From the Summit by Ono Tozaburo (山頂から / 小野十三郎)

Climb the mountain
and the ocean rises to meet the sky.
Surrounded by an avalanche of young green leaves.
Quietly far below
a cuckoo cries.
Standing in the wind at such a height
anyone would naturally think about the breadth of the world.
I cover my mouth with my hands
wanting to shout something down below.
The mountain in May
is dazzlingly radiant.
Have you ever seen the horizon
draw its long blue arc
higher than the mountaintop?

山にのぼると
海は天まであがってくる。
なだれおちるような若葉みどりのなか。
下の方で しずかに
かっこうがないている。
風に吹かれて高いところにたつと
だれでもしぜんに世界のひろさをかんがえる。
ぼくは手を口にあてて
なにか下の方に向かって叫びたくなる。
五月の山は
ぎらぎらと明るくまぶしい。
きみは山頂よりも上に
青い大きな弧をえがく
水平線を見たことがあるか。

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The World of Man by Ono Tozaburo (人間の土地 / 小野十三郎)

A light came on
in the evening mist.
Musashino’s boundless sea.

It gives us
enough hope to go on living.

About ten years ago, a sunset just like this one.
I was wearing the same outfit
standing on the Ikebukuro Tojo platform.

A year of death and darkness.
I looked all around me, but no one was there.
I called out in a loud voice, but no one answered.

A silence fell over Tokyo
Comrades.
Friends
I hadn’t heard from anyone
and I didn’t know if they were alive or dead.

I feel like I was here then as well
in the evening mist, watching this light
blink on.

夕もやの中に
灯がついた。
むさし野のぼうばくたる海の。

それはわれらに
生きることの希望をもたせるに充分だ。

十何年か前、やはりこんな夕暮。
同じ旅装で
俺は池袋東上線のホームに立っていた。

死と暗黒の年。
周囲をみまわしてもだれもいない。
大声でよんでもだれもこたえない。

東京はしんとして
なかまというなかま。
ともだちというともだちが
みな消息をたって
生死も不明になったときだ。

あの時も俺はここから
夕もやの中に ぱっとついたこの灯を
見たような気がする。

NOTES:

Ono Tozaburo (1903-1996) was a Japanese poet born in Osaka. James Kirkup, who translated two of Ono’s poems in a 1970s Japanese poetry anthology, Modern Japanese Poetry, wrote an article about Ono upon his death. Click here to read more about this excellent poet. Also, one of Kirkup’s translations closes the article, so be sure to check it out.

According to the article, more of Ono’s poems can be found in an anthology called Burning Giraffes, but it appears to be out of print and very expensive through Amazon vendors. Hopefully his work will become more available in the near future.

The Japanese title of this poem seems to come from the Japanese translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Terre des hommes.