Fallen Castles and Summer Grass
The Epilogue departs from the Renaissance and returns to my Japanese friend’s perplexing question: why ruins after all? As it turns out, though there might not be physical ruins in East Asia, there is a long tradition of poems about ruins. When viewing the site of a fallen samurai castle in which only the tall summer grass remains, Bashō, in his fifteenth-century Journey to the Narrow North, re-writes an eighth-century Chinese poem by Du Fu. The poetics of ruins, East and West, is finally a poetics of mutability—not so much a mode of survival that depends on a work’s imperishability but rather an artistic process of continuous transmission, translation, and transformation.
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