One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets


Poem 71

   yū sareba

kadota no inaba

otozurete

   ashi no maroya ni

akikaze zo fuku

 

   When evening arrives,

the leaves in the rice fields

   rustle outside the gate

as the autumn wind approaches

my reed-thatched mountain hut.

-- Major Counselor Tsunenobu

Comments

The source is the “Autumn” book of the Kin’yōshū (SKT 173). Minamoto no Tsunenobu (1016 – 1097), an expert in matters of courtly decorum, was known for his talent in composing both Japanese and Chinese poetry music as well as for his skill as a musician.

As is the case with other classical waka, “hut” is a conventional reference to a dwelling that may in fact have been larger and more permanent in nature. In fact, Tsunenobu owned a villa in Umezu, on the left bank of the Katsura River to the west of the capital, and the headnote in the source mentions an outing there as the occasion for the poem's composition. (Heian aristocrats, in other words, were not beyond adopting a rustic pose to demonstrate their own refined sensibilities.) The poem scans as a single sentence integrating visual, auditory, and tactile impressions into a refreshingly unified experience. The word otozurete functions unobtrusively as onomatopoeia linking the upper hemistich with the lower one, although it is not technically considered a kakekotoba.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  evening | when-changes (in Heian-period poetry, "saru" connotes transitioning toward the time mentioned; the meaning is not the modern sense of "depart")
  • Line 2:  gate-rice-field | 's | rice-leaves
  • Line 3:  visiting-ly
  • Line 4:  reed | 's | hut | to
  • Line 5:  autumn-wind | ! | blow

Poem 72

   oto ni kiku

Takashi-no-hama no

   adanami wa

kakeji ya sode no

nure mo koso sure

 

   The waves rise

for no reason on Takashi’s

   famous shore--

I most certainly will not

let them soak the sleeves I wear.

-- Kii in the Household of Princess Yūshi

Comments

The source is the second “Love” book of the Kin’yōshū (SKT 469). Kii, whose dates are unknown, was a lady-in-waiting to Yūshi, eldest daughter of Emperor Go-Suzaku (1009 – 1045; r. 1036-1045), in the second half of the 11th century.

The headnote in the source refers to its being composed on the stipulated topic of a woman's response to the romantic proposal of a man. "Takashi" functions as a kakekotoba that pivots the meaning from the adjectival "high" ("of high renown" when combined with the first line) to the proper noun "Takashi," referring to a stretch of shoreline in modern Osaka Prefecture between the cities of Sakai and Takaishi. Metaphorically, then, the poet is parrying the man's approach by comparing the tears that would result from a tryst with such an untrustworthy partner to the unpleasant drenching of her sleeves that would come from being caught by an incoming wave at Takashi.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  sound | in | hear
  • Line 2:  high + Takashi | 's | shore | 's
  • Line 3:  pointless-wave | as-for
  • Line 4:  will-not-let-touch | ! | sleeve | as-for
  • Line 5:  get-wet | ! | ! | do (the "mo koso" combination implies concern over negative consequences)

Poem 73

   Takasago no

onoe no sakura

   sakinikeri

toyama no kasumi

tatazu mo aranamu

 

   The cherries

at the crest of that high peak

   have come into bloom.

One would hope that no mist rises

from the hills closer at hand.

-- Former Middle Counselor Masafusa Oe no Masafusa

Comments

The source is the first “Spring” book of the Goshūishū (SKT 120). Ōe no Masafusa (1041 – 1111) was the great-grandson of Ōe no Masahira (952 – 1012), an eminent scholar and composer of Chinese poetry who was married to Akazome Emon (see Poem 59).

The poet is essentially imploring the mist not to rise from the foothills lest it obscure the view of the cherry blossoms on the ridge in the distance. One theory has it that takasago should considered an utamakura referring to the mountain of that name in the province of Harima (present-day Hyōgo Prefecture). The standard interpretation, however, takes the word to be a common noun (literally, “high pile of sand”), referring simply to the crest of a mountain (or mountain ridge). The syntactic break after the third line illustrates the technique of sankugire.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  tall-mound | 's
  • Line 2:  crest | 's | cherry-blossoms
  • Line 3:  have-bloomed |
  • Line 4:  near-mountain | mist
  • Line 5:  not-rise | even | may-it-be

Poem 74

   ukarikeru

hito o Hatsuse no

   yamaoroshi yo

hageshikare to wa

inoranu monoo

 

   I did not pray here at

Hatsuse for such harshness,

   mountain gale--

either from you or from the one

who caused me so much despair.

--Minamoto no Toshiyori

Comments

The source is the second “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 708). Minamoto no Toshiyori (1055 – 1129) was the son of Major Counselor Tsunenobu (see Poem 71) and the compiler of the Kin’yōshū.

