I hope this doesn’t derail the conversation about the format of this book club, but I wanted to get this done before I get busy again and even if we do change how this club works, I like at least rounding out the first 20 poems (kinda. works in my mind because I did one every week I guess. I’m a bit OCD about these kinda things)
13 筑波嶺の 峰より落つる みなの川 恋ぞつもりて 淵となりぬる (陽成院 )
陽成院, oldest son of Emperor Seiwa and previously known as Sadaakira Shinnou (貞明親王), became the 57th Emperor in 876 with only seven years old, and stayed on that throne until the age of 15, in 884. His mother was Fujiwara no Takaiko, who was involved in a scandal with Ariwara no Narihira, who wrote poem number 17.
陽成院 was unfortunately better known for his mental instability than his poetry, which was the reason why very little of it was every published. This is the only poem of his to make into any of the Imperial anthologies. It is said to have been written to the Princess of the Tsuridono, Emperor Koko (poem 15)’s daughter Suishi, who later did become 陽成院’s wife. Likely one of the rare love poems that bore fruit.
He was known to enjoy violence, like feed live frogs to snakes so he could watch, and would later on personally execute criminals, even chase after people that displeased him. In fact, the reason for his dethronement in favour of Koko was that he ordered men to climb high trees and others to poke them with sharp lances until he could watch them fall to their depths. He was forced to abdicate my Fujiwara no Mototsune, who was his uncle on his mother’s side and his regent.
However, considering the fact that forcefully abdicated by a Fujiwara, it is possible that these stories are little more than a made up justification for the actions of the power hungry Fujiwara.
His son Motoyoshi wrote poem 20.
Mount Tsukuba is famous in Japan, particularly due to its two peaks, 男体 (なんたい “man”) in the west and 女体 (にょたい “woman”) in the east. It was frequently used in poetry revolving around love and romance. The poem makes use of that by likening the deepening of love to the widening of the river as it descents Mount Tsukuba.
Interestingly, this poem being a love poem is very contrary to 陽成院’s apparent violent disposition.
みね from line 2 and みな from line 3 are an echo of each other and こい is an example of 掛詞, which means both ‘love’ and ‘deep’.
みなのがわ can be written with the Kanji for ‘man’ and ‘woman’, 男女川, echoing Mount Tsukuba’s twin peaks.
The first 3 lines are 序詞 to the following stanza, essentially serving as a metaphor the love described in lines 4 and 5.
In essence, the poem flows beautifully by linking the みね (‘peak’) to the subsequent みな (part of the name of the river), where as みなの (the name of the river) links back to the mountain’s twin peaks. All of this is, in turn, 序詞 to what follows, as such seamlessly leading into 恋, which both refers to the literal ‘love’, as well as the dark depths of both the river みなの mentioned in the beginning and the ふち (a deep pool in a body of water) in the last line, perfectly rounding out the poem.
There is a legend surrounding Mount Tsukuba, which says that a long time ago, a deity descended from heaven and was looking for somewhere to spend the night. After Mount Fuji, which is visible from Mount Tsukuba, refused due to arrogantly believing it didn’t need the favour of a deity, Mount Tsukuba welcomed the deity with open arms, offering food and water. That is said to be the reason Mount Tsukuba is ripe with vegetation and full of colours as the seasons change, while Mount Fuji remains cold and lonely.
Mount Tsukuba is also still a popular tourist destination.