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:  to-love | be-said
  • Measure 2:  my | name | as-for | soon
  • Measure 3:  did-rise
  • Measure 4:  person | not-be-known | indeed
  • Measure 5:  did-start-to-have-thoughts

The subject of the verb omoisomeru in the fifth measure (euphemistic for "fall in love") is the poet, so the sense of the final two measures is “...even though when I first started feeling affection for her/you, 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 pillow word 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 kugire (measure break) after the first measure: the shokugire technique. Although in translation the interruption is less clearly defined, the combination highlights an ambivalent mix of resentment and affection (sort of like beginning with an accusatory “But you promised!”) that can be said to give the poem its distinctive flavor.

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

The apparent simplicity of the first measure of this literal version is somewhat deceptive because two inflections are involved in Japanese. The final particle na at the end of the measure follows the final form of an inflected item. The final form of the auxiliary verb shi -- signifying direct experience in the past -- is ki, so that is the form tht appears here. The auxiliary verb shi, in turn, follows the continuative form of an inflected item. Since the continuative form of the verb chigiru ("to vow") is chigiri, the transcription of the first measure in Japanese becomes chigirikina, a single integrated unit. Most modern readers probably find a breakdown into the consituent grammatical components (three in Japanese, two in transliteration and the corresponding literal rendition) helpful for better understanding the meaning, although it is interesting to consider whether identifying three components differs qualitatively from identifying two components.

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. According to 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-met-seen | ’s
  • Measure 2:  later | ’s | heart | to
  • Measure 3:  when-compare
  • Measure 4:  long-ago | as-for | thing | (acc.)
  • Measure 5:  not-think!

Both au ("meet") and miru ("see"), joined in the first measure as a single compound verb, are often euphemisms for a romantic tryst. Likewise, mono o omou which bridges the fourth and fifth measures, 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.” Apparently, the use of mukashi ("long ago") in the fourth measure -- along with the sense of immediacy provided by the auxiliary verb keri at the end of the fifth -- makes a past-tense inflection of the verb unnecessary.

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 me alike.

--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 headnote in the source states that the poem was composed for the same poetry contest of 960 that resulted in Poem 40 andPoem 41.

This is a poem lamenting the circumstances that conspire to keep the poet and his lover apart, but with an ironic twist: even though meetings do occasionally take place, the result has not been gratification but increased frustration. Consequently, the poet is resentful, but does not seem quite sure where his resentment should be directed. After all, it is not as though the woman has rejected him outright, and his own persistent romantic interest is surely a contributing factor -- he does not want to admit abject defeat in the face of constraining circumstances. Both parties are somehow at fault, along with the situation in which they find themselves ensnared. Interestingly, no poetic devices are used to give expression to this ambivalent synthesis of frustration, resentment, and expectant desire. Rather, it is the product of a specific grammatical construction, as described below.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  meet | thing | (subj.)
  • Measure 2:  ever | ! | nonexistent | as-for
  • Measure 3:  even-more
  • Measure 4:  person | (acc.) | also | oneself | (acc.) | also
  • Measure 5:  would-more-likely-not-resent

The first two measures of the poem are set off against the last three by means of a two-part conditional construction introduced by the adjective/bound-particle combination naku wa at the end of the second measure. This is the statement of a counterfactual condition: impossible to satisfy because the reality of the situation is different. The corresponding outcome -- that is, what might have been the case had it been possible to satisfy the condition -- is signaled by the auxiliary verb mashi at the end of the fifth measure. If only he had never met the woman to begin with, the poet complains, he would not have had to contend with his current sense of resentment. Both contrafactual condition and presumed outcome are expressed grammatically in negative terms, which paradoxically reinforces the irony of the situation. The poet is preoccupied more with the anguish of his current situation than with the hypothetical situation that would have allowed him to avoid it in the first place: in a sense, he is complaining too much.

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.

-- Lord Kentoku


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

The language may be couched in general terms, but as the headnote in the source makes clear (and given that waka can always be presumed to be a mode of interpersonal communication), the poet is addressing a complaint to a woman who has decided to treat him so cruelly that when he dies (presumably of a broken heart), she seems unlikely to express sorrow at the subsequent purposeless of his life. It is a fairly straightforward message. The first three measures are set against the last two, but since the two parts are connected by a conjunctive particle (de, which carries a negative connotation), this does not constitute an example of the measure-break technique (kugire), which requires sentence-ending syntax at the point of the break.

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

The Japanese auxiliary verb beshi, which appears in the attributive form beki in both the second and fifth measures, implies natural expectation or likelihood, but the different connotations seem to warrant different treatment in English translation. The auxiliary verb nu at the start of the fifth measure normally signifies completion, but in conjunction with beshi often serves to add emphasis.

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 geographical reference is usually taken to be the estuary where the Yura River in Tango Province (present-day Kyoto Prefecture) empties into the Sea of Japan, not far from the famous land bridge of Amanohashidate. (An alternate interpretation, considered less likely because of Yoshitada's position as provincial secretary of Tango, has it 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 sculling oar fall into the water, the boatman is now completely at the mercy of those currents. The somewhat abashed poet, likewise, finds he has no choice but to submit to the unruly dictates of love. The words to ("estuary"), wataru ("traverse"), funabito ("boatman"), yukue ("destination"), and michi ("road") are all engo (associated words), expanding the metaphorical implications of what might otherwise be considered a relatively undistinguished poem.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  Yura’s-estuary | (acc.)
  • Measure 2:  traverse | boatman
  • Measure 3:  oar | ! | discontinuing
  • Measure 4:  destination | even | not-know
  • Measure 5:  love | 's | road | !

