18 住の江の 岸による浪 よるさへや 夢の通ひ路 人目よくらむ (藤原敏行朝臣)
Fujiwara Toshiyuki, an officer of the Imperial guard, was an active participant of poetry contests, prominent in both poetry and calligraphy, and is part of the 36 Immortals of Poetry. 28 of his poems are included in various Imperial anthologies, and this poem in question was part of a poetry contest in 953. He also has a personal poetry collection, the 敏行集.
This is a link to some (all?) of his poems for those that might be interested (I have to admit, I did not read this at all): http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~sg2h-ymst/yamatouta/sennin/tosiyuki.html
His family, the Fujiwara family, rose to power during the reign of Emperor Tenchi. For quite some time, the wives for the Emperors were chosen from this family only and to this day, a lot of nobility has their roots in the Fujiwara family.
The poem talks about the poet’s inability to meet his/her lover, using the beach at Suminoe as a metaphor of some description.
Secret love was very common during the Heian period, as the public scrutiny in the high society was incredibly intense, which might explain the poem’s popularity. The poet could not even be visited by his/her lover in his/her dreams.
As men were free to visit their lovers, but not vice versa (see Trivia), this poem can actually be considered to be written from a female perspective. And because it was an entry to a contest, it is possible that it was part of the brief.
Grammar & Devices
よる refers to both the verb (‘to visit’ loosely), as well as the noun (‘night’). Its first appearance is both the former, as well as part of a 序詞 leading to the second よる. The whole 序詞 here is 隅の江の岸による浪.
This is also yet another poem using 掛詞. Here he is using まつ, both to mean ‘pine tree’, as well as ‘to wait’. A fitting use of the device, as trees are literally rooted to the ground. I personally also quite like the image of a tree on a beach simply sitting (standing?) and waiting for the tide to carry the water closer to itself.
The repetition of よる, as well as the 掛詞 for まつ also quite beautifully represent the rising and falling of the tide (waves) mentioned in the poem.
(Note: I know a lot of this was in the book, but I found it really interested, so I put it here anyway)
During the Heian period, it was forbidden for aristocratic women to show their face in public. They were not allowed to leave the house, save for a pilgrimage to the Kannon temple or to go to the Kamo festival. Even then, they would be veiled or hidden in curtained carriages. Some even went as far as to refuse to have their voice heard by non-family members and would communicate either through poems or by using their many servants.
As for lovers, before marriage the soon-to-be husband would not be allowed to see the woman’s face either. And after marriage, she would remain with a member of her family and her husband would visit her instead.
Dreams held a special meaning for lovers during the Heian period, as they were meant to allow these lovers to meet, which they couldn’t do during the day. As women were living under constant insecurity whether their lover was indeed still in love with them, they often believed their dreams to be an indicator. If the man stopped appearing, that must mean he has fallen out of love. And, conversely, if one dreamt of another person often, maybe that meant they were in love with them.
隅の江is current Sumiyoshi in Southern Osaka, where the ancient Sumiyoshi shrine is. The deity of that shrine was very popular during the Heian period and also makes an appearance in The Tales of Genji.
Before it was built up, the Suminoe beach was said to be very beautiful and was famous for its pine trees (‘まつ’).
Would have loved to find more on this, but there wasn’t as much to find (granted, I never really do a super deep dive either). I’m starting to realise that I’m really into the literary devices these poems use, moreso than any other part of this exercise. Yet another point of proof that I’m a massive language nut