• Metrics Bound and UnboundJapanese Experiments in Translating Poetry from European Languages

In the scheme of the source versus target dichotomy, Japanese literary tradition, from its reception of Chinese classics down to the modern importation of the European/American inventory, has opted for source texts. Classical Chinese was interpreted according to the kanbun translating procedure which, adhering to every character in the source text, required inverting word order and supplying grammatical particles. The wide gap between an isolating language and an agglutinative language, as well as the radically different syntactical systems, was thus bridged. By the very nature of a translating method preserving all of the original characters, however, kanbun reading entailed the enthroning of the source writings. Modern Japanese translation, with its ambitious agenda of assimilating Western civilization, retained to a certain extent the kanbun tradition toward the textual heritage in European languages. While there existed numerous examples of abridging and adapting for the sake of comprehension through their recognized literary customs, Japanese translators generally tried to show word-for- word fidelity to the texts written in irreconcilably different language systems.

Among the numerous literary experiments vis-à-vis European languages, the translation of poems presented a daunting challenge to Japanese literary circles. Besides the divergent syntactical systems, with Japanese sentences normally ending with verbal phrases, they had to cope with unfamiliar prosodies, or markers that distinguish poetry from other forms of linguistic behavior. In the last two decades of the 19th century, when Japanese intellectuals undertook to introduce the European verse system, what they were keenly conscious of were such properties as follows:

  1. 1. The so-called ‘western poem’ is much longer than its counterpart, represented by waka which consists of thirty-one (five, seven, five, seven, and seven) syllables (or, more precisely, mora).1 [End Page 57]

  2. 2. Western verse consists of independent lines, while in Japanese prosodic tradition a line is not considered a constituent unit of poetry.

  3. 3. Some European languages make ingenious use of accentuated syllables to construct a metric system, in contrast with the Japanese language which has no other means to compose verse other than the patterning of moraic units.

  4. 4. Western verse is highly dependent on rhyming systems, which had not yet been systematically exploited within the Japanese poetical tradition.

In this paper, I reappraise four representative anthologies of ‘Western’ poems published in a redefining stage of Japanese poetry, from the 1880s through the 1920s, focusing on how their compiler-translators mended linguistic and prosodical gaps. Their most crucial concerns included which poetical features of Western poetry they should introduce to revamp Japanese prosody and how they could adapt them into another completely different context. The translators tried to exhaust the full possibilities of the Japanese language and we might appropriately characterize their endeavors as experimental. Their attempts progressed from a systematic reproduction of Western poetics, through apt appropriation, to the deliberate abandonment of imposing models. In other words, their principles of translation shifted from source-orientated experimentations to target-oriented creative renderings. The four anthologies, listed below, represent key stages in the historical development of translating Western poems.

  1. 1. Omokage [Reflections] by Ôgai Mori and his group, published 1889.

  2. 2. Kaicho’on [The Sound of the Tides] by Bin Ueda, published in 1905.

  3. 3. Sango shu [Coral Collection] by Kafu Nagai, published in 1913.

  4. 4. Gekkano ichigun [A Flock in the Moonlight] by Daigaku Horiguchi, published in 1925.

The experimentation in Omokage and Kaicho’on was executed with methodological rigor, providing insightful observations to the linguistic properties of Japanese and its prosodical possibilities. In Sango shu and Gekkano ichigun the emphasis was on appreciating, appropriating, and disseminating poetical sensibilities and ideas in a more colloquial style verging on free verse as developed in various strains of European poetry, especially the Symbolists and their successors down to the modernists of the early 20th century. The following brief survey centers more on the prosodical exploration in translational terms than on the importation of various literary movements.

I Omokage (1889)

Although five people are identified as translators, it is evident that Ôgai Mori, working as an organizer and leader of the group, formulated the principles concerning translation methods in Omokage. The four methods which are specified on the very first page of the anthology are as follows:

  1. 1. i-yaku [content translation]: rendering the content of the source text

  2. 2. ku-yaku [syllable translation]: rendering the content and the syllabic pattern of the source text [End Page 58]

  3. 3. in-yaku [rhyme translation]: rendering the content, the syllabic pattern, and the rhyming of the source text

  4. 4. cho-yaku [meter translation]: rendering the content, the syllabic pattern, the rhyming, and the metrics of the source text2

A propagandist for extensive modernization, a key formulator of national agendas, and a medical doctor for the Japanese army by profession, Ôgai (1862– 1922) started his brilliant literary career in the mid 1880s. Along with monographs on hygiene, he set out to publish literary criticism, short stories, and translations of European literature mainly from German. Omokage, which showed his profound interest in the prosodical issues of Japanese verse, was one of the products of his versatile literary practice and was intended to introduce European literary tradition to the Japanese literary circle.

