One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

Poem 61

   inishie no

Nara no miyako no


kyō kokonoe ni

nioinuru kana


   The eight-layered

cherry blossoms of the ancient

   capital at Nara

bloom vividly today inside

the Nine Gates of the palace.

-- Ise no Taifu


The source is the “Spring” book of the Shikashū (SKT 29). Ise no Taifu, who lived in the first half of the 11th century, was the granddaughter of Fujiwara no Yoshinonu (see Poem 49) and another of the talented women in attendance on Empress Shōshi.

According to headnotes found in the Shikashū and in the Ise no Taifu shū private collection, which also contains the waka, the occasion of the poem's composition was the reception of a gift to the emperor of Nara cherry blossoms (perhaps a blossoming tree). Ise no Taifu was accorded the honor of officially receiving the gift and instructed to compose a suitable poem. The Japanese includes a conventional reference to the palace as a structure accessed through nine gates, on the Chinese model. The increase in number from eight to nine is a witty piece of wordplay that superimposes the image of the current imperial palace upon the image of the Nara cherry blossoms while enhancing the splendor of the former.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  distant-past | 's
  • Measure 2:  Nara | 's | capital | 's
  • Measure 3:  eightfold-cherry-blossoms
  • Measure 4:  today | ninefold-palace | in
  • Measure 5:  have-become-vivid | !

Poem 62

   yo o komete

tori no sorane wa

   hakaru tomo

yoni Ōsaka-no-

seki wa yurusaji


   Scheme though you may

to mimic the crow of the cock

   under cover of night,

the Meeting Barrier is one

you shall never pass through.

-- Sei Shōnagon


The source is the second “Miscellaneous” book of Goshūishū (SKT 939). Sei Shōnagon (966? – 1027?) is the author of Makura no sōshi (The Pillow Book), the prime Heian-period example of the zuihitsu (essay or miscellany) genre.

As a headnote in the source makes clear, this waka is based on an allusion to an anecdote in the Shiki (Chinese Shiji; Records of the Grand Historian) in which an aide to Mèngchángjūn (Lord Mengchang; 3rd century BCE) enables his lord's party to escape enemy territory by imitating a cock's call, prompting guards to open the gate at Hangu Pass early. Sei is making a playful response to a poem sent by Fujiwara no Yukinari (972-1028), who the previous night had abruptly left the palace because he realized that otherwise an abstinence (monoimi) would prevent his departure. Yukinari writes the folllowing morning -- in the manner of a kiniginu no uta, or "morning-after poem" -- to excuse his conduct by claiming that he had been deceived by the sound of a cock's call, initiating the reference to the Chinese anecdote. Sei continues in the same spirit by shifting the scene to Japan and saying, in effect, "You might have gained passage through the barrier at Hangu, but I will never allow you past Ōsaka Barrier to meet me." The waka is too witty by half, but it is the sort of cleverness for which Sei Shōnagon had a reputation.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  night | (acc.) | enclosingly (the sense is "with night all around")
  • Measure 2:  bird | 's | false-sound | as-for
  • Measure 3:  conspire | even-though
  • Measure 4:  absolutely | Ōsaka + Meeting Hill | 's
  • Measure 5:  Barrier | as-for | will-not-permit

Poem 63

   ima wa tada


to bakari o

   hitozute narade

iu yoshi mogana


   I only wish that

even now there were some way

   with my own lips

to tell you that I must

give up every thought of you.

--Sakyō no Daibu Michimasa


The source is the third “Love” book of Goshūishū (SKT 750). Fujiwara no Michimasa (993 – 1054) had the reputation of being a loose cannon, and his affair with the imperial princess Tōshi (1001 – 1022) earned him the enmity of her father, Retired Emperor Sanjō (976 – 1017, r. 1011 – 1017), who put a watch on his daughter and essentially banned Michimasa from the palace. Although Michimasa eventually regained his aristocratic standing, Tōshi took religious orders and died some six years after the affair.

This waka was composed by Michimasa after being forbidden to meet Tōshi. The headnote in the source does not mention him by name, but the incident is prominently featured in the historical Eiga monogatari (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes).

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  now | as-for | only
  • Measure 2:  will-stop-thinking
  • Measure 3:  (quot.) | only | (acc.) (the first three measures function as the grammatical object of the verb "say" in the fifth measure)
  • Measure 4:  through-other-people | not-being
  • Measure 5:  say | method | if-only

Poem 64


Uji no kawagiri



seze no ajirogi


   In gaps where the mist

over Uji River dissolves

   in the coming dawn,

fishing weirs appear here

and there across the rapids.

