By J. Derrick McClure
- "Noble Prince" approximately
- MIYA is "prince" and SAMA is a highly respectful honorific.
ON UMA NO MAE NI
- UMA is "horse", ON as a prefix is another honorific "your (honourable) horse". NO MAE NI is "in front of".
So "In front of your Highness's horse"
PIRA-PIRA SURU NO WA
- PIRA-PIRA is an onomatope meaning "flutter".
The whole line means "the thing which is fluttering".
NAN GIA NA?
- Just "What is it?"
GIA is not the usual transliteration: pronounce it like the Italian word GIA which means "already", i.e. pronounce it JA.
So the whole verse means
"Oh noble Prince, what is that thing which is fluttering in front of your Highness's horse?"
TOKO TONYARE TONYARE NA
has no literal meaning - it's just a series of onomatopes for musical instruments, like "Tantantara tzing boom"!
The second verse, which Gilbert didn't use, gives the answer to the question: "Know you not it is the Imperial banner of silken brocade, the sign of punishment for rebels?"
Words and music are authentic Japanese - and it is NOT the foulest ditty ever sung in the lowest tea-house in Japan!