Omokage’s systematic experimentation focused on how to achieve equivalence despite the apparent incompatibility of divergent cultures. Judging from what was produced from their methodology, Ôgai and his group apparently decided that the translation of poems should not be mere prose paraphrases but rather should have poetical markers on their own. This is highly apparent in their i-yaku, or content translation pieces, whose objective might have been achieved if they had provided literal, or word-by-word translation. For example, the last stanza of Justinus Kerner’s “Abschied” was rendered as a piece of waka with thirty-one mora.3 It only conveys the gist of the original circumstances but possesses every qualification for an authentic lyrical poem in the Japanese waka tradition.

Ku-yaku is an attempt to place a fixed number of mora in one line so as to reproduce, in theory, the source text’s pattern. Ôgai translated Goethe’s “Mignon” from Wilhelm Meister by setting up a structure of twenty-mora lines. Here are the first two lines of both the source text and the transliteration of the target text in Japanese.

Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn, Im dunkeln Laub die Goldorangen glühn,4    remon no ki wa hanasaki kuraki hayashino nakani    koganeiro shitaru kôjiwa edamo tawawani minori5

It is immediately apparent that Goethe’s poem consists of lines with ten syllables while in Ôgai’s translation the first line is made up of twenty morae, and the second line, twenty-one morae. In experimenting with syllabic-moraic patterning in translation, Ôgai assumed they needed roughly double the amount of syllables in Japanese mora to represent the idea of the source text in European languages. With its completely new rhythm, Ogai’s translation of “Mignon,” along with “Ophelia’s Song,” is considered one of his best products in Omokage. Accordingly it has stimulated numerous other endeavors in the creation of new sound structures in the Japanese language.

In-yaku is an experiment in rhyming in Japanese. Below is the second stanza of “Ophelia’s Song” from Hamlet IV, v and the corresponding part of Ogai’s translation. [End Page 59]

He is dead and gone, lady,   He is dead and gone; At his head a grass-green turf,   And his heels a stone.6

  Kare wa shinikeri waga himeyo  Kare wa yomijie tachinikeri  Kashira no katano kokeo miyo  Ashi no kataniwa ishitateri7

Although the first and third lines by Shakespeare do not rhyme at all, Ogai, consulting A.W. Schlegel’s translation in German,8 constructed a regular a/b/a/b rhyming scheme, making two pairs of sound correspondence in Japanese; the first and third lines share one mora (-yo) while in the second and fourth lines two vowels and one consonant identify with each other (-eri). This rhyming pattern is repeated throughout the three stanzas of the translation. Furthermore, Ôgai employs alliteration in the stanza cited above from the first line through the third line and within the third line with the [k] sound occurring four times. Such exhaustive experimentation with sound patterning was unprecedented in the history of Japanese poetry and supplied a model for the following generation of poets in their endeavors to introduce literary innovations.9

We might view Ôgai’s Cho-yaku as either poetical virtuosity or as a complete failure in Japanese prosodical endeavors. Given that Japanese has no system of stressing certain syllables within a word, aside from the intonation practice using sound pitch, reproducing in Japanese accentuated syllabic patterns of European languages such as English and German was a practical impossibility. In such a predicament, Ôgai made use of the tone system of classical Chinese, assigning even tones to stressed syllables and uneven tones to other unstressed constituents. Thus the trochaic tetrameter in the beginning lines of Byron’s Manfred

When the moon is on the wave And the glow-worm in the grass,10

is translated into classical Chinese with even-tone characters mechanically alternating with uneven-tones.11 Considering the exalted literary status of classical Chinese in late 19th century Japan, exploiting Chinese prosody might have been an ingenious solution to the problem. These lines also offered a kind of specimen from the European metrical system—its sheer mechanical arrangement unimaginable in the genuine Chinese versification—for those who were well versed in traditional kanbun learning but comparatively ignorant of Western literature. The text produced through this translation method, however, reads oddly as Chinese verse and did not succeed in presenting a promising model for the on-going poetical experiments in Japanese. It delineated the limit of prosodical possibilities in the Japanese language, showing that it might not be able to accommodate itself to the European metrical system by employing accentuated syllables.

