I bought the book "Breaking into Japanese Literature - Seven Modern Classics in Parallel text" and burned some billions of neurons to (try to) understand just the first page (lol).

Well, I am having problems with this sentence (from 第一夜【だいいちや】 by 夏目漱石):


I know the meaning of the individual words:

  • 潤​【うるおい】 moisture, tenderness
  • 睫​【まつげ】 eyelashes
  • 包む​【つつむ】 wrap, cover
  • ただ only, just
  • 一面​【いちめん】 the whole surface/expanse
  • 真っ黒​【まっくろ】 pure black

Translation given by the book (which doesn't help much...):

Whereupon she opened her eyes and replied, "Yes, I will die--of that I am certain". Her eyes were large and moist and beneath their long shading lashes were twin expanses of the jettest black. My clearly mirrored image was floating in the depths of those jet black eyes.

I understand the first phrase, but the second and third just don't enter in my mind.

  • 大きな潤のある眼で in the big and wet eye,
  • 長い睫に包まれた中は in the centre of something wrapped in the long eyelashes (??) I just don't understand... And by the way, how do I read the 中 after 包まれた?
  • ただ一面に真黒であった (????)

I would be really grate if someone helped me... Thank you very much in advance!


1 Answer 1


First, permit me to point out a couple of words that you seem to be reading incorrectly.

大きな潤のある眼in the big and wet eye

「で」 ≠ "in"

This 「で」 is an auxiliary verb, not a location particle. More precisely, 「で」 is the [連用形]{れんようけい} of the affirmation auxiliary verb 「だ」. (As you are already reading novels, I assume that you are familiar with the proper Japanese names for all the verb and adjective conjugation forms.)

~~で、~~ = "X is ~~ and ~~"

長い睫に包まれたは、??in the centre of something wrapped in the long eyelashes??(wtf?)

「中」 ≠ "center of something"

Though it may not be too far off, 「中」 here means "the inside". The author is (almost) likening her eyes to a larger object that is wrapped (and partially concealed).

by the way, how do I read the 中 after 包まれた?

It is read 「なか」. No other possibilities there.

ただ一面に真黒であった, WTF???

Really? No TL attempt to show us? If you just looked up 「一面」 and 「真黒」, you could not go very wrong.

My own literal translation:

"(They/Those) were large and moist eyes and wrapped inside the long eyelashes lay the whole surfaces of complete jet black."

  • May I ask how ただ modifies the verb clause ただ一面に真黒であった? Would anything change in the literal sense if it were removed?
    – cirno
    Mar 12, 2015 at 15:56
  • ただ could be rendered as "simply" or "only" (which probably is the source of the "est" in "jettest" for the translation the book offered). Although it might not change much in translation, it feels like a necessary component in saying "all there was, was __" /2cents
    – sova
    Mar 13, 2015 at 0:23

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