The Statue of Kannon as a Boy

A Japanese medieval tale, translated by Paul S. Atkins.

When birds are about to die, they chirp softly; when humans part ways, their words touch the heart. Realizing that these words are the last someone will ever say, one pleads with the dying one about the past and the future, and it is all the more poignant and sad. The misery and pain of being separated from a loved one is something that all experience, but this grief was one that had few precedents. He who gazes at the blossoms on a spring morning laments their scattering; and he who chants poems under the moon on an autumn evening resents the cloudy sky.

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Published as a chapter of Kimbrough and Shirane (eds.), Monsters, animals, and other worlds: a collection of short medieval Japanese tales, Columbia University Press, 2018. Republished here with thanks.