Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sixty


こしきぶのないし

おおえやま
いくののみちの
とければ

まだふみもみず
あまのはしだて




60

Lady Koshikibu no Naishi

As, by Oe's mount
And over Iku's plain, the way
Is so very far—

I have not yet even seen
Ama-no-hashidate. (The Bridge of Heaven).






60

I did not know
love had gone;
I stood by the stairs

a long time, then
walked away.





Notes

Koshikibu no Naishi  11th century, was daughter to a very famous poetess. Upon being chided that perhaps her mother was helping her write poems, she composed this tanka extempore, ironically agreeing that as she has seen nothing yet, how can she write poems? This silenced the critic, who walked away flummoxed.

The incomplete print we have from Hokusai for this poem suggests a scene of great beauty in the distance, but leaves that area blank. Perhaps the Old Nurse hasn't been to the "Bridge of Heaven" either.

visipix.com

Risa's response poem, unlike the tanka, is a love poem. It points to one of the many ways of encountering emptiness.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fifty-Nine


あかぞめえもん

やすらわで
ねなましものを
さよふけて

かたぶくまでの
つきをみしかな




59

(Lady) Akazome Emon

Better to have slept
Carefree, than to keep vain watch
Through the passing night --

Till I saw the lonely moon
Traverse her descending path.





59

She walked alone,
admiring the view
over field and wood

as if he were there.






Notes

"Akazome Emon (赤染衛門, 956–1041) was a Japanese waka poet and early historian who lived in the mid-Heian period. She is a member both of the Thirty Six Elder Poetic Sages (中古三十六歌仙 Chūko Sanjūrokkasen) and the Thirty Six Female Poetic Sages (女房三十六歌仙 Nyōbō Sanjūrokkasen) .... Emon is thought to be the daughter of Akazome Tokimochi, but her biological father was likely her mother's first husband, Taira Kanemori. Emon was born before her mother's marriage to Tokimochi in the Akazome family. Her husband Ōe no Masahira was a famous literary scholar, and the couple were considered to be "lovebirds" (おしどり夫婦 oshidori fūfu)." -- Wikipedia

The poem, while lovely, is conventional in the wife's longing for her husband, who was often absent on business. Hokusai's Old Nurse, perhaps with a cackle of impudence, shows a (possibly self-important) courtesan, traveling from one room to another -- perhaps on business of her own?

http://www.visipix.com/sites-en/hoku_100_poem/poem_56_60.htm
Risa, a very conventional woman herself who is often home alone yet not lonely, pictures a scene much like that of Lady Emon's "waiting wife."
 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fifty-Eight



だいにのさんみ

ありまやま
いなのささわら
かぜふけば

いでそよひとを
わすれやはする



58

Daini no Sanmi (Lady Kataiko)

Mount Arima
Sends his rustling winds across
Ina's bamboo-plains –

Even so, I can
Never forsake you.





58

Why, then,
was I troubled
when you talked

of happiness?
Was it because
the chrysanthemums

eavesdropped?



Notes

We do not have a Hokusai illustration for this poem. Any image of a lady anxiously parsing her lover's vacillating opinion concerning her steadiness or constancy would do.

The poet was Lady Murasaki's daughter, and an important Court retainer in her own right.

Risa speaks of her own discomfort when her loved one spoke of an enthusiasm she could not share, leading her to thoughts of separation -- a kind of death.



Fifty-Seven


むらさきしきぶ

めぐりあいて
みしやそれとも
わかぬまに

くもがくれにし
よわのつきかげ



57

Lady Murasaki Shikibu

Meeting in the way,
While I cannot quite see
If this is friend or not —

Already the midnight moon
In a cloud has disappeared.





57

Around us people
talked on inanely;
we two fled, 

seeking shadow.





Notes

Lady Murasaki is of course the author of the world's first known novel, The Tale of Genji. She was also a noted poet.

"Murasaki Shikibu ( , English: Lady Murasaki) (c. 978 – c. 1014 or 1025) was a Japanese novelist,poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012. Murasaki Shikibu is a nickname; her real name is unknown, but she may have been Fujiwara Takako, who was mentioned in a 1007 court diary as an imperial lady-in-waiting." -- Wikipedia

The Old Nurse makes quite a drama of the poem. Two groups, the principals of whom appear not to be of quite the same class, appear briefly to recognize one another across a stream, while passing on opposite banks. A perceptive commentator asks if the child at right has just missed meeting his father, left center.

http://www.visipix.com/sites-en/hoku_100_poem/poem_56_60.htm

Risa responds to the moon's disappearance into a cloud. She and her loved one left two groups that met, rather than passed, to sit on a bench in near darkness, wrapped in the bubble of solitude.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fifty-Six



いずみしきぶ

あらざらん
このよのほかの
おもいでに

いまひとたびの
あうこともがな




56

(Lady) Izumi Shikibu

Soon I cease to be.
One fond memory I would keep
When beyond this world.

Is there, then, no way for me
Just once more to meet with you?





56

I had almost died
under a distant
sun. I thought:

I should write you again.




Notes

"Izumi Shikibu (和泉式部?, b. 976?) was a mid Heian period Japanese poet. She is a member of the Thirty-six Medieval Poetry Immortals (中古三十六歌仙 chūko sanjurokkasen?). She was the contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, and Akazome Emon at the court of empress Joto Mon'in." Wikipedia

http://www.visipix.com/sites-en/hoku_100_poem/pic.php?pic=56_1024.jpg
This type of poem is often handed to the lover in the form of a letter. Hokusai's Old Nurse (humorously, the wicked old thing) envisions the sick or dying lady's envelope containing not the letter but perhaps a payment to a fortuneteller, who has possibly assured the lady that she will meet her lover one more time, as she wishes. Will she? Fortunetellers notwithstanding, the future is always in doubt, especially in the case of an envisioned afterlife.

Risa, in her response, remembers a time when she was in hospital for ten days, and began writing letters to old friends ... and lovers.