Ton'a

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Ton'a

Ton'a (頓阿?, 1289-1372), also spelled as Tonna; lay name – Nikaidō Sadamune 二階堂貞宗. A Japanese Buddhist poet, student of Nijō Tameyo 二条為世. Ton'a took a tonsure at Enryaku-ji Temple, but was later associated with the Ji sect 時宗 (founded by Ippen). He looked up to Saigyō's poetic genius. Here are two of his most well-known poems:

naku semi no
koe mo hitotsu ni
hibikite
matsu kage suzushi
yama no takitsuse

Crying cicadas
are in one voice with the sound
that reverberates
– cool, in the shade of the pines –
from a mountain cascade.[1]


ne ni tatete
nageku wa nani zo
utsusemi no
munashiki yo to wa
shiranu mono ka wa

Just what can it be
that makes them cry so loudly?
But, ah, of course: cicadas would know
how empty is this world
of the cicada shell.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Carter, Steven D. Traditional Japanese Poetry : an Anthology. Stanford, CA, USA: Stanford University Press, 1991. p 255. ISBN 9780804715621
  2. ^ The shell shed by the cicada was a conventional symbol for ephemerality. Adapted from Carter, Steven D. Just Living : Poems and Prose of the Japanese Monk Tonna. New York, NY, USA: Columbia University Press, 2003. p 133. ISBN 9780231125529