★to die in despair or to live to remember today ― Sayaka recalls her death wish at the end of her childhood★
Jaugo: Well, Sayaka-san, after two poems of Fall which left you rather cold, I’m curious what you would make of this TANKA.
Sayaka: Is this a ghost-song?
Jaugo: Ghost… song? A song written by some ghostwriter?
Sayaka: No, a song made by a ghost, someone that’s not alive any more.
Jaugo: Oh, this sounds like a hopeful beginning of a joyful poetic adventure. Would you mind telling me what makes you think that the poet is a ghost, who is not alive in this world any more?
Sayaka: “あればぞ見ける秋の夜の月（areba zo mi keru aki no yo no tsuki）”… “見ける(mi keru = I used to see)” he says, so, he is not seeing the moon now. He is only remembering the moon that he used to see in Autumn when he was still alive… am I wrong in thinking so?
Jaugo: You are very good in thinking and telling me so… but I advise you refrain from telling that to other people.
Sayaka: …Which means I’m off the mark.
Jaugo: …Which means we can enjoy the process of getting back to the right track together. OK, let’s start unraveling the riddle by thinking about the auxiliary verb “けり（keri）”, the key word in “あればぞ見＜ける＞秋の夜の月（areba zo mi＜keru＞ aki no yo no tsuki）” ― you felt it meant “used to”, the auxiliary verb of “the past”, right?
Sayaka: Yes… in fact, it isn’t?
Jaugo: In this context, it isn’t: it is not an auxiliary verb of “the past” but a rather exclamatory expression of discovery, something like “I found out”, “oh yeah, I see”, “that’s it” or “eureka!”
Sayaka: If so, the poet is now viewing, not remembering, the Autumnal moon in front of his eyes… but it still sounds strange: what did he discover?
Jaugo: The Autumnal moon.
Sayaka: It sounds funny; did he “discover” the moon? Hadn’t he seen the moon for such a long time?
Jaugo: No, I don’t think so: the moon was there up in the sky and he must have seen the moon all the time, whenever it was there.
Sayaka: Then, how come he “discovered” it?
Jaugo: Mm… that’s a very good question ― the mystery of discovery ― this should be the main theme of this episode… very good. Well, Sayaka-san, have you ever lost something and discovered it later?
Sayaka: Whatever I’ve lost is lost beyond recovery. I have no memory of recovering or discovering what’s lost.
Jaugo: What was the greatest loss of your life, Sayaka-san?
Sayaka: (…) Childhood.
Jaugo: Childhood… yeah, it’s gone from us forever once it’s lost. You felt you lost much by growing out of your childhood?
Sayaka: Quite a lot. I used to be the most athletic kid in my school, including boys: I was definitely the fastest, nimblest and strongest kid ― before my… bosombegan to develop.
Jaugo: Mm… I could imagine. Your breasts began to stand in the way of the greatest athlete on the block… and soon afterwards, there came your first “period” perhaps?
Sayaka: Yes. My dream of becoming another Bruce Lee was gone with the wind for ever…
Jaugo: So, you really admired Bruce Lee…
Sayaka: And I really miss my childhood. I thought I should have been a boy.
Jaugo: “To hell with my girlhood!”?
Sayaka: Yeah, that’s the correct phrase for my sentiment in those days. I really hated myself, I really hated my body, I really hated all such bloody “change” around me!
Jaugo: Then, perhaps the phrase “憂きままに厭ひし身（uki mama ni itoishi mi = myself that I hated so much as I felt so deeply blue）” makes you feel something?
Sayaka: Yes, it reminds me of the days when I found myself a “woman”, no “kid” any more… I seriously thought about killing myself.
Jaugo: Mm… that sounds familiar to me.
Sayaka: Did you also think about committing suicide, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: In my younger days, yes. If I have no hope of living up to the very best of my ideals, this life means nothing, let’s stop living before my life proves totally unworthy of living… that kind of attitude, and quite a few others actually… I was always thinking about death in those days… I mean, before I grew up to be sixteen or something.
Sayaka: You stopped thinking about death after that?
Jaugo: Actually, no: I’m always thinking about death even now, only in quite a different way ― I’m thinking about “living” until my life proves unworthy of living: in other words, I’ll “terminate my life” if and when it turns out to be unworthy of living. So, in order to stay alive, everything I do, every moment of my life, must prove itself to be worthy, or not quite unworthy at least, worthy enough to sound convincing as an excuse to prolong committing suicide or executing myself as a worthless prisoner of my meaningless life.
