Japanese Death Poems

Japanese Death Poems

Japanese Death Poems

Japanese Death Poems

Excerpt

Death in itself is nothing; but we fear To be we know not what, we know not where.

--DRYDEN

Death may indeed be nothing in itself, yet the consciousness of death is in most cultures very much a part of life. This is perhaps nowhere more true than in Japan, where the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writing a "death poem." Hundreds of such poems, many with a commentary describing the poet and the circumstances of his or her death, have been gathered from Japanese sources and translated here into English, the great majority of them for the first time. As poems, they share the beauty of a poetry that has already gained the admiration of the West; as death poems, they reflect important aspects of a culture that is still largely unfamiliar to many Western readers.

Part One of this book explores the tradition of writing a death poem against a detailed background of attitudes toward death throughout the cultural history of Japan.

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