Omokage’s achievements provide us with illuminating insight into the execution of translation. First, analyses of poetical texts in European languages were presented; then their four properties—content plus syllabic, rhyming, and [End Page 60] metrical pattern—were sorted out according to how the source texts could be rendered into the target text. Ôgai and his editors presented them not just as methodological experimentations, but for the sake of better understanding the prosodical conventions of European languages, the rudimentary knowledge of which was not yet generally shared by contemporary Japanese intellectuals. Secondly, by reproducing some formal features of European poetry, the translations in Omokage offered working models for coming generations of Japanese poets. Various attempts at moraic patterning, carried out at once as a way of revamping the traditional alternations of seven and five mora, and as a creation of new experimental structures, like repetitive arrangements of the same number of syllables in “Mignon,” were to become one of the major concerns of Japanese poets for decades. Rhyming in Japanese, though it sometimes turned out to be a Sisyphean labor, presented an irresistible challenge to them. Poets explored the Japanese language theoretically and linguistically to ascertain the viability of rhyming. Thirdly, in contrast with the linguistic properties of European languages (in this case German and English), they examined various aspects of the Japanese language. The syllable, or to be precise the mora, presented itself as the only working unit for prosodical structuring in Japanese. Poets verified in a number of subsequent experiments that they needed almost twice the number of mora as syllables in the target text (Japanese) in order to translate the idea of the source text in European languages. Ultimately, Ôgai Mori’s Omokage, which is a product of fairly early and successful poetical experimentation in modern Japanese literature, showed that the act of translation enriches our knowledge of both the source language and the target language.

II Kaicho’on (1905)

Kaicho’on includes 57 translations from 29 European poets. Critics generally credit it as the first anthology to systematically introduce the Parnassians and the Symbolists to Japanese readers. It had an enormous impact on contemporary Japanese literature and is a monumental work in the history of literary translations in Japan.

In the beginning of his famous preface to Kaicho’on, Bin Ueda, the compiler and translator, states his practical principles for translating his source texts.

I have employed a verse form based on the so-called seven-and-five-mora meter when translating the grandiose style of the Parnassians, while I have ventured to adopt certain irregularities for the profound and graceful style of the Symbolists. It is for reproducing in them the respective original strains.12

He then expounds on developments in European poetry in the latter half of the 19th century, especially the ideas of Parnassian and Symbolist poetry. He discusses the use of symbols in poetry providing a historical background and a sample reading of Emile Verhaeren’s “Parabole,” and defends the Symbolist school against its detractors. Bin Ueda cites Leo Tolstoy but avows that he prefers the Parnassians to the Symbolists. At the end of the preface, he mentions anew his principles of translation, making a kind of confession of faith as a literary translator. He refers to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s preface to the first edition of his Dante and His Circle (1861), the key point of which appears in the following lines: [End Page 61]

The only true motive for putting poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh nation, as far as possible, with one more possession of beauty. Poetry not being an exact science, literality of rendering is altogether secondary to this chief law. I say literality, not fidelity, which is by no means the same thing.

Based on this view of translation, Bin claims that “one who wishes to transplant the beauty of foreign poetry must not spoil its freshness for our poets’ techniques by relying on manneristic idioms.”13 He then gives two examples of translating poems from classical Chinese into Japanese. The first one, citing lines by Sugawara no Michizane,14 shows free paraphrase with target-oriented elegant wording, while the second one, citing a line attributed to Juri Bo,15 emphasizes the importance of rational interpretation of the scene depicted in the poem.

Bin set himself a challenging task as a translator in the formative stage of modern Japanese poetry. He tried to enrich a national literature with recent trends in Europe. He justly boasted that he produced translations that read as poems in their own right and literary historians nowadays almost unanimously agree on his elegant achievements. One of his efforts consisted in constructing rough equivalents of various verse forms in the European languages and in providing translations which were free from constraints imposed by the traditional poetics of the target language.

Despite his ambitious agenda, what he realized in his anthology appears inescapably burdened with the tradition of classical prosody in Japanese. In terms of the verse form, what he utilized was heavily dependent upon “the so-called seven-and-five-mora meter” as he stated in his preface. It is a widely accepted metrical matrix, developed along with the waka form, the oldest and most authentic poetical form in Japanese literature. Bin contrived only to use it as a basic unit to construct a line to accommodate the source text. Thus, an alexandrine in Leconte de Lisle’s “Midi” is translated, for instance, into a line consisting of 7/5 and 7/5 mora. Below is the first stanza of “Midi” followed by the transcription of Bin’s translation:

Midi, roi des étés, épandu sur la plaine,Tombe en nappes d’argent des hauteurs du ciel bleu.Tout se tait. L’air flamboie et brûle sans haleine;La Terre est assoupie en sa robe de feu.16

Natsunomikadono mahirudokiwa ônogaharani hirogorite 7/6/7/5
Shiroganeirono nunobikini aozorakudashi amorishinu 7/5/7/5
Jakutaruyomono keshikikana. Kagayakukokû kazetaete 7/5/7/5
Honoonokoromo matoitaru tsuchinoumaino shizugokoro.17 7/5/7/5

As described in a section of Omokage, poets observed that they generally needed twice the number of mora (for syllables) in Japanese to translate the ideas in European languages. In the case of the French alexandrine, twelve syllables in the source text are almost consistently converted into the repeated unit of sevenand- five morae, which makes a total of twenty-four morae.

