows blue stupefaction
  golden grass shakes shakes
    when the clouds are vague carboxylic acid
    and the cherry blossoms bloom shining in the sun it’s a country breeze

      (1922, 5, 12)

Japanese Text

Study

stabbing glaring shining
it’s Spanish-made
  (white clover white clover)
in a foreign-made meadow like this
it’s best to sing in a brown sugar saccharine voice
if you try to catch it the little bird will surely take flight soaring up and away into the sky from your very hand
it’s best bring a cane put on a red coat it’s warm and breezy the fields are blooming white flowers become ripe strawberries in the autumn these flowers in the field grow into glass-like truth I want to stand still in it all but I won’t anyhow the flowers are white and full of paper wasps the tree trunks are so black you might take them for ebony (the stabbing glaring shining painful mist in my head) this thicket has gotten pretty well bolted down that’s what I thought really like a boulder like a ship it’s well mounted ...ah well oh! what’s planted between these barley rows? that’s just horsetail weeds so an intercropping of horsetail with barley? Tsuge-san’s slightly teasing tone all on its own is living inside me even back in the crowded rows of pine at Waga it was like that
      (1922, 5, 14)

Japanese Text

Resting

in the upper part of that resplendent space
the buttercups bloom
 (they’re excellent buttercups, but
  they’re more sulfur and nectar than butter)
and in the lower there is white clover and flat-leaf parsley
tin-work dragonflies hover
and the rain is crackling crackling
 (the reed warbler calls calls
  and there are even oleaster bushes)
if you throw down your body on the grass
there are white spots and black spots in the clouds
and all is shining shining gushing forth
if you throw down your hat it’s a black mushroom cap
if you lean back your head goes to the other side of the embankment
if you yawn
a devil comes out in the sky to shine
 the dried grass is soft
 a quality cushion all on its own
the clouds are all plucked
and the clear sky becomes a huge net
it is a mineral sheet shining from within
 the reed warblers ceaselessly do as they do
 and the sunshower comes down crackling crackling

      (1922, 5, 14)

Japanese Text

Nodding Anemone

the wind blows through the sky
and its remnants blow through the grass
the earnestness of nodding anemone down
pine and walnut stand up into space
  (anywhere you go the walnut trees
   all now have golden children dangling down)
ah black-cap sorrow
when the nodding anemones spread out their blooms
several floating scraps of light-acid cloud

      (1922, 5, 17)

Japanese Text

Riverbank

by the riverbank there are no birds and
(the oat seeds that we bear on our backs are)
a cough from the midst of the wind
the nodding anemones continue their accompaniment
two children in the midst of the light

      (1922, 5, 17)

Japanese Text

Vacuum Solvent

[TRANSLATION INCOMPLETE]


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