Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

White bird, are you not sad?

You drift, never dyed

By the blue of the sea

Or the sky’s azure

Wakayama Bokusui

From Umi no Koe(Sea Voices, 1908), Bokusui’s first volume of tanka, published privately the year he graduated from the English Literature Department of Waseda University. The famous poem beginning “Iku yamakawa” (Hoe many mountains and rivers) is in the same volume. “White bird” means a seagull here. The cover illustration by Hirafuku Hyakusui was based on this poem. Contrasting the white of the bird with the blue of the sea and sky, the poet grieves over the bird, alive in the midst of nature’s vastness, and ober his own youthful loneliness. Today taka poets avoid repetitions like “sora no ao umi no ao”(literally, “the blue of the sky, the blue of the sea”)* but in Bokusui’s poems they work wonderfully toexpress feeling.
*I have translated the first “ao” as “blue” and the second as “azure” because the first is written with kanji while the secondis in hiragana.___Tr.


若山牧水(わかやま ぼくすい)