One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

Poem 81


nakitsuru kata o


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.

-- Go-Tokudaiji Minister of the Left


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 appelation of a branch of the Fujiwara family originating with a courtier who founded the Tokudai Temple in Kyoto; Sanesada affected the form Go-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:  call-just-emitted | direction | (acc.)
  • Measure 3:  when-gaze
  • Measure 4:  only | dawn | 's |
  • Measure 5:  moon | ! | be-remaining

Poem 82


satemo inochi wa

   aru monoo

uki ni taenu wa

namida narikeri


   Even though life

goes on somehow, despite

  these forlorn thoughts,

my tears have been unable

to resist the anguish I feel.

-- Priest Dōin


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 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 -- acting as a mediary 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 broader sense more in keeping with Dōin's status as a monk.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  thinking-to-distraction
  • Measure 2:  even-so | life | as-for
  • Measure 3:  exist | even-though
  • Measure 4:  anguish | to | not-endure | as-for
  • Measure 5:  tears | be! (the final exclamation implies coming to an awareness of something that has happened -- an interesting conflation of time quite common in classical Japanese poetry)

Poem 83

   yononaka yo

michi koso nakare


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.

-- Kōtaigōgū no Daibu Shunzei


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 is here given a slight ironic twist because even though presumably the poet was actively seeking isolation, he is put even more in mind of the sadness attending upon human loneliness. The ambivalence gains in 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 meliorates the contrast).

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

Poem 84


mata konogoro ya


ushi to mishi yo zo

ima wa koishiki


   Should I live on,

will I again recall this time

   with longing?

For I once found bleak a world

I now regard with fondness.

--Fujiwara no Kiyosuke


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 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 the present to the past. In that way, past, present, and future are marshalled to suggest not only the sadness of life but also the particular sense of resignation that comes from living it. The question that is completed grammatically at end of the third measure signals the use of the sankugire technique.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  if-live-long
  • Measure 2:  again | present-time | ? (the question particle applies to the verb in the next measure)
  • Measure 3:  recall-fondly
  • Measure 4:  wretched | (quot.) | did-regard | world | !
  • Measure 5:  now | as-for | wistful

Poem 85


monoomou koro wa


neya no hima sae



   All night long, as always,

I give myself to troubled thoughts

   as dawn fails to arrive,

your callousness shared even by

the gaps of my bedroom doors.

-- Priest Shun'e


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 (and presumably between the doors and their frame), which give no sign of the approach of dawn and thus an end to her anguished waiting. Shun’e is writing in the persona of a spurned woman, a fairly common pose in classical Japanese poetry.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  all-night-long
  • Measure 2:  painfully-contemplating | recent-time | as-for
  • Measure 3:  not-yet-being-fully-dawn
  • Measure 4:  bedchamber | 's | gap | even
  • Measure 5:  has-become-heartless

Poem 86

   nageke tote

tsuki yawa mono o



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


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 format signals the use of the sankugire technique, as in Poem 84, above.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  must-lament | even-saying
  • Measure 2:  moon | ? | thing | (acc.) (the question particle governs the rest of measures two and three: "Does [the moon] make me think about things?")
  • Measure 3:  make-think
  • Measure 4:  having-reproachful-face
  • Measure 5:  I | 's | tears | ! ("falling from my eyes" has been interpolated)

Poem 87

   murasame no

tsuyu mo madainu

   maki no ha ni

kiri tachinoboru

aki no yūgure


   Evergreen leaves,

still dewy wet from

   a passing shower,

veiled by the rising mist

on this autumn evening.

-- Priest Jakuren


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 in perspective from near (the drops on the leaves) to distant (trees in the mist). The entire waka constitutes a single nominative clause, illustrating the taigendome technique. The somber beauty evoked is extraordinary.

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

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 Bettō


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 related words (engo) of ashi (“reeds”), karine, hitoyo, and miotsukushi. 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.

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 + exhaust-oneself | ? (the question particle applies to the verb in the next measure)
  • Measure 5:  extend-love | should (as a question, the sense becomes "Should I be expected to go on loving?")

Poem 89

   tamanoo yo

taenaba taene


shinoburu koto no

yowari mo zo suru


   Precious thread of life,

if you are to break, let it be now.

   Should I go on living,

I will only lose the strength

to conceal what I must bear.

-- Princess Shokushi


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 with the word o ("thread" or "cord"). The headnote in the source specifies the topic as "concealed love." That concealment demands forebearance is so implicit in the verb shinobu that it is not treated as a kakekotoba in Japanese poetics despite the difference in English nuance.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  beaded-string | ! ("tama" -- "bead" or "jewel" -- is homophonous with the word for "soul," so "tamanoo" is a conventional metaphor for life; the exclamatory particle "yo" indicates direct address)
  • Measure 2:  if-break | do-break
  • Measure 3:  if-live-longer
  • Measure 4:  being-endured | thing | (subj.)
  • Measure 5:  growing-weak | also | ! | do

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


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, which is present in eight of the last eleven waka of the Hyakunin isshu and can therefore be said to demonstrate one of the 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 in terms of rhetorical devices, the waka has semantic breaks after both the first and fourth measures (shokugire and shikugire); the translation retains only the first of these. 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 (unlike modern Japanese, the classical word "ama" can refer to either men or women)
  • Measure 3:  sleeve | even | also
  • Measure 4:  get-wet | and | ! | get-wet
  • Measure 5:  color | as-for | not-change (the "wa" creates a contrastive example, directing attention to the poet's sleeves as opposed to those of the fishermen)