--Former Middle Counselor Sadayori


The source is the “Winter” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 420). Fujiwara no Sadayori (995 – 1045) was the oldest son of Fujiwara no Kintō (see Poem 55) who enjoyed a high reputation for his calligraphy and musical talent as well as for his poetry (he is credited with a total of 46 waka in imperial anthologies).

Uji, with its famous river, was a location much favored by aristocrats seeking a respite from the “dust” of city life in Kyoto. It lay on the way to Hase Temple and the Yamato region. Fishing weirs -- posts bound together to guide fish to a spot where a fisherman would be waiting, typically on a sloped platform, to catch them -- were used at Uji to catch hio (immature sweetfish) during the winter. The waka concludes with a nominative, illustrating the evocative technique of taigendome (this is not a case of grammatical inversion; rather, the predicate has been omitted).

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  coming-dawn
  • Measure 2:  Uji | 's | river-mist
  • Measure 3:  brokenly
  • Measure 4:  widely-appearing
  • Measure 5:  rapids | 's | fishing-weirs

Poem 65


hosanu sode dani

   aru monoo

koi ni kuchinamu

na koso oshikere


   Resentment spent,

concerned now for sleeves that have

    had no time to dry,

I know I need fear more for

the harm that will befall my name.

-- Sagami


The source is the fourth “Love” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 815). The poet, whose dates are unknown, is called Sagami because her husband, Ōe no Kin'yori (? - 1040), held the position of Governor of Sagami (spanning most of present-day Kanagawa Prefecture). She later separated from her husband and served in attendance upon an imperial princess, taking part in a large number of poetry contests.

Composed for a poetry contest -- and therefore on a conventionally assigned topic -- the waka nonetheless effectively suggests the psychological stages that follow in the wake of failed romance: first overwhelming resentment, then concern for what comes next. That concern, moreover, encompasses aspects both personal (hence relatively trivial) and public (of major social import). The order of precedence is suggested by the use of the adverbial particle dani, "even," which implies a contrast with a similar item of weightier significance. Thus, the poet realizes that not only have the sleeves of her kimono likely been ruined by her endless tears, but her reputation too will be left in tatters as a result of her failure in love. Grammatically, an adjective corresponding to the "regrettable" of measure five can be assumed to have been omitted between dani and the verb aru, which is the justification for the explicitness of the translation.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  resentment-exhaustingly
  • Measure 2:  undrying | sleeve | even
  • Measure 3:  be | even-though
  • Measure 4:  love | in | will-decay
  • Measure 5:  name | ! | regrettable

Poem 66


aware to omoe


hana yori hoka ni

shiru hito mo nashi


   Let us each

take pity on the other,

   mountain cherry --

other than your blossoms,

no one is here to share my thoughts.

-- Former Archbishop Gyōson


The source is the first “Miscellaneous” book of the Kin’yōshū (SKT 521). Gyōson (1055 – 1135) was the son of Minamoto no Motohira (1026 – 1064) and renowned for the efficacy of his spells and incantations (kaji kitō).

The situation, according to the headnote in the source, is that the poet, while undertaking rigorous ascetic training in the mountains, unexpectedly comes upon a mountain cherry whose blossoms are being ravaged by the wind. The poet’s sympathies are awakened by a sense of forsaken companionship. The third measure marks a full semantic stop -- the sankugire technique -- and since the poet directly addresses the cherry blossoms, gijinhō has also been employed.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  mutually
  • Measure 2:  ah | (quot.) | think
  • Measure 3:  mountain-cherry-blossoms
  • Measure 4:  blossom | than | other-thing | besides
  • Measure 5:  know | person | even | nonexisting

Poem 67

   haru no yo no

yume bakari naru

   tamakura ni

kainaku tatamu

na koso oshikere


   If on this spring night,

insubstantial as a dream,

   I took as my pillow

your arm, I would surely regret

the harm that would befall my name.

-- Suō no Naishi


The source is the first “Miscellaneous” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 964). Suō no Naishi lived in the second half of the 11th century; her name comes from the post held by her father, Taira no Munenaka (dates unknown), as governor of the province of Suō (currently eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture).

