One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets


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Poem 31

   asaborake

ariake no tsuki to

   miru made ni

Yoshino no sato ni

fureru shirayuki

 

   In the gathering light

one might take it for the moon

   lingering in the morning sky--

the white snow falling

on the dwellings of Yoshino.

-- Sakanoue no Korenori

Comments

The poem comes from the "Winter" section of the Kokinshū. The poet, who flourished in the early Heian period, was one of the "thirty-six immortals" of Japanese poetry designated as such on the basis of their inclusion in a collection compiled by the mid-Heian courtier Fujiwara no Kintō (966-1041).

Yoshino was a mountainous district in Yamato, present-day Nara Prefecture. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its distance from Kyoto, it was famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and its snow in winter. The poet reverses the more typical comparison of the moon to snow, making the snow itself the radiant object. Since the snow is still faliing, the suffused light resembles that cast by a lingering moon, a conceit that saves the poem from seeming perhaps simply witty. Ending the poem with a noun ("white-snow" rather than "Yoshino" in Japanese) is a technique known as taigendome, as long as another technique such as inversion (tōchi) is not involved.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  approaching-morn
  • Line 2:  early-dawn | 's | moon
  • Line 3:  regard | so-far | as-to-be
  • Line 4:  Yoshino | 's | dwellings | on
  • Line 5:  falling | white-snow

Poem 32

   haru sugite

natsu kinikerashi

   shirotae no

koromo hosu chō

ama no Kaguyama

 

   A wattle dam

laid seemingly by the wind

   across the mountain stream--

autumn leaves trapped in the current

unable to work themselves free.

-- Harumichi no Tsuraki

Comments

This waka was taken from the second "Autumn" section of the Kokinshū. Nothing is known of the poet except that he died in 920 just before taking up his post as governor of Iki Province.

The poem combines the techniques of personification (gijinhō) and likening (mitate) to give the wind (or breeze) a tactile presence and to bring into clear focus the poet's realization that his first impression was mistaken. In this way, one of the most conventional of Japanese poetic images -- autumn leaves floating in the water -- is presented with a freshness that enhances rather than trivializes it.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  mountain-stream | in
  • Line 2:  wind | (subj.) | cast-across
  • Line 3:  wattle-barrier | as-for
  • Line 4:  float-away | ! | unable-to
  • Line 5:  autumn-leaves | be!

Poem 33

   hisakata no

hikari nodokeki

   haru no hi ni

shizugokoro naku

hana no chiru ramu

 

  On a day in spring

with the light softly extending

  into the distance,

one would say the blossoms fall

because of their troubled hearts.

-- Ki no Tomonori

Comments

This waka originally appeared in the second "Spring" section of the Kokinshū. Ki no Tomonori (?-?905) was the cousin of Ki no Tsurayuki and one of the compilers of the Kokinshū, which contains 46 of his poems, more than any other poet except Tsurayuki (see Poem 35) and Ōshikōchi no Mitsune (see Poem 29).

The effect of the poem derives from the paradoxical contrast between the calm of a sunny spring day and the falling cherry blossoms: since there is no physical reason for the blossoms to be scattering from the trees, it must be because of their own restless feelings. Some readers may not find this contrast to be very convincing, but it might be taken to imply a sensitive awareness to the disjunction that can arise between inner feelings and outward surroundings, thus modifying or enhancing the conventional association of cherry blossoms with transience. In the past, the particle ramu (which is used to draw a conclusion based on observable phenomena) was often said in this poem to indicate a questioning as to the reason for the phenomenon (thus "Why is it that the blossoms fall with unsettled hearts?"). This interpretation, however, requires bridging a grammatical gap that is not explicitly bridged in the poem (through the use of a question word, for example), and the earlier interpretation seems to have fallen out of favor. The two poetic techniques involved are personification (gijinhō, attributing unsettled feelings to cherry blossoms) and makurakotoba (hisakata being a "pillow word" conventionally used, for example, with atmospheric phenomena and heavenly objects). To actually translate a makurakotoba, as has been done here, entails the risk of making the quality evoked too descriptively specific.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  far-extending | 's
  • Line 2:  light | gentle ("gentle" inflected to modify "spring," so that the grammar becomes "distant-light-gentle's spring")
  • Line 3:  spring | 's | day | on
  • Line 4:  calm-heart | not-having
  • Line 5:  blossom | be | scatter | do-surmise (i.e., "I would surmise that the blossoms fall because...")

Poem 34

   tare o ka mo

shiru hito ni semu

   Takasago no

matsu mo mukashi no

tomo naranaku ni

 

   Who is there to claim

as someone I truly know?

   At Takasago,

even the pines are not

my friends of long ago.

-- Fujiwara no Okikaze

Comments

From the first "Miscellaneous" volume of the Kokinshū. Fujiwara no Okikaze (dates unknown) was an early Heian-period poet considered one of the "thirty-six immortals" of waka poetry. Apparently he was also a skilled court musician.

The pines at Takasago (in present-day Hyogo Prefecture) were a conventional symbol of longevity. Here, however, the poet -- bereft of the friends of his youth -- cannot find cause to celebrate his own long life because even these famous pines cannot take the place of his lost friends. The reversal of the conventional felicitous association carries a powerful impact. Grammatically, the first two lines and the last three lines are reversed (the tōchihō technique), with the latter serving to give the reason for the former (the same pattern is found in Poem 14). Creating a semantic break in this way after the second line is known as nikugire.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1: who | (acc.) | ? | !
  • Line 2:  know | person | into | shall-make
  • Line 3: Takasago | 's
  • Line 4: pine | even | long-ago | 's
  • Line 5: friend | not-be | because

Poem 35

   hito wa isa

kokoro mo shirazu

   furusato wa

hana zo mukashi no

ka ni nioikeru

 

   Coming

Coming

   Coming

Coming

Coming

-- -- Ki no Tsurayuki

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Poem 36

   natsu no yo wa

mada yoi nagara

   akenuru o

kumo no izuko ni

tsuki yadoru ramu

 

  Coming

Coming

  Coming

Coming

Coming

-- Kiyohara no Fukayabu

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Poem 37

   shiratsuyu ni

kaze no fukishiku

   aki no no wa

tsuranukitomenu

tama zo chirikeru

 

  Coming

Coming

  Coming

Coming

Coming

-- Fun'ya no Asayasu

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Poem 38

  wasuraruru

mi o ba omowazu

   chikaiteshi

hito no inochi no

oshiku mo aru kana

 

  Coming

Coming

  Coming

Coming

Coming

-- Ukon

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Poem 39

   asajiu no

Ono no Shinohara

   shinoburedo

amarite nado ka

hito no koishiki

 

  Coming

Coming

  Coming

Coming

Coming

-- Counselor Hitoshi

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Poem 40

   shinoburedo

iro ni idenikeri

   wa ga koi wa

mono ya omou to

hito no tou made

 

  Coming

Coming

  Coming

Coming

Coming

-- Taira no Kanemori

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