One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets


Poem 81

   hototogisu

nakitsuru kata o

   nagamureba

tada ariake no

tsuki zo nokoreru

 

   Looking toward

the call that just came

   from a cuckoo,

I see only the moon

lingering in the dawn sky.

-- The Go-Tokudaiji Minister of the Left

Comments

The source is the “Summer” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 161). Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139 – 1191) was a cousin of Fujiwara no Teika (see Poem 97) and talented at playing the biwa and composing poetry in a variety of styles. "Tokudaiji" was the appellation of a branch of the Fujiwara family originating with a courtier who founded the Tokudai Temple in Kyoto; Sanesada affected the form Go-Tokudaiji ("Later Tokudaiji").

The cuckoo is a migratory bird traditionally considered a harbinger of summer, and hearing its first call was a highly anticipated event among court aristocrats. The waka transitions from the auditory to the visual -- from the call of the cuckoo to the sight of the moon. It is this transition that gives the poem its unique approach to an otherwise conventional pairing of images.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  cuckoo
  • Measure 2:  did-call | direction | (acc.)
  • Measure 3:  when-gaze
  • Measure 4:  only | dawn | 's |
  • Measure 5:  moon | ! | be-remaining

The auxiliary verb tsu, signifying completion, has been attached to the continuitive form of the verb naku ("to call") in the second measure and then inflected in the attributive form tsuru so that it modifies kata ("direction"). Tsu is distinguished from the auxiliary verb nu, likewise signifying completion, on the basis of intentionality: tsu connotes an intentional action (the action is performed), while nu connotes a spontaneous or unintended action (the action happens). The poet, by attributing intentionality to the cuckoo, comes close to personifying the bird, an effect that carries over to the image of the moon.


Poem 82

   omoiwabi

satemo inochi wa

   aru monoo

uki ni taenu wa

namida narikeri

 

   Even though life

goes on somehow despite

   these distressed thoughts,

my tears have proven unable

to endure such a mournful state.

-- Priest Dōin

Comments

The source is the third “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 818). Dōin, (1090 – 1182?), whose lay name was Fujiwara no Atsuyori, apparently had trouble freeing himself from his attachment to poetry. According to the Mumyōshō (Nameless Notes) of Kamo no Chōmei (1155 – 1216), Dōin prayed regularly for inspiration at Sumiyoshi Shrine and, after his death, supposedly appeared to Fujiwara no Shunzei in a dream to thank him for including so many of his waka in the Senzaishū.

The contrast in the poem between the objective continuity of life and the emotional devastation of rejection in love reflects the dissociation that can occur at times of psychological distress, with the poet's tears -- which seem to fall of their own accord -- mediating between the two worlds. Despite the waka's inclusion in the "Love" book of the Senzaishū, the headnote simply remarks that the topic is unknown (dai shirazu), so the circumstances surrounding the poem's composition are unclear, and it also seems possible to interpret the poem in a less romantic sense more in keeping with Dōin's status as a monk.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  distressfully-thinking
  • Measure 2:  even-so | life | as-for
  • Measure 3:  exist | even-though
  • Measure 4:  mournful | with-regard-to | not-withstand | as-for
  • Measure 5:  tears | be!

The moroseness of the first measure is, of course, due to the implied heartlessness of the poet's lover. The doubled auxiliary verbs at the end of the fifth measure add a great deal of emphasis to the poem: nari signifies declaration, and keri is exclamatory (for more about keri, see the notes to Poem 6). Note the way the auxiliary verb nari can be attached to nominatives in classical Japanese grammar, a usage that likely derives from the etymology of the word as a combination of the case particle ni (signifying a state or condition) and the verb ari ("exist").


Poem 83

   yononaka yo

michi koso nakare

   omoiiru

yama no oku ni mo

shika zo naku naru

 

   No path leads

away from this world of ours:

   having sought out

the recesses of these mountains,

one still hears the bellow of a stag.

-- Shunzei, Master of the Grand Empress's Household

Comments

The source is the second “Miscellaneous” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 1151). Fujiwara no Shunzei (or Toshinari, 1114 – 1204), the compiler of the Senzaishū, was the father of Fujiwara no Teika (or Sadaie, see Poem 97), the presumed compiler of the Hyakunin isshu.

The metaphorical message is, of course, that one cannot escape the melancholy sorrow of human life. The conventional loneliness associated with a stag calling for mate (see Poem 5) is here given a slight ironic twist because even though presumably the poet was actively seeking seclusion, he has been put even more in mind of his isolated situation. The ambivalence acquires subtlety by being conveyed indirectly through the image of a stag. A syntactic break after the second measure marks the nikugire technique, establishing a clearly defined contrast between the two hemistiches of the waka (unlike the previous waka, however, no conjunction mitigates the contrast).

