One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

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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 spent the long

Ninth Month waiting only for

the lingering moon to appear.

-- Priest Sosei


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.

In this waka, a male poet is adopting the persona of a woman, resulting in 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 greet 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 something 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"). Ariake no tsuki refers to a moon that rises late enough to remain visible in the early morning sky (during the second half of the lunar month). It should probably be assumed that the poet has been prompted to take note of the moon's presence rather than it being that the moon has suddenly revealed itself at the time of composition. For more 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


mube yamakaze o

arashi to iu ramu


   As soon as it blows,

the autumn trees and grasses

   start to droop and fade--

the reason, it seems, a mountain wind

has come to be called a tempest.

-- Fun'ya no Yasuhide


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 easy translation. The Japanese word arashi ("storm" or "tempest") derives from a verb that means "devastate" or "lay waste to." That verb would be normally be written with a specific Chinese character (荒, signifying "violent" or "fierce"). At the same time, the Chinese character used to write the noun arashi () is a combination of the ideographs for "mountain" and "wind." The poet playfully refers to the word's etymology to make the point that the fierce autumn winds that blow off the mountains can be said to lay waste to the foliage of summer. It is a pretty slight verse.

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 (implies speculation)| mountain-wind | (accusative particle)
  • Line 5:  tempest | (quotation particle) | call | would-seem-why (ramu is a particle indicating supposition about cause; it is connected grammatically with the preceding mube to mean something like "one sees that this would be the reason for calling a "mountain wind" a "tempest")

Poem 23

   tsuki mireba

senzen ni mono koso


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


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-hō), a reversal that creates an ironic distance meliorating the conventional 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


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


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


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


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


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


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. Teishin-kō 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 gijin-hō, 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; as 御幸, the reference is to an excursion by an abdicated or cloistered emperor or by 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


wakite nagaruru


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


This poem is taken from the first "Love" section of the Shinkokinshū. It was composed by Fujiwara no Kanesuke (877-933), the great-grandfather of Murasaki Shikibu and an important 10th-century poet.

The first three lines function as an introductory jokotoba centering on the Izumi River (now called the Kizu River) as it flows through the Mikano Plain in the ancient province of Yamashiro (in what is now Kyoto Prefecture). The word wakite is a kakekotoba that combines the sense of the river's dividing the plain with the image of the spring (or izumi) from which the river rises (it thus also functions as an engo, or word poetically associated with izumi). There is no explicit grammatical connection in Japanese between the first three lines and the last two, but the reader is probably justified in conflating the surge of the river with the surge of feeling in the poet. 

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


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


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 tōchi-hō (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 san-kugire). 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


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


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.

Tōchi-hō (grammatical inversion) is employed again here, in this waka creating a break afer the second line (ni-kugire). 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


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.

This 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 just before that, when the sky is still fairly 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