Jlit Net
One Hundred Poems

One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

 


 
Poem 21
 
 
 

   ima komu to

iishi bakari ni

   Nagatsuki no

ariake no tsuki o

machiidetsuru kana

   Simply because

he promised to come soon,

   I have waited through

the long Ninth Month night to see

the early-morning moon appear.

-- Priest Sosei

 

Comments

This poem is taken from the fourth "Love" section of the Kokinshū. The poet, whose lay name was Yoshimine no Harutoshi, was the son of Bishop Henjō (see Poem 12) and is counted among the "36 immortals" (Sanjūrokkasen) of Heian poetry. He lived from the second half of the ninth century to the beginning of the 10th century.

Since the male poet is giving expression to a woman's feelings, this can be considered a sort of verse by proxy (daiei). Under the pre-Meiji lunar calendar, the ninth month was called Nagatsuki (Long Month) because of the lengthening nights. Here the effect is to juxtapose the length of a late-autumn night with the deepening frustration and resentment of the forsaken narrator, who has in effect spent the night waiting to see the early-morning moon -- a time when under different circumstances the woman's lover would instead be bidding a reluctant farewell. The compound verb machiidetsuru in the last line is somewhat of a portmanteau word in that the subject of the first verb is the woman ("I have waited"), while the subject of the second verb is the moon ("and it has appeared"). Since ariake no tsuki refers to a waning moon that remains in the sky even after dawn, it should probably be assumed that the time of composition is when the woman was prompted to take note of the moon's lingering presence rather than that the moon was not visible at all up to that point. It is, in fact, the lingering moon that ironically evokes the image of the absent lover. For information about the phases of the moon, see the Reference pages.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1:  immediately | will-come | so
  • Line 2:  saying | merely | because
  • Line 3:  Ninth Month | 's
  • Line 4:  dawn | 's | moon | (accusative particle)
  • Line 5:  (I)-waited- (it)-appeared | !

 
Poem 22
 
 
 

   fuku kara ni

aki no kusaki no

   shiorureba

mube yamakaze o

arashi to iu ramu

   As soon as it blows,

the autumn leaves and grasses

   start to wilt and fade--

one sees the reason for calling

the mountain wind a tempest.

-- Fun'ya no Yasuhide

 

Comments

The source is the second "Autumn" section of the Kokinshū. Although the poet is one of the "six immortals" (Rokkasen) mentioned in the Preface of the Kokinshū, little is known of him other than he flourished in the middle of the ninth century. His son, Fun'ya no Asahisa, is also represented in the One Hundred Poems collection (Poem  37).

The meaning of the poem relies on visual and semantic wordplay that defies smooth translation. The Japanese word arashi ("storm" or "tempest") comes from a verb that means "devastate" or "lay waste to." However, the Chinese character used here to write the word (嵐) is itself a compound of the ideographs for "mountain" and "wind." The poet playfully refers to this etymology to make the point that the fierce autumn winds that blow off the mountains can be said to devastate the foliage of summer.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1:  (it)-blows | as-soon-as
  • Line 2:  autumn | 's | grass-and-trees | as-for
  • Line 3: because- fade-and-droop (a combination of the verb shioru and the particle -ba, indicating cause or reason)
  • Line 4:  one-understands | mountain-wind | (accusative particle)
  • Line 5:  tempest | (quotation particle) | call | would-seem-why (ramu is a particle indicating supposition about cause, and is connected grammatically with mube to mean "one sees that this would be the reason for calling the "mountain wind" a "tempest")

 
Poem 23
 
 
 

   tsuki mireba

senzen ni mono koso

   kanashikere

wa ga mi hitotsu no

aki ni wa aranedo

   When I see the moon,

a thousand thoughts conspire

   to sadden my heart

even though autumn, it is true,

was not made for me alone.

-- Ōe no Chisato

 

Comments

This waka was taken from the first "Autumn" section of the Kokinshū. The poet, who was active from the second half of the ninth century, was a nephew of Ariwara no Yukihira (Poem 16) and Ariwara no Narihira (Poem 17).

The sadness of autumn, now taken for granted as a typically Japanese sentiment, appears to have emerged as a poetic topic in the early Heian period, under the influence of Chinese poetry. Here there is a witty (though not overly so) contrast made between the "thousands" of thoughts that beset the poet upon gazing at the autumn moon and the poet's realization that although he experiences these thoughts at the "single" or individual level, he is not alone in his feelings. It is an evocative way of dealing with the paradox of the conventionality of deeply personal feelings. The last two lines represent a grammatical inversion (tōchi), a reversal that creates an ironic distance that meliorates the conventionally recognized sadness of autumn.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1:  moon | when-see
  • Line 2:  thousands | by-the | things (are) | indeed |
  • Line 3:  sad (the adjective is conjugated to correspond with the koso of the previous line)
  • Line 4:  I | 's | body | single-thing | 's
  • Line 5:  autumn | wherein | as-for | though-be-not (i.e., "though it be not an autumn that belongs to oneself alone")

 
Poem 24
 
 
 

   kono tabi wa

nusa mo toriaezu

   tamukeyama

momiji no nishiki

kami no ma ni ma ni

   Plain hemp will not do

for a mountain offering

   as the excursion begins;

surely it will better please the gods

to offer a brocade of autumn leaves.

