@Belthazar’s poem research club for the betterment of everyone’s education: reading マンガ✖くり返しでスイスイ覚えられる百人一首

12 天つ風 雲の通ひ路 吹き閉ぢよ をとめの姿 しばしとどめむ (僧正遍照)

Translation

Breezes of Heaven, blow closed the pathway through the clouds to keep a little longer these heavenly dancers from returning home.
– Peter MacMillan, in: Fujiwara, Teika (2018). One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse. Penguin UK.

Author

Henjō (遍昭 or 遍照, 816 – February 12, 890) was a Japanese waka poet and Buddhist priest. At birth he was given the name Yoshimine no Munesada (良岑宗貞).

Munesada was the eighth son of Dainagon Yoshimine no Yasuyo (良岑安世), a son of Emperor Kanmu who was relegated to civilian life. He began his career as a courtier, and was later appointed to the position of kurōdo, a sort of Chamberlain, of Emperor Ninmyō. In 849, he was raised to the Head of Kurōdo (蔵人頭, Kurōdo no Tō). After Emperor Nimmyō died in 850, Munesada became a monk out of his grief, taking the religious name Henjō (literally “Universally Illuminated”).
In 885 he was appointed 僧正そうじょう, a rank assigned by the state to Buddhist clergy. Afterwards he called himself Kazan Sōjō (花山僧正).

Contents

I found the contents of the poem to be pretty straightforward (see “Translation”) so I have nothing special to report here.

(EDIT: I just realized that this may be the effect of what has been written as general criticism of the author: “he knows how to construct waka, but there is less real emotion. It is like when you see a picture of a woman and it moves your heart”. So yes, the poem is beautiful, the imagery is vivid and clear, but then… that’s about it.)

On one page I found a nice explanation of some words that I want to insert here:

word explanation
雲の通ひ路 天と地をつなぐ道。天女たちが通ると考えられていた
をとめ ここでは「天女」を指す
しばしとどめむ 天女たちをもうしばらく見ていたいという気持ちがこめられている
Trivia

Henjō was rumored to have had a love affair with the famous female poet Ono no Komachi.

Henjō had a son called 素性法師そせいほうし who also became waka poet and Buddhist priest. He was also chosen to be one of the 三十六歌仙さんじゅうろっかせん, and 百人一首 poem # 21 was written by him.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henjō
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henjō
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sōkan
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geistlicher_Rang_in_Japan#Buddhismus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sosei
https://manapedia.jp/text/2128

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An exchange between the two:

Ono: 岩の上 旅寢をすれば いと寒し 苔の衣を 我に貸さなん
Henjo: 世をそむなく 苔の衣は たゞ一重 貸さねば疎し いざ二人寢ん (wow!)

I wonder how this sort of thing ended up in anthologies. Did they just keep manuscripts for people to find after they died? Were Ono and Henjo sitting in bed and saying “this was a good exchange let’s show it off/save it for posterity”? How does this happen?

Source with translation:

Edit: blurred sources so that the preview doesn’t spoil the translation.

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The first source says “so she sent him this”, i.e. I assume she wrote it down and had a servant deliver the message. And probably his reply was also in written form. So it was written down right from the start, is my guess.
The question is, who kept it afterwards and published it…

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Lol maybe the servant took a peak and thought “this is fire! Better hold on to it!”

I wish I had access to a good library because so far I’ve only been able to use blogs as my sources, and while there doesn’t seem to be much resources on Heian poetry in English, there are still some monographs I can’t get my hands on :cry: I’m sure this answer is out there. I’ll have to compile a list of such unanswered questions in case I get the chance to go to a proper library in the fall.

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Oh, this just reminded me of a poem by Goethe where he actually describes composing in bed :joy_cat:

The poem is called 5th Roman Elegie.

This is the German original

This is an English translation which is quite fine but it blunders when it comes to my favourite part: In the German version he says that he softly counted the hexameters onto her back with his fingers, which is an image I really love.

Well, erm. Back to our Japanese poets again!

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20 わびぬれば 今はた同じ 難波なる 身をつくしても 逢はむとぞ思ふ

I had trouble making heads or tales of this poem before finding explanations in English tbh.

Author/Content

I can’t find much information worth sharing on Prince Motoyoshi that isn’t already in this book–he was quite a philanderer. I did, however, find more information on the addressee of the poem. It was one Fujiawa no Hoshi ( 藤原豊子), aka Lady Kyōgoku, according to the Gosenshu (951, shortly after his death), the anthology in which the poem originally appears. She was the granddaughter of Fujiawa no Mototsune who I mentioned in my write-up on poem 13. Small world! I feel like getting a handle on the geneologies will really help solidify our knowledge of these poems and their historic contexts, at least in terms of timeline.

