The Bussokusekikahi is a Buddha footprint monument in the Yakushi Temple in Nara which is inscribed with 21 poems. It was assumedly made in 753 around the time of the temple (and so is considered to be Old Japanese), and so are some of the oldest extant poetry in Japanese. They are written completely in ondoku (phonetic readings) using man’yougana and have a mora pattern of 5-7-5-7-7-7 (from which there are some deviations).

BSSK: 1

man’yougana
美阿止都久留
伊志乃比鼻伎波
阿米尓伊多利
都知佐閉由須礼
知ゝ波ゝ賀多米尓
毛呂比止乃多米尓
kanji
御足跡作る
石響きは
天に至り
地さへ揺すれ
父母がために
諸人のために
kana
みあとつくる
いしひびきは
あめにいたり
つちさへゆすれ
ちちははがために
もろひとのために
romanization
mi2atotukuru
isi pibikipa
ameni itari
tuti sapeyusure
titipapa ga tameni
mo1ro2pitono tameni

Vocabulary:

は (here with vocative force)
諸人 = 色々な人々

MJ Translation

ご足跡(そくせき)を作る石の響きよ、天空に届き、大地まで揺すれ!父母のために、諸人のために

English Translation

O echo of the stone which forms the footprints of Buddha, reach the heavens and shake the earth! For the sake of our mothers and fathers, for the sake of the people!

The featured image is a rubbing of the original engraving.  You can find it here.

If anyone knows where to find the whole Bussokusekikahi in the original man’yougana, please let me know!

Shinkokinshuu VIII: 800

藤原公任 Fujiwara no Kintou

Upon seeing a single autumn leaf remaining at the house of the late Middle Captain Minamoto no Nobukata in Shirakawa.

けふこずは
見でややままし
山里の
もみぢも人も
つねならぬよに
けふこずは
みでややままし
やまざとの
もみぢもひとも
つねならぬよに

Vocabulary:

やままし = 止む + まし

MJ Translation

今日来なければ、見られずになくなっただろうか。山里の紅葉も人も儚い世に(存在する)

English Translation

Had I not come today, would it, unseen, have met its end? Both a mountain village’s scarlet leaf and men live in this fleeting world.

Shinkokinshuu XIII: 1155

西行 Saigyou

あふまでの
いのちもがなと
思ひしは
くやしかりける
わが心かな
あふまでの
いのちもがなと
おもひしは
くやしかりける
わがこころかな

MJ Translation

(私達が)逢うまでの命であったらいいのにと思っていたよ。私の心は悔しいものだなあ。

English Translation

“If only my life would last until we meet,” I have thought. My heart is one with much to regret!

Optative Particle 「もがな」

A rather odd complex particle, もがな signifies a hope or wish for something to be so. It attaches to uninflecting words and the ren’youkei of unmarked or plain negative verbs/verbal adjectives.

It was commonly 「もがも」or 「もが」in Old Japanese and became「もがな」during Middle Japanese. Other forms include 「もがもよ」, 「もがもや」, 「もがもな」and 「がな」.

世の中にさらぬ別れのなくもがな - 世の中に、避けられない別れがなければいいのになあ

心あらん友もがなと - 心がちゃんとある友達がいたらいいなあと

足の音せず行かむ駒もが - 足音を立てずに行くような馬があればなあ

よからうかたきがな - よい敵がいればいいなあ

世の中は常にもがもな - 世の中はいつも同じだといいのになあ

鳥にもがもや - 鳥であったらいいなあ

石くぐる水にもがもよ - 石を通せる水であったらなあ

Note that the に in the last three examples is the ren’youkei of なり. By extension, the sense of these examples is copular: “if it were.” This is in alignment in examples where the ren’youkei of other verbs or verbal adjectives occur, such as in the first: “if there were no partings” This implies that existential verbs, namely あり, are dropped when this particle is used. We can therefore surmise that the sense of the second, third, and forth examples is existential: “if there were,” rather than “if it were.”

Shinkokinshuu XIII: 1159

伊勢 Ise

When sleeping with someone secretly.

