One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

Poem 41

   koisu chō

waga na wa madaki


hito shirezu koso



   Rumors soon arose

that here was one who had

   fallen in love,

even though I hoped at first

to keep others unaware.

-- Mibu no Tadami


The source is the first “Love” book of the Shūishū. The dates of the poet, who was active in the middle of the 10th century, are unknown, but he was the son of Mibu no Tadamine (see Poem 30). As mentioned above, the poem was submitted in competition with the previous one, and perhaps for political reasons it was judged the loser. Interestingly, the order of the two is reversed in the Shūishū.

Both Poem 41 and Poem 40 reflect surprise and chagrin at the poets’ learning that their love has become something of an open secret; both use the technique of inversion (tōchi-hō); and both insert grammatical breaks inside the poem after similarly inflected verbs, although here the break comes after the third measure (sankugire) rather than the second. They are indeed a well-matched pair.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  do-love | being-said
  • Measure 2:  my | name | as-for | soon
  • Measure 3:  had-risen
  • Measure 4:  other-person | not-be-known | !
  • Measure 5:  had-started-to-have-thoughts (the subject of the verb is the poet and “start to have thoughts” is a euphemism for “fall in love,” so the sense of the final two measures is actually “Even though when I first started feeling affection for her, I didn’t want others to know”)

Poem 42

   chigiriki na

katamini sode o



nami kosaji to wa


   It was our vow,

as again and again we wrung

   the tears from our sleeves:

no wave would ever crest over


-- Kiyohara no Motosuke


The source is the fourth “Love” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 770). Kiyohara no Motosuke (908-990) -- the grandson of Kiyohara no Fukayabu (see Poem 36) -- was one of the five compilers of the Gosenshū and the father of Sei Shōnagon (see Poem 62).

The poem is essentially a lover’s lament at having been abandoned despite the couple’s pledge of eternal love, a pledge implicit in the literal meaning of the place name ("End-Waiting Pine Mountain"). The precise location of Sue-no-matsuyama is unclear. Two primary candidates exist, the more likely of which (since it is actually closer to the ocean ) is a hill next to Takarakuni Temple in the present-day city of Tagajō in Miyagi Prefecture. Two large pines grow side by side on this hill -- labeled "Old Pine Hill" on street signs -- which would certainly be in accord with the central message of undying love. This is also the hill mentioned by Matsuo Bashō in Oku no hosomichi (he visited on the Eighth Day of the Fifth Month of 1689). The other possibility is Namiuchi ("Wave Striking") Pass on the old Ōshū Highway in the town of Ichinohe in present-day Iwate Prefecture, a mountainous area covered by red pines and known for an abundance of exposed sea fossils. Whichever spot may have provided the original inspiration, a waka in the Kokinshū (SKT 1093) turned Sue-no-matsuyama into a metaphor for resistance to the vicissitudes of change, ensuring its use as an utamakura by generations of future poets.

Grammatical inversion (tōchi-hō) has been used to place at the beginning what would normally be the last measure, resulting in a full syntactic break after the first measure (the technique of shokugire). Although in translation the interruption is less emphatic, the combination highlights an ambivalent mix of resentment and affection (sort of like beginning with “But you promised!”) that can be said to give the poem its distinctive flavor.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  did-promise | !
  • Measure 2:  mutually | sleeve | (acc.)
  • Measure 3:  repeatedly-wringing
  • Measure 4:  Sue-no-matsuyama
  • Measure 5:  waves | not-cross | (quot.) | !

Poem 43

   aimite no

nochi no kokoro ni


mukashi wa mono o



   When I compare

my thoughts now after having

   spent the night,

I realize that in the past

I felt nothing at all.

--Provisional Middle Counselor Atsutada


The source is the second “Love” book of the Shūishū (SKT 710). Fujiwara no Atsutada (906-943)  was the third son of Minister of the Left Fujiwara no Tokihira (871-909) and known for his skill at playing the biwa (lute).

The translation follows the interpretation that this is a morning-after poem (kinuginu no uta) meant to convey the message that the intensity of the poet's feelings has only increased as a result of spending the night with the woman he has visited. Under this interpretation, the poet is conventionally seeking to reassure the woman that theirs was more than a one-night stand, but there is an affecting sincerity in the man's forthright assertion of desire and affection, along with just the slightest hint that obstacles may stand in the way of further meetings. Other interpretations hold that the waka was written after a period during which such obstacles prevented the poet from meeting the woman again, or that the original meeting itself has given rise to worries that are now causing the poet anguish.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  having-meet-see | ’s (in this context, the verbs "au" and "miru" both refer to a romantic tryst)
  • Measure 2:  later | ’s | heart | to
  • Measure 3:  when-compare
  • Measure 4:  past | as-for | thing | (acc.)
  • Measure 5:  did-not-think   ("mono o omou" conventionally means to have thoughts of love, so the sense of the last two measures is  “At the time, I did not really know love at all”)

Poem 44

   au koto no

taete shi naku wa


hito o mo mi o mo



   Were we never

to meet again at all,

   still less would be

the resentment I feel

toward you and toward myself.

