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Death Poems


 

 

Hôjô Ujimasa1
1538-1590
 
Autumn wind of eve,
blow away the clouds that mass
over the moon's pure light
and the mists that cloud our mind,
do thou sweep away as well.
Now we disappear,
well, what must we think of it?
From the sky we came.
Now we may go back again.
That's at least one point of view.
 

Minamoto Yorimasa2
1104-1180
 
Like a rotten log
half buried in the ground -
my life, which
has not flowered, comes
to this sad end.
 

Ota Dokan3
1432-1486
 
Had I not known
that I was dead
already
I would have mourned
my loss of life.
 

Ôuchi Yoshitaka4
1507-1551
 
Both the victor
and the vanquished are
but drops of dew,
but bolts of lightning -
thus should we view the world.
 

Shiaku Nyûdo5
d.1333
 
Holding forth this sword
I cut vacuity in twain;
In the midst of the great fire,
a stream of refreshing breeze!
 

Takemata Hideshige6
(After being defeated by Shibata Katsuie)
 
Shall Ashura
subdue a man like me?
I shall be born again
and then I'll cut the head
off Katsuie...
 

Tokugawa Ieyasu7
1542-1616
 
Whether one passes on or remains is all the same.
That you can take no one with you is the only difference.
Ah, how pleasant! Two awakenings and one sleep.
This dream of a fleeing world! The roseate hues of early dawn!
 

Toyotomi Hideyoshi8
1536-1598
 
My life
came like dew
disappears like dew.
All of Naniwa
is dream after dream.
 

Uesugi Kenshin9
1530-1578
 
Even a life-long prosperity is but one cup of sake;
A life of forty-nine years is passed in a dream;
I know not what life is, nor death.
Year in year out-all but a dream.
Both Heaven and Hell are left behind;
I stand in the moonlit dawn,
Free from clouds of attachment.

 

 
1. Sadler The Maker of Modern Japan pg. 160-161
2. Hoffmann Japanese Death Poems pg. 48
3. Ibid. pg. 52; Dokan is reputed to have uttered his death poem even as he lay bleeding in his bath, an assasin's victim.
4. Ibid. pg. 53
5. Suzuki Zen and Japanese Culture pg. 84
6. Hoffmann Japanese Death Poems pg. 54
7. Sadler The Maker of Modern Japan pg. 324
8. Berry Hideyoshi pg. 235
9. Suzuki Zen and Japanese Culture pg. 82