★worrisome cherry ― Sayaka asks Jaugo about adolescence★
Jaugo: Hello again, Sayaka-san, how are you today?
Sayaka: I’ll be fine after I’ve consulted with you, I hope.
Jaugo: Is there anything in this poem that doesn’t sit well with you?
Sayaka: Yes. It’s mostly OK, but the phrase “たえてさくらのなかりせば(taete sakura no nakariseba)” sounds too destructive to be comfortable.
Jaugo: Destructive?… Ah, yes, you take it too literally, I suppose.
Jaugo: Perhaps you think the word “たえて(taete)” is a verb and should be interpreted as “be destroyed, exterminated, driven into extinction by brute force”, don’t you?
Sayaka: Isn’t that what it means?
Jaugo: Not quite. The term “たえて(taete)” in question is not a verb but used as an adverb meaning “not at all”.
Sayaka: Oh… yes, then, the poem sounds fine to me now.
Jaugo: Good to hear that. But just for additional pleasure, how about retracing your original interpretation or misinterpretation of the TANKA with the destructive verbal expression “たえて(taete)” in it?
Sayaka: Um… if you so insist.
Jaugo: What do you say to this poem: 世の中に＜絶えて藪蚊の無かりせば＞夏の野山は愉しからまし（よのなかに＜たえてやぶかのなかりせば＞なつののやまはたのしからまし:yononaka ni ＜taete yabuka no nakariseba＞ natsu no noyama wa tanoshikaramashi）?
Sayaka: The summer field and mountain would be pleasant to play around… if there were no mosquitoes… yes, I definitely agree.
Jaugo: Then, what about this: 世の中の＜藪蚊の絶えて無かりせば＞夏の野山は愉しからまし（よのなかの＜やぶかのたえてなかりせば＞なつののやまはたのしからまし:yononaka no ＜yabuka no taete nakariseba＞ natsu no noyama wa tanoshikaramashi）?
Sayaka: Is it any different?
Jaugo: Take a closer look and see for yourself.
Sayaka: OK… oh, yes, I see the difference: ＜yabuka no taete nakariseba＞ means ＜if mosquitoes were forced into extinction and nonexistent＞ as opposed to ＜taete yabuka no nakariseba = if mosquitoes didn’t exist at all＞.
Jaugo: Likewise, you at first felt that the poem was saying ＜sakura no taete nakariseba = if cherry trees were all cut down and extinguished from the earth＞.
Sayaka: What a brutal imagination!… I’m ashamed of myself.
Jaugo: You should be proud of yourself now that you are that much wiser.
Sayaka: It’s kind of you to say so, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: I’m not so much kind as honest: I really am happy to see you grow wiser in front of me, thanks a little to my advice.
Sayaka: Thanks a lot!
Jaugo: You are quite welcome. And you are welcome to come back any time for our joint pleasure in poetic adventure.
Sayaka: I certainly will!… Uh… so much for today?
Jaugo: Well, extended play will be fine, if you are not otherwise engaged.
Sayaka: I’m free to spend the whole afternoon with you… if it’s not too much trouble for you, of course.
Jaugo: OK, then, let’s make every minute count, since 春宵一刻直千金(shun-shou ikkoku atai senkin = a vernal evening is worth lots of money) as an old Chinese poem says.
Sayaka: Although it’s not evening yet.
Jaugo: Yes, but the time you spend in adolescence is just like a Spring evening… or maybe a late afternoon that’ll soon come to an end.
Sayaka: You mean, I’ll be older soon?
Jaugo: It’s not for me to say, it’s just for you to see when you look back.
Sayaka: In a few years from now?
Jaugo: Patience, Sayaka-san, don’t be too impatient for answers. Adolescence is a period in which to store up questions, not to stuff yourself with easy answers.
Sayaka: I’m already stuck with too many unanswered questions of adolescence.
Jaugo: Good for you, that’s what adolescence is meant for. The rest of your life might as well be spent in doing that homework.
Sayaka: Is that what you do? Was your adolescence full of questions and doubts too, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: My life is a series of questions and answers, sometimes coming rather too late, yet I have no doubt that no question or problem would ever come to me without being coupled with some possible answers.
Sayaka: What makes you so positive?
Sayaka: I envy you…
Jaugo: You’ll see what I mean if you keep asking questions the way you do before me.
Sayaka: I hope so.
Jaugo: Well, how about summing up this conversation in a TANKA like this: 「世の中に絶えて疑問の無かりせば 青春時代は長閑けからまし（yononaka ni taete gimon no nakariseba seishun-jidai wa nodokekaramashi）」?
Sayaka: Adolescence would be comfortable if there was no question at all in this world… um…
Jaugo: Sounds not quite right for you?
Sayaka: I’m not sure.
Jaugo: How about 「絶えて試験の無かりせば（taete shiken no nakariseba = if there was no exam at all）」?
Sayaka: I don’t hate exams, for without them I might not seriously study.
Jaugo: I couldn’t agree more. Then, how about 「絶えて悲恋の無かりせば（taete hiren no nakariseba = if there was no heart-breaking love affair at all）」?
Sayaka: I don’t know… I mean, I’m not so… experienced in such affairs. I’ve never been lost in love… or seriously in love either, I’m ashamed to admit.
Jaugo: OK, inexperience is not something to be ashamed of, it’s like an unused ticket to an adventure ride in the amusement park of life; use it only when you are ready, never try to use it in haste just because others already have… or you’ll simply miss the fun and waste it.
Sayaka: I’ll try to remember what you say.