I can find a lot of people calling Motoyoshi’s cuckolding of the emperor a scandal, but nothing on whether or not he was punished. Apparantly this poem was written after the scandel broke out. Genji from the Tale of Genji also has an affair with the emperor’s wife but it doesn’t seem to cause the same scandal (in fact, it works out for him well in the end). When scandal does break out for Genji, it’s for sleeping with his brother’s de facto consort. He just moves away from Kyoto before being formally expelled, and is eventually recalled, but I presume an affair with a consort of the emperor would demand much more punishment.

Analysis

While lazy on my part, again this is done more concisely than I can word it:

The first two lines express the poet’s awareness of having been placed in an untenable position, along with a grim what-have I-got-to-lose sort of attitude (a full syntactic break at the end of the second line signals the nikugire technique). The last three lines complete the overall logic with the poet’s assertion that he will meet the woman despite the heavy price he knows he will have to pay. Miotsukushi is a kakekotoba (pivot word) suggesting the poet’s willingness to sacrifice his reputation for the woman. If it is to be taken as more than just clever wordplay, channel markers must also be seen as somehow sacrificing themselves, so an interpolation has been ventured.

It’s this above sort of analysis that I find most helpful for making sense of poems.

I’m not sure how channel markers sacrifice themselves, however. I found two other possibilities, one MUCH darker. Either the river of his tears would need such a gauge to measure it, or his body (身)could be found at the tide gauge in Naniwa bay if his hope could not be achieved.

A Miotsukushi is a channel marker like this:
Miotsukushi_in_Osaka
Even with the book explaining that, I didn’t get it.

The other reading of this kakekotoba is 身を尽くしても, which means “even if it exhausts my life.”

Presumably because of the scandal the Hoshi was unwilling to meet him again fro fear of further damaging her rep, so I guess this is his attempt to encourage her back.

Sources

https://100poets.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/a-bold-declaration-of-love-poem-number-20/
https://adblankestijn.blogspot.com/2016/09/hyakunin-isshu-one-hundred-poets-one.html
https://www.jlit.net/premodernlit/hyakunin-isshu/poems_11-20.html
https://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/hvj/hvj021.htm

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6th week, now starting the second part of the book :slight_smile:

  • 21 今来むと 言ひしばかりに 長月の 有明の月を 待ち出でつるかな(素性法師)
  • 22 吹くからに 秋の草木の しをるれば むべ山風を 嵐といふらむ(文屋康秀)
  • 23 月見れば ちぢにものこそ 悲しけれ わが身一つの 秋にはあらねど(大江千里)
  • 24 このたびは ぬさもとりあへず 手向山 紅葉の錦 神のまにまに(菅家)
  • 25 名にしおはば 逢坂山の さねかづら 人にしられで くるよしもがな(三条右大臣)
  • Just reading the book/poems

0 voters

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It’s very close to the one present in the book, though :thinking: Was there anything specific that tripped you up in the book’s explanation?

I think I was just tired and while I was understanding the sentences, I had trouble seeing how they would actually look in reality–maybe I wasn’t trusting my own comprehension of the language? You know what I mean?

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Ah, sure! I know that feeling. Anyway, thank you for always contributing. :slight_smile:

so i was thinking, before we jump head first into the next week, if there’s people around that would like to contribute but currently don’t have the time, would it maybe make sense to postpone the rest of the book until a later time when more of us have time to commit to it?

Obviously we’ve lost quite a few people already, at least it seems like that, but for the ones still around, is that an option or does it just generally take too much time?

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One thing I understood the past two month is that I will never have the time to contribute, at least not until corona is over (!).
Basically, there are a bunch of stuff (mostly from work) that got (and keep getting) pushed back that I always have something more urgent to do. Plus, my free time is extremely fragmented, so doing anything (non work related) for any extended period of time is almost impossible.
(Case in point, it took me three sittings to type this).
I’m not going to be able to contribute anyway, so I’m fine just moving along. I’m also okay with removing the schedule (making it a “read at your own pace” book club).

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In regards to the last sentence, I personally find weekly homework-esque deadlines very useful for keeping myself engaged.