Once the pattern is established, it sometimes takes precedence over the literal [End Page 62] rendering of a source text. In other words, vehicles for formal equivalents assume overriding importance in the act of translation, and the content is fabricated or tailored in order to adjust it to the mold. In the first stanza of Baudelaire’s “Harmonie du soir,” Bin creates an intriguing paraphrase in his translation.

Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tigeChaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir;Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!18

tokikoso imawa mizuesasu, konureni hanano huruukoro. 7/5/7/5
hanawa kunjite oikazeni, hudanno kôno roninitari. 7/5/7/5
nioimo otomo yûzorani, tôtôtarari, tôtarari. 7/5/7/5
warutsuno maino awaresayo, tsukareumitaru kurumekiyo.19 7/5/7/5

As is evident in this quotation, the alexandrine in the source text is converted to the 7/5/7/5 formal pattern. The literal translation in Japanese might be rendered in English as follows.

Now is the time when flowers waver on the tips of graceful sprays. Flowers are fragrant in the friendly wind and they are like censors where the incense is kept burning.

Its smell and sound in the evening sky tôtôtarari tôtarari. Pathetic is the dance of waltz; oh its giddiness of the fatigue and weariness.20

(translation mine)

The diction in his translation shows great sophistication. Many words and phrases have authentic precedents in the waka tradition. The imagery drawn from the Christian church in the source text is transposed to that from the Japanese Shinto and Buddhist religion. The peculiar development from one stanza to another called pantoum is sufficiently reproduced as a coherent whole with no awkward connection between the lines.

What is most noteworthy in the first stanza is the rendering of the latter half of the third line. “Tôtôtarari tôtarari” is an onomatopoetic expression borrowed from the Noh drama Okina [Old Man], and it allegedly represents the sound of the bamboo flute and the Japanese flageolet. Japanese readers may not necessarily be familiar with the original source in the classics, but the musical texture of the onomatopoeia which follows the pattern of “five-and-seven-mora meter” strikes the ear as something melodious. Given the fact that this “tôtôtarari” evokes music in the readers’ mind, it effectively functions as a predicate for “the sound in the evening sky,” a synesthetic expression for the fragrance of the flowers.

In his translation of “Harmonie du soir,” every line includes some expressions which do not correspond to those in the source text but are supplemented as elaborations on the original imagery. They are contrived for the purpose of keeping the self-imposed 7/5/7/5 moraic pattern. The guiding principle in this case is to follow the form while a loose paraphrase occurs at the cost of literality.

“Certain irregularities,” to use Bin’s term, are not entirely free of “the socalled seven-and-five-mora meter.” The basic unit of seven and five mora persists in almost all the lines in his anthology. The form adopted for Paul Verlaine’s [End Page 63] Chanson d’automne” is a mere repetition of five-mora lines.

Les sanglots longs akinohino 5
Des violons vioronno 5
  De l’automne tameikino 5
Blessent mon cœur minishimite 5
D’une langueur hitaburuni 5
Monotone.21 uraganashi22 5

This monotonous pattern, however, offered a new sense of proportion to Japanese readers, for the five-mora unit was almost always combined with the seven-mora counterpart. The music of Verlaine’s source text, engendered by a combination of a few-syllable line followed by another, is adequately conveyed by this simple repetitiveness. The syntactical arrangement is substantially different from the source text, due to the syntactical nature of the Japanese language, but one sentence structure to a stanza is faithfully kept. One may have issues with subtle discrepancies in the imagery, but Bin’s performance as a literary translator is laudable.

The strategy of repeating a five-mora unit is adopted in another translation. Bin renders the dimeter of Robert Browning’s “Pippa’s Song” from Pippa Passes in five-mora and five-and-five mora lines with only one exceptional line in seven mora.

The year’s at the spring tokiwaharu 5
And day’s at the morn; hiwaashita 5
Morning’s at seven; ashitawashichiji   7
The hill-side’s dew-pearled; kataokani tsuyumichite 5/5
The lark’s on the wing; agehibari nanoriide 5/5
The snail’s on the thorn: katatsumuri edanihai 5/5
God’s in his heaven— kamisorani shiroshimesu 5/5
All’s right with the world!23 subeteyowa kotomonashi24 5/5

In this translation, two five-mora lines and an intermediary seven-mora line are followed by five five-and-five mora lines. From the fourth line to the end, the two-stress rhythm of the dimeter is converted into two five-mora-unit cycles. It would not be unreasonable for us to consider this an ingenious rendering of the sound structure of the source text, since the Japanese language knows no stressbased prosodical composition.

An intriguing case of exception exists in Heinrich Heine’s “Du bist wie eine Blume” in Buch der Lieder. The moraic structure of the translation widely veers from “the so-called seven-and-five-mora meter.”