The verb taeru ("discontinue") in the third measure is intransitive, so grammatically the particle o in that measure must be taken as an interjectory particle rather than as the accusative case particle. An alternative interpretation sees the o as a noun, referring to the rope that binds the oar to the boat. According to this interpretation, the meaning of the third measure would be " the boatman's oar rope having snapped." Some commentators also include tae ("discontinuing") and kaji ("oar") among the waka's engo, resulting in perhaps the largest concentration of such associated words in the Hyakunin isshu.

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 a provincial Buddhist temple (kokubunji) established during the Nara period in Harima (present-day Hyōgo Prefecture).

The headnote to the poem in the Shūishū 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 early 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). The waka, which does not depend for its effect on any particilar poetic device, is a good 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  
  • Measure 4:  person | indeed | not-appear
  • Measure 5:  autumn | as-for | did-come!

The attributive form of the adjective sabishi (“lonely”) is used in the third measure, meaning that a noun -- such as tokoro, or “place” -- must be understood to have been omitted between sabishiki and the case particle ni, designating location. Some interpretations, however, take ni to be a conjunctive particle, in which case several other grammatical relationships become possible, the most likely of which is probably cause and result, changing the meaning to “no one appears because the dwelling is so desolate.” The bound particle koso ("indeed") in the fourth measure, when combined with the bound ending ne, the perfective form of the negative auxiliary verb zu, sets up a contrastive relationship with the fifth measure, as indicated by the "and yet" of the translation.

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 English 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 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 preface that gives the waka its metaphorical vitality.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  wind | due-to-harsh
  • Measure 2:  rock | hit | wave | (subj.)
  • Measure 3:  itself | only
  • Measure 4:  shattering | things | (acc.)
  • Measure 5:  think | proximate-time | !

As in Poem 1, the o ...-mi combination in the first measure is used to specify a cause or reason and is treated as a single construction in the literal version. There is an understood accusative case particle after iwa ("rock") in the second measure -- that is, the waves hit the rocks and not the other way around. The literal rendition gives most of the nominatives in singular form, but the context suggests that plural is appropriate in translation (except for the uncountable "wind"). Still, it is always worth keeping in mind the question of which is more appropriate in any given situation, and it should be noted that for the idiomatic expression mono (o) omou, I have decided to use "things" rather than "thing" for mono in all of the literal renditions.

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 extinguished again each day.

-- Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu


The source is the first “Love” book of the Shikashū (SKT 225). Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu (921-991) is considered one of the Thirty-six Poetic Immortals (Sanjūrokkasen) of Japanese poetry because of his inclusion in an early-11th-century collection Sanjūrokuninsen (Selections from Thirty-Six Poets) compiled by Fujiwara no Kintō (966-1041). Ōnakatomi himself took part in the compilation of the Gosenshū.

As in the previous poem, a jokotoba preface 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 (Poem 48) and fire (Poem 49) -- suggests one of the ordering principles at work in the Hyakunin isshu: 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. It is no coincidence that Poems 48 to 54 are all on the topic of love, and that the first four all contain the verb omou, "think," which in love poems connotes a certain amount of emotional anguish.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  gate-sentry
  • Measure 2:  palace-guard | (subj.) | kindle | fire | (subj.)
  • Measure 3:  night | as-for | to-burn
  • Measure 4:  daytime | as-for | repeatedly-vanishing
  • Measure 5:  things | (acc.) | indeed | think

The words mikakimori and eji form a compound noun compressing notions of duty and status: these are not gate sentries and palace guards, but palace guards who are gate sentries. The conjunctive particle tsutsu in the fourth measure, signifying continuous or repeated action, can be assumed to apply to the verb moeru ("burn") in the previous measure as well.

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.

As has been suggested, this is 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 rhetorical device has been used, but the word inochi ("life") does pivot the meaning structurally so that the poem moves from the poet's feelings about life in the past to his feelings about life in the present. It is also worth noting in conjunction with the repetition of the key verb omou ("think") in Poems 48-51 that the grammatical treatment is different in each case, avoiding excessive monotony.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  you | 's | purpose
  • Measure 2:  did-feel-no-regret
  • Measure 3:  life | even
  • Measure 4:  long | if-only | (quot.)
  • Measure 5:  think! | !

This being a love poem, the sense of the first measure is "in order to meet you." The adverbial particle sae in the third measure is often explained as being different in nuance from the similar adverbial particle dani, although both are emphatic in function and can usually be translated as "even." Both particles follow nouns, but sae signals something of relative importance, so the sense is "not only does this apply to lesser things, but even to something as significant as this." Dani, on the other hand, takes the noun as a minimum starting point, implying the existence of other things of even greater importance, so the sense becomes "something like this is what one would hope for at the very least." The adjective nagashi ("long") in the fourth measure is inflected in the continuative form nagaku (because of the final particle mogana), but it has been rendered as a simple adjective to make the meaning clear.