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  world | !
  • Measure 2:  road | indeed | not-exist
  • Measure 3:  purposefully-think
  • Measure 4:  mountain | 's | interior | at | even
  • Measure 5:  stag | ! | call-out | be-heard

The auxiliary verb nari that appears at the end of the fifth measure is used to to signal that an identifiable sound or voice has been heard (this is not the same auxiliary verb used at the end of the previous waka). It may not really need to be translated in a case like this, where it essentially indicates that the stag has been heard rather than seen, but the "hear"/"bellow" combination of the translation works to suggest the presence of the poet.


Poem 84

   nagaraeba

mata konogoro ya

   shinobaremu

ushi to mishi yo zo

ima wa koishiki

 

   Should I live on,

will I again recall this time

   with longing?

For a world I once found bleak

I now regard with fondness.

--Fujiwara no Kiyosuke

Comments

The source is the second “Miscellaneous” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 1843). Fujiwara no Kiyosuke (1104 – 1177) was the son of Fujiwara no Akisuke (see Poem 79), from whom he was long estranged. Despite a relative lack of success at obtaining preferment at court, Kiyosuke was much admired for his discernment as a critic.

The contrastive shifts in time give this waka its appeal: the first three measures move from the present to the future, while the last two measures move from present to past. The parallelism implies that the present time is an unpleasant one for the poet, but he realizes that this unpleasantness may eventually fade from his memory in the same way that he has largely forgotten the unpleasantness of the past. Not only does the poem evoke the transcience of life, but also the somewhat ironic awareness that nostalgia inevitably colors the memory of the past. Structurally, the division is signaled by a kugire measure break at the end of the third measure: an example of the sankugire technique.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  if-continue-long
  • Measure 2:  again | present-time | ?
  • Measure 3:  will-likely-fondly-recall
  • Measure 4:  mournful | (quot.) | did-regard | world | !
  • Measure 5:  now | as-for | beloved

The conjunctive particle ba at the end of the first measure is attached to the imperfective form of the verb nagaraeru ("live long"), creating a hypothetical condition (for more about ba, see the notes to Poem 4). The effect of the sankugire measure break is reinforced by a pair of bound-particle/bound-ending constructions: ya (interrogative) and mu (signifying surmise) in the third measure, and zo (emphatic) and koishiki (the attributive form of the adjective koishi) in the fifth.


Poem 85

   yomosugara

monoomou koro wa

   akeyarade

neya no hima sae

tsurenakarikeri

 

   All night long

I now torment myself with thoughts

  as dawn fails to arrive,

the gaps between my bedroom doors

scarecely less unfeeling than you.

-- Priest Shun'e

Comments

The source is the second “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 766). Shun’e (1113 – ?) was the son of Fujiwara no Toshiyori (see Poem 74) and waka teacher to Kamo no Chōmei (1155 – 1216), the author of Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness).

The (rather exaggerated) complaint is that the woman resents not only the heartlessness of her neglectful lover but also the "cruelty" of the gaps between her bedroom doors, which admit no hint of the light of approaching dawn, condemning her to continued anguished waiting. Shun’e is writing in the persona of a spurned woman, a fairly common pose in classical Japanese poetry (see also Poem 18 and Poem 21).

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  all-night-long
  • Measure 2:  think-troubled-thoughts | recent-time | as-for
  • Measure 3:  not-fully-dawning
  • Measure 4:  bedchamber | 's | gap | even
  • Measure 5:  heartless!

The verb akeyaru ("to-fully- dawn") in the third measure can be said to consist of the supplementary verb yaru ("do-fully") attached to the continuative form of the verb aku ("to-dawn"). This verb is then inflected in the imperfective form so that the negative conjunctive particle de can be attached. As noted in conjunction with Poem 6, the auxiliary verb keri is exclamatory in function, although the inclination is to avoid using an exclamation point in translation, especially when keri appears in the proximity of another emphatic part of speech. Grammatically, keri is attached to the continuative form of inflected parts of speech, so the adjective tsurenashi ("heartless") in the fifth measure is inflected as tsurenakari.


Poem 86

   nageke tote

tsuki yawa mono o

   omowasuru

kakochigaonaru

wa ga namida kana

 

   Is the moon telling me

to lament when it calls these

   forlorn thoughts to mind?

Such is the reproach formed

in the tears that I shed.

-- Priest Saigyō

Comments

The source is the fifth “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 929). Saigyō (1118 – 1190), whose lay name was Satō Norikiyo, is known for the waka he composed during his lengthy travels around Japan. Poets such as Matsuo Bashō (1654 – 1694) made a point of visiting the places Saigyō had memorialized in his poetry.

