“Butterfly” by Saijō Yaso

Saijō Yaso was a Japanese poet and scholar from the early 20th century who specialized in French symbolist verse. His own work ranged from darker symbolism to lighter children’s lyrics.

Butterfly

When in time I slip down to hell
where my parents and friends await,
what will I take to give them?

Perhaps I will pull from my chest
the pallid, broken
body of a butterfly
and handing it over, I’ll say

“A lifetime entire
like a lonely child,
and all the while
I was chasing this.”

—translated by David Bowles
July 3, 2014

やがて地獄へ下るとき
そこに待つ父母や
友人に私は何を持って行かう

たぶん私は懐から
蒼白い、破れた
蝶の死骸をとり出すだろう
さうして渡しながら言ふだろう

一生を
子供のやうに、さみしく
これを追ってゐました、と

–西條八十

yagate jigoku e kudaru toki
soko ni matsu fubo ya
yūjin ni watashi wa nani o motte ikau

tabun watashi wa futokoro kara
aojiroi, yabureta
chō no shigai o tori dasudarou
sa u shite watashinagara gen fudarou

isshō o
kodomo no yau ni, samishiku
kore o otte wimashita, to

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