--Middle Counselor Asatada


The source is the first “Love” book of the Shūishū (SKT 678). Fujiwara no Asatada (910-966) was the fifth son of Sanjō Minister of the Right Sadakata (see Poem 25).

The verb uramu (“resent”) indicates that the poet is lamenting his treatment at the hands of the woman to whom the poem is being sent: she is not permitting him to visit as often as he would like. The paradoxical result is that his frustration is even greater than it would have been had he not been able to visit her at all. Although no specific poetic technique is involved, it is worth examining the various grammatical relationships involved to gain a better appreciation of how the irony is produced.

First, taete is an emphatic adverb that (like kesshite or mattaku in modern Japanese) presumes a subsequent negative grammatical element, here the adjective nashi (“not-being,” inflected as naku because another grammatical element is appended). Thus, up to naku, the sense is “not ever meeting at all.” Adding the particle wa establishes the first two measures as a hypothetical condition that presumes the use of a subsequent -mashi to denote the (preferred) outcome should the condition have been fulfilled.

Nakanakani is an adverb that allows a transition between the current state of affairs and a more desirable, but contrary to fact, outcome. And since both the hypothetical condition and the desirable outcome (uramizara-, or "not-feeling-resentment") are negatives, the overall message becomes something like “Not meeting you at all would have been preferable to meeting you as infrequently as I do, since in that case I would not have felt this much resentment.” It says something about the expressive power of classical Japanese that this sort of irony can be produced without either prosaicness or semantic confusion.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  meet | thing | (subj.)
  • Measure 2:  ever | ! | if-not-be
  • Measure 3:  to-the-contrary
  • Measure 4:  person | (acc.) | also | oneself | (acc.) | also
  • Measure 5:  would-more-likely-not-resent

Poem 45

   aware to mo

iu beki hito wa


mi no itazurani

narinu beki kana


   Unable to think

of someone who might offer

   a word of lament,

I fear I have become one whose

life will have been lived in vain.

-- Prince Kentoku


The source is the fifth “Love” book of the Shūishū (SKT 950). Prince Kentoku was the posthumous title awarded to Fujiwara no Koremasa (924-972), one of the compilers of the Gosenshū.

The poet is directing a complaint at a woman who is treating him coldly, so much so that when he dies, she seems unlikely to express sorrow at the purposeless of his life after being rejected by her. The first three measures are set against the last two, but since the two parts are related grammatically by a conjunctive verb ending (-ede), this is not considered an example of the kugire technique. The Japanese beki, which appears twice in the text, implies natural expectation or likelihood, but the difference in connotation seems to warrant different treatment in translation.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  how-sad | (quot.) | even
  • Measure 2:  say | should | other-person | as-for
  • Measure 3:  not-being-thought-of
  • Measure 4:  oneself | (nom.) | vainly
  • Measure 5:  will-surely-be | necessarily | !

Poem 46

   Yura-no-to o

wataru funabito

   kaji o tae

yukue mo shiranu

koi no michi kana


   Like a boatman who

has lost his oar while crossing

   the mouth of the Yura,

I know not where I am bound

on the unsure course of love.

-- Sone no Yoshitada


The source is the first “Love” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 1071). Sone no Yoshitada  was active in the second half of the 10th century. He had the reputation of being something of a narrow-minded egocentric.

The Yura is a broad-mouthed river in present-day Kyoto Prefecture that empties into the Sea of Japan not far from the famous land bridge of Amanohashidate (although an alternate interpretation holds that the reference is to the Kitan Strait between present-day Wakayama Prefecture and the island of Awaji). The first three measures constitute a jokotoba preface, here used to set up a metaphorical parallel between the boatman and the poet. The strong currents of the river’s estuary make navigation difficult even at the best of times; having let his oar drop into the water, the boatman is completely at the mercy of those currents. The somewhat abashed poet, likewise, has no choice but to submit to the unruly dictates of love. The words to, wataru, funabito, kaji, and yukue are all engo (associated words), focusing attention on the metaphorical imagery in this otherwise relatively undistinguished poem.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  Yura | ’s | estuary | (acc.)
  • Measure 2:  to-cross | boatman
  • Measure 3:  oar | ! | be-gone (the verb "taeru" is intransitive, so grammatically the "o" must be taken as exclamatory in function rather than as accusative; an alternative interpretation sees the "o" as the rope that binds the oar to the boat, so the sense would be "since the boatman's oar rope has snapped")
  • Measure 4:  destination | even | not-know
  • Measure 5:  love | 's | road | !

Poem 47


shigereru yado no

  sabishiki ni

hito koso miene

aki wa kinikeri


   At a dwelling

overrun in loneliness by

   tangled growths of weeds

no callers appear, and yet

now autumn has arrived.

-- Priest Egyō


The source is the “Autumn” book of the Shūishū (SKT 140). Egyō (fl. ca. 985) apparently served as a monk at the provincial Buddhist temple (kokubunji) established during the Nara period in Harima (present-day Hyōgo Prefecture).

