Iroha Uta いろは歌 – The poem without repetition

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Iroha Uta  (いろは歌) is a poem written by Kukai (空海) a famous Buddhist monk and poet in the early Heian period 平安時代 (794−1185). The interesting thing about this poem is that it never repeats a “kana” or phoneme, and it still has a beautiful meaning. In this article we will examine this poem.



ゑひもせす 京(ん)

わが世 誰ぞ
酔いもせず 京(ん)

There are no 濁点 – Dakuten - ゛-. As this poem uses an ancient language and script, some rules of Japanese are different:

  • 匂えど is spelled 匂へど
  • ん is written む
  • きょう is spelled けふ
  • 酔い is spelled 酔ひ
  • There are some kana that are not used today: ゐ, ゑ

Studying poem Iroha Uta

Original 「色は匂へど散りぬるを」
modern japanese この 世 に ある おもしろおかしい は 、 咲き 、 、 花 の な もの だ なぜ それ は 、 いつしか (てしまう もの な から)。
Meaning The colors of flowers are so beautiful and fragrant – like the beauty of a person or the interesting things in this world.

The flowers that shine today fall one day

色(いろ) here is the color of flowers, but it also has the meaning of the affairs of men and women, or the many events of this world. Like flowers, the beauties of life will one day disappear.

Original 「わが世 誰ぞ常ならむ」

(わがよ だれぞ つねならん)

modern japanese 私の人生もそれと同じだ。誰が、ずっと同じように変わらずあるものだと言えようか。いや、誰も言えない。いつかは終わってしまうのだ。
Meaning My life is like this. Who can say my life will last forever without change? No, no one can. One day it will end.

nothing exists forever

Some say わが世 means “I rule my world”

Original 「宇井(有為)の奥山今日越えて」

(ういのおくやま きょうこえて)

modern japanese 宇井という名の山奥を今日越えて
Meaning Today I go beyond the mountains called ui. (in Kyoto) 

Today I will cross the depths of the mountain of life

The Author was formerly a samurai warrior, but decided to dedicate his life to becoming a Buddhist monk. The author abandoned his past life and went beyond the mountains.

有為(うい) is also a word that means “awakening to true reality” in order to stop being a true slave of our daily life. In Buddhism this means: attaining enlightenment.

今日 (kyou) also rhymes with 京 from 京都 (kyouto).

Original 「浅き夢見し酔いもせず京」

(あさきゆめみし よいもせず きょう)

modern japanese 有為 の 奥山 越え て 見 が (人生 人生 色々 を を し た) は 、 浅い の よう であり 酔っ払っ た な もの。 は 、 酔う よう な な な なこと も なく 煩悩 の 火 消え た よう よう 、 、 、 悟り を 、 の もの ごと の こだわり とらわ の なくなっ 状態 で 京 都 を の 門 へ へ へ へと向かう道である。
Meaning Futile dreams neither feed nor intoxicate me.

This means that his life doesn't affect him anymore, he doesn't dream or feel drunk because of the past. At this moment the author is on his way to Kyoto towards the temple gate. The Author tries to express that his worldly desires have been clarified, and he feels at peace in the state of enlightenment.

It's really hard to stop being anxious about all the greedy desires and feelings in our lives. But I think the author thought of everything when he wrote that poem or song.

Iroha Uta is a very short poem, but it contains many ideas. There are many allusions in this poem, Japanese is really an amazing language. We notice simplicity and complexity together. The modern Japanese version is a simple language, and the ancient Japanese very much, but with just a few phonemes the poem expressed many things.

It was not easy to translate this poem into Portuguese and give it a valid meaning, just by knowing Japanese you will understand more the feeling that the author wanted to convey in Iroha Uta.

Source: thejapanesepage

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