Du bist wie eine Blume taeni kiyorano 7
So hold und schön und rein; aa wagakoyo 6
Ich schau’ dich an, und Wehmuth tsukuzuku mireba 7
Schleicht mir in’s Herz hinein. sozoro aware 6
Mir ist, als ob ich die Hände kashirayanadete 7
Auf’s Haupt dir legen sollt’, hanamonino 5
Betend, daß Gott dich erhalte itsumademokakuwa 8
So rein und schön und hold.25 kiyoranareto 6

[End Page 64]

itsumademokakuwa 8
taeniareto 6
inoramashihanano 8
wagamegushigo26 6

Bin wrote the following sentences as a footnote to this translation.

I have translated Heine’s celebrated poem referring to (Anton) Rubinstein’s fine music. While trying to be faithful to the original meaning, I gave special heed to the caesurae and pauses designated in his score.27

As is evident from this statement, his translation was made not from the original poem by Heine but from the score of Rubinstein’s music and it exactly fits the tune. The irregular patterns formed by the lines with six and eight morae are designed in order to accommodate the melodic line by Rubinstein. In this translation, Bin reveals an interesting example of loose paraphrase. Rendering into Japanese the refrain (Betend, daß Gott dich erhalte…) taken from the latter half of the second stanza of Heine’s poem, he makes freer use of the components in the source text and arranges them to capture its nuances. Thus the repeated part shows a considerable variation in Bin’s translation and the last one offers a conclusive ending for the whole piece.28

Bin’s endeavor of devising forms for the introduction of European poetry was heavily dependent on the time-honored prosodical unit of the Japanese language. The regulating rhythms created by the basic unit of five and seven mora reverberate throughout his lines. ‘Irregularities’ are only some deviations from the established combinations of five and seven mora. While some contemporary Japanese poets struggled to create, for their own poetical venture, innovative forms such as an alteration of eight and six syllables, Bin remained basically conservative, sometimes eclectic, toward his assessment of form.

His compromise worked fairly effectively, however, in the formative stage of modern Japanese poetry. His translations owe their great popularity among Japanese readers not only to their elegant, authentic, and sophisticated diction, but to their familiar echoes of traditional prosody. His irregularities were tolerably recognizable as variations of “the so-called seven-and-five-mora meter,” and they sounded charmingly fresh and original enough to Japanese readers.

If Ôgai’s endeavors were an experiment in prosodical possibilities in the Japanese language, Bin’s anthology was full of fruitful applications.

III Sango shu (1913)

In 1926, thirteen years after the publication of Sango shu, Kafu Nagai wrote about his anthology in an essay entitled “On Translating Poems.”

Almost twenty years have run their course since I tried my hand at translating European poems, following the examples of Mr. Ôgai Mori and Mr. Bin Ueda. I was willingly engaged in the task at that time, not because I wished to convey the lingering fragrance of the European poetry to our literary circles, but because I believed it might help to add sophistication to my own emotional life and diction.29 [End Page 65]

This statement by the translator himself epitomizes the character of this anthology. Ôgai and Bin, whom Kafu admired as his mentors, were deeply conscious of the pioneering nature of their task, but Kafu believed he was entirely free from his predecessors’ sense of mission. As his experiences in the US and France were exclusively personal unlike Ôgai’s as a medical student in Germany, for instance, so too were his translations imbued with highly personal emotions.

In terms of the forms of translation, Kafu took greater liberties in processing the source text. He squeezes, for instance, into a five-line stanza two stanzas with six lines in Paul Verlaine’s “La lune blanche.”

La lune blanche mashironotsukiwa 7
Luit dans les bois; morinikagayaku 7
De chaque branche edaedano sasayakukoewa 5/7
Part une voix shigeminokageni 7
Sous la ramée... aa aisurumonoyo toiu30 2/7/3
O bien-aimée.31

The independent line of second stanza (“O bien-aimée”) is incorporated into the previous stanza, as are the two other independent lines (“Rêvon, c’est l’heure.” and “C’est l’heure exquise.”). The moraic pattern is still based on the orthodox unit of five and seven, but includes an irregularity in the line corresponding to Verlaine’s one-line stanza.32 In his translation of “Soir romantique” by Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles, he was bold enough to make a free-verse or prose rendering. The beginning four-line stanza with the rhyming pattern of abab as follows is converted into a paragraph with two sentences in prose.33

Eté, j’ai cherché trop longtempsA lutter contre votre grâce;Ce soir, mon cœur est consentant,Je suis voluptueuse et lasse.34

The free-verse rendering is only exceptional, however, in Sango shu. In most cases the adopted forms are some combinations of five and seven mora with certain irregularities as in the translation of Maurice Vaucaire’s “J’ai la mémoire des parfums...” in his Petits chagrins.

