, or death poetry
, is not poetry about death, precisely, but a sort of farewell poem
to life. It was somewhat of a tradition
(right up to the 20th century
, see Qiu Jin
), but reached its refinement
and Japanese Zen
. Most were written in the tanka
form, though some were just the length of the opening part of a tanka (haiku
). Some were written nearly at the moment of death
, though probably far fewer than were later related that way.
is a theme, mono no aware
, but sometimes the poems seem to smile
: one I'll paraphrase as "Ah! A beautiful, sunny autumn
day. There's a nice time to die!" For these reasons, reading such poetry is often a part of Zen
Any good collection of Japanese poetry will include several death poems, and there is also a book devoted to the topic. The range of poems is so wide I'm just going to pick two to include here.
Plum blossoms falling
I look up: The sky,
a crisp, clear moon.
Frost on grass:
a fleeting form
that is/is not.
for John Locke, who didn't introduce me to jisei, but made me see its sometime smiles