Classical Japanese

Example Text

The text analyzed and translated in this section comes from spell incantations and similar text written in the style of classical Japanese. Though not as authentic as period literature would be, at least the text itself should be of more immediate interest.

Also consider skimming through my エストポリス伝記II (Lufia 2) translation, as many of the signs found in that game use classical style.

Indignation incantation from Tales of Phantasia

Although one of the game's advanced spells, being the most powerful thunder magic if I recall correctly, this is also the first one you'll see when playing the game, since it appears as the opening sequence depicts a battle that took place long ago. I believe this is also the only spell to have a voiced incantation (characters shouting just a spell's name doesn't count) in this game, and it's only heard during this opening sequence. The spell has made repeat appearances in other games in the series, at least one of them using the full incantation in a special situation despite not normally having audible spell invocations.

天光満つるところ我はあり (Tenkou mitsuru tokoro ware wa ari) ~ Where heavenly light pervades am I

Though 天光 is a rare word, the meaning is readily apparent from the kanji ('heaven' + 'light'), and a native speaker could likely guess it from pronunciation and context alone. 満つる is the pre-noun form of the verb that has now become 満ちる, and indicates filling to overflowing. ところ is simply "place". 我 takes its usual role as first-person pronoun, with は marking it as the topic. あり is the classical sentence-final form of the existence verb ある, which once applied equally well to the living as to the inanimate.

黄泉の門開くところ汝あり (Yomi no mon hiraku tokoro nanji ari) ~ Where netherworld gates unfurl art thou

黄泉 is the realm of the dead, roughly equivalent to Hades. 門 ("gate(s)") is unremarkable, with the connecting の indicating that these gates belong to the netherworld. 開く equates to "open", and may indicate either a folding outward into the space outside or more figuratively a revealing of what was previously shut away. ところ is "place" as before, 汝 is an outdated second-person pronoun, and あり is as before. I would guess that は is omitted this time to help balance the two lines, as 汝 is three morae long to the two in 我, and 黄泉の門開く is already a mora longer than 天光満つる.

出でよ、神の雷! (Ide yo, kami no ikadzuchi!) ~ Come forth, thunder of the gods!

出でよ is the archaic command form of the verb 出(い)づ (idzu, roughly "come to" or "be at"), now essentially dead except for the honorific form おいで (oide). 神 ("god", typically in the Shinto nature spirit sense) is unremarkable. 雷 ("thunder") would be as well, except that かみなり is now the preferred pronunciation, and even when the alternate older one is used, it's typically written いかずち rather than the archaic いかづち (the sounds are virtually indistinguishable, so it's a matter of style more than anything else).

Fireball (火炎球) incantation from The Slayers

Far from the most powerful spell in the Slayers universe, but it's one of Lina's favorite standbys, delivering a sizable fiery blast with (for her) minimal effort. When the incantation isn't skipped entirely, it normally goes like this:

全ての力の源よ (Subete no chikara no minamoto yo) ~ O source of all power

There's nothing of particular note in this line, except the use of よ to invoke. The rest wouldn't be too out of place in modern conversation.

輝き燃える赤き炎よ (Kagayaki moeru akaki honoo yo) ~ O brilliantly burning crimson flame

輝く ("to shine") and 燃える ("to burn") are both common verbs. 赤き uses the archaic pre-noun ~き (-ki) ending. 炎 ("flame") is another ordinary word. よ makes another invoking appearance.

我が手に集いて力となれ (Waga te ni tsudoite chikara to nare) ~ Gather in my hand and come to mine aid

我, a first-person pronoun rarely used any more, plus が acting as a connective like modern の, makes the first part "my hand". 集う (tsudou, to gather) is in the classic -te form, and would be 集って (tsudotte) in modern Japanese. となる is equivalent to になる, and the phrase 力になる is an expression meaning to assist or put forth effort on behalf of someone.

Ra Tilt (崩霊裂) incantation from The Slayers

Though the most powerful of the astral spells anyone with a human magic capacity has any chance of using, Ra Tilt has an unfortunate tendency to have very little effect. This has to do with many of the opponents they face just vastly outclassing mere humans in the astral plane, to the extent that trying to use astral magic against them in the first place is a little like trying to stop a tank with a kitchen knife. Oh well, at least the incantation is nice.