Sayaka: (…) I remember you saying “Life is totally unworthy as it is. That’s why we try to make it worthwhile one way or another”… When I heard you say that, I felt you knew “the answer” to whatever problem I might encounter.
Jaugo: I might not know the correct answer, but I could try to find it with you, so long as you trust me and keep being honestly inquisitive. So, let us resume our attempt at getting back to the right track on this TANKA, right?
Jaugo: The moment you saw the first phrase of this TANKA “憂きままに厭ひし身（uki mama ni itoishi mi = myself that I hated so much as I felt so deeply blue）”, you thought about “suicide” and felt like making the poet kill himself, just like yourself in those disturbing days of your earliest womanhood, right?
Sayaka: I think so.
Jaugo: Then, the following phrase “惜しまるれ（oshimarure = I regret）” seemed to suggest to you that the poet actually committed suicide and is now regretting it ― as a ghost… right?
Jaugo: Finally, the phrase “あればぞ見ける秋の夜の月（areba zo mi keru aki no yo no tsuki）” seemed to confirm the fact that the poet committed suicide because he is not viewing the actual moon but is only remembering the moon in Autumn that he used to see when he was still alive, right?
Jaugo: So, you felt this was a “ghost-song” trying to warn you against “committing suicide” because, if you do that, you will regret it later, remembering the moon that you used to see when you were still alive… that’s how you fell off-course, I believe.
Sayaka: EXCAAACTLY!!! … See what I told you ― you know all the answers, Jaugo-san!
Jaugo: Thank you, but I think it’s too early to rejoice… now that we know that the poet actually didn’t kill himself, what’ll become of your initial interpretation? If this is not a “STOP SUICIDE!” warning song, what will you make of it? What should it be entitled? “A SONG OF…” REGRET?
Sayaka: No, I don’t think so.
Jaugo: A song of… “REMINISCENCE”?
Sayaka: “Reminiscence” of my regrettable years?… No.
Jaugo: A song of… “DISCOVERY”?
Sayaka: Now that you say so, yes… but “discovery” of what? The Autumnal moon?
Jaugo: Mm… it sounds nostalgic, I feel almost as if I heard you say that long time ago.
Sayaka: Ten minutes ago, actually… and I still haven’t discovered the answer ― why and how the poet “discovered” the Autumnal moon that he must have seen scores of times before. Could you tell me, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: Which do you want, the answer, or a hint?
Sayaka: Some hint first, please.
Jaugo: OK, Sayaka-san, do you know Maeterlinck?
Sayaka: Meter Wink?
Jaugo: Maurice Maeterlinck(1862-1949) ― a Belgian dramatist who wrote “L’Oiseau bleu”.
Sayaka: Words of blue?
Jaugo: OK, then, how about “Tyltyl, Mytyl”?
Sayaka: Telltale Mitchell?
Jaugo: All right, forget it. Now, the final hint ― “The blue bird”… ring a bell?
Sayaka: Blue bird…
Jaugo: Blue bird and the quest of happiness by two small kids…
Sayaka: Oh yeah! “青い鳥（aoi tori）” ― Tyltyl and Mytyl! Why didn’t you tell me that first?
Jaugo: …I’m sorry I didn’t, Sayaka-san… I’m happy that you discovered the answer ― it was just quite near you, perhaps ever since your childhood?
Sayaka: Yes. That was a story Mom used to tell me many, many times over… “青い鳥（Blue bird）” ― I became fond of birds thanks to that book… I can still remember the illustrations…
Jaugo: Then, you know the message of the story, of course?
Sayaka: Happiness lies not in the deep forest, but lies before you waiting to be discovered.
Jaugo: Yes. Likewise, the moon in Autumn is always before you, waiting for you to discover how beautiful it is… especially after a series of regrettable events in life which made you feel like committing suicide… actually, this poet did not commit suicide; instead, he deserted his worldly life to become a Buddhist monk deep in the mountain… and he is regretting that he deserted his secular life, because he might have discovered some happiness in it ― only if he had not deserted it to hide himself away in the mountain… the moon in the Autumnal sky is there to tell him so.
Sayaka: …And to tell me “Never say die!” or “Never say ENOUGH!”
Jaugo: Your Mom should be real proud of you, Sayaka-san.
