しいか (Shiika) JAPANESE POETRY 01

The Heian period (平安時代, へいあんじだい , Heian-jidai) [794 – 1185] is well known for its literature; most notably The Tale of Genji (源氏物語, , げんじ の ものがたりGenji no Monogatari) by Murasaki Shikibu and The Pillow Book (枕草子, まくら の そうしMakura no Sōshi) by Sei Shōnagon.  The poem Iroha (伊呂波, いろは) is thought to have been written during the Heian period.

The Iroha is an important poem not just because it is a pangram of Japanese language at the time but because it was used as an ordering system before the Gojūon (五十音, ごじゅうおん) system came into use during the Meiji period (明治時代,, めいじじだいMeiji-jidai)[1868 – 1912].  Although the Gojūon predates the Iroha, the Iroha is considered to be ‘old fashioned’.

Below is the poem.  The first line of kana and romaji were used during the Heian period.  The kana and romaji in parentheses are what is used today.  The English at the bottom is the translation.

いろはにほへと

(いろはにおえど)

I ro ha ni ho he to

(Iro wa nioedo)

Even the blooming flowers

 

ちりぬるを

(ちりぬるを)

chi ri nu ru wo

(chirinuru o)

Will eventually fade

 

わかよたれそ

(わがよたれぞ)

wa ka yo ta re so

(waga yo tare zo)

Even our world

 

つねならむ

(つねならん)

tsu ne na ra mu

(tsune naran)

Is not eternal

 

うゐのおくやま

(ういのおくやま)

u wi no o ku ya ma

(ui no okuyama)

The deep mountains of vanity

 

けふこえて

(きょうこえて)

ke fu ko e te

(kyō koete)

Cross them today

 

あさきゆめみし

(あさきゆめみじ)

a sa ki yu me mi shi

(asaki yume miji)

And superficial dreams

 

ゑひもせす

(えいもせず)

we hi mo se su

(ei mo sezu)

Shall no longer delude you.

みどり かえで

Midori Kaede

Sources:

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

http://wsu.edu/~dee/ANCJAPAN/HEIAN.HTM

http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/hd/heia/hd_heia.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iroha