Okumura Roshi is translating a selection of Dogen’s poems, one for each month of the year.
Dogen Zenji’s waka poem about Mid-Spring in the mountains
あづさ弓 春の山風 吹ぬらん 峯にも谷も 花匂ひけり
Azusayumi / haru no yamakaze / fukinuran / mine nimo tani mo / hana nioi keri
Spring wind has begun to blow in the mountains.
Both on the peaks and in the valleys,
[The colors of] various flowers are shining.
Azusayumi literally means a catalpa bow, but in this case, this word is used as a pillow-word (makura-kotoba, the conventional epithet used in Japanese poetry) of Spring. Steven Heine translates “Nioi (niou)” as fragrance.¹ “Nioi” in modern Japanese is smell or fragrance, but this word is originally about color. It can be translated as shining, luminous, or bright. If Dogen is walking in the mountain peaks and valleys, “the fragrance of the flowers is circulating” throughout the peaks and valleys’ makes more sense. If Dogen is looking at the scenery from a distance, “the colors of the flowers are shining” makes sense.
In a previous month, I introduced Dogen’s poem about the scenery of transition from winter to spring. A tiny bird is singing in the snow. This poem expresses the beauty of mid-spring with innumerable flowers all over.
¹ The Zen Poetry of Dogen, Dharma Communications, 1997, p.119
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