J’ai la mémoire des parfums, de la musiqueEt des couleurs. Pour évoquer les jours défunts,Coupez des fleurs, j’ai la mémoire des parfums.  J’ai la mémoire aussi de la musique,    Certain rythme magiqueRéveille le passé dans mon cœur nostalgique;35

Ongakuto shikisaito nioinokioku wareniyadoru. 5/5/7/6
Yukishihio yobikaesanto seba, 5/7/2
Hanaotsumitore. Wareninioino kiokuari. 7/7/5
Ongakuno kioku wareniyadoreba, 5/3/7
Ayashikiritsuno ugokiwa 7/4
Nosutarujiyano wagamuneni mukashiosamasu.36 7/5/7 [End Page 66]

Despite the prevailing conventionality of the form, Nagai Kafu’s translation sounds quite novel. It shows, first of all, far more varied combinations of the traditional units and they sometimes defy expectations of the pattern. It therefore generates irregular rhythm and appears unfettered by “the so-called seven-andfive- mora meter,” though the underlying pattern is still governed by seven and five mora. It retains much of the literary language, but it is not archaic as in the case of Bin’s. It preserves a delicate balance in terms of its formal considerations between the legacy of traditional prosody and experimenting with new patterns. It sometimes incorporates colloquial expressions conveyed in the traditional moraic units of five and seven. Free-verse renderings are conducted in an elegant, literary style as in the case of “Soir romantique.”

Kafu broke away from the strict source-oriented translation style. The forms of the source text are substantially modified; the number of stanzas is reduced as in the case of Verlaine’s “La lune blanche,” and rhymed stanzas in “Soir romantique” are converted into prose-style free verse. His stance as a translator was basically target-oriented, for his end in view was to “to sophisticate [his] own emotional life and diction.” He was free from a sense of the pioneering mission of introducing European poetry for the benefit of modern Japanese poetry. He was indifferent to experimental schemes of developing a new prosody for the Japanese language, though his poetic execution exploited existing prosodic resources in innovative ways that exerted lasting influence.

IV Gekkano ichigun (1925)

Daigaku Horiguchi (1892–1981), the translator-compiler of the voluminous anthology Gekkano ichigun, had an unusual experience in his youth for a Japanese citizen. Son of a diplomat, he left Japan in 1911 and enjoyed life abroad, first in Mexico, followed by Belgium, Spain, Brazil, and Romania. He settled in Japan only in 1925. During his time overseas he published three anthologies of translated poems along with three collections of his own poems. Gekkano ichigun contains 340 poems by 66 poets, including French contemporaries such as Francis Jammes, Paul Fort, Jean Cocteau, and Max Jacob. It offered a panoramic view of modern French poetry from the Parnassians and Symbolists to Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrrealism.

The poet and novelist Haruo Sato (1892–1964), Daigaku’s lifelong friend, complimented him in a newspaper article on his achievement in Gekkano ichigun as follows:

There is no trace of toil in your performance…It is a blessing that it even appears unrestrained. I am weary of poems in translation, timid and fettered, like bonsai or dwarfed potted trees. (Off with the useless resonances now of the Kaicho’on!) Those gardeners were so preoccupied with the shapes of the trees that they killed them. But what you have transplanted is left as they were and—amazing and fortunate enough—they have bloomed quite naturally there.37

As the translator of Chinese poems collected in the anthology Shajinshu,38 Haruo Sato was keenly aware of the repressive literary conventions created by those of [End Page 67] the older generation like Bin Ueda. He genuinely appreciated the new, colloquial style in Daigaku’s anthology which exhibited freer, target-oriented translation.

One of Daigaku’s most effective strategies was the editing of the source text. He made ingenious excerpts from longer lines by a variety of poets and altered them into independent short pieces of poetry. One of his most popular translations is “Ear” whose original lines by Jean Cocteau run as follows:

Mon oreille est un coquillageQui aime le bruit de la mer39

These lines are from Cocteau’s much longer poem “Cannes” (the fifth and final part of which consists of these two lines). Daigaku provided his own title “Ear” and recreated it as a two-line poem.40 Another example is from Apollinaire’s “Cors de chasse,” whose last two lines “Les souvenirs sont cors de chasse/Dont meurt le bruit parmi le vent41 were extracted and, with its original title “Hunting Horn,” remade into a two-line poem.42 Daigaku follows similar methods with numerous poems in translation.

Another conspicuous feature with Gekkano ichigun is its expansive colloquialism. Daigaku’s lines are free from any set patterns, although he did not refrain from using seven or five moraic units when he needed; literary sophistication that gave precedence to classical diction was not one of his norms. His style was marked by the use of the rhythm of prose and the vocabulary of everyday language. Daigaku’s popularly known translation “Mirabô bashi” of “Le pont Mirabeau” by Apollinaire does not exhibit any fixed schemes of moraic patterning.