永遠と無限をたゆたいし (Towa to mugen wo tayutaishi) ~ Drifting through the eternal and infinite

永遠 would normally be pronounced えいえん (eien) rather than とわ (towa), but means the same regardless (though とわ would normally be written 永久 or 常, which themselves also have other more common readings). The trickiest part here is たゆたいし, the archaic past-tense pre-noun form of たゆたう (tayutau), an uncommon word to begin with. As near as I can make out, it involves moving around without any particular pattern or destination, something like a boat on the waves.

全ての心の源よ (subete no kokoro no minamoto yo) ~ O source of all minds

よ is used to invoke, but otherwise this is fairly unremarkable. 心 can also be translated as "heart" or "spirit".

尽きる事なき蒼き炎よ (tsukiru koto naki aoki honoo yo) ~ O undying azure flame

Both なき and 蒼き use the obsolete pre-noun ending ~き (-ki) for what are now -i adjectives. The modern language would normally have a particle (most likely の in its function as a substitute for the subject particle が in adjectival phrases) between 尽きる事 and ない as well; this phrase essentially indicates that the concept of dying out (being used up, etc.) does not exist where the flame is concerned, so in other words it will keep burning endlessly. 蒼き would typically be 青い in the modern language, and both the archaic conjugation and nonstandard kanji support using a more exotic term than the simple "blue" that would be a more typical translation. よ is again used to invoke.

我が魂の内に眠りしその力 (waga tamashii no uchi ni nemurishi sono chikara) ~ Thy power slumbering within my soul

我, a first-person pronoun rarely used any more, plus が acting as a connective like modern の, makes the first part "my soul". 眠りし is the archaic past-tense pre-noun form of 眠る, to sleep. その is most typically translated as "that", but here (as in many other cases) "your" seems more appropriate.

無限より来たりて 裁きを今ここに (mugen yori kitarite sabaki wo ima koko ni) ~ Come forth from the infinite and [bring] judgment here and now

より appears here with its "coming from" meaning rather than the "less so" meaning that tends to prevail in conversational usage. 来たりて is the old -te form of 来たる (kitaru), a less common near-synonym for the more familiar 来る that seems to place more of an emphasis on the coming here. 裁きis fairly straightforward, though perhaps not the most common term. Note also that the overall sentence is missing a verb, but the verbless [noun]+を construct is standard shorthand for "(please) bring/do [noun] (for me)" even in the modern language.

All that put together:

O source of all minds, which drifteth through the eternal and infinite, O undying azure flame, may thy power slumbering within my soul come forth from the infinite and deliver judgment here and now!

Dragon Slave (竜破斬) incantation from The Slayers

The overkill (except when it isn't) spell Lina Inverse tosses around in the Slayers franchise. Black magic in this universe works by invoking the power of mazoku (魔族, roughly equivalent to "demons"), with more potent spells requiring the invokation of specific high-level mazoku. Dragon Slave draws power from the slumbering (except when he isn't) Ruby-Eye Shabranigdu, the most powerful of them all (except not exactly). Anyway, on to the spell.

黄昏よりも昏きもの (Tasogare yori mo kuraki mono) ~ Thou yet darker than twilight

黄昏 is comparable to English "twilight". Both refer to a time of dim light, usually around sunset but sometimes also around sunrise, and are more common in poetic usage than everyday language. The combination of も as an intensifier with particles like より seems to be more common in classical, or at least poetic, language than in modern conversational usage. 昏き ("dark") exhibits both a kanji no longer used for this adjective and the obsolete pre-noun ending ~き (-ki) for what are now -i adjectives; it would be 暗い (kurai) in the modern language. Choosing 昏 instead of 暗 also heightens the parallel with 黄昏 in addition to producing an archaic flavor. Referring to a person (or the equivalent) as もの (者) has also fallen out of common usage, in favor of 人 (hito), though it remains in use in more limited circumstances. Since this is an invocation, rather than a simple description, I chose to translate it as "thou [who art]" rather than "one [who is]". Plain modern language might write the whole line as something more like 日暮れより暗い存在 (literally, "being that is darker than nightfall").

