Thursday, January 21, 2010

Japanese Death Poems

Japanese death poems were written by a person as close to the moment of death as possible. Ideally, as they finished and put down the ink brush, they would exhale their last breath and die before the ink was dry.

Seems that most were written by monks, priests, noblemen, and other well educated members of Japan's history. They reflect on what it means to live and die, and their philosophy on both.
Some are beautiful and reflective, such as Koraku's
The joy of dewdrops
In the grass as they
Turn back to vapor.
Others display a wonderful humor about the inevitable, such as Morikawa Kyoriku's (1656 - 1715)
Till now I thought
that death befell
the untalented alone.
If those with talent, too,
   must die
surely they make
   a better manure?
My favorite so far is from Moriya Sen'an:
Bury me when I die
beneath a wine barrel
in a tavern.
With luck
the cask will leak.

 To read these and others go to the
Google Book search for Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death
By Yoel Hoffmann
Or better yet, support the guy and buy the book like I did!
Here's an easy link to Hoffmann's book on Amazon - ya cheap schmuck!


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