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
  • Measure 1:  evening | when-changes
  • Measure 2:  gate-rice-field | 's | rice-leaves
  • Measure 3:  visitingly
  • Measure 4:  reed | 's | hut | to
  • Measure 5:  autumn-wind | ! | blow

The verb saru in the first measure is not to be taken in the modern sense of "depart"; rather, it connotes a transition toward the indicated time. The verb is conjugated in the perfective form, so the conjunctive particle ba attached to it implies that a time sequence is involved (for more on this particle, see the notes to Poem 4).


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 drench 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 measure) to the proper noun "Takashi," which refers 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. The poem contains three engo, or associated words, that enrich the imagery: hama ("beach" or "shore"), nami ("wave"), and nure (the continuative form of the verb "to get wet").

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  sound | in | hear
  • Measure 2:  high + Takashi's-shore | 's
  • Measure 3:  pointless-wave | as-for
  • Measure 4:  will-not-let-touch | ! | sleeve | (subj.)
  • Measure 5:  get-wet | even | indeed | do

When the two bound particles mo and koso appear together, as in the fifth measure, the implication is uneasy concern over negative consequences. The bound ending at the end of the measure corresponding to koso is sure, the perfective form of the irregular verb su ("do").


Poem 73

   takasago no

onoe no sakura

   sakinikeri

toyama no kasumi

tatazu mo aranamu

 

   The cherries

at the crest of that tall peak

   have now come into bloom.

I would ask the mist on the foothills

not to rise and obscure the view.

 

-- Provisional Middle Counselor 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 block the view of the cherry blossoms on a more distant ridge (the implication has been explicitly drawn out in translation). One theory has it that takasago should regarded as a famous place name, or 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 generically to the crest of a mountain (or to a mountain ridge). The full-sentence break at the end of the third measure illustrates the technique of sankugire, giving the waka a clear two-part structure.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  tall-mound | 's
  • Measure 2:  crest | 's | cherry-blossoms
  • Measure 3:  did-bloom!
  • Measure 4:  near-mountain | 's | mist
  • Measure 5:  not-rising | even | may-it-exist-so

The word toyama ("outer mountain[s]"; 外山) that appears at the beginning of the fourth measure is used in contrast to okuyama ("inner mountain[s]"; 奥山) or miyama ("deep mountain[s]"; 深山) to refer to mountains that lie at a distance from the main range and are thus closer to human habitation, resulting in the seemingly paradoxical rendering "near mountain." The word hayama ("edge mountain[s]"; 端山), because it also refers to "outlying" mountains (that is, foothills) is a synonym for toyama.


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 measure 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
  • Measure 1:  did-feel-morose
  • Measure 2:  person | (acc.) | Hatsuse | 's
  • Measure 3:  mountain-gale | !
  • Measure 4:  fiercely-be | (quot.) | !
  • Measure 5:  not-pray | even-though

The auxiliary verb keri in the first measure is inflected in the attributive form, meaning that here it signifies past tense ("a person I felt morose about"). Two grammatical interpretations are possible for monoo at the end of the fifth measure. The first is to regard it as a contrastive conjunctive particle signifying "even though." That is the interpretation adopted here, although one must then assume a subsequently omitted clause along the lines of "...why, then, are you blowing so fiercely?." The second interpretation takes monoo as an exclamatory final particle requiring no further interpolation.


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 simply passes 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 official 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 clue the reader needs to properly fill out the context. The -oki conjugation of the verb chigirioku in the first measure (implying something that is set aside for a future purpose) is an associated word, or engo, of tsuyu ("dew"), since dew is something that "rests upon" (oku) a plant.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  did-promise-in-advance
  • Measure 2:  mugwort | 's | dew | (acc.)
  • Measure 3:  life | being
  • Measure 4:  ah! | this-year | 's
  • Measure 5:  autumn | also | apparently-pass

Although nite, at the end of the third measure, has been rendered as a single English participial, in Japanese it consists of two separate parts of speech: the declarative auxiliary verb nari, inflected in the continuative form, and the conjunctive particle te, which can be used to establish relationships of concurrence, time sequence, or (depending on the context) cause and effect.


