Stone Egg by Saijo Yaso (石卵 / 西條八十)

I cover my small, mysterious egg
In the tall grass,
And spreading my snow white wings
I fly into the blue, never to return.

My father, I’m certain
Must have been an unusual swan,
Or maybe he was an ugly duck
Born on a farm in Sagami.

Believing I could hatch my egg,
I resolved to stay with it until yesterday,
After worrying over it all through the night,
It turned to stone by morning light.

My sister passed away clutching a rose,
Her husband ate some blackberries and died,
For a long time I held my egg and sang
In the attic of an abandoned house.

In the end, I decided to leave it behind
See how I soar through the sky,
When the stars are clear and bright and the wild chrysanthemum fragrant,
A swan takes flight, over streets awash with pop music, ever higher,
   and far away.–

* * *

小さい謎の卵を
わたしはこの草むらに隠す、
わたしは雪白の翼をひろげて
二度と戻らぬ蒼穹(おほぞら)へ往かう。

わたしの父も、おそらく
奇異な鵠(はくてう)であつたのであらう、
相模の農家に生まれた彼は
醜い家鴨(あひる)であつたのかも知れない。

孵化(かへ)し得ると信じてゐた、
昨日(きのふ)までは、固く、  
だが苦しみぬいたあげく、
朝の光で、これは石卵であつたのだ、

姉は薔薇を抱いて逝つた、
義弟は黒苺を啖(くら)つて死んだ、
わたしは廃屋の屋根裏で
ずゐぶん永くこの卵を抱いて歌つてゐた。

いよいよ、この卵を置きざりにして
空へ飛ぶわたしの姿を見ろ、
星の光が冴え、野菊が匂ふころ、
鵠は飛ぶぞ、流行歌ながれる巷(まち)のうへを、高く、遠く。–

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Palm by Saijo Yaso (掌 / 西條八十)

Why do I hold out the palm of my hand
When I could want for nothing more —
Yellow pollen scatters in the spring
Freezing snow gathers in the winter.

Is this really the palm of my hand?
Mute iron chains rooted in the depressions,
Fingerprint children on five hills
Still pretending not to dream of green grass.

Somewhere a bird cries out
It no longer flies into the palm of my hand,
A gold coin falls in the rustling leaves,
Is this the price of the art I dreamed in youth?

When my family is sound asleep,
I spend the night holding my palm out the window,
Howling like a gust of cold wind
My palm weeps in the light of the moon.

* * *

なんのためにさし出した掌か
もう欲しいものとて無いのに  
春は黄ろい花粉がこぼれ
冬はさむざむと雪がかかる。

これがわたしの掌か、
窪みにわだかまる鉄鎖の無言、
指紋の幼児は五つの丘で
まだ青草の夢に見恍(みほ)けてゐる。

どこかで鳥が啼く
鳥はもうわたしの掌へは来なくなつた、
落葉がさらさらと金貨を落す、
これが幼い日わたしが夢みた芸術の価(あたい)であつたか。

家族たちよ、みんな眠れ、
わたしは今夜も徹宵(よつぴて)窓外に掌をさしだす、
凩は濤(なみ)のやうに吼(ほ)えて
月の光のなかで掌は歔欷(きよき)してゐる。

Canary by Saijo Yaso (かなりや / 西條八十)

The canary that forgot his song
Shall I abandon him in the mountains?
Oh no, oh no, you mustn’t do that

The canary that forgot his song
Shall I bury him in the small bush out back?
Oh no, oh no, you mustn’t do that

The canary that forgot his song
Shall I whip him with a branch from the willow tree?
Oh no, oh no, that’s just too cruel

The canary that forgot his song, if we float him out to sea on a moonlit night
In an ivory boat with golden oars, then he will remember the song he forgot

* * *

唄を忘れた金糸雀(かなりや)は
後ろの山に棄てましょか
いえ いえ それはなりませぬ

唄を忘れた金糸雀は
背戸の小藪に埋けましょか
いえ いえ それはなりませぬ

唄を忘れた金糸雀は
柳の鞭でぶちましょか
いえ いえ それはかわいそう

唄を忘れた金糸雀は 象牙の船に 金の櫂(かい)
月夜の海に浮かべれば 忘れた唄をおもいだす

Butterfly by Saijo Yaso (蝶 / 西條八十)

When at last I descend into hell
What will I bring for my mother and father
And my friends, who are waiting there?

I think I will reach inside my breast
And pull out the pallid, broken
Body of a butterfly
Then, handing it over, I will say to them,

I spent my whole life
Like a child, lonely,
Chasing after this

* * *

やがて地獄へ下るとき
そこに待つ父母や
友人に私は何を持って行かう

たぶん私は懐から
蒼白い、破れた
蝶の死骸をとり出すだろう
さうして渡しながら言ふだろう

一生を
子供のやうに、さみしく
これを追ってゐました、と

Face by Saijo Yaso (顔 / 西條八十)

No matter how far I go
across this endless, barren plain
only pale white flowers are in bloom,
I have never before
been on such a lonely journey.

Suddenly, I turn around to see
I’ve been aimlessly wandering
on the face of my lover.

* * *

Yaso_Saijo

Saijo Yaso (1892-1970) was a Japanese poet, lyricist and French scholar. His oldest daughter, Mitsui Futabako, was also a poet. Saijo published many children’s lyrics in the magazine Akai Tori (Red Bird), including “Canary” (set to music by Narita Tamezo), which is one of the most famous songs from that time period. Along with Hakushu Kitahara, Saijo was one of the leading figures in children’s lyrics in the Taisho era. He was even the first to discover famous children’s poet Kaneko Misuzu.

(Information taken from the Japanese Wikipedia page and from Kodomo no Kuni.

* * *

行けども、行けども
涯(はて)しない荒野(あれの)で
青白い花ばつかりが咲いてゐる、
こんな寂しい旅を
私はいままでしたことが無い。

ふと、顧(ふりかへ)ると
私は戀人の顔の上を
あてどなく彷徨(さまよ)つてゐた。