The headnote to the poem in the Shūishū (compiled around 1006) refers to the long-deserted Kawara-no-in mansion of Minamoto no Tōru (see Poem 14) in the Rokujō district of Kyoto, which is also thought to have been the model for the desolate house to which Yūgao is abducted by Hikaru Genji in The Tale of Genji. The poet, aware of this history, is moved to note that autumn has not failed to pay a visit even to such a desolate spot (the mansion was apparently occupied at the time by Egyō’s close friend -- and Tōru’s great-grandson -- the monk Anpō). An example of the persistence of cultural tradition.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  manifold-trailing-plants
  • Measure 2:  being-thickly-growing | dwelling | (subj.)
  • Measure 3:  lonely | at  (the attributive form of the adjective “lonely” is used, meaning that a noun -- such as “place” -- must be understood to have been omitted before the particle "ni"; some interpretations take "ni" to be a causative particle, which would change the meaning to “no one appears because the dwelling is so desolate”)
  • Measure 4:  person | ! | not-appear (the "koso…-ne" combination implies a contrast with the following measure)
  • Measure 5:  autumn | as-for | has-come

Poem 48

   kaze o itami

iwa utsu nami no

   onore nomi

kudakete mono o

omou koro kana


   Recently my thoughts

are as scattered as the waves

   raised by a harsh wind

to dash themselves against

the rocks that line the shore.

-- Minamoto no Shigeyuki


The source is the first “Love” book of the Shikashū (SKT 211). Minamoto no Shigeyuki (? – 1000), who served in a number of provincial posts, was the great-grandson of Emperor Seiwa (850-880; r. 858-876).

Corresponding in a way to sonnets about the poet’s treatment at the hands of a cruel mistress, this waka compares the woman being addressed to the unmoving rocks against which the waves of the poet’s ardor batter themselves futilely. The comparison is a is a striking one, even if to speak of the shattering of the poet’s troubled thoughts (by convention, to “think things” is to be troubled by thoughts of love) can be said to be somewhat trite. The first two measures (up to iwa utsu nami no) constitute a jokotoba that gives the waka its metaphorical vitality.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  wind | due-to-harsh (as in Poem 1, the "o ...-mi" combination is used to specify a cause or reason)
  • Measure 2:  rock | hit | waves | (subj.) (there is an understood accusative particle after “rocks”; that is, the waves hit the rocks and not the other way around)
  • Measure 3:  themselves | only
  • Measure 4:  shattering | things | (acc.) (“things” is the object of the verb “think” in the following measure)
  • Measure 5:  think | proximate-time | !

Poem 49


eshi no taku hi no

   yoru wa moe

hiru wa kietsutsu

mono o koso omoe


   Like the watchfires

kindled by the sentries

   at the palace gates,

thoughts of you burn bright each night

and are quenched again each day.

-- Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu


The source is the first “Love” book of the Shikashū (SKT 225). Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu (921-991) was considered one of the Thirty-six Immortals of Japanese Poetry and took part in the compilation of the Gosenshū.

As in the previous poem, a jokotoba provides a striking image that anchors a comparison between the repeated lighting and extinguishing of the watchfires and the waxing and waning of the passion of the poet, alternating between consuming desire at night and disheartened frustration during the day. Pairing similarly constructed waka on the same topic -- but with contrasting images of water and fire -- suggests one of the ordering principles at work in One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets: readers are meant to recognize and appreciate the parallels being drawn by the compiler. In this way, the sum of the parts becomes a more significant whole.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  gate-sentry
  • Measure 2:  palace-guard | (subj.) | kindle |fire | (subj.)
  • Measure 3:  night | as-for | burn
  • Measure 4:  daytime | as-for | repeatedly-vanish (the “-tsutsu” can be assumed to apply to “burn” in the previous measure as well)
  • Measure 5:  things | (acc.) | ! | think

Poem 50

   kimi ga tame


   inochi sae

nagaku mogana to

omoikeru kana


   My wish is now

that I might prolong the life

   I was once prepared

to give up without regret

simply to be with you.

-- Fujiwara no Yoshitaka


The source is the second “Love” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 669). Fujiwara no Yoshitaka (954-974) was the third son of Prince Kentoku (see Poem 45) and the father of Fujiwara no Yukinari (972-1028), who was considered one of Japan’s greatest calligraphers. Yoshitaka fell victim to smallpox in his twenty-first year.

A continuation of sorts of the previous poem, in that the passionately expressed romantic goal of the poet has at last been achieved, but his former willingness to risk everything for the woman’s love has paradoxically transformed itself into an equally powerful desire to risk nothing now that he has won it. This insight into the nature of love is treated as something of a discovery. No special poetic device has been used, but the repetition of the key verb omou (think) in Poems 48-51 is suggestive, particularly because of the different inflections.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  you | 's | purpose
  • Measure 2:  felt-no-regret
  • Measure 3:  life | even
  • Measure 4:  lengthily | wish-would-be | (quot.)
  • Measure 5:  have-come-to-think | !