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.

-- Lay Priest of the Hosshōji and the Former Regent and Chancellor

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. The lengthy attribution incoporates three titles in its complete Japanese version: Hosshōji nyūdō ("lay priest [or novice] of the Hosshōji") saki no ("former") kanpaku ("regent") daijōdaijin ("chancellor").

In this descriptive poem, a sense of scale is evoked by the use of both the makurakotoba hisakata -- often used as an epithet 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 nominative to evoke poetic overtones. The effect is to push back the edge of the horizon well beyond the cresting waves. The impression is strikingly different from that of Poem 11, which the poet may have had in mind when composing this poem. 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 visualize the scenery in the mind’s eye.

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

As mentioned in conjunction with Poem 12, the case particle tsu in the fifth measure is an archaic possessive form that remained in use in a number of fixed expressions in later poetry.


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

   the obstructing rocks,

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 measures 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 measure, which also corresponds to the logical outcome of the cause adduced in the first measure ("because the rapids are swift, its waters will surely meet again").

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  shallows | due-to-fast
  • Measure 2:  rock | by | be-blocked
  • Measure 3:  cascading-stream | (subj.)
  • Measure 4:  dividing | even | endpoint | at
  • Measure 5:  will-meet | (quot.) | ! | think

The o...-mi construction in the first measure, also found in Poem 1 and Poem 48, indicates cause or reason and has exceptionally been treated as a single unit in the literal version. Because the bound particle mo ("even") in the fourth measure follows the conjunctive particle te, the sense is "even though it might happen that...."


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 measures (the tōchi-hō technique), which creates a syntactic break after the end of the fourth measure: the shikugire technique. A certain ambiguity attends the verb kayou ("travel regularly"), which could be taken as referring to the plovers making the crossing in either direction, or indeed -- given enough time -- in both directions.

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

More than one theory has been proposed to account for the apparent grammatical irregularity of the verb/auxiliary-verb combination nezamenu ("did awaken") at the end of the fourth measure (note that nezameru is an intransitive verb). The presence of the interrogative iku ("how many") -- even though integrated into the form of a noun -- technically mandates the attributive form of the auxiliary verb nu, signifying completion. Thus, the fourth measure should actually read ikuyo nezamenuru. It has been speculated that the final -ru was dropped for reasons of rhythm (to match the expected seven-syllable format); or that an understood second auxiliary verb (ramu, which signifies surmise as to reason or cause and is attached to the final form of inflected items) has been omitted; or that in the case of interrogative particles, the use of the final form nu may simply have been an acceptable grammatical alternative (other examples do exist). Such are some of the analytical complications arising from the highly inflected grammar of classical Japanese.


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!

-- Master of the Left Capital 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. The "left" half of the Heian capital meant "left" of the central Suzaku Avenue as viewed from the perspective of the emperor when facing south. In other words, the geographic reference is to the eastern section of the city (which historically developed into the urban center).

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 to 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
  • Measure 1:  autumn-wind | in
  • Measure 2:  trailing | cloud | 's
  • Measure 3:  gap | from
  • Measure 4:  seep-out | moon | 's
  • Measure 5:  light | 's | clarity

The suffix -sa is used to transform adjectives into nouns, as here with the adjective sayakeshi ("clear and bright") at the end of the fifth measure.


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 three engo, or associated words: kami (“hair”), nagashi (“long,” here transformed to “constancy”), and midarete (“being 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 two have spent the night together.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  will-be-long
  • Measure 2:  heart | even | not-knowing
  • Measure 3:  black-hair | (subj.)
  • Measure 4:  tangledly | this-morning | as-for
  • Measure 5:  thing | (acc.) | indeed | think

The auxiliary verb mu in the first measure, attached to the imperfective form of the adjective nagashi ("long"), signifies surmise and is thus being used to refer indirectly to what the man has promised (namely, that his "heart" will continue). The noun kesa ("this morning") in the fourth measure is the signal that identifies this as a follow-up morning-after poem. As with Poem 48 and Poem 49, among others, the expression mono o omou ("think about things") conventionally means to be troubled by thoughts of love.