血の流れより紅きもの (Chi no nagare yori akai mono) ~ Thou more crimson than flowing blood

血の流れ ("flow of blood") is unremarkable and, other than the unlikely subject matter, would not be out of place in modern conversation. I'm almost surprised it's not 流るる血 instead, using the pre-noun conjugation of the old verb 流る (nagaru) that has since evolved into 流れる (nagareru). より appears without も this time, probably to balance out the number of morae (ta-so-ga-re has four to the five in chi-no-na-ga-re). The adjective again uses a (now) nonstandard kanji and the ~き ending, calling for a more exotic term in translation than the simple "red" 赤い (akai) most often becomes. もの is as before.

時の流れに埋もれし (Toki no nagare ni umoreshi) ~ Buried in the flow of time

First, note that this is not an independent clause, but an adjectival phrase that modifies the noun in the following line (汝). 時の流れ ("flow of time") is another unremarkable phrase, but perhaps the parallel with this line explains the phrasing of the previous one. The verb is 埋もる ("to be buried"), supplanted by 埋もれる in the modern language, and conjuated here into a past tense pre-noun form, equivalent to modern 埋もれた except that it must modify a noun and cannot be sentence-final, which is why it's clear that this phrase does not stand on its own.

偉大なる汝の名において (Idai naru nanji no na ni oite) ~ Upon thy great name

偉大 ("great" in the sense of being vast or glorious) is one of those words that still exists but would sound pompous if used in conversation. Note the use of なる rather than な for noun modification, as was once standard for this class of adjectives. 汝 is the textbook classical second-person pronoun, now as defunct as English's "thou". 名 is just a less common word for "name". The において indicates that it is upon this name that the vow in the following line is sworn. Strictly speaking, 偉大なる appears to modify 汝 rather than 名, so it is thou who art great, not thy name as such, but it's essentially the same thing in this context.

我ここに闇に誓わん (Ware koko ni yami ni chikawan) ~ I hereby swear unto darkness

我 is a first-person pronoun rarely used any more. ここ ("here"), as in modern usage, can signify a point in time as easily as a point in space. 闇 ("darkness") is unremarkable. 誓わん is an archaic volitional form of 誓う ("to vow"), making this in effect a statement of intent. What is being sworn appears in the following lines.

我等が前に立ち塞がりし (Warera ga mae ni tachifusagarishi) ~ Standing in our way

Like the third line, this is an adjectival phrase that modifies the noun in the line after it. 我等 is a pluralization of 我, making it effectively "we", with the が acting as a connective like modern の, so 我等が前 equates to "in front of us". 立ち塞がる ("stand" + "be blocked") indicates blocking the way, necessitating the 前 since it refers to blocking off a location or route, not directly to blocking a person. The verb is in a past tense pre-noun form, so this whole line modifies もの in the next line.

すべての愚かなるものに (Subete no oroka naru mono ni) ~ To all foolish ones

すべての ("all of the") is unremarkable. 愚かなる, like 偉大なる before it, uses なる rather than the modern な, and is a more bookish way of saying "fool" than the various insults more popular in recent times. もの is as before, though this time it refers to different someones. The に indicates them as the recipients, or more accurately targets, of what the final line confers.

我と汝が力もて (Ware to nanji ga chikara mote) ~ By my power and thine

我 and 汝 should look familiar by now, as well as が acting to connect, in this case forming a possessive. と performs its usual function of indicating that both (我 and 汝) are involved. 力 ("power") is unremarkable. もて ("by means of") is equivalent to modern で or によって.

等しく滅びを与えんことを (Hitoshiku horobi wo ataen koto wo) ~ The indiscriminate conferral of ruin

等しく is the adverbial form of an adjective indicating equivalence. I might normally translate it as "equally", but here the emphasis is that all those who are in the way will meet this same fate, so "indiscriminate" seems more appropriate. An English adjective fits better than an adverb because the verb is ultimately being nominalized in English; while much the same thing is happening in Japanese conceptually, it's still grammatically a verb there. 滅び, from the verb 滅ぶ, equates to "ruin", and should be familiar to modern-day speakers of the language, even if it's not the sort of thing to come up in a typical conversation. 与えん is the archaic volitional form of the modern verb 与える, which is similar to both "bestow" and "inflict", but does not inherently have either the positive connotations of the former or the negative connotations of the latter. The こと roughly means "act of doing" in this context, and serves to nominalize the verb. Finally, the を makes these four lines the object, or perhaps it would be preferable to say the content, of the vow mentioned above.

