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I found a poem by Nagai Kafu entitled 震災 (The Earthquake) in a volume of Japanese prose and poetry. It's a short poem about the Ansei Edo Earthquake (安政江戸地震) in 1855 which destroyed the red light district Yoshiwara. I reproduce the parts of the poem which I have some questions about:

今の世の若き人々

われにな問いにそ今の世と

また来る時代の藝術を

What is the structure of われにな問いにそ? I understand it's construed as a negative imperative ("Do not ask me ...") but I don't recognise the syntax.

われは明治の兒ならずや

I understand that -ならず is the 未然形 of なり, but what is the correct translation of ならず + や?

わが感激の泉とくに枯れたり

Is there an adverb とくに in this line, or am I parsing it incorrectly?

  • 1
    Isn't it われにな問いそ? な問いそ sounds unnatural in this passage. – broccoli forest Aug 31 '15 at 9:07
  • If it's really 問いにそ, we can probably interpret the に as 連用形 of 完了ぬ for emphasis. – user4092 Aug 31 '15 at 12:11
  • @user4092 ぬ's "emphasis" indicates expectancy of realization, which seems to contradict the prohibition, I think. But maybe my imagination, since I'm not a native Classical Japanese speaker... – broccoli forest Aug 31 '15 at 22:24
  • I'm not native in that aspect either. – user4092 Sep 1 '15 at 20:56
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This article seems to show what the original poem is like.

われにな問ひそ今の世と

The original text goes like this. The な V そ sandwich (V takes 連用形 except for す and 来 become 未然形, せ and こ) is a common Classical pattern for negative imperative "please don't", which is given a detailed explanation in Japanese dictionary.

われは明治の兒ならずや

negative + 係助詞 (no particular order) are combined to be rhetorical question. So here it says "Am I not a child of Meiji (times)?", or in this context, "Know you not, I am a child of Meiji?"

わが感激の泉とくに枯れたり

There is an adverb とくに, means "already"; not the one means "especially".

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I offer my translation, made thanks to the community.

Note: the names mentioned by the poet Nagai -- Dangiku, Ochi, Ichiyo, Koyo, Ryokuu, Encho, Shicho, Ryuson and Ogai Gyoshi -- were all contemporary poets, performers and figures of the Meiji period.

For some of them, Nagai describes their falling into oblivion punningly, in a manner befitting their names.

今の世の若き人々

Young people of our age,

われにな問ひそ今の世と

ask me not of the arts of our age and

また来る時代の藝術を。

those of the age to come.

われは明治の兒ならずや。

Am I not a child of the Meiji?

その文化歴史となりて葬られし時

When that culture and its history were entombed

わが青春の夢もまた消えにけり。

The dreams of my youth, too, disappeared.

團菊はしをれて桜癡は散りにき。

Dangiku dried up, and Ochi dispersed.

一葉落ちて紅葉は枯れ

Ichiyo fell, Koyo withered,

緑雨の聲も亦絶えたりき。

Ryokuu's voice too was severed.

圓朝も去れり紫蝶も去れり。

Encho passed, Shicho too.

わが感激の泉とくに枯れたり。

My wellspring of emotion too, already withered.

われは明治の兒なりけり。

I was a child of the Meiji.

或年大地俄にゆらめき

One year, the earth shook, and

火は都を燬きぬ。

Fire destroyed the capital.

柳村先生既になく

Master Ryuuson was already gone;

鴎外漁史も亦姿をかくしぬ。

Ougai Gyoshi too, vanished from our sight.

江戸文化の名残烟となりぬ。

Edo, the remnants of its culture, became as smoke.

明治の文化また灰となりぬ。

Meiji, its culture too, became as ash.

今の世のわかき人々

Young people of our age,

我にな語りそ今の世と

speak not to me of the arts of our age and

また来む時代の藝術を。

the age which be to come.

くもりし眼鏡ふくとても

Now though I wipe my clouded glasses,

われ今何をか見得べき。

what is there to see?

われは明治の兒ならずや。

Am I not a child of the Meiji?

去りし明治の世の兒ならずや。

Not a child of the Meiji age, long-gone?

  • Nice work, though I see old and new kanji jumbled together. Is this how it appears in your source text? – broccoli forest Sep 1 '15 at 11:43
  • My source actually has 来 and 残 despite the other kanji being 旧字体. This might be an error on the source's part, or a compromise for readability. Did you see any other inconsistencies? – jogloran Sep 1 '15 at 16:40
  • I see at least 桜, 歴, 緑 and 鴎 are shown in 新字体 that are computationally distinct from 旧字体. – broccoli forest Sep 4 '15 at 7:07

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