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine    Et nos amours  Faut-il qui’il m’en souvienne La joie venait toujours après la peine43 Mirabôbashi no shitawo seinugawa ga nagare Warerano koiga nagareruWatashiwa omoidasuNayamino atoniwa tanoshimiga kuruto44

Compared with many other translations conducted in prose-like colloquialism, Verlaine’s “Il pleure dans mon cœur” provides a remarkable example of Diagaku’s versatility at commanding different levels of Japanese language. Among the four stanzas of the poem, the beginning four lines in the first stanza are molded into elegant seven-and-five moraic lines with literary style, while the second stanza scarcely shows any format of sound structure. The third stanza sounds rather archaic with its mode of expression curiously resembling the kanbun reading of a Chinese poem. It betrays the phraseology which is commonly used to make literal translations of source texts in classical Chinese. The last stanza follows the method adopted in the third stanza, modeling itself at the same time roughly on the pattern of five and seven mora. Thus the two different styles in the first and the last stanza are merged in an eclectic style.45 This is obviously a product of deliberate manipulation of divergent modes of translation. Though the translation [End Page 68] is of a high quality, it is a kind of parody of the various methods of translation stored in the Japanese literary inventory. The trajectory of endeavors in the history of translation since exposure to ‘Western’ literature led to this stage where the methodology itself is thrown into relief in the actual rendering.

Gekkano ichigun was an epoch-making anthology of contemporary French poetry. His translation involves plain colloquialism, audacious modification or editing, and free-verse execution of the source text. Its publication coincided with the emergence of Modernist Poetry in Japan, which kept pace with the developments of its European counterpart. After Gekkano ichigun, Japanese literature did not have any anthology of poetry in translation as influential as the ones I have discussed. It marked the culmination of experimentation in translating poems from European languages.

V Conclusion

In the course of thirty-odd years from 1889 to 1925, Japanese modern poetry underwent drastic changes. Among its many concerns, foremost was the establishment of new poetry in Japanese based on models from Western literature. Translation played a crucial role in furnishing relevant examples for accommodating widely dissimilar prosody in the European languages. Ôgai Mori provided the basic framework for addressing the issue, performing an exhaustive investigation of real possibilities for poetry in the Japanese language. In his experimentations with various forms, he was highly source-oriented in the sense that he tried to create rough equivalents of essential features of European prosody. Bin Ueda was eclectic and made workable compromises. His main concern was writing elegant and sophisticated lines in Japanese while satisfying himself by exploiting the classic seven-and-five-mora meter, occasionally devising some irregularities. Kafu Nagai was more target-oriented, making effective modifications to the source texts. Daigaku Horiguchi was audacious enough to alter the source texts to create his own versions and embraced sheer colloquialism.

In conclusion, the history of translating European poetry in the formative stage of modern Japanese poetry was a history of a gradual shift from a resolute source-oriented attitude toward target-oriented and flexible poetic execution. Four distinguished poet-translators completed the shift in three decades during which time modern Japanese poetry developed as a genre of its own, assimilating the fruits of their translations. [End Page 69]

Katsuya Sugawara
The University of Tokyo, Komaba
Katsuya Sugawara

Katsuya Sugawara is professor of Comparative Literature and Culture at the University of Tokyo, Komaba. His recent publications in English include “Devising a Context: R. H. Blyth’s Translation of Haiku and Zen,” and “Great Bearer: Images of the U.S. in the Writings of Air Raids.”


1. Syllabic pattern in Japanese is better described in terms of the unit of mora. For a further description, see “Appendix I: The Japanese Mora” in Koji Kawamoto’s The Poetics of Japanese Verse. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 2000.

2. Translation mine. Mori 4.

3. Geh’ ich bang nun nach den alten Mauern, /Schauernd rückwärts noch mit nassem Blick, /Schließt der Wächter hinter mir die Thore,/Weiß nicht, daß mein Herz noch zurück. Kobori 33. inline graphic Mori 33. wakarekane kokorowa-uchini nokorutomo / shiradeya-hitono toobasasuran. As for the source texts which Ôgai used for his translations in Omokage, Keiichiro Kobori, conducting an exhaustive survey of Ôgai’s private library presently housed in the General Library at the University of Tokyo, made solid bibliographical identification. In citing the source texts of Omokage, I will use Kobori’s “Omokageno shigaku” [Poetics of Omokage] in his Seigaku tôzen no mon [The Gate for Western Learning Reaching the East]. I also owe much in my descriptions of Ôgai’s methodology to Kobori’s study on Omokage.

4. Kobori 55

8. Er ist lange tot und hin, / Tot und hin, Fräulein! / Ihm zu Häupten ein Rasen grün, / Ihm zu Fuß ein Stein. Kobori 98

9. Attempts at rhyming in Japanese were made rather sporadically in the history of Japanese modern poetry. One of the most prominent examples is the anthology Machinepoetikku shishu [Poems of Matinée] published in 1948, which included rhymed poems by Takehiko Fukunaga (1918–1979), Shin’ichiro Nakamura (1918–1997), Shûichi Kato (1919–2008), and others. Systematic investigation on rhyming in Japanese was made by the philosopher Shûzo Kuki (1888–1941) in his “Nihonshi no ôin” [Rhyming in Japanese] published in 1932.

