Monday, January 20, 2014


Time Cannot Be Stopped

Yamanoue Okura (660?-733), "The Impermanence of Human Life," tr. Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite in The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (1964; rpt. London: Penguin, 2009), pp. 36-37:
We are helpless in this world.
The years and months slip past
Like a swift stream, which grabs and drags us down.
A hundred pains pursue us, one by one.
Girls, with their wrists clasped round
with Chinese jewels, join hands
And play their youth away.
But time cannot be stopped,
And when their youth is gone
Their jet-black hair — black as fish's bowels —
Turns white, like a hard frost.
On their sun-browned, glowing faces,
Wrinkles are etched — by whom?
Boys, with their swords at their waists,
Clutching the hunting bow,
Mount their chestnut horses
On saddles linen-spun,
And ride on in their pride.
But is their world eternal?
He pushes back the door
Where a girl sleeps within,
Gropes to her side and lies
Arm on her jewel arm.
But how few are those nights
Before, with stick at waist,
He goes shunned and detested —
The old are always so.
We grudge life moving on
But we have no redress.
I would become as those
Firm rocks that see no change.
But I am a man in time
And time must have no stop.

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