Hatsuse is the location of the Hasedera temple in Nara, at which those who offered prayers to the bodhisattva Kannon might expect to achieve miraculous results. Here the poet complains that his prayers only had the effect of causing the woman he was pusuing to reject his advances even more callously, much like the unexpectedly harsh wind now gusting down from the mountain on which Hasedera stands. The direct address to the mountain gale -- signalled by the exclamatory particle yo -- demonstrates the technique of gijin-hō, or personification. The syntax of the translation differs from that of the Japanese, which mentions "the one who" in the first line and places an imperative form of the adjective "harsh" at the beginning of the fourth. Japanese paraphrases of the poem's meaning usually find it necessary to repeat the verb "pray" to make the irony clear: "I may have prayed, but it was not a prayer for me to be treated even more cruelly!"

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  feeling-mournful-about
  • Line 2:  person | (acc.) | Hatsuse | 's
  • Line 3:  mountain-gale | !
  • Line 4:  fiercely-be | (quot.) | !
  • Line 5:  not-pray | even-though (taking "monoo" as conjunctive assumes the omission of a following "Why then are you blowing so fiercely?"; an alternative interpretation sees the particle as simply exclamatory in effect)

Poem 75

   chigiriokishi

sasemo ga tsuyu o

   inochi nite

aware kotoshi no

aki mo inumeri

 

   The promise you made

has sustained my life like dew

   upon the wormwood plant;

alas, this year too, it seems,

autumn is passing me by.

-- Fujiwara no Mototoshi

Comments

The source is the first “Miscellaneous” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 1026). Fujiwara no Mototoshi (1060 – 1141) was the compiler of the early-12th-century Shinsen rōei shū, and he is considered to represent a more conservative poetic style than that of Fujiwara no Toshiyori (see Poem 74),

Because of the mention of a promise, the reader's first impulse might be to interpret this as a love poem. There is, in fact, nothing in the wording to explicitly exclude such an interpretation. Yet waka is an occasional form of poetry in which the implications are often spelled out in headnotes, and in this case, the headnote in the source explains that this is a complaint directed at Fujiwara no Tadamichi (see Poem 76), who had obliquely promised Mototoshi -- by means of a poetic allusion involving wormwood taken from the Shinkokinshū -- that he would appoint Mototoshi's son, a priest at the Kōfukuji in Nara, to a prestigious post as lecturer (kōji) on the Vimalakīrti Sutra (these lectures were held annually at the Kōfukuji for about a week in the tenth lunar month under the sponsorship of the head of the Fujiwara family). The expected appointment, however, has failed to materialize, so Mototoshi is venting his resentment. It is the poetic allusion that provides the textual clue the reader needs to properly fill out the context. The -oki embedded in the verb in the first line (the connotation is that the action was performed for a future purpose) and the word tsuyu in the second are engo, since "dew " is something that "rests upon" a plant.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  did-promise
  • Line 2:  mugwort | 's | dew | (acc.)
  • Line 3:  life | being
  • Line 4:  ah | this-year | 's
  • Line 5:  autumn | also | be-apparently-passing

Poem 76

   watanohara

kogiidete mireba

   hisakata no

kumoi magou

oki tsu shiranami

 

   As I row out

and gaze across the broad

   expanse of the sea,

the whitecapped waves in the offing

might be taken for banks of clouds.

-- Fujiwara no Tadamichi

Comments

The source is the second “Miscellaneous” book of the Shikashū (SKT 382). Fujiwara no Tadamichi (1097 – 1164) contended with his father and brother over court appointments in the increasingly turbulent middle years of the 12th century. His name has been used here rather than the long title that constitutes the actual attribution: Lay Priest of the Hosshōji and the Former Regent and Minister of State (Hosshōji nyūdō saki no kanpaku daijōdaijin).

In this descriptive poem, a sense of scale is evoked by the use of both the makurakotoba hisakata -- often used in classical poetry before such celestial phenomena as “sky,” “heaven,” “sun,” “moon,” and “light” to suggest distance or scope -- and the taigendome technique of ending the poem with a concrete image. The effect is to push back the edge of the horizon where the cresting waves can be seen. The impression is strikingly different from that of Poem 11, which the poet may have had in mind. It should be remembered that description in classical Japanese poetry is not necessarily inspired by an actual visit to the site described: the headnote in the source indicates that this waka was composed on a set topic at a poetry contest held at the imperial court. The reader (or listener) is meant to envision the scenery with the mind’s eye.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  sea's-broad-expanse
  • Line 2:  rowing-out | when-view
  • Line 3:  distant | 's
  • Line 4:  cloud-bank | for | confuse
  • Line 5:  offing | 's | wave

Poem 77

   se o hayami

iwa ni sekaruru

   takigawa no

warete mo sue ni

awamu to zo omou

 

   So swift is the flow

of a cascading stream against

   an obstructing rock,

I know that its parted waters

must meet again in the end.

-- Retired Emperor Sutoku

Comments

The source is the first “Love” book of the Shikashū (SKT 229). Retired Emperor Sutoku (1119 – 1164; r. 1123 – 1141)  was the eldest son of Emperor Toba (1103 – 1156; r. 1107 – 1123). He was exiled to the island of Sanuki after the Hōgen Disturbance of 1156, and after his death, his vengeful spirit was considered a force to be reckoned with in the capital.

