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Issa waka on people in his hometown

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  • chris drake
    Here s a waka by Issa: Paper-eating bookworms those people in my hometown treating all the documents as if they were nothing -- I can t stand seeing their
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 28, 2013
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      Here's a waka by Issa:
       
       
      Paper-eating bookworms
      those people in my hometown
      treating all the documents
      as if they were nothing --
      I can't stand seeing their faces
       
      kaki-mono mo
      nokorazu bou ni
      furusato no
      hito no shimijimi
      nikuki tsura kana
       
      This is a kyoka or "crazy waka" in the broad sense, but Issa himself seems to have regarded it as one of the waka that are found here and there in his hokku dairy. This waka is from the 8th month (September) of 1813. On 1/26 of this year Issa had finally received his inheritance and moved back to his hometown for good, though he continued to make trips -- including trips to Edo -- to see other poets and his students. Receiving his half of the estate wasn't easy for Issa. He happened to be in his hometown on a visit when his father suddenly fell ill and died in 1801. At that time his father wrote a will in which he gave half his estate to Issa and half to Issa's younger half brother. His brother and stepmother did not wish to divide the property immediately, however, so Issa returned to Edo after some fruitless negotiations with them. He continued to negotiate off and on, though when he visited his hometown he had to stay with people he knew or rent a place to stay, since his brother and stepmother made him feel distinctly unwelcome, on one occasion offering him only a cup of warm water when he made a visit. Finally, in 1809, he reached a formal agreement with his brother that listed all the family's property and stipulated how it was to be divided up, though Issa had to point out to his brother that he was not listing everything. Even after this document was submitted to the town authorities, however, his brother, supported by Issa's stepmother and most of his relatives, balked at handing over Issa's share, so at last, at the end of 1812, Issa went back to his hometown in the middle of a winter snowstorm and stayed in the house of a person he knew over New Year's. On 1/19 he met his relatives at a Buddhist service for his father's soul, and he informed them that if he did not receive his share immediately he would file a legal suit against them in Edo. Since Issa's hometown was on a main route connecting the Pacific and Japan Sea side of Japan, it was under the direct jurisdiction of the shogunate in Edo, so Issa's relatives were deeply shocked by Issa's statement, and on 1/26 the monk of the family temple negotiated the final settlement, and still another document was agreed to.
       
      Since it took the threat of an appeal to the shogunate in Edo for Issa to get his property, despite the existence of his father's will and the earlier formal agreement, the atmosphere in Issa's father's house, half of which Issa now lived in, must have been frosty, and most of the villagers sided with his half brother, stepmother, and relatives, believing that Issa didn't deserve half of everything, since he had been away for many years. Issa had few people he could talk to or trust when he moved into the house, and he seems to have enjoyed life more when he was on the road, visiting students and fellow haikai poets. Then, on 6/18, when he was staying with one of his students near Zenkoji Temple, a few miles from his hometown, he suddenly got an extremely painful boil on one hip and had a high fever that kept him in bed for 75 days. It was during his recovery that he wrote the waka translated above.
       
      The first line of the waka, according to Maruyama Kazuhiko and other scholars, refers to the will left by Issa's father, a copy of which Issa possessed until he gave it to the town authorities when he and his half brother made their formal agreement in 1809, though "documents" could also refer to various agreements made later concerning the will. The word kaki-mono (書物) in the first line usually refers to handwritten (calligraphically brushed) documents, not printed documents or books, which would be pronounced shomotsu, causing the first line to have only four syllables. The wording of the second line in Japanese indicates that "all" of the documents were treated badly or ignored by the villagers, by which Issa seems to mean most of the villagers, since he had a few friends there. The poem has two kakekotoba or words with double meanings, so the translation is longer than the original, but I hope it's clear that Issa distrusts most of the villagers, because they did something that means either they lost the documents, messed them up, or treated them as if they were nothing. My take is that Issa is referring to the continuous attempts by his relatives and their many friends to ignore the original will or claim it was unfair or to hide parts of the property from Issa. Basically, Issa seems to feel, they treated his father's will and one or more subsequent agreements as if they weren't worth the paper they were written on. The word "too" (mo) after "documents" may also suggest that Issa's various relatives also made oral statements that were either false or that they didn't intend to honor. His comparison of the villagers to bookworms or silverfish (written with characters meaning "paperfish") that have eaten holes in and mangled the meaning of the documents that they agreed to sounds harsh, but it may well be quite accurate, though no one knows the full story of how Issa finally got his inheritance. The phrase shimi-jimi (bookworms) also means that Issa deeply or keenly doesn't want to see the villagers' faces and suggests that at the time he wrote the waka he was dreading returning home. He softened a little later, but at this point, laid up with a bad boil, he was feeling betrayed and probably lonely for his dead parents. Issa is able to write down strong emotions in the waka form that would be harder to express directly in hokku, and perhaps writing this waka helped him overcome his bitterness and return to his hometown after he recovered.
       
