Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kenji Miyazawa: "Be Not Defeated by the Rain"

Unbeaten by the rain
Unbeaten by the wind
Bested by neither snow nor summer heat
Strong of body
Free of desire
Never angry
Always smiling quietly
Dining daily on four cups of brown rice
Some miso and a few vegetables
Observing all things
With dispassion
But remembering well
Living in a small, thatched-roof house
In the meadow beneath a canopy of pines
Going east to nurse the sick child
Going west to bear sheaves of rice for the weary mother
Going south to tell the dying man there is no cause for fear
Going north to tell those who fight to put aside their trifles
Shedding tears in time of drought
Wandering at a loss during the cold summer
Called useless by all
Neither praised
Nor a bother
Such is the person
I wish to be

"Be Not Defeated by the Rain" by Kenji Miyazawa. Translated from the original Japanese by Hart Larrabee. Text as posted on Tomo 友 (08/05/2012).

Curator's note: After the poet's death, a black notebook containing this text was found in his trunk. The poem appears in bold strokes amidst his repetitious copying of a Buddhist mantra. According to its date (November 3, 1931), he had composed it while on his deathbed. He was only in his thirties. Visit this link to view a photograph of the poem in the notebook, the original Japanese text, two very different translations (including Larrabee's, which I prefer), and interviews with the interpreters.

Art credit: "Girl in the rain," Giclée print by Pavlo Tereshin.


  1. Thank you for including a link to the original, and to the two translations, and to the interviews. Yes, two very different versions of the poem in English -- and I see merit in both. I like how David Sulz, the other translator, admits that his chosen idiom -- "be not" and "go forth" -- might have been a bit too literary. Nonetheless, I am attracted to Sulz's formality -- while quickly acknowledging the bracing directness and pellucid clarity of Larrabee's version.

    (I know no Japanese, but enjoyed the interviews as the translators discussed their choices and motivations.)

    1. Comments like this are exactly why I included the link to the translations. I too found the translators' choices and explanations interesting, especially given my ignorance of the language. Thanks, Thomas.

  2. after reading this beautiful poem I felt calm and a surge of joy

  3. Life really is not that simple, but the idea of living with that simplicity and love is inspiring. My Dad died 58 years ago on this date. In my memory, he lived as close to that ideal state as I can imagine is possible


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