Monday, December 31, 2012






Chunagon Asatada (Tomotada)

If a trysting time
There should never be at all,
I should not complain

For myself oft left forlorn,
Or of her, in heartless mood.


One such night,
we said, will do
to make us not

have lived in vain:
but these old words,
so many times

repeated, surprised us —
being true.


Fujiwara no Asatada, active in the 900s C.E., was a courtier and poet, one of the Thirty-Six Poetry Immortals. He was included in a number of collections and a collection of his poems is extant. This translation of this poem is awkward; here is another

If it should happen
That we never met again,
I would not complain;
And I doubt that she or I
Would feel that we were left alone.

Risa's response is the reverse of a translation, as she is remembering happiness, but with a hint that the views she is here expressing are so commonly expressed as to be trite. Except that they never are.

Peter Morse tells us that Hokusai's Old Nurse associates this poem with the legend of the White Fox Lady, here appearing to to her husband and son after her death. It is the last day of the year, attested by a gathering of foxes in the background, breathing fire.