Friday, January 13, 2012






(Lady) Ukon

Though cast aside,
For myself I do not care:
But you had sworn an oath –

That the gods withhold vengeance
Is all I ask now.


When I remembered
what could not
be unsaid, 

I drove through 
endless rain,
seeking one merchant

who might give aid
to an empty hand.


Ukon was a prolific Court poet of the 900s C.E., very much in demand for contests and special occasions, and later accorded honor as one of the Thirty-Six Poetry Immortals. In this poem, when abandoned by her husband, she asks the gods not to strike him (thereby underlining the seriousness of his breach of faith).

In the unfinished print, Hokusai shows the lady apparently beginning a pilgrimage, perhaps to implore the help of the gods in her great disaster; she is bowed down by the weight of her misfortune. She is attended by her lady in waiting and two bodyguards.

Risa remembers an occasion on which she had broken a promise to a child. She went out in a terrible rainstorm, stopping at one place of business after another, seeking just the right gift to smooth over the hurt. But, of course, there is no gift that can replace steadfastness.