All that put together:

Thou yet darker than twilight, thou more crimson than flowing blood, upon the great name of thou who art buried in the flow of time I hereby swear unto darkness the indiscriminate conferral of ruin by my power and thine upon all foolish ones who would stand in our way!

Giga Slave (重破斬) incantation from The Slayers

Unfortunately for her, Lina has a tendency to find herself in situations where Dragon Slave just isn't overkill enough. There are even times when it barely has any effect at all. So what's a girl to do when her mass destruction spell isn't working? If you guessed an even more ridiculously powerful spell, drawing from an even more powerful entity, one that's so dangerous it's incredibly risky to even attempt to cast it, maybe you know Lina Inverse a little too well. Still, even she hesitates to use it, and won't even consider it unless in dire need. I believe the canonical backstory is that she found some information about the legendary Lord of Nightmares and tried weaving it into the Dragon Slave incantation, which explains the similarity between the two.

闇よりもなお昏きもの (Yami yori mo nao kuraki mono) ~ Thou yet darker than the very darkness

Compare to the first line of Dragon Slave, except that here we're comparing to darkness instead of mere twilight, and there's an extra なお (roughly, "moreso") thrown in to strengthen the contrast. So we're invoking an entity so dark that even darkness itself seems bright and cheery by comparison. Is this really a good idea?

夜よりもなお深きもの (Yoru yori mo nao fukaki mono) ~ Thou yet deeper than the very night

Like the above, but instead of darkness we're now talking about a depth deep enough to make the deepest depths of night comparatively shallow. On a usage note, 深き is the precursor to modern 深い (fukai).

混沌の海にたゆたいし (Konton no umi ni tayutaishi) ~ Drifting on the Sea of Chaos
or   混沌の海よ たゆたいし存在 (Konton no umi yo, tayutaishi mono/sonzai) ~ O Sea of Chaos, drifting one

混沌 is an uncommon term that refers to chaos, sometimes in general, but especially to primordial chaos-before-there-was-order. Sea of Chaos is capitalized as a proper noun, being the chaotic nothingness that exists outside of the four worlds of the Slayers multiverse. As noted for Ra Tilt, たゆたいし is the archaic past-tense pre-noun form of たゆたう, an uncommon word that involves moving around without any particular pattern or destination, something like a boat on the waves. 存在 here may be pronounced either そんざい as it normally is or as もの.

There are two versions of this line. The first is used in the unperfected spell, originally crafted before Lina knew what she was dealing with. After further investigation into the nature of the entity the spell invokes, she refines it, but while the perfected version is more powerful, it's also, if anything, even more difficult to control, which isn't quite what she was going for.

金色なりし闇の王 (Konjiki narishi yami no ou) ~ Golden sovereign of darkness

金色 is straightforward (even if the usual pronunciation is kin'iro rather than konjiki), though note that it refers to a golden color, not to gold the metal. なりし is the past-tense pre-noun form of the にある used with classical adjectives of this type, and would just be な (or だった, though the past tense seems to be more a grammatical artifact than anything truly meaningful) in the modern language.

我 ここに汝に願う (Ware koko ni nanji ni negau) ~ I hereby implore of thee

我 and 汝 are archaic first- and second-person pronouns, respectively. ここ ("here"), as in modern usage, can signify a point in time as easily as a point in space. 願う ("to wish", "to ask for a favor") remains a common verb.

我 ここに汝に誓う (Ware koko ni nanji ni chikau) ~ I hereby swear unto thee

Same as above, but with 誓う ("to vow"). Note the use of the more direct simple sentence-final form, as opposed to the volitional form used in Dragon Slave.