夢とても
人にかたるな
しるといへば
たまくらならぬ
枕だにせず
ゆめとても
ひとにかたるな
しるといへば
たまくらならぬ
まくらだにせず

Vocabulary:

たまくら = 手枕

だに - (否定が伴う際)さえ

MJ Translation

夢だとしても他の人と話さないで。枕が知っていると言うから腕枕ではない枕さえ使わない

English Translation

Even if is a dream, speak to no one else, for then they say the pillow knows; if your arm is not my pillow, I’ll use none at all!

*For this poem, you should familiarize yourself with:

1) the adverbial particle だに

2) the abbreviation とても

Accusative / Perlative Case 「を」

For Japanese, the accusative case marks the direct target of the verb. Much like the dative case marker 「に」being derived from an original lative meaning, the accusative is likely derived from an earlier perlative meaning. The sense of “moving through or along” was applied to action verbs to mark the noun which the verb acts “all the way through.” This is also supported by the facts that 1) 「を」can compound with the topic particle (which sometimes results in a voiced variant 「をば」) and 2) the direct object of transitive verbs is not obligatorily marked in earlier stages of the language (which persists even in the modern language).

I have found that many sources have uses for the accusative which are not at all congruent with the basic meaning of the particle 「を」. Looking more closely at them, it is apparent that in these examples, the verb is always a verb which has some inherent sense of motion out of or away from a deictic center, which in Japanese are always transitive verbs. That is, verbs like modern 「出る」 ,「離れる」, and 「遠ざける」mark their point of separation with 「を」where most other languages with grammatical case use the ablative (“from”) if they have it.

Accusative of Place through Which (Perlative Accusative)

The accusative marks the place through, along, or past which a verb of motion is carried out. This use also applies to verbs which refer to motion through time.

あまたの御方々を過ぎさせたまひつつ - 多くの女房をお通り過ぎになっていて

千年を過ぐすとも - 千歳を過ごすとしても

宇多の松原ゆきすぐ - 宇多の松原を行く

直道を行かんとす - 近道を行こうとする

松原を経て行く - 松原を通って行く

Accusative of Direct Object

The accusative marks the direct object of transitive, volitional verbs. Note that many verbs that were once transitive have taken on other particles in Modern Japanese. As stated above, this also applies to verbs with an inherent sense of separation.

竹を取りつつ - 竹を採取しつづけて

あの国の人をえ戦はぬなり - あの国の人ととても戦えないことだ

かぐや姫のやもめなるを嘆かしければ - かぐや姫が寡婦(やもめ)になったことが嘆かわしいので

都を遠ざからんも - 都を遠ざけようも

Redundant Accusative

Sometimes, 「を」marks a direct object which is semantically similar to the verb itself; this is used for emphatic purposes.

昼は日一日(ひとひ)寝(い)をのみ寝(ね)暮らし - 昼は一日中寝ることをするだけで日を暮らし

音(ね)を鳴く

Accusative 「の」

「の」can be found designating a direct object in Genji Monogatari. It seems that in these cases, the clause in which it is used is subordinate, mirroring the alteration of 「が」 and 「の」 when marking the subject in similar clauses. It is also possible that in these cases, the construction is similar to the modern 「~がする」constructions.

珍しき様のしたれば - 珍しい様子をしたので

From the Kamakura Period onwards, it is common to see 「の」marking the direct object. This is actually the result of a final moraic /n/ occurring before particle 「を」. The process is such: /n/ + /wo/ > /nno/ (んの). This reflex can be seen in Portuguese accounts of late Middle Japanese: 仙翁花(せんをうけ)is transliterated as Xennoqe [ɕen.nō.ke].

油断のさせまいことぢゃ = 油断をさせまいことぢゃ

Goshuuishuu VIII: 491

赤染衛門 Akazome Emon

Written to Izumi Shikibu upon the departure of Tachibana no Michsada to Michinoku.

行く人も
とまるもいかに
思ふらん
別れてのちの
またの別れを
ゆくひとも
とまるもいかに
おもふらん
わかれてのちの
またのわかれを

Vocabulary:

いかに - どう

MJ Translation

去って行く人も居残るあなたもどう思うだろうか。別れた後でまた別れることを

English Translation

He who goes and you who stays behind, how do you feel, I wonder? After parting to part once more.

*For this poem, you should ask yourself:

Why is らむ chosen here?