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I've got a question about the two instances of の in 君が代:

さざれ石の巌となりて
苔の生すまで

First, is さざれ石の巌 to be interpreted as a boulder made of pebbles (analogous to, say, 木製の槍)?

Second, is the の in 苔の生すまで essentially が, akin to the が/の alternation in relative clauses:

太郎の焼いた魚/太郎が焼いた魚

If so, what stage of the development of Japanese was this alternation possible outside of relative clauses?

(Bonus: what stage of Japanese does 君が代 even reflect and why? I know it was cobbled together in the Meiji period; the Wikipedia article says it's based on a waka from the Heian period, but doesn't provide the original text.)

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I'm not sure it answers your question, but Hiraiwa talks about が-の conversion before まで in Nominative-Genitive Conversion Revisited (2001). –  snailboat Jul 9 at 13:53
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「さざれ石(=細かい石)が[巌]{いわお}(=大きな岩)になって、(それに)[苔]{こけ}が[生]{む}す(=苔が[生]{は}える)まで。」って意味です。 –  Choko Jul 9 at 16:56
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I know in Old Japanese (pre-790s) の could mark the subject of basically any non-main clause - I know for sure it could appear with conditionals (with -ば), and IIRC with quotations (with と) at least also, as well as with まで. Not sure when this stage ended, though, so I can't answer the OP's whole question. –  Sjiveru Jul 9 at 18:10
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@Choko: Thanks. Okay, so both the instances of の are actually subject markers. –  jogloran Jul 10 at 3:18
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I suppose most Japanese students grasp the basic meaning of the lyrics usually somewhere in their teens. –  naruto Jul 10 at 16:28

1 Answer 1

Turning comments into an answer. Credit should go all to the commenters on original question!

Choko:

「さざれ石(=細かい石)が巌【いわお】(=大きな岩)になって、(それに)苔【こけ】が[生]{む}す(=苔が生【は】える)まで。」って意味です。

jogloran:

Is the fact that が=の in this text commonly known to ordinary Japanese speakers?

Choko:

私学の中高に通っていた大学生は結構知らなかったりしますね・・・

College students that went to private junior and high schools often aren't aware of it...

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