banner












  • Subscribe to our e-letters



  • Facebook_icon


The Stephen Spender Prize 2015 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

18-and-under category, commended

Read the judges’ comments
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years


Euan McGinty

Strong in the rain…


Strong in the rain, strong in the wind.
Do not submit to the snow or to the summer's heat.

Be healthy and robust, free from desire. Never lose your temper.
Cultivate a quiet joy.
Recognise the needs of others before your own,
watch well and listen attentively;
cherish learned lessons.
If there is a sick child to the east:
be there to nurse him.
If there is a tired mother in the west:
go to her and carry her sheaves.
If a dying man is lying in the south:
tell him there is no need to be fearful.
If there is a dispute to the north,
tell them: let bygones be bygones.
In times of drought, shed tears of sympathy.
In summers cold, take the burden,
known by all as a dreamer,
neither praised nor denounced.
This is the kind of person,
I endeavour to become.

Translated from the Japanese by Euan McGinty
top

The original Japanese may not display properly in older browsers or on computers running non-unicode-compliant operating systems. To view an image file of the poem and commentary, click here (opens in new window).

Ame ni mo makezu 雨ニモマケズ


風ニモマケズ
雪ニモ夏ノ暑サニモマケヌ
丈夫ナカラダヲモチ
慾ハナク
決シテ瞋ラズ
イツモシヅカニワラッテヰル
一日ニ玄米四合ト
味噌ト少シノ野菜ヲタベ
アラユルコトヲ
ジブンヲカンジョウニ入レズニ
ヨクミキキシワカリ
ソシテワスレズ
野原ノ松ノ林ノ蔭ノ
小サナ萓ブキノ小屋ニヰテ
東ニ病氣ノコドモアレバ
行ッテ看病シテヤリ
西ニツカレタ母アレバ
行ッテソノ稻ノ朿ヲ負ヒ
南ニ死ニサウナ人アレバ
行ッテコハガラナクテモイヽトイヒ
北ニケンクヮヤソショウガアレバ
ツマラナイカラヤメロトイヒ
ヒドリノトキハナミダヲナガシ
サムサノナツハオロオロアルキ
ミンナニデクノボートヨバレ
ホメラレモセズ
クニモサレズ
サウイフモノニ
ワタシハナリタイ

Miyazawa Kenji
top


Translation commentary


I initially found out about this poem from my mother; she takes an interest in Japanese poetry. 'Ame ni mo makezu' stood out for me as a poem because it is presented like a vow or prayer; it is a poem in which Miyazawa attempts to summarise his stoic philosophy.

With this poem I prioritised conveying Miyazawa's ideology over a more accurate word-to-word translation. The original featured no distinct metre or form; I too translated the poem in free verse, however I was free to experiment with the structure of the poem. After first reading 'Ame ni mo makezu' I noticed that it was arranged in five parts; I then made these the verses. I could roughly convert the lines from the Japanese version into my translation.

There are mediums in Japanese poetry which are difficult to emulate in English; these include handwriting and the choice of syllabary. The handwriting of the poem has been described as 'messy, yet bold'. Miyazawa also chose to use katakana as opposed to the more preferred hiragana; the use of kanji (Chinese characters) is also minimal. The reason he did this is to make the poem more accessible to the uneducated farmers he worked with – the ability to use and understand kanji is seen as quite scholarly. Because of this I attempted to avoid using overly complicated language and instead chose to translate the poem in a more straightforward way.

While translating most of the poem I could use my own knowledge of Japanese to choose an appropriate word or phrase, however there were occasions where that proved particularly difficult. The translation of oro-oro aruki and deku-no-bō were the trickiest. Oro-oro aruki literally translates as: 'walk afflicted' or 'walk upset'. After initially deciding to go with 'walk afflicted' I then changed it to 'carry the burden', because I believed that it highlighted the notion of struggle in Miyazawa's outlook. Deku-no-bō translates as 'blockhead'; this refers to a person who people would regard as naïve and somewhat simple. I opted for 'dreamer', as in the context of Miyazawa's ideas I thought this was most fitting.

Euan McGinty