The moon, it is clear, is not to be regarded solely as a symbol of austere beauty -- it also evokes the resentment of unrequited love (this motif can be traced in part to the influence of Chinese poetry, particularly that of Bai Juyi [772 – 846]). The gijin-hō technique is apparent in the personification of both the moon, which is blamed for the poet's morose feelings, and the poet’s tears, which deliver a rebuke in the poet's stead. The question-response structural arrangement reflects the use of a sankugire third-measure break, as in Poem 84, above.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  do-lament! | so-saying
  • Measure 2:  moon | ? | thing | (acc.)
  • Measure 3:  make-think
  • Measure 4:  with-reproachful-face
  • Measure 5:  I | 's | tears | !

The interrogatory bound particle yawa in the second measure is used to create rhetorical questions. In other words, the poet is fully aware that it is not the moon that inspires her anguish; she is using personification to sharpen the irony. The fourth measure is composed of a single adjectival verb, kakochikaonari ("have a reproachful face"), which is inflected in attributive form to modify namida ("tears") in the next measure. The "shed" has been interpolated in the fifth line of the translation for reasons of syntax and rhythm.


Poem 87

   murasame no

tsuyu mo mada hinu

   maki no ha ni

kiri tachinoboru

aki no yūgure

 

   Evergreen leaves,

still dewy wet from

   a heavy shower,

veiled by the rising mist

on this autumn evening.

-- Priest Jakuren

Comments

The source is the second “Autumn” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 491). Jakuren (1139? – 1202), whose lay name was Fujiwara no Sadanaga, was the nephew of Fujiwara no Shunzei (see Poem 83) and one of the compilers of the Shinkokinshū, although he died before its completion.

The word maki is a general term for such evergreens as Japanese cedar and Japanese cypress. The image of dark trees enveloped by white mist on an autumn evening creates the impression of a monochromatic ink painting (one immediately thinks of the folding screens of Hasegawa Tōhaku), but one that shifts the perspective from near (the drops on the leaves) to far (trees in the mist). The entire waka constitutes a single nominative clause, illustrating the taigendome technique. The somber beauty of the scene is quite extraordinary.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  heavy-shower | 's
  • Measure 2:  dew | even | not-yet | to-dry
  • Measure 3:  evergreen-trees | leaves | on
  • Measure 4:  mist | rise-up
  • Measure 5:  autumn | 's | evening

The noun murasame in the first measure refers to a sudden, heavy shower or, especially, to intermittently heavy rain. Kiri ("mist"), in the fourth measure, is an autumn phenomenon in classical Japanese poetry; kasumi is the word used for spring mist.


Poem 88

   Naniwa-e no

ashi no karine no

   hitoyo yue

mi o tsukushite ya

koiwataru beki

 

   For the sake of a night

as short as the cropped reeds at

   Naniwa Bay,

am I meant, like a channel marker,

to waste away on the course of love?

-- Kōkamon'in no Bettō

Comments

The source is the “Love” book of the Senzaishū. (SKT 807). The poet, whose dates are unknown, was active in the 12th century and served under Empress Seishi (1121 – 1181), wife of Emperor Sutoku (see Poem 77).

An extended metaphor, and thus difficult to translate within the prescribed syllabic format, the waka contains no fewer than three kakekotoba, or pivot words: karine, representing both cropped reeds and a short sleep; hitoyo, meaning both one segment of a reed stalk (between two nodes) and a single night; and miotsukushi, used nominatively for “channel marker” and verbally as part of a phrase meaning “consuming oneself.” In addition, the place name Naniwa-e is accompanied by the engo (associated words) of ashi (“reeds”), karine, "cropped roots") hitoyo ("single segment"), and miotsukushi ("channel marker"). Finally, the kakekotoba pair of karine/hitoyo is prefaced by a descriptive jokotoba referring to reeds at the entrance to Naniwa (Osaka) Bay, known for its large population of prostitutes. The connection is made clear in the headnote in the source, which specifies as the topic a love tryst at an inn for travelers. Ostensibly, then, the waka becomes a sympathetic depiction of the tenuous existence of such women, continually sacrificing themselves for a series of brief romantic liaisons, although from a modern perspective the conflation of prostitution with romance sits rather uneasily. Surprisingly, the waka scans quite smoothly in Japanese despite the convoluted wordplay. For brevity's sake, the translation has elided the reference to the short segments of the stumps of the cropped reeds.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  Naniwa-Inlet | 's
  • Measure 2:  reed | 's | cropped-root + short-sleep | 's
  • Measure 3:  one-segment + one-night | reason
  • Measure 4:  channel-marker + oneself-(acc.)-exhaustingly | ?
  • Measure 5:  continue-to-love | should

The interrogative bound particle ya in the fourth measure joins with the fifth-measure bound ending beki (the attributive form of the auxiliary verb beshi, signifying natural expectation) to produce the effect of a rhetorical question. The -wataru portion of the verb koiwataru ("continue to love") more precisely means "cross over," but because the reference is to the passage of time (that is, the poet's love may "cross over" into the future), the more idiomatic "continue" has been adopted in the literal rendition.


