lyrics by JUN TOGAWA / SHUUICHI MABE | music by VAMPILLIA
Jun Togawa’s first new song in years, off of the 2017 album of the same name. According to an interview I translated before, most of the lyrics were written by Mabe rather than Togawa, with her advising more on the general theme and specific lines. That interview also gives insight into the title – there are a number of haiku written to capture the personalities of various Sengoku period figures through what they would do with a cuckoo that would not sing. IE – kill it, make it sing, wait for it to sing or let it go. In this case, Togawa would be the cuckoo, and she would sing.
The lyrics are packed with references to the Heian period in particular, and it’s very possible I may have even missed literary references in here. I had a few people cross-reference with me but I’m pretty happy with how it stands now.
Translation and notes (of which there are many) are under the cut!
The calls of spring cuckoos announce the daybreak (1)
Teppen Kaketaka (2)
After such a long time
Hou Hokekyo (3)
With a voice like a sword that gleams when unsheathed (4)
I would be a cuckoo that sings
Songs I never learned (5)
Wetting the windows, the heavens cry
My calls are a prayer for rain
Please, wait for my call
Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo
Chun chun, piyo piyo, pii-yororo (6)
Even if the pheasant sings, it will not be shot (7)
Chun chun, piyo piyo, pii-yororo
In the quiet forest
A flock from swaying trees
High above the breath of spring flies
The cuckoo – is in front of my eyes
Is it not wonderful?
Is it not so wonderful?
What I remember is that
When I was young
To my small eyeballs
It was worth ten thousand gold pieces, hundreds of thousands (8)
Bush warblers on plum trees
Peaches and plums ripen
Is it my own dreams, or a Dream of the Red Chamber? (9)
When the east wind blows, they flourish in full bloom (10)
The calls of spring cuckoos announce the daybreak
Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo
No matter how many years pass
I will keep singing (11)
1: Duly a reference to Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, which opens with the line “Spring is dawn” and to a poem by Gotokudaiji-no-Sadaijin, “The solitary song of a bird comes from somewhere in the night sky as dawn approaches, but looking in that direction I cannot find it, and only the moon is here to comfort me.” The cuckoo is used to depict the coming of the dawn and the coming of the late spring.
2: According to Togawa, “the sound of a cuckoo’s cry.”
3: The sound a Japanese Bush Warbler makes.
4: A reference to the sword ‘murasame,’ which is described as “a sword that, when unsheathed, glitters ominously in the light.”
5: This is an allusion to the phrase ‘a child will recite unlearned sutras in front of the gate,’ which means that if you are brought up in an environment where you are exposed to knowledge, you will absorb it and become aware of it without necessarily learning it.
6: The sounds of a sparrow, a skylark, and a kite.
7: A reference to the proverb, ‘the bird that does not sing is not shot,’ which means along the same lines as ‘loose lips sink ships’ in English.
8: A reference to the famous words of Ishikawa Goemon: “The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but ‘tis too little, too little. These eyes of Goemon rate it worth ten thousand!“
9: One of the four great Chinese novels, about the rise and fall of a family in Qing Dynasty China.
10: A reference to an old Japanese poem by Heian poet Sugawara no Michizane: “When the east wind blows, flourish in full bloom, you, plum blossoms! Even though you lose your master, don’t be oblivious to spring”
11: Togawa said expressly that she wrote this part.