An elegy on the death of Furuhi


What worth to me the seven treasures,
So prized and desired by all the world?
Furuhi, born of us two,
Our love, our dear white pearl,
With dawn, with the morning start,
Frolicked about the bed with us, standing or sitting;
When dusk came with the evening star,
He pulled our hands, urged us to bed,
“Leave me not, father and mother,
Let me sleep between you,
Like saki-kusa, the three-stalked plant.”
So spoke that lovely mouth.
Then we trusted, as one trusts in a great ship,
That he would grow up as time passed by,
And we should watch him, both in weal and woe.
But, as of a sudden sweeps the storm,
Illness caught our son.
Helpless and in grief,
I braced my sleeves with white cord,
Grasped my shining mirror,
And gazing up into the sky
I appealed to the gods of heaven;
Dropping my forehead to the ground
Madly I prayed to the gods of earth:
“It is yours to decide his fate,
To cure him or to let him die.”
Nothing availed my prayers,
He languished day by day,
His voice failed each morning,
His mortal life ebbed out.
Wildly I leapt and kicked the floor,
Cried, stared up, stared down,
And beat my breast in grief.
But the child from my arms has flown;
So goes the world ….

– attributed to yamanoue okura

I was reading an anthology of Japanese Literature, and I came across this poem. I simply wanted to share it because I thought it was beautiful and tragic retelling of one’s experience. It is found in the man’yoshu, which is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry. I definitely recommend it.

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