Jaugo: If you remember at all, why not in a more memorable form of poetry such as: 「世の中に絶えて波風無かりせば 人の心や長閑けからまし？（よのなかにたえてなみかぜなかりせばひとのこころやのどけからまし？：yononaka ni taete namikaze nakariseba hito no kokoro ya nodokekaramashi?）」… what do you make of it, Sayaka?
Sayaka: If there were no waves of events, no ups and downs in life at all, then, should a human heart remain peacefully restful?
Jaugo: Do you really think so?
Sayaka: I… I don’t think so. Life would be no life without waves of joy and sorrow.
Jaugo: And Spring would be no Spring without the joy and sorrow for the blooming and falling of cherry flowers. If you want to get moved at heart, don’t be afraid to have yourself shaken and carried away by waves after waves of events, joy, sorrow, meetings, partings, questions, problems… everything unsettling, for that’s what makes life what it is. Cherry flowers come and go to remind us of this truth each and every Spring.
Sayaka: I’m getting to like this TANKA more and more. I confess I didn’t think much of it before I had this conversation with you, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: I’m glad to hear that… thank you for the wonderful time, Sayaka-san. Let us be parted today so that we may meet again for some more fresh discovery tomorrow… or next week or next month perhaps?
Sayaka: Tomorrow it will be! I can’t wait to see you for our next joint adventure!
Jaugo: OK, then, be sure to have all your homework for today done… I will, too.
(on cherry blossom at Nagisa-no-in)
Spring would make our heart rest so easy… without cherry blossom.
よのなか【世の中】〔名〕＜NOUN:the world, our life＞
たえて【絶えて】〔副〕＜ADVERB:not at all＞
さくら【桜】〔名〕＜NOUN:cherry tree, cherry blossom＞
なし【無し】〔形ク〕（なかり＝連用形）＜ADJECTIVE:be absent, nonexistent＞
…if there was no cherry blossom at all in this world
はる【春】〔名〕＜NOUN:Spring, vernal season＞
こころ【心】〔名〕＜NOUN:heart, mind, feeling＞
…we would feel restful in Spring
《yononaka ni taete sakura no nakariseba haru no kokoro wa nodokekaramashi》
■no cherries, no worries… but no joy and sorrow either that makes us human■
”Without cherry flowers,” the poet joyfully grumbles, “human heart in Spring would be quite peaceful”… but there’s no tone of complaint in his comment, for the poet is actually saying “Thank you, cherry blossom, for making us so happily restless!”
Why do we feel so restless in Spring at the sight of cherry trees? This question should more aptly be answered by another piece of Heianese TANKA:
《さけばちるさかねばこひしやまざくら おもひたえせぬはなのうへかな：sakeba chiru sakaneba koishi yamazakura omoi tae senu hana no ue kana》『拾遺集（Shuui-shuu）』春（Spring） No.36 by 中務（敦慶親王女：Nakatsukasa, daughter of Atsuyoshi Shin-ou）咲けば散る(if in full bloom, we’ll feel sad to see them fall)咲かねば恋し山桜(if still in bud, we can hardly wait to see them come out)思ひ絶えせぬ花の上かな(the fortune of cherries never cease to stir up our heart)・・・the 「詞書（kotoba-gaki = annotation）」 to this poem tells us the author rhymed it out 「子に罷り後れて侍りける頃、東山に籠もりて（ko ni makari okurete haberikeru koro Higashi-yama ni komorite = when bereaved by her child, locking herself up in the temple of Higashi-yama）」.
Why are we ― or should I say the Japanese? ― so unusually interested in the fate of cherry flowers? This question should also be answered with another Heianese TANKA by some unknown poet:
《うつせみのよにもにたるかはなざくら さくとみしまにかつちりにけり：utsusemi no yo ni mo nitaruka hana-zakura saku to mishi ma ni katsu chirinikeri》『古今集（Kokin-shuu）』春（Spring） No.73：annonymous 空蝉の世にも似たるか花桜(isn’t cherry blossom just like human life in this fleeting world?)咲くと見し間に且つ散りにけり(no sooner had we seen it bloom than it began to fall)
Beautiful in bloom yet soon to fall, however, is the fate of all flowers, not peculiar to cherry blossom. Why is it so special to the Japanese consciousness? Because cherry trees come out at the height of Spring, as if declaring the harsh Winter is over and, after a brief period of their prime, quickly disappear from the vernal stage ― at once a harbinger of Spring and a reminder of the vicissitudes of our existence. We, humans, wait with impatience for cherry buds to come out… come out to the field in cheerful crowds to celebrate their prime… and sigh to see them leave us so soon… although the same cherry tree will repeat the same cycle of blooming and falling next year, next decade, possibly in the next century, long after human viewers have gone out of the scene.
There are times when we identify ourselves so wholeheartedly with the fate of something/someone else that we lose sight of our own destiny. It may be that the way the Japanese look at cherry trees in Spring is not unlike the way old folks look at feeble young ones trying to take the first step into harsh realities… although the old ones are getting more old and feeble themselves day by day as the young ones grow up to stand on their feet. The following TANKA, seven centuries newer than Heianese ones above, may be said to be another version of cherry-blossom anthem:
《はえばたてたてばあゆめのおやごころ わがみにつもるおいをわすれて：haeba tate tateba ayume no oya-gokoro wa ga mi ni tsumoru oi wo wasurete》『類柑子（rui kouji：A.D.1707）』井上河州（Inoue Kashuu）這えば立て(when babies begin to creep on the floor, parents try to encourage them to stand)立てば歩めの親心(no sooner had they stand upright than parents want their babies to walk)我が身に積もる老いを忘れて(as if time would fly on babies alone, parents love to see them grow up, forgetting themselves getting older)
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