Japanese Death Poems

Today we have a talented guest host over at dVerse Poets Pub, Gayle, who is talking about Jisei or Japanese death poems. These messages to loved ones written in preparation of one’s death are particularly appropriate at the time of the autumn equinox (which was celebrated yesterday, Wednesday 23rd September in Japan), a traditional holiday for visiting the graves of your ancestors.

Shy sapling peering –
no stunted growth, shrivelled roots:
too late to catch
the warming rays of summer.
Will there be time to rise forth?

Oak-sapling-Quercus-robur-001A bit of background for the above: Minamoto Yorimasa in 12th century (Heian period) Japan was a sensitive, poetic soul who tried to stay out of politics, but finally found himself reluctantly leading the Minamoto clan into battle against the Taira clan in a messy period of Japanese history. He committed ritual suicide and his death poem below shows his bitterness at what he perceives to have been a wasted life:

Like a rotten log
half buried in the ground –
my life, which
has not flowered, comes
to this sad end.

My greatest fear is that when my life comes to an end, I will still not have got around to doing the things that are really important to me, nor lived as I wanted to.