I'm reading 仮面の告白 by Mishima Yukio, and I came across this sentence:

そのほか に縄目は見えず、青年の裸体を覆うものとては、腰のまわりにゆるやか に巻きつけられた 白い粗布があるばかりだった。

I would like to understand how is this sentence made by the particles とて and ばかり and by the use of verbs like 覆う and ある in their terminal form.

The first part (青年の裸体を覆うものとては) seems right to me, with a relative clause (青年の裸体を覆う) modifying もの and then a particle (とて), wich I believe needs to be at the end of the clause, and so は, but why 覆う is in its terminal form and not in its past -た form if this is a literary text?

The second part (腰のまわりにゆるやかに巻きつけられた白い粗布があるばかりだった) seems more complex to me, with another relative clause (腰のまわりにゆるやかに巻きつけられた), this time with its verb 巻きつけられた in its past -た form, modifying 白い粗布, but then followed by another verb (ある) and then a particle (ばかり) and then one last verb (だった). What is the purpose of ある and だった in this sentence? I think they are related to ばかり, and even とて.

Also, I noticed は is used in the first part and then が in the sencond part. Does it mean this is a contrastive construction?


  • 1
    I believe this 覆うものとては is a typo for 覆うものとては. There is a particle とて, but it does not fit in the context. Does the sentence make sense if it were 覆うものとしては?
    – naruto
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 2:08
  • Well, the sentence makes sense for me, but what I want to know is the grammatical rules that make it possible. Anyways, I think とて wouldn't be that different from として, since other translations for this text I have already consulted seem to agree with the meaning of any of them.
    – Daniel
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 3:29
  • とて and として are as different as night and day! I'd say とて would make no sense in this context. Looks like the translations you've seen so far assume this とて is actually として. (I don't know if it's Mishima's mistake or someone else's mistake)
    – naruto
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 4:02
  • I read this とては as (meaning the same thing as) と言っては/と言えば, a substitution that turns the sentence more familiar-sounding to my ear, but without, I think, changing the meaning. This reading is sort of borne out by the paraphrastic glosses "といって" for とて and "と言っては" for とては given by online dictionaries. Searching further afield, in Google Books, we can find a lot of examples similar in construction to our case at hand, like 「無恥を慰するものとてはこれより外にはない」and「見ゆるものとては山々の燃え立つような紅葉もみじばかり」.
    – goldbrick
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 4:44
  • Correction: One of the examples quoted (from 読書八境 by 市島春城) above has「無恥を慰する」 but it is in fact「無聊を慰する」. (無恥 'shamelessness' 無聊 'boredom, gloom')
    – goldbrick
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 8:49

1 Answer 1

  • Regarding this ~とては, I initially thought this was a typo, but this seems to be a valid construction taken from an archaic grammar pattern, meaning "Speaking of ~" or something. See @goldbrick's comment. Usually ~としては ("As for ~", "As ~", "From ~'s standpoint", "As far as ~ is concerned") is used in modern standard Japanese.

  • ~があるばかりだ is "there is only ~" or "all that is there is ~". It's semantically the same as ~があるだけだ.

  • 巻きつけられた is in the past tense because of this rule.

  • は is used in the first part of the sentence because of this rule. が is used near the end of the sentence simply because 白い粗布 has not been introduced in the discourse. There is no contrast in particular in this sentence.

All in all, a literal translation would look like:

Speaking of things that covers his naked body, ...

there was only a white rag loosely wrapped around his waist.

  • Yes, that's what I though of ~とては and ~としては . Now, I have a question: When one writes ~があるばかりだ or ~があるだけだ, it has to be [noun] + [particle] + [verb in terminative form] + ばかり/だけ + だ? Or can the sentence change?
    – Daniel
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 21:49
  • 1
    @Daniel More generally, attributive-clause + だけ/ばかり + だ. 「見ていただけです "I was just watching"」「難しいだけで、不可能じゃない」「君が参加しても邪魔なだけだよ」
    – naruto
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 3:30
  • 1
    ¡Of course! I was so blind. ばかり and だけ are nouns. It's exactly like English "it's (です) just (だけ) that I was watching (見ていた)" or Spanish "es (です) sólo (だけ) que estaba viendo (見ていた)". Thanks a lot.
    – Daniel
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 16:50

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