Death poems were traditionally written by ageing samurai, monks, clerks and other literate / upper class people. It seems to be a way to die with dignity, although I’m also 100% on board with the “rage, rage against the dying of the light” response.
They often had patriotic overtones. Narushima Chuhachiro:
For eighty years and more, by the grace of my sovereign
and my parents, I have lived
with a tranquil heart
between the flowers and the moon.
This next was written by suicide-torpedoist Kuroki Hiroshi in 1944:
This brave man
so filled with love for his country
that he finds it difficult to die
is calling out to his friends and about to die
but they could be irreverent too. Moriya Sen’an:
Bury me when I die
beneath a wine barrel
in a tavern.
the cask will leak.
- Parting Shot, review of a book about them
- Wikipedia article on death poems
(both with more examples)
(Painting is not really related: ‘Hanaogi of the Ogiya’ by Chobunsai Eishi, ca. 1794.)
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