Monday, December 26, 2011

Thirty-Four



ふじわらのおきかぜ

たれをかも
しるひとにせん
たかさごの

まつもむかしの
ともならなくに




34

Fujiwara no Okikaze

Whom then are there now,
In my age, so far advanced,
I can hold as friends?

Even Takasago's pines
Are not friends as of former days.




34

When I saw
the place where
you and I had

gathered apples,
what could I do
but weep?




Notes

Fujiwara no Okikaze, active in the 900s C.E., was one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals and had poems included in several imperial poetry anthologies, including Kokin Wakashū

Hokusai's Old Nurse envisions a relaxed group of people hanging round the famous pine, doing exactly what the poet rues having lost. It's almost as though she is taunting him (for his attachment, as though one could freeze time) with this scene.

In Japan, pines represent longevity. Okikaze's poem is of course not about the pine, but about the deleterious impact of time upon relationships. Likewise, Risa's poem is not about apples.


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thirty-Three



きのとものり

ひさかたの
ひかりのどけき
はるのひに

しづごころなく
はなのちるらん



33

Ki no Tomonori

In the cheerful light
Of the glowing sun
In spring,

Why with such haste
Falls the cherry's bloom?





33

Bloom on our cherry
seems but to last
a day. We then think

spring is swift —
but what season 
for us now

is not swift?



Notes

Risa here invokes the sense the elders (and she is one) have of time passing more quickly as we age. She and her beloved barely catch the cherries blooming any more. They come and are gone.

Ki no Tomonori, court poet, was active in the 800s C.E. and both a Poetry Immortal and an anthologist. His poem appears to highlight the yearning we have for sunshine and cheerfulness by suggesting that the cherry blossoms have an insufficient appreciation for these things, in turning from them to fall to earth so soon.

Hokusai's Old Nurse sees the blossoms scattering over a boat being re-sealed for a summer's work. The men are intent on their business; they, too, it seems, under-appreciate spring.


http://www.visipix.com


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thirty-Two




はるみちのつらき

やまがわに
かぜのかけたる
しがらみは

ながれもあえぬ
もみぢなりけり



32

Harumichi no Tsuraki

In a mountain stream
Built by the busy wind,
Lies a wattled barrier.

Yet 'tis only maple leaves
Powerless to flow away.




32

I remember you
when you were alive,
finding red salmon

in a pool. They whirled
like autumn leaves —
no place to go,

upstream or down.



Notes

Risa's friend identified with the circling, pool-bound salmon -- perhaps too well.

Harumichi no Tsuraki was a court poet and graduate of the imperial university, active in the early 900s C.E. Few of his poems are now known.

Hokusai's Old Nurse visualizes the river with the leaves tumbling down in a strong current;  a man appears to be fishing them out to fill a basket. On a small footbridge a woman waits for her child and his pet turtle. Filling much of the scene there is a lumberyard with square timbers, and sawyers are cutting boards from one of the timbers. At the foot of the sawing sits a "saw-doctor" filing and setting saw teeth. Hetty Litjens suggests the imagery represents "resistances," an interpretation of the poet's difficulties (perhaps in crossing the mountain, or at court, or in personal life, or all three).


http://www.visipix.com

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thirty-One




さかのうえのこれのり

あさぼらけ
ありあけのつきと
みるまでに

よしののさとに
ふれるしらゆき




31

Sakanoue no Korenori

At the break of day,
Just as though the morning moon
Lightened the dim scene,

Yoshino's fair hamlet lay
In a haze of falling snow.





31

Snow plumed straight down
like river foam.
I knew where

the trees were,
loading themselves
with white —

but could not
find them.



Notes

Sakanoue no Korinori, active circa 900 C.E., is one of the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets and is represented in a number of Imperial anthologies. The poem is set in winter in Yoshino in what is now Nara Prefecture, where there is a famous waterfall. A century later, Yoshitsune is said to have washed his horse there, and Hokusai has a famous wood engraving of this event.

Hokusai's Old Nurse envisions the waterfall in winter, with a crew of workmen braving the snow to bring in wood, perhaps into a bathhouse.

Risa remembers the morning after one of her very first nights in the Oregon woods, parked in her truck camper in a location where she was to be picked up for a day's work. She awoke to find herself snowed in, with more than a foot of snow accumulated, and more falling silently in large bewildering clumps. She could recognize nothing from the day before, and was enchanted with the scene. She made up her mind on the spot that Oregon would be her permanent home.


http://www.visipix.com

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thirty



みぶのただみね

ありあけの
つれなくみえし
わかれより

あかつきばかり
うきものはなし



30

Mibu no Tadamine

The morning moon,
Cold, unpitying.
Since that parting hour,

Nothing I dislike so much
As the breaking light of day.




30

Once we had made up
our minds that you
should leave at morning —

we each in our way
prayed dawn would never
come.



Notes

Risa's response poem should be self-explanatory. It rests on the alternate interpretation to Tadamine's poem, which has been thought to represent a lover's complaint against being made to wait fruitlessly (a common theme in Japanese literature of the times) but could also mean a lover's complaint against the shortness of the night.

Hokusai's Old Nurse prefers the second meaning also, and visualizes two farmers or tradesmen of the lower classes encountering the lover after the lady (that dramatic pose, supporting herself on the gatepost -- it could not be her servant) has seen him off at the gate. They make the appropriate obeisances -- does he return the bow, or is he simply bowed with sadness at the foggy dawn?

Tadamine was one of the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets, as well as a noted critic, active around 900 C.E.


http://www.visipix.com