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Removing the schedule would mean that I’d read the book over the next couple of days and be done with it, so I’d say it would remove engagement for me as well :sweat_smile:

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Since no one seemed to eagerly jump on the let’s take a break train, here’s my contribution to this week:

22 吹くからに 秋の草木の しをるれば むべ山風を あらしといふらむ (文屋康秀)

Author

While it is unknown when 文屋康秀(ふんやのはすひで)was born or when he died, it is believed that he lived in the second half of the 9th century. In fact, very little is really known and proved about his life.

He was counted among the Six Immortals of Poetry, as well as the Thirty Six Immortals. Six of his poems are part of the Imperial Anthologies, five in the Kokinshuu, and one in Goshuui Wakashuu.
The preface of the Kokinshuu describes him to be “[using his words] skillfully, but [they] do not match the content. His poetry is like a merchant dressed up in elegant clothes.”

He is also said to have had a relationship with Ono no Komachi (poem 9).
His son ふんやのあさひさ wrote poem 37.

Content

I’m going to dump this into Content, although I’m not quite sure if it wouldn’t be happier living in the Grammar/Devices section. Anyway, the central idea of the poem is that when you take the kanji for wind 風 and the Kanji for mountain 山, combined into one neat little kanji, it becomes storm 嵐. If they kanji were separate, but read vertically in the same order as they sit in 嵐 we would get 山風(やまかぜ), the word still centred around wind, aka could still be interpreted as a storm.

Grammar/Devices

What I personally find most interesting in this poem is the fact that the poet talks about the kanji/radical composition of the kanji for ‘storm’ (嵐), but in the original version of the poem (which I believe sits at the bottom on the page next to the poet bio) he decided to omit said kanji in favour of its hiragana version. あらす or, in this case あらし, also means ‘to ravage’ or ‘to destroy’, ‘ravaging’ or ‘destroying’. Therefore, あらし becomes Kakekotoba, even though the poem centres around its kanji composition.

Trivia

During the Six Dynasties period (220-589) kanji and word games were quite popular in China. This shifted over to Japan through the authoritative anthology of Chinese Literature, the Wenxuan (or Monzen in Japanese), which was required reading for Japanese aristocracy during the Heian period. However, it had lost its importance and appeal by the time the Hyakunin Isshu was curated. By that point, the expectation was for a poet to be serious, rather than witty and playful, which might be the reason this poem is not counted among the most popular ones.

Sources

https://100poets.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/poetry-as-wordplay/

https://onethousandsummers.blogspot.com/2012/07/hyakunin-isshu-poem-22-funya-no-yasuhide.html?m=0

https://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/hvj/hvj023.htm

https://adblankestijn.blogspot.com/2016/12/hyakunin-isshu-one-hundred-poets-one_5.html

https://www.jlit.net/premodernlit/hyakunin-isshu/poems_21-30.html

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Most popular Hyakunin Isshu poems?

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I really liked this week’s poems, especially 22. I think the playfulness of 22 is a refreshing change of pace, which I guess makes sense in light of what Kyayna said about that not really being the style at the time. I also love this little bit of dialogue in the 解釈:

Takeshi: Were these two (Yasuhide and Ono no Komachi) boyfriend and girlfriend? :smiley:
Mister Kageyama: Something like that.

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Same, I immediately liked 22 precisely because of what made it so unpopular at the time.

exactly, yes. Sorry, should have specified :sweat_smile:

That being said, I don’t think I much liked the rest of this week’s selection in comparison. Not quite sure why, although it’s probably partially because I suddenly got super busy and just didn’t have the time to properly sit down with them.

Yeah that happened to me last week. This week was much better for me in getting into the “okay, I’m going to wind down now and just go through as much Heian poetry as feels good” mode and it suited me better.

In an unrelated vein for the rest of the thread, I found it a very neat observation that the majority of the haiku in the collection are about autumn. I wonder if that is the compiler’s prejudice, or typical of the era. It seems like it would be an easy thing to make a program that could get statistics to compare, using a digital kigo dictionary and digital archives of other major anthologies from Japanese history. In fact, I’d be surprised if somebody hasn’t already done so. Does anyone know what the major academic search engines in Japanese are (like EBSCO host or JSTOR are for English), or maybe have a friend who went to university in Japan whom they could ask?

GOSH I WISH I KNEW THE SLIGHTEST THING ABOUT CODING

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But… JSTOR is a digital library, not a search engine?
As for search engines, I’ve only heard of google scholar in Japan (I’ve been in academia here for more than a decade, but I’m just one data point anyway).
As for a digital library, there’s j-stage.
www.jstage.jst.go.jp