The rushing stream, of course, is a metaphor for the passion of two lovers, which can only be temporarily interrupted by any obstruction. Rhetorically, the first three lines constitute a descriptive jokotoba preface that leads up to the word warete (“divide”), where the superimposition of human concerns begins. The poet's own determination to meet his lover again is then reflected in the emphatic last line, which also corresponds to the logical outcome of the cause adduced in the first line ("because the rapids are swift, its waters will surely meet again").

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  shallows | because | fast (as in Poem 1, the "o...-mi" construction indicates cause)
  • Line 2:  boulder | by | be-blocked
  • Line 3:  cascading-stream | as-for
  • Line 4:  dividing | even | end | at
  • Line 5:  will-meet | (quot.) | ! | think

Poem 78

   Awajishima

kayou chidori no

   naku koe ni

ikuyo nezamenu

Suma no sekimori

 

   How many nights were

the barrier guards at Suma

   awakened by cries

of plovers crossing over from

the island of Awaji?

-- Minamoto no Kanemasa

Comments

The source is the “Winter” book of the Kin’yōshū (SKT 270). Minamoto no Kanemasa, about whom little is known, was active at the start of the 12th century.

Suma Barrier, located in what is the modern city of Kobe, had long since fallen into disrepair by Kanemasa’s time (Awaji lies about four kilometers off the coast). A sense of nostalgia is thus invoked, reinforced by the awareness that Suma was the site of Hikaru Genji’s self-imposed exile and the conventional association of the plaintive cries of plovers with the loneliness of winter. These are not especially distinguished conceits, and the headnote in the source makes it clear that the waka was composed on the assigned topic of hearing the cries of plovers while approaching a travel barrier. However, the poet has attempted to create interest by inverting the grammar of the fourth and fifth lines (the tōchi-hō technique), which creates a syntactic break after the end of the fourth line: the shikugire technique. A certain ambiguity attends the verb kayou, which could be taken as referring to the plovers making the crossing in either direction, or indeed -- given enough time -- in both directions. Also, more than one theory has been proposed to account for the grammatical irregularity of the inflection nezamenu, which to operate attributively (i.e., "the night-awakened barrier guards") should read nezamenuru. It may be that the poet simply cropped the word to fit the standard seven-syllable format.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  Awajishima
  • Line 2:  go-back-and-forth | plover | (subj.)
  • Line 3:  cry | voice | for
  • Line 4:  how-many-nights | have-been-awakened
  • Line 5:  Suma | 's | barrier-guard

Poem 79

   akikaze ni

tanabiku kumo no

   taema yori

moreizuru tsuki no

kage no sayakesa

 

   How bright and

clear the moonlight

   that streams down

through a rift in the clouds

trailing in the autumn wind!

-- Fujiwara no Akisuke

Comments

The source is the first “Autumn” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 413). Fujiwara no Akisuke (1090 – 1155) was the compiler of the Shikashū, the sixth imperially commissioned collection of waka.

This waka, which according to the headnote in the source was originally composed for a poetry session sponsored by Retired Emperor Sutoku, represents a relatively unusual case for translation, since the imagery can be conveyed quite concisely. The poem ends with a nominative -- the evocative taigendome technique -- but since that nominative is derived from an adjective, it seemed more practicable in English to use "bright and clear" as adjectives and use "autumn moon" as the final noun. The language does not call attention to itself, but the waka does effectively capture a particular instant in time against the backdrop of a constantly shifting night sky.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  autumn-wind | in
  • Line 2:  trailing | cloud | 's
  • Line 3:  gap | from
  • Line 4:  seep-out | moon | 's
  • Line 5:  light | 's | clarity (the word "kage" is typically used to refer to the shape or the light of the sun or moon)

Poem 80

   nagakaramu

kokoro mo shirazu

   kurokami no

midarete kesa wa

mono o koso omoe

 

   Unsure in my heart

of the constancy of yours,

   I find my thoughts

in disarray this morning,

like these tangled black tresses.

-- Taikenmon'in no Horikawa

Comments

The source is the third “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 802). Taikenmon’in no Horikawa served Taikenmon’in (1101 – 1145), empress of Emperor Toba (1103 – 1156; r. 1107 – 1123), in the first half of the 12th century.

This waka, as stated in the source's headnote, was composed at the same poetry session that produced Poem 77 and Poem 79. Framed as a response to a man’s morning-after poem (kinuginu no uta), the poem is unified rhetorically by the "associated words," or engo, of kami (“hair”), nagashi (“long,” here transformed to “constancy”), and midarete (“in disarray”). The gnawing uncertainty about the man’s sincerity is given a sensual inflection by the poet's reference to her disheveled black hair after the night the two have spent together.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Line 1:  will-be-long
  • Line 2:  heart | even | not-know
  • Line 3:  black-hair | (subj.)
  • Line 4:  tangledly | this-morning | as-for
  • Line 5:  thing | (acc.) | ! | think (as with many other previous waka, to "think about things" means to be troubled by thoughts of love)