The Poetry of Living Japan: An Anthology

The Poetry of Living Japan: An Anthology

The Poetry of Living Japan: An Anthology

The Poetry of Living Japan: An Anthology


At last the age of the new poetry arrived.

It was like a beautiful dawn. Some cried out as the prophets of old, others gave voice like the poets of the West. All seemed intoxicated with light, with new tongues, with new imaginings . . .

Our new poets were mostly simple-hearted sincere youths. Their art was immature, incomplete. On the other hand, they were neither vain nor pompous . . . Just think how novel speculations served many a young man instead of food and sleep. And think, too, how the sorrows and anguish of the modern world sent many a one out of his mind. I put aside my scruples, I joined in the chorus of these new throats . . .


Introduction to Poems (one-volume edition, 1904)

With Toson Shimazaki's first volume, Seedlings ( 1887), Japanese poetry was definitely launched upon a new career. Not that Shimazaki revolutionized either style--his language was exclusively pseudo-classical, in metre he followed the traditional alternation of five and seven syllables--or themes, for he still wrote of Nature, love and melancholy. What was markedly new was the feeling of excitement: here was a receptive soul, confronted suddenly with a fresh and vast view of poetry's potentialities. That, for instance, his 'Song of the Autumn Wind' was all too Shelleyan does not matter. What was important for the future was the very real imaginative liberation which Shimazaki experienced.

The Meiji era ( 1868-1912) was an age of marvels. Houses in Western style began to replace the thatched earthen-tiled ones; oil-lamps and gaslight appeared; restaurants ('resutoranto') proudly served Western food--milk, meat, bread and wine. The...

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