Sayaka: How about you, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: You make me real glad that I have by my side such a cute little blue bird often getting lost but is sure to find a way in the end.
Sayaka: I’m glad to have you with me, too ― I can fly without worrying about getting lost… All in all, however, I was not so lethally off the track after all, don’t you think?
Jaugo: You could say so ― except that you killed the poet.
Sayaka: Everyone dies! Besides, his dying message was certainly impressive: it’s something worth dying for, don’t you think, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: I’d rather stay alive beside you to keep impressing you.
Sayaka: Please, do, I’ll never let you die!
Jaugo: Oh yeah, let us live to fight another day… so much for today. Thanks for the adventure, Mytyl!
Sayaka: See you again, Tyltyl. Thank you very much.
I deserted the world that treated me so bad.
How I regret it now in the radiant grace of the moon.
This autumn I hold so dear… all because I am still here.
うし【憂し】〔形ク〕（うき＝連体形）＜ADJECTIVE:be melancholy, gloomy, desperate＞
まま【儘】〔名〕＜NOUN(ADVERB):accordingly, on its account＞
いとふ【厭ふ】〔他ハ四〕（いとひ＝連用形）＜VERB:desert, give up on, turn one’s back on＞
み【身】〔名〕＜NOUN:the social part of myself＞
…I felt so deeply depressed that I made a recluse of myself
をしむ【惜しむ】〔他マ四〕（をしま＝未然形）＜VERB:regret, lament, be sorry for＞
…I’ve come to regret that I deserted the world like that
あり【在り】〔自ラ変〕（あれ＝已然形）＜VERB:exist, be alive＞
みる【見る】〔他マ上一〕＜VERB:see, look, watch, view＞
つ【つ】〔助動タ下二型〕完了（つる＝連体形）＜AUXILIARY VERB(PERFECT TENSE)＞
…it’s all because I’m still alive that I can see this
の【の】〔格助〕＜POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to＞
の【の】〔格助〕＜POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to＞
…autumnal moon in the sky of fall
《uki mama ni itoishi mi koso oshimarure are ba zo mikeru aki no yo no tsuki》
■sorrow filtered through time stands the test of time■
This is a poem quite personal in nature, denying the possibility of easy plagiarism, although there do exist similar TANKA poems, which I’ll cite here, both included in the famous 『小倉百人一首（Ogura hyakunin-isshu：a hundred TANKA poems by a hundred different poets）』:
《こころにもあらでうきよにながらへば こひしかるべきよはのつきかな：kokoro ni mo arade ukiyo ni nagaraeba koishikarubeki yowa no tsuki kana》『後拾遺集（Go-Shuui-shuu）』雑(Miscellany) No.861 by 三条院（Sanjou-in：976-1017）心にもあらで憂き世に長らへば(if I survived long enough against my will in this cruelly unhappy world)恋しかるべき夜半の月かな(should I miss with much feeling this moon I’m watching tonight?)
・・・In actuality, the poet ― 三条天皇（Emperor Sanjou） ― was to die a year after he made this poem. He was suffering from a bad eye disease in his declining years. With such facts in mind, this poem sounds all the more sad, yet it also seems to suggest to us that we should see and experience as much as we can while we can so that we may miss them to our heart’s content later.
《ながらへばまたこのごろやしのばれむ うしとみしよぞいまはこひしき：nagaraeba mata kono goro ya shinobaremu ushi to mishi yo zo ima wa koishiki》『新古今集（Shin-Kokin-shuu）』雑(Miscellany) No. 1843 by 藤原清輔（Fujiwara-no-Kiyosuke：1104-1177）永らへば(if I were to live long)又この頃や偲ばれむ(would I also miss these days?)憂しと見し世ぞ今は恋しき(I now miss the cruel world that treated me so bad that I thought “I’ve had enough!”)
・・・The underlying message in this TANKA is the same as the two above ― everything looks beautiful in the mirror of time through the filter of memories.
Those who fight or love and lose will live to remember it as their golden days. Survive long enough to treat yourself to the benefit of great memories of not-so-good old days.
We provide you not with actual conversation partners, but we enable you to engage in intellectually enticing conversation with Sayaka-san/Jaugo-san(…no mean feat, isn’t it?)
WEB lessons by ZUBARAIE LLC. are currently for JAPANESE students only, conducted in Japanese language (…sorry for English speakers)