我が前に立ち塞がりし / すべての愚かなるものに / 我と汝が力もて / 等しく滅びを与えんことを (Waga mae ni tachifusagarishi / Subete no oroka naru mono ni / Ware to nanji ga chikara mote / Hitoshiku horobi wo ataen koto wo) ~ I hereby swear unto darkness the indiscriminate conferral of ruin by my power and thine upon all foolish ones who would stand in my way

The ending portion is identical to Dragon Slave, except that it usually begins with 我が (my) instead of 我等が (our) in the part about those standing in the way.

All that put together:

(unperfected) Thou yet darker than the very darkness, thou yet deeper than the very night, thou drifting upon the Sea of Chaos, golden sovereign of darkness, I hereby implore of thee, I hereby swear unto thee, the indiscriminate conferral of ruin by my power and thine upon all foolish ones who would stand in my way!

(perfected) Thou yet darker than the very darkness, thou yet deeper than the very night, O Sea of Chaos, thou drifting one, golden sovereign of darkness, I hereby implore of thee, I hereby swear unto thee, the indiscriminate conferral of ruin by my power and thine upon all foolish ones who would stand in my way!

Ragna Blade (神滅斬) incantation from The Slayers

So Lina's Dragon Slave, though overkill in routine situations, sometimes isn't enough in a real crisis, but the stronger Giga Slave takes an obscene toll on the caster and risks destroying the known universe if something goes wrong. Ragna Blade comes from her efforts to find a useful compromise between manageability and raw power, invoking the same source as Giga Slave, but not so much of it.

悪夢の王の一片よ (Akumu no ou no hitokake yo) ~ O fragment of the Lord of Nightmares

よ for invokation and a fairly nonstandard reading of 一片. While 悪夢の王 in Slayers is typically read ロード・オブ・ナイトメア as a phonetic approximation of English "Lord of Nightmare[s]", here the standard Japanese pronunciation is used.

This opening line is added when Lina perfects the spell, and is not found in the imperfect version.

[天空 / 世界] のいましめ解き放たれし (Sora no imashime tokihanatareshi) ~ Loosed from the bindings of [the heavens / the world]

いましめ may apear to be the noun form of the verb 戒める ("to admonish"), but 縛め ("bonds") fits better. 解き放たれし is the passive past-tense pre-noun form of 解き放つ ("to set free"). から to link them (freed from bonds) is implied.

天空 (a loftier term for "sky") appears in the unperfected version and is replaced with 世界 ("world", "realm", etc.) once Lina perfects the spell. Both are pronounced そら ("sky"). I believe the implication is that before perfecting it, Lina thought of the energy as coming more or less out of thin air, then later realizes it's more a matter of taking some of the essence of the Lord of Nightmares that's tied up in manifesting physical reality as we know it and temporarily reverting it to a state of chaos, sort of like if science came up with a way to convert matter into energy at will.

凍れる黒き虚無の刃よ (Kooreru kuroki utsuro no yaiba yo) ~ O freezing black blade of nothingness

凍れる equates to modern 氷る, and 黒き to 黒い. 虚無 ("nothingness"), other than being pronounced here as 虚ろ ("empty"), is remarkably straighforward. 刃 refers more to the cutting edge of a bladed weapon than to the weapon itself, and remains a common enough term.

我が力、我が身となりて (Waga chikara, waga mi to narite) ~ Be my power, my self,

我が as "my" again, and となりて instead of modern になって. Interestingly, the phrase 我が身 still remains in general use.

共に滅びの道を歩まん (Tomo ni horobi no michi wo ayuman) ~ Let us together walk the path of destruction

歩まん is an archaic volitional form of 歩む ("to walk", typically in a more abstract sense than physically walking). The rest is fairly straightforward.

神々の魂すらも打ち砕き (Kamigami no tamashii sura mo uchikudaki) ~ Shattering even the very souls of the gods

打ち砕く combines 打つ ("to hit") with 砕く ("to break into pieces"), so picture a sledge hammer striking a pane of glass. Putting すら and も together just stresses how extreme the concept of shattering the souls of gods is. Since 打ち砕く was a yodan (and is now a godan) verb, 打ち砕き must be the conjuctive form, linking this into the previous line rather than making it stand on its own.

All that put together:

(perfected version) O fragment of the Lord of Nightmares, O freezing black blade of nothingness loosed from the bindings of the world, be my power, my self, and let us together walk the path of destruction, shattering even the very souls of the gods.

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