Said in the source’s headnote to have been composed when Major Counselor Fujiwara no Tadaie teasingly thrust his arm under a reed blind when he overheard a sleepy Sūo no Naishi mutter that she could use a pillow. Her response parries the tease with a kakekotoba play on the word for “arm,” kaina, which is then inflected as the adjective kainaku, "purposeless," to suggest the unwelcome scandal that would result should she take him up on his offer. The similarity to Poem 65 -- the final Japanese measure is exactly the same, and the sleeve-covered arm of Tadaie repeats the image of kimono sleeves -- is unlikely to be a coincidence, either in terms of composition or selection.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  spring | 's | night | 's
  • Measure 2:  dream | only | be
  • Measure 3:  hand-pillow | for ("hand" is metonymic for "arm" here, but "tamukura" is not being used as an "engo")
  • Measure 4:  arm + futilely | will-arise
  • Measure 5:  name | ! | lamentable

Poem 68

   kokoro ni mo

arade ukiyo ni


koishikaru beki

yowa no tsuki kana


   If against my wishes

I live on in a world so

   sorrowful and fleeting,

this late-night moon will be

a sight for me to cherish.

-- Retired Emperor Sanjō


The source is the first “Miscellaneous” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 860). Sanjō (976 – 1017; r. 1011 – 1016), the second son of Emperor Reizei (950-1011; r. 967-969), had the misfortune of having as an uncle the powerful Fujiwara no Michinaga (966 – 1027), who pushed Sanjō -- who had failing eyesight -- to abdicate in favor of Michinaga’s own grandson.

The headnote in the source notes that the waka was composed when Sanjō was contemplating abdication because of his illness (this was about a year before he actually abdicated, and only two years before he died). Readers would of course be familiar with the politics involved and with Sanjō's relatively early death following his abdication. A stark contrast is drawn between the melancholy of the everyday world and the perfect brightness of the moon, itself fated to become a memory of an earlier, better time.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  heart | in | even
  • Measure 2:  not-being | sorrowful-world | in (grammatically, "arade" is connected to the previous measure rather than this one, so the sense up to that point is "although it would not be in accord with my desires...")
  • Measure 3:  if-exist-long
  • Measure 4:  fondly-remembered | should-be
  • Measure 5:  late-night | 's | moon | !

Poem 69

   arashi fuku

Mimuro no yama no

   momijiba wa

Tatsuta no kawa no

nishiki narikeri


   The tinted leaves

carried by the wind gusting

   from Mount Mimuro

have turned into brocade upon

the waters of the Tatsuta.

--Priest Nōin


The source is the second “Autumn” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 366). Nōin (988 – ?), whose lay name was Tachibana no Nagayasu, took a special interest in utamakura, place names with traditional poetic associations.

Both Mount Mimuro and the Tatsuta River, in Nara, were utamakura -- and famous for their colorful autumn foliage. The distinctiveness of the waka comes from the way Nōin has paired the images in a single waka. The pairing works to elevate the effect above the otherwise trite comparison, or mitate, of autumn leaves to colorful brocade. Nōin is also clearly alluding to an anonymously composed waka in the Kokinshū (SKT 284) that mentions both locations, although in that poem the autumn leaves floating on the Tatsuta are juxtaposed with a wintry shower falling on Mount Mimuro. Perhaps Teika, by selecting Nōin’s waka, had in mind the intended setting on Mount Ogura, also famous for its autumn scenery.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  gale | blow
  • Measure 2:  Mimuro | 's | mountain | 's
  • Measure 3:  colorful-autumn-leaves | as-for
  • Measure 4:  Tatsuta | 's | river | 's
  • Measure 5:  brocade | be!

Poem 70

   sabishisa ni

yado o tachiidete


izuko mo onaji

aki no yūgure


   When from loneliness

I step outside my hut and

   let my gaze roam,

every place looks the same:

an evening in autumn.

-- Priest Ryōzen


The source is the first “Autumn” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 333). Ryōzen, active in the first half of the 11th century, was a monk on Mount Hiei who served as chief administrative officer of Gion Shrine (present-day Yasaka Shrine). Although much about his life is obscure, he frequently took part in poetry contests, and 30 of his waka were selected for inclusion in imperial anthologies.

The use of a nominative at the end of the last measure of the original -- the taigendome technique -- is intended to create powerful overtones. This particular ending is highly conventional, but the fact that the poet’s isolation is only reinforced when he steps outside the confines of his hut casts a sort of monochromatic pall over the scene.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  loneliness | from
  • Measure 2:  dwelling | (acc.) | stepping-out
  • Measure 3:  if-look-afar
  • Measure 4:  wherever | even | same
  • Measure 5:  autumn | 's | evening