-- Kanke

 

Comments

This waka comes from the "Travel" section of the Kokinshū. "Kanke" is a reference to Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), the famous Minister of the Right who died in exile in Kyushu and was later deified as the god of learning (Tenjin-sama). The headnote to the poem states that it was composed at the beginning of an imperial excursion to Nara by the retired Emperor Uda.

Once translated the meaning seems clear enough -- the poet feels that the customary offering of cloth to the gods of travel at the beginning of an excursion would suffer by comparison to the richly colored autumn scenery, so he proposes instead to have the scenery itself serve as an offering. It does take a  little thought, however, to connect the Japanese phrase kami no ma ni ma ni with main sense of the poem. Two poetic techniques are involved: the pivot word (kakekotoba) that plays on the meaning of tabi as both "trip" and "this time" (the latter rather freely rendered as "as ... begins"), and the metaphorical "likening" (mitate) of the colorful autumn eaves to rich brocade. Whether the metaphor should be considered evocative or pedantically witty is where opinion may differ. (For tamukeyama, I have followed the interpretation that takes the word as a generic term rather than as a place name; to translate nusa I have used what seems to be most representative type of cloth for this purpose.)

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1:  this | time / trip | as-for
  • Line 2:  hemp | even | not-be-worth-offering ("proffer" + capability + "not")
  • Line 3:  mountain-where-offerings-made
  • Line 4:  autumn-leaves | 's | brocade
  • Line 5:  god(s) | 's | in-accordance-with (their will)

 
Poem 25
 
 
 

   na ni shi owaba

Ōsakayama no

   sanekazura

hito ni shirarede

kuru yoshi mogana

   If the “bedsharing vine”

found on Mount Ōsaka were

   merely true to its name,

I would have the perfect means

to draw you unseen to my side.

-- Minister of the Right Sanjō

 

Comments

The poem is taken from the third "Love" section of the Gosenshū. The Minister of the Right Sanjō is a reference to Fujiwara no Sadakata (873-932), who had a residence in Sanjō.

Three pivot words (kakekotaba) are used to supply figurative connections between natural description and personal desire: the "Ō" of "Ōsaka" conventionally corresponds to the verb au (pronounced "ou" and meaning "meet"); the sane of sanekazura plays on a homonym meaning "sleep together"; and kuru can be taken either as "come" or as "reel toward" (i.e., the poet's drawing the woman toward him as though teasing a vine from a tree). Further, au and sane are related words (engo), as are kuru and sanekazura. Apparently there is a need to keep secret the relationship between the poet and the woman he addresses. Thus, the poet wishes there were a means of meeting the woman without the knowledge of others, and the aptly named vine that grows on the aptly named mountain would seem to offer the best hope of doing so. The almost excessive wittiness of the conceit is largely offset by the desperate strength of the man's desire.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1:  name | proper-to | ! | if-have
  • Line 2:  Mount Ōsaka | 's
  • Line 3:  sleep-together-with-vine
  • Line 4:  people | to | unseen
  • Line 5:  come (with reference to drawing toward) | means | wish-there-were

 
Poem 26
 
 
 

   Ogurayama

mine no momijiba

   kokoro araba

mata hitotabi no

miyuki matanamu

   O autumn leaves

on Mount Ogura’s peak--

   if you have a heart,

before falling you might wait

for a second imperial excursion.

-- Teishin-kō

 

Comments

This poem is taken from the "Miscellaneous Autumn" section of the Shūishū anthology of waka, which was completed at the beginning of the 11th century. Teishinkō was the posthumous name given to Fujiwara no Tadahira (880-949), who served as regent and chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Suzaku and Emperor Murakami and prepared the way for the peak of Fujiwara influence.

The headnote to the poem in the Shūishu says it was composed by Tadahira during or after an excursion to Ogura by former Emperor Uda, who expressed his wish that Emperor Daigo might also enjoy the colorful autumn scenery.  Mount Ogura was one of the most famous Heian locations for viewing autumn foliage, and the poet here addresses it directly (the technique of gijinhō, or personification). Technically speaking, the reading miyuki is used for two different combinations of Chinese characters. When written as 行幸, the reference is to an excursion by the reigning emperor, while as 御幸, the reference is to an excursion by an abdicated or cloistered emperor (or one of the reigning emperor's close female relatives or consorts). The versions that appear in the headnote make it clear that the "second," hoped-for excursion would be the one by the reigning emperor, Daigo. This can be considered a good example of the context provided by such headnotes, problematizing the tendency to read waka as "discrete" poems.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1:  Mount Ogura
  • Line 2:  peak | 's | autumn-leaves
  • Line 3:  heart | if-have
  • Line 4:  again | once-more | 's
  • Line 5:  imperial-excursion | should-await

 
Poem 27
 
 
 

   Mikanohara

wakite nagaruru

   Izumigawa

itsu miki tote ka

koishikaru ramu

   The Izumi River

surges on its course through

   the Mikano Plain,

but when would I have met you

to be so overwhelmed by love?

