Holding Dear the End of Spring

Poem on the work of seasonal change


あづさ弓 Azusa yumi Holding this day dear,
春暮れ果る haru kure hatsuru at the end of the spring,
今日の日を kyo no hi wo [people] are working on
引留めつつ hikitodome tsutsu [this thing or that thing]
をちこちやらん ochikochi yaran here and there

Azusaumi is a pillow word, or figure of speech, for spring. This is a poem describing people working hard at the end of spring, the last day of the third month.

Hikitodomu means to keep something or someone from leaving. Ochikochi literally means “distance and close,” that is “here and there” in terms of space, or “present and future” in terms of time. Yaran is “yaru” (to do, to deal with) and “ran” (an auxiliary verb of conjecture).

Dōgen Zenji compassionately thinks of all people working hard on the final days of the spring to complete things that should be done before summer comes.

In the lunar calendar, the last day of spring is the 30th day of the third month (around May 10th in the solar calendar). And the beginning of spring is New Year’s Day, (around February 10th in solar calendar) which is the coldest time of the year. Particularly in Echizen where Dōgen Zenji lived, they usually have snow until the end of March.

Although the first three months of the calendar year are considered springtime, the actual spring is very short. The middle of the spring is around the time of the spring equinox. That is the most beautiful time of the year with so many flowers in the mountains and fields, especially cherry blossoms. People are released from cold weather, and can relax and enjoy the beauty of the season.

Right after this time of relaxing, in the late spring, farmers have to work hard to prepare for the farming season. They have so many things to take care before the rainy season begins when they plant rice. They all hold dear the end of spring, wishing the day was much longer.

At Zen monasteries, this is also a busy time for monks. The summer practice period will begin soon on 15th day of the fourth month. Monks busily prepare for ninety days of intense practice during the hot humid summer. Since many monks change roles in the monastic departments, they have to learn new things. New training monks begin to arrive for the practice period. Senior monks have to train the young monks to practice together following rules, regulations, forms, and various procedures.

There is another version of this waka in which last line is “ochikochi yasen” that means “wandering here and there”. In this case, Dōgen Zenji, holding dear the last day of the spring and its beautiful scenery, is walking here and there to enjoy the last moment of the spring.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen

Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

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