Poem 89

   tama-no-o yo

taenaba taene

   nagaraeba

shinoburu koto no

yowari mo zo suru

 

   Precious thread of life,

if you are to break, then break.

   Should I go on living,

I would only lose the strength

to conceal what I must bear.

-- Princess Shokushi

Comments

The source is the first “Love” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 1034). Shokushi (sometimes spelled Shikishi; 1149 – 1201) was the third daughter of Emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127 – 1192; r. 1155-1158). She served as Vestal Virgin of Kamo Shrine and eventually became a nun.

The passionate tone of this waka and the previous one are conventionally held to be characteristic of female poets of the classical period (and later). The first two measures give expression to the poet’s romantic desperation, while the next three add apprehension over the possibility of her secret being discovered. The clear syntactic break at the end of the second measure demonstrates the nikugire technique. Tae ("breaking"), nagarae ("living on"), and yowari ("losing strength") are all engo (associated words) linked with the word o ("thread" or "cord"). The headnote in the source specifies the topic as "concealed love." That concealment also requires forebearance is so clearly implicit in the verb shinobu that it is not treated as a kakekotoba pivot word in Japanese poetics, despite the difference in English nuance.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  beaded-string | !
  • Measure 2:  if-break | do-break!
  • Measure 3:  if-continue-longer
  • Measure 4:  endure | thing | (subj.)
  • Measure 5:  growing-weak | also | ! | do

The second measure contains a grammatical construction that emphasizes the depth of the poet's despair: the conjunctive particle ba is attached to the imperfective form of the auxiliary verb nu (signifying completion) to create a hypothetical condition, and the short clause that follows -- based on the identical verb, tayu ("to break" or "to end") -- ends with ne, the imperative form of the same auxiliary verb. An extended grammatical parallel comes into play in the third measure with the insertion of a second hypothetical condition formed by the conjunctive particle ba, this one followed by a main clause that occupies the remaining two measures. The repetition and the parallism are central to the poem's effect.


Poem 90

   misebaya na

Ojima no ama no

   sode dani mo

nure ni zo nureshi

iro wa kawarazu

 

   You should see my sleeves.

Even those of the fishermen

   at Ojima

become wetter and wetter

without changing in color.

-- Inpumon'in Taifu

Comments

The source is the fourth “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 886). The poet (1131? –1200?) was the daughter of Fujiwara no Nubunari (1197 – ?) and lady-in-waiting to Princess Ryōshi (1147 – 1216), more commonly referred to as Inpumon’in.

The conventional notion at the center of the waka's meaning is that one's passionate tears (tears of blood, that is) dye the sleeves of one's kimono red. The poem itself is an allusive variation of Poem 48: this is the rhetorical device of honkadori, in which expressions are lifted directly from a source the reader is expected to recognize. The honkadori device is present in eight of the last eleven waka of the Hyakunin isshu and can therefore be said to demonstrate one of the main shaping impulses of the compiler. In this case, the image of the water-soaked sleeves of common fishermen is being appropriated for aristocratic use to suggest the rather more elegant anguish of the poet (the headnote in the source specifies the topic as love). Rather unusually, the waka has measure breaks after both the first and fourth measures (shokugire and shikugire), only the first of which is retained in the translation. It should also be noted that this is the third in succession of a short series of passionate waka composed by women.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  wish-to-show | !
  • Measure 2:  Ojima | 's | fisher | 's
  • Measure 3:  sleeve | even | also
  • Measure 4:  get-wet | and | ! | did-get-wet
  • Measure 5:  color | as-for | not-change

The final particle baya in the first measure signifies wishing or desiring to do something; it follows the imperfective form of verbs. In classical Japanese, unlike modern Japanese, the noun ama (which appears in the second measure) can refer to either men or women, although the likelihood here is that they are men. The literal sense of the last two measures -- that no matter how wet they became, the sleeves of the fishermen the poet saw did not change color -- contains the reverse implication (as indicated by the contrastive bound particle wa in the fifth measure) that the poet's sleeves have changed color, presumably because she has been shedding tears of blood. The translator must decide whether or not to draw out this implication in translation.