Saturday, August 6, 2011






Kawara no Sadaijin

Michinoku print
Of Shinobu's tangled leaves!
For whose sake have I,

Like confused, begun to be?
Only yours! I cannot change!


I have been lost
enough in love
not to know:

am I coming to be
or coming to end?
Wherever this is,

you are the fixed point;
though flooded
by all this emotion,

I am smooth
river basalt —
indestructible for you.


Grandson of an emperor, Minamoto no Toru, active in the 800s CE, is listed under the title of Kawara no Sadaijin. A member of the Genji clan, he is said to have been a model for one of the characters in Murasaki's Tale of Genji. In Hokusai's unfinished drawing for the print for this poem, travelers appear to be asking the way to somewhere and a local farmer is pointing into a vanishing distance; perhaps their destination is Shinobu in Michinoku, where the dyeing-stone for the "Michinoku" fern-pattern prints lay. Its present name is Fukushima City.

Risa, when reading Poem Fourteen, was struck by Toru's title, "Minister of the Left Bank (of the River)" and by Basho's account of having sought out the Shinobu dyeing-stone. So she compared her love for her beloved to a basalt river-stone.