Sunday, May 14, 2017

Translation of "Borcopudie" by Professor Tamura


The translation of the following poem from the Japanese can be dated to 1986 or 1987. It is a translation from a poem written by my graduate school academic adviser at St Paul's University (Rikkyo Daigaku), a certain Professor Tamura, who also happened to be a close friend of Professor Toru Hoshino. Professor Tamura was a scholar and a gentleman and I owe much to him and to his guidance. I wish I had translated more of his work.

A higher up approached to ask for help.
He said it was a dictionary job.
The younger man said wait a day or two.
Time passed and he refused, excused himself,
although at first he'd wanted work like that.
The fact he didn't answer then and there
was just his way to put decisions off,
The days he thought it over, though, were strange.
He felt a restless stirring in his heart,
but something broke inside and then came doubt.
Excitement at the thought of work to come,
a break for something big, a first for him,
the feelings rose too high and then collapsed.
He knew he'd lost his nerve and ran away.

Remembering his former college days,
a word came back to mind he'd thought up then,
a dictionary he had written down.
The word borcopudie was his in full,
an English word that only he had used;
and, yet, he felt no other word was real,
without condition equally the same.
For all the other words from A through Z,
including those that fell in place between
like love and beauty, God and Satan's hell,
religion, culture, too, were all derived,
just secondary, indistinct, and dull.
He felt that knowledge was enough back then,
his one, unique, hand-written book enough,
was satisfied, enlightened by the word.
For like a blackened sun's absorptive shade,
the shadow of one word eclipsed the whole,
the universe of dictionary words.

The starting points of strange unease appeared,
his heart conspiring unaware at fate
to bear the final fruit of college thoughts,
complete the dream of past enlightenment.
For there was nothing more to come of talk,
productive, empty, dead, committee work.
The charcoal sun of that one, single word,
it urged him make it alphabetical,
to make it shine in print ablaze in black.
'Ridiculous,' he thought, excited, crazed;
a silly plan to spoil the others' work,
the first edition thirty thousand books.

Some several years had passed till it arrived,
the splendid work his older friend achieved.
At length, he copied down borcopudie,
defined it as a verb intransitive,
and wrote 'be born, to copulate, and die.'
He etched his letters fine and clear,
with pen and ink, and paper, strong and white.
He pasted all he wrote before Bordeaux.
His work repeated once again his past.
But all he'd known back then was being born,
To copulate and die were both unknowns.
He sighed to realize just death remained.

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