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Thread: Manyoshu, an 8th century Japanese collection of poetry

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    Manyoshu, an 8th century Japanese collection of poetry

    I’ve begun reading some of the poems in the 8th century Japanese poetry collection, the Manyoshu. http://library.globalchalet.net/Auth...%20%201965.pdf

    I’ve started this thread to keep track of my thoughts and invite anyone else to add theirs.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Great find, Yes/No! Thank you for the pdf. It seems to be a scholarly edition as this ancient poetry deserves. I just loaded it down and had a look at the foreword which deals with the translation history. I wasn´t surprised to learn that the first western language translation was into German.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Thanks, Danik! I’m still trying to make sense out of this collection. I wonder why German would be the first western language translation of this?

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Had to find the thread. Now that there is more activity on the forum the new threads get buried quickly. I had a look at the first poems. They seem to be a kind of bucolic poetry: Japanese emperors and empresses talk about the nature in their domains. How did you learn about this collection?
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    One of the poets linking to dVerse Poets Pub prompts (https://dversepoets.com/) wrote a book referencing the Manyoshu. Much of her writing and selections from her books is on her blog at https://ladynyo.wordpress.com That's how I found out about it.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Here is some general information about Japanese poetry including the Manyoshu, which is the oldest collection of ancient poetry.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_poetry


    And here is some information about the Manyoshu:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man%27yōshū
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 12-05-2017 at 07:07 PM.
    "You can always find something better than death."
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    There is a lot in those Wikipedia articles, but then the topic is extensive.

    What I learnt there from a first reading of the first one you mentioned, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_poetry, is that there are many anthologies like the Manyoshu. These early poems were influenced by the Chinese Tang poems. The Japanese imitations of these Chinese forms were called kanshi. The 5 or 7 character lines are a similarity.

    I liked the story of how poetry got started. The goddess Izanami said:

    What joy beyond compare
    To see a man so fair!


    and the god Izanagi, after complaining that she spoke first, said:

    To see a woman so fair—
    What joy beyond compare!

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol! Even gods dislike it when women have the first or the last word.

    I included the link because I felt a need to know the place of the Manyoshu in the Japanese poetry tradition. It seems that this is a tradition that prefers short and very synthetic forms of poetry.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Izanagi and Izanami were humorous, but at least they started talking. I found it also strange that the god Izanagi wasn't all that creative. He only slightly modified her poem.

    By "synthetic" I think you mean "formal" or perhaps something else.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    No I mean the ability to find an compact or economic but nevertheless complete way to express ones meaning.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    The tanka, a five line poem with 5,7,5,7,7 syllables, appears to be the main form used. It doesn’t rhyme nor have any meter, but supposedly uses alliteration and juxtaposing disparate ideas as poetic techniques. The Yamato language has all syllables ending in vowels, no accented syllables, no long/short syllables and that seems to explain why the tanka is what it is. (page 21)

    The language appears to me to be impoverished compared with English for sound effects, but I don’t know how these poems sound.

    The English five line common meter might be close to the tanka although many common meter poems have 4-line stanzas closer to Chinese Tang dynasty poetry.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    One has to consider the time when these poems were written. Just for comparison, here is an link on old English literature\\;
    "The poem Beowulf, which often begins the traditional canon of English literature, is the most famous work of Old English literature. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has also proven significant for historical study, preserving a chronology of early English history.
    In descending order of quantity, Old English literature consists of: sermons and saints' lives; biblical translations; translated Latin works of the early Church Fathers; Anglo-Saxon chronicles and narrative history works; laws, wills and other legal works; practical works on grammar, medicine, geography; and poetry.[2] In all there are over 400 surviving manuscripts from the period, of which about 189 are considered "major".[3]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English_literature
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Here is Beowulf a poem from the 7th century:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kTS1Ex-dig
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    I haven’t listened to all of it, but I like the Beowulf audio you linked, Danik.

    I think my interest in the Manyoshu is really an interest in any of this very old literature.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Maybe specifically in Japanese poetry. I found this other more recent collection of Tanka poems , called the Hyaku-nin-isshiu:
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/hvj/hvj001.htm
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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