      Chris  
    • Greve Gabi
      Here s a waka by Issa: Paper-eating bookworms those people in my hometown treating all the documents as if they were nothing -- I can t stand seeing their
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 28, 2013
      • 0 Attachment
        Here's a waka by Issa:


        Paper-eating bookworms
        those people in my hometown
        treating all the documents
        as if they were nothing --
        I can't stand seeing their faces

        kaki-mono mo
        nokorazu bou ni
        furusato no
        hito no shimijimi
        nikuki tsura kana

        This is a kyoka or "crazy waka" in the broad sense, but Issa himself
        seems to have regarded it as one of the waka that are found here and
        there in his hokku dairy. This waka is from the 8th month (September)
        of 1813. On 1/26 of this year Issa had finally received his
        inheritance and moved back to his hometown for good, though he
        continued to make trips -- including trips to Edo -- to see other
        poets and his students. Receiving his half of the estate wasn't easy
        for Issa. He happened to be in his hometown on a visit when his father
        suddenly fell ill and died in 1801. At that time his father wrote a
        will in which he gave half his estate to Issa and half to Issa's
        younger half brother. His brother and stepmother did not wish to
        divide the property immediately, however, so Issa returned to Edo
        after some fruitless negotiations with them. He continued to negotiate
        off and on, though when he visited his hometown he had to stay with
        people he knew or rent a place to stay, since his brother and
        stepmother made him feel distinctly unwelcome, on one occasion
        offering him only a cup of warm water when he made a visit. Finally,
        in 1809, he reached a formal agreement with his brother that listed
        all the family's property and stipulated how it was to be divided up,
        though Issa had to point out to his brother that he was not listing
        everything. Even after this document was submitted to the town
        authorities, however, his brother, supported by Issa's stepmother and
        most of his relatives, balked at handing over Issa's share, so at
        last, at the end of 1812, Issa went back to his hometown in the middle
        of a winter snowstorm and stayed in the house of a person he knew over
        New Year's. On 1/19 he met his relatives at a Buddhist service for his
        father's soul, and he informed them that if he did not receive his
        share immediately he would file a legal suit against them in Edo.
        Since Issa's hometown was on a main route connecting the Pacific and
        Japan Sea side of Japan, it was under the direct jurisdiction of the
        shogunate in Edo, so Issa's relatives were deeply shocked by Issa's
        statement, and on 1/26 the monk of the family temple negotiated the
        final settlement, and still another document was agreed to.

        Since it took the threat of an appeal to the shogunate in Edo for Issa
        to get his property, despite the existence of his father's will and
        the earlier formal agreement, the atmosphere in Issa's father's house,
        half of which Issa now lived in, must have been frosty, and most of
        the villagers sided with his half brother, stepmother, and relatives,
        believing that Issa didn't deserve half of everything, since he had
        been away for many years. Issa had few people he could talk to or
        trust when he moved into the house, and he seems to have enjoyed life
        more when he was on the road, visiting students and fellow haikai
        poets. Then, on 6/18, when he was staying with one of his students
        near Zenkoji Temple, a few miles from his hometown, he suddenly got an
        extremely painful boil on one hip and had a high fever that kept him
        in bed for 75 days. It was during his recovery that he wrote the waka
        translated above.

        The first line of the waka, according to Maruyama Kazuhiko and other
        scholars, refers to the will left by Issa's father, a copy of which
        Issa possessed until he gave it to the town authorities when he and
        his half brother made their formal agreement in 1809, though
        "documents" could also refer to various agreements made later
        concerning the will. The word kaki-mono (書物) in the first line usually
        refers to handwritten (calligraphically brushed) documents, not
        printed documents or books, which would be pronounced shomotsu,
        causing the first line to have only four syllables. The wording of the
        second line in Japanese indicates that "all" of the documents were
        treated badly or ignored by the villagers, by which Issa seems to mean
        most of the villagers, since he had a few friends there. The poem has
        two kakekotoba or words with double meanings, so the translation is
        longer than the original, but I hope it's clear that Issa distrusts
        most of the villagers, because they did something that means either
        they lost the documents, messed them up, or treated them as if they
        were nothing. My take is that Issa is referring to the continuous
        attempts by his relatives and their many friends to ignore the
        original will or claim it was unfair or to hide parts of the property
        from Issa. Basically, Issa seems to feel, they treated his father's
        will and one or more subsequent agreements as if they weren't worth
        the paper they were written on. The word "too" (mo) after "documents"
        may also suggest that Issa's various relatives also made oral
        statements that were either false or that they didn't intend to honor.
        His comparison of the villagers to bookworms or silverfish (written
        with characters meaning "paperfish") that have eaten holes in and
        mangled the meaning of the documents that they agreed to sounds harsh,
        but it may well be quite accurate, though no one knows the full story
        of how Issa finally got his inheritance. The phrase shimi-jimi
        (bookworms) also means that Issa deeply or keenly doesn't want to see
        the villagers' faces and suggests that at the time he wrote the waka
        he was dreading returning home. He softened a little later, but at
        this point, laid up with a bad boil, he was feeling betrayed and
        probably lonely for his dead parents. Issa is able to write down
        strong emotions in the waka form that would be harder to express
        directly in hokku, and perhaps writing this waka helped him overcome
        his bitterness and return to his hometown after he recovered.

        Chris Drake





        Thank you so much for this waka.
        http://edoflourishing.blogspot.jp/2013/02/kobayashi-issa.html

        Gabi
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