-- Middle Counselor Kanesuke

 

Comments

This waka first appears in the "Travel" section of the Kokin wakashū. As a youth, Abe (698-770) was sent by the Nara court to study in China, where he spent 54 years (including a period as the Chinese governor-general of Vietnam) before dying in Chang'an.

This relatively straightforward poem, said to have been composed before Abe made an abortive attempt to return to Japan, is conventionally held to reveal both the strength of his affection for his homeland and a poignant awareness of the intervening years spent in China. Two place names are mentioned: Kasuga and Mount Mikasa. The former refers to an area in present-day Nara between Nara Park and Kasuga Shrine; the latter is a mountain located to the back of the same shrine, between Mount Wakakusa and Mount Takamado. The ending particle kamo in the last line is characteristic of Nara-period usage (Abe's dates are 698-770), adding exclamatory force to what has been said.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1: Mikano Plain
  • Line 2: arise | flow
  • Line 3: Izumi River
  • Line 4: when | did-meet | so-saying (quotation particle to combined with te, which is often described as an abbreviated form of the verb "say" or "think"; the effect is something like "when could I be said to have...) | ?
  • Line 5:  feel-love | (partical for speculating about causes or reasons)

 
Poem 28
 
 
 

   yamasato wa

fuyu zo sabishisa

    masarikeru

hitome mo kusa mo

karenu to omoeba

  In a mountain village

winter is when one's sadness

  grows truly deep--

so it seems once visits have ceased

and grasses have withered away.

 

-- Minamoto no Muneyuki

 

Comments

This waka appears in the "Winter" section of the Kokinshū. Minamoto no Muneyuki (?-939), a grandson of Emperor Kōkō (see Poem 15), was frustrated in his attempts to advance within the Heian bureacracy.

The poem is an example of the use of tōchihō (grammatical inversion) in which the last two lines form the reason for making the statement in the first three lines (creating a syntactic break after the third line of a waka is termed sankugire). In addition, karenu is a kakekotoba that refers both to the deprivation of human company and to the withering of plants with the onset of winter. The effect is to produce a sense of discovery about the nature of life in isolation from the capital.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1: mountain village | as-for
  • Line 2: winter | ! | sadness
  • Line 3: increases (the -keru suffix connotes exclamation and is inflected to match the emphatic particle zo)
  • Line 4: people's-visits | also | grasses | also
  • Line 5: have-become-sparse / have-withered | so | upon-thinking

 
Poem 29
 
 
 

    kokoroate ni

oraba ya oramu

    hatsushimo no

okimadowaseru

shiragiku no hana

   Shall I try to guess

where I must break one off?

   These mums of white

cloaked so deceptively

in the year's first frost.

-- Ōshikōchi no Mitsune

 

Comments

This poem comes from the second "Autumn" section of the Kokinshū. The poet was a low-ranking bureaucrat who lived from the second half of the ninth century into the early tenth century; he was one of the compilers of the Kokinshū anthology.

Tōchihō (grammatical inversion) is employed again here, in this waka creating a break afer the second line (nikugire). The elegant confusion in the poet's mind serves to emphasize the whiteness of the mums, which have become virtually indistinguishable from each other and from the frost that camouflages them (the first frost of the year normally falls between late autumn and early winter).

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1: heart's-guidance | by
  • Line 2: if-I-break | ? | shall-I-break
  • Line 3: first-frost | 's
  • Line 4: lying-on-making-deceptive
  • Line 5: white-mum | 's | blossoms

 
Poem 30
 
 
 

    ariake no

tsurenaku mieshi

    wakare yori

akatsuki bakari

uki mono wa nashi

   Ever since we parted

under the indifferent gaze

   of the lingering moon,

nothing brings more anguish than

the approach of each new dawn.

-- Mibu no Tadamine

 

Comments

This poem was taken from the third "Love" section of the Kokinshū. Mibu no Takamine (fl. ca. 900) was one of the compilers of that collection; his son composed Poem 41 of the One Hundred Poems.

Tthis is a straightforward poem grammatically, although there is some question about whether the poet is lamenting the indifference of the moon or the cruelty of separation itself (or perhaps both). In any case, the lingering moon is a conventional symbol of the poet's reluctance to depart, and charging it with indifference lends an added touch of anguish regarding the poet's inability to repeat the tryst in the days that  have followed. It should be noted that in classical Japanese the word akatsuki does not refer to sunrise but to the period before that when the sky is still dark.

Literal rendition and notes

  • Line 1: moon-at-dawn | 's
  • Line 2: indifferently | appearing
  • Line 3: parting | from
  • Line 4: approaching-dawn | so-much
  • Line 5: distasteful | thing | as-for | nonexisting