Sunday, March 14, 2010
Japanese Death Poems
“Japanese Death Poems?” my wife asked. “Why would anyone want to write, much less read death poems?”
“Christian recommended this book to me,” was my reply. “He said that he found the poems pithy and powerful. When I saw the book at the library and borrowed it. I’m enjoying it. The Japanese seem to have a somewhat different view of death than is common here in America. Would you like to hear one?” I asked guessing, correctly, that what her answer would be. Ah well.
But maybe you, dear blog reader, would you like to listen to what a few Japanese Haiku poets and Zen practitioners had to say in their last moments?
If so, read on.
This one’s by Shiyo, who died on the fourth day of the second month, 1703 at the age of thirty-two.
Surely there’s a teahouse
with a view of plum trees
on Death Mountain, too.
Kozan died on the twenty-sixth day of the ninth month, 1747 at the age of forty-six saying,
a boat beneath the moon
and from within, a prayer.
And Ryoto’s Tanka delivered on the day he died in 1669 at the age of seventy-five:
I thought that only
that such happiness
should fall to me!