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“Following the roads”

by Ono no Komachi

translated from the Japanese by Kenneth Rexroth

Following the roads
Of dream to you, my feet
Never rest. But one glimpse of you
In reality would be
Worth all these many nights of love.

Yumeji niw a
Ashi mo yasumezu
Kayoedo mo
Utsutsu ni hitome
Mishigoto wa arazu


Ono no Komachi (834–880) is the legendary beauty of Japan, comparable to the Chinese Yang Kuei-fei. She was the daughter of Yoshisada, Lord of Dewa. She is supposed to have died old, ugly and a beggar, but this is a legend, perpetuated by two of the finest Noh plays. She is certainly one of Japan’s “six greatest poets.” Her poems, with their complex meanings, are perfect examples of Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity. (2009)

Kenneth Rexroth continues. (1977)

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