12. inline graphicUeda 25, translation mine.

13. inline graphic Ueda 28, translation mine.

14. inline graphic Sugawara no Michizane (845–903) is a Japanese poet whose checkered political career gave birth to a lot of legendary stories. The translation ( inline graphic ) is cited from Konjaku Monogatari [Tales of Times Now Past].

15. inline graphic The translation ( inline graphic ) is also cited from Konjaku Monogatari [Tales of Times Now Past].

17. inline graphic Ueda 35. In the first line, the actual syllabic pattern is 7/6/7/5, showing a hypermeter.

20. Although it is difficult to show one-to-one correspondences, I have bold-faced the [End Page 70] words and phrases provided as glosses by Bin Ueda both in the transliteration and the translation from Japanese.

27. inline graphic Ueda 108, translation mine

28. If a correspondence between Heine’s verse and Bin’s translation is emphasized, the moraic pattern in the last two lines in the second stanza and in the refrain may be counted as five and nine (itsumademo (5) / kakuwakiyoranareto (9) / itsumademo (5) / kakuwataeniareto (9) / inoramashi (5) / hananowagamegushigo(9)). Bin’s translation for the refrain which repeats the last two lines in the second stanza is different from his rendering of the source text. Bin’s refrain runs “May you be forever as charming as now, let us pray, my dear lovely girl,” while the last two lines in the second stanza were phrased as “May you be forever as pure (virginal) as now.” Bin must have distributed the three epithets ‘rein,’ ‘schön,’ and ‘hold’ into three different parts.

29. inline graphic Nagai 1994, 283, translation mine.

31. Nagai 1993: 21. Dr. Shigeru Oikawa conducted exhaustive bibliographical research on the source texts of Sango shu, which could not be easily completed since Kafu’s private library was destroyed during WWII. Citation will be made from the texts established by Dr. Oikawa and included in volume 9 of Kafu’s Iwanami-shoten [Complete Works], 1993.

32. In his earlier version which appeared in 1909 in the magazine Joshibundan [Women’s Literary Circle], Kafu designed a much freer pattern as follows: inline graphic Nagai 1993, 291. The moraic pattern of this stanza is 5-3/4-5/5-7/7/2-7-3.

37. “For Daigaku Horiguchi, the translator of the anthology in translation Gekkano ichigun [ inline graphic ] in Tokyo Asahishimbun, Oct. 11, 1925. inline graphic Sato 332, translation mine.

38. Shajinshu [Dust by the Wheel] was published in 1929 and was highly acclaimed as another Kaicho’on in the domain of Chinese poetry. [End Page 71]

40. inline graphic Horiguchi 51. The intriguing point with the translation, which appears almost literal, is that the French verb aimer is put into natsukashimu, implying the sense of nostalgia, yearning and endearment.

42. inline graphic Horiguchi 30

44. inline graphic Horiguchi 18

45. inline graphic Horiguchi 124 [End Page 72]

Works Cited

Apollinaire. Œuvres poétiques. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 1965.
Baudelaire, Charles. Œuvres complètes. Vol.1. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 1975.
Browning, Robert. Poetical Works 1833–1864. Oxford: Oxford U.P., 1970.
Cocteau, Jean. Œuvres poétiques complètes. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 1999.
Heine, Heinrich. Sämtliche Werke. Vol.1/1. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1975.
Kobori, Keiichiro. Seigaku tôzen no mon [The Gate for Western Learning Reaching the West]. Tokyo: Asahi shuppan sha, 1976.
Leconte de Lisle. Œuvres de Leconte de Lisle. Vol.1. Paris: Société d’édition « Les belles lettres », 1977.
Mori, Ôgai. Ôgai zenshu [The Complete Works of Ôgai]. Vol.19. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1973.
Nagai, Kafu. Kafu zenshu [The Complete Works of Kafu]. Vol.9. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1993.
Nagai, Kafu. Kafu zenshu [The Complete Works of Kafu]. Vol.16. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1994.
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. The Works. ed. William M. Rossetti, 1911. reprint. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1972.
Satô, Haruo. Teihon Satô Haruo zenshu [Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Satô Haruo]. Vol.19. Kyoto: Rinsen shoten, 1998.
Ueda, Bin. Ueda bin zenshu [The Complete Works of Ueda Bin]. Vol.1. Tokyo: Kyôiku shuppan sentâ, 1978.
Verlaine, Paul. Œuvres poétiques complètes. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 1948. [End Page 73]

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