Here are another two poems by Saigyo. During his lifetime, the political situation gradually deteriorated until the most awful civil war broke out between the Taira and the Minamoto factions. Saigyo had himself been a warrior in his youth and had become part of an imperial guard troop.

There's no gap or break
in the ranks of those marching
under the hill:
an endless line of dying men,
coming on and on and on...

As in medieval Europe there was, in those days in Japan, a genre of paintings depicting the horrors of hell. Contemplating one such picture, he wrote...

Swords on which my eyes
once fastened with delight are
here branches of trees
ascended by bodies being flogged
by barb-studded whips.

In Saigyo's mind, war and hell were similar phenomena and like most medieval people he believed that those who engaged in one were likely to also find themselves engaged in the other. Saigyo turned from being a soldier (who delighted in a good sword) to being a monk, but still worried what would be his fate in the end. Nowadays we have even more fearsome weapons.

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