They Are Unbeaten by the Rain, translated by Jasmine Hardy

They are unbeaten by the rain,
triumphant against the wind,
superior to the snow of winter and heat of summer.

They are strong of body,
rid of selfishness,
unyielding to bouts of anger,
with silent smiles always etched on their faces.

Throughout the day they dine on plain brown rice
and a bowl of miso soup, with the occasional vegetable or two.

Yet in everything,
they remain selfless.

They experience through understanding one another,
and never forget the lessons they learn.

They live in tiny thatch huts,
hidden in the shade of the meadow’s pine.

If, in the East, illness captures a child,
they nurse him to health.
If, in the West, mothers are weary,
they bear the weight of her bundles of rice.
If, in the South, a man is dying,
they soothe his fears.

And if, in the North, conflict ensues,
they beg the foolishness to cease.

In the season of drought, tears are shed,
and summer’s cold brings mournful confusion.
Everyone considers them to be nobodies.

Never praised,
Nor a nuisance…

These are the people
I strive to be.

 

Kenji Miyazawa’s poem, filled with emotive language and imagery, shows his passion for the agricultural class of Japan. Especially in recent times, the importance of key workers like farmers has become abundantly clear. We are privy to a poem that explores an idea close to Miyazawa’s heart, resonating with many Western readers too. In understanding katakana, the poem was simple to translate with aid of a dictionary; however, I sought to express Miyazawa’s love of the agricultural class. For example, “マケズ” has been translated as “unfazed” or “unperturbed”, though “unbeaten” and “triumphant” felt more fitting to portray Miyazawa’s absolute admiration of the peasants. Deciding to add a person (“they”) could have proved complicated, perhaps obscuring the ambiguity of the poem; however, it is a love letter to the peasants that Miyazawa admired. I intended to translate a strong voice whose adoration of the agricultural class has a potential of being lost in other translations. In this way, a Western reader appreciates the humanisation of the peasants, encouraging reflection upon a class that we may be removed from. Choosing to separate certain lines would allow a reader to view the poem as a short recount of a farmer’s life—Miyazawa creates such a powerful image of the humble day-to-day existence of the peasants that I wanted to convey this idea as each stanza follows another aspect of their lives. Miyazawa’s lack of rhyming
structure felt important to maintain, as he writes with such intention that rhyme would hinder the poem’s ultimate message. Similarly, the original form of the poem, written in bold strokes of katakana, describes a true devotion to allowing others to admire the peasants. I decided to focus on achieving a poignant idea through succinct language, reflecting Miyazawa’s appreciation for the plight of the farmers.

雨ニモマケズ
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
ヒデ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

Original poem by Kenji Miyazawa.