Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fifty-Two




ふじわらのみちのぶあそん

あけぬれば
くるるものとは
しりながら

なおうらめしき
あさぼらけかな





52

Fujiwara no Michinobu Ason

Though I know full well
That the night will come again
E'en when day has dawned,

Yet, in truth, I hate the sight
Of the morning's coming light.




52

How many times
I have remembered
how I hated that bus

when it rolled you
serenely away.


Notes

Fujiwara no Michinobu Ason, one of the Thirty-Six Poetry Immortals, died at 23. His work exists in several collections. This is thought of as a 'morning-after" poem. It is sometimes illustrated as from a man's point of view, sometimes a woman's. 

Hokusai's Old Nurse comically sees the "morning after" as a whole caravan of anonymously buttoned-up palanquins racing away down a dangerous incline at dawn, their way lit by lanterns. Lovers often care not what risks they (or, if rich, their retainers) run.

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Risa remembers a time when she was separated from her love by a huge "palanquin" -- the intercity bus.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fifty-One




ふじわらのさねかたあそん

かくとだに
えやわいぶきの
さしもぐさ

さしもしらじな
もゆるおもいを


51

Fujiwara no Sanekata Ason

That it is as it is,
How can I make known to her?
So, she may never know

That the love I feel for her
Like Ibuki's moxa burns.





51

Is this the last
day we may walk
together? Then

I suppose I 
must gaze
straight ahead.



Notes

Fujiwara no Sanekata Ason was a relatively short-lived courtier and poet active in the late 900s C.E. Moxa is a plant fiber which, when wound into a small dried cone shape, could be set on various points of the body and then burned, with an intended effect similar to acupuncture. Like a good patient, he must bear the pain (of love) quietly, for the sake of decorum.

Hokusai's Old Nurse visualizes a Moxa apothecary at Mount Ibuki (where the best stuff came from). Travelers, or perhaps customers, sit out front while a horse is attended to, and refreshments are provided by the proprietress. Perhaps one of the travelers is on his way to or from an appointment with the beloved, and thinks of the moxa simile while disguising his feelings?

Risa too remembers disguising her feelings, because she found it necessary to say farewell in a public place.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Fifty



ふじわらのよしたか

きみがため
おしからざりし
いのちさえ

ながくもがなと
おもいけるかな



50

Fujiwara no Yoshitaka  

For thy precious sake,
Once my eager life itself
Was not dear to me.

But 'tis now my heart's desire
It may long, long years endure.




50

I said to you then,
as we stood beneath
the lilacs:

"Now that I have
met you, I will live

forever."




Notes

Fujiwara no Yoshitaka, an official, was active in the 900s C.E., and died of smallpox at age twenty-one. His poem is therefore lent poignancy by its desire for an eternity in which to enjoy his love.

Hokusai's Old Nurse envisions a scene of timeless tranquility: three men and three women at the end of a long, hot bath. Two diving cormorants in an expanse of  still water perhaps provide the entertainment.

Of interest: from Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost:

      When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
      The endeavor of this present breath may buy
      That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge
      And make us heirs of all eternity.

http://www.visipix.com
Risa, in her response poem, remembers a moment of possibly hyperbolic declaration in the early stages of love.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Forty-Nine



おおなかとみのよしのぶあそん

みかきもり
えじのたくひの
よるはもえ

ひるはきえつつ
ものをこそおもえ



49

Onakatomi no Yoshinobu Ason

Like the warder's fires
At the Imperial gateway kept
Burning through the night,

Through the day in the cooled ashes
The love still glows in me.




49

I thought I had
no objection —
but when you

returned, you
looked into my eyes
with pity.



Notes:

Onakatomi no Yoshinobu, active in the 900s C.E., was an active compiler of poetry anthologies and one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals

Hokusai's Old Nurse envisions the moment at dawn, when the night watch has not yet been relieved and the men are lazily stretching and thinking, perhaps of their beds -- while the lover sits, with his attendant, on the nearby bluff, musing on a distant or perhaps lost love.

http://www.visipix.com
Risa's response poem remembers a particularly difficult moment in a relationship she thought she'd understood.

Forty-Eight



みなもとのしげゆき

かぜをいたみ
いわうつなみの
おのれのみ

くだけてものを
おもうころかな



48

Minamoto no Shigeyuki

Like a driven wave,
Dashed by fierce winds on a rock,
So it is, alas!

Crushed and all alone am I;
Thinking over what has been.




48

You offered me water
in a glass, and said:
you must go.

I did; or tried to —
how was I to know
I was but a tide,

going, but returning
the same way?



Notes

Minamoto no Shigeyuki, active in the late 900s C.E. was  poet of the court. He is one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals

There is no known Hokusai print or drawing extant for this poem. Here is a very dramatic one by Kuniyoshi.

Risa remembers an occasion on which love suddenly became complicated. It was over, though it took years to become evident.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Forty-Seven




えぎょうほうし

やえむぐら
しげれるやどの
さびしきに

ひとこそみえね
あきはきにけり



47

Eikei Hoshi (monk)

To the humble cot,
Overgrown with thick-leaved vines
In its loneliness,

Comes the dreary autumn time —
And not even man is there.




47

Wading that far
river, turning over
stones for caddis

flies unborn,
you met no one –
not even me.




Notes

The monk Eikei turns in a standard meditation on the evanescence of the human presence in a natural landscape. We build homes; we vanish; nature reclaims our works. Hokusai's Old Nurse, however, harks back to the time when human activity filled the scene. It is certainly autumn; geese fly away, a tree bears fruit; tobacco leaves dry under the eaves of the house; a man washes a horse; a woman brings the saddle; a woman and child winnow rice. These routine activities gain poignancy from the poem's view of a later time ...

Risa's thoughts, on the other hand, turn to spring and a moment of isolation in the beloved's life.


http://www.visipix.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Forty-Six


そねのよしただ

ゆらのとを
わたるふなびと
かじをたえ

ゆくえもしらぬ
こいのみちかな



46

Sone no Yoshitada

Like a mariner
Sailing over Yura's strait
With his rudder gone –

Whither, o'er the deep of love,
Lies the goal, I do not know.





46

You should know
by now, this stream
in winter cannot

be crossed – 
or only if you 
care not where 

you come ashore.




Notes

For this poem there is no known Hosukai print or drawing. Here is one thought to have been done by Hiroshige. In it, a woman, one of a famous pair of star-crossed lovers, is traveling in hopes of glimpsing her love -- but she neither knows where he is nor where she is going.

The poet, a minor provincial official, was not highly regarded in his own time but his reputation grew after his death. His imagery is often original, a quality sometimes unappreciated.

Risa responds to this poem by suggesting the lovelorn should count the costs before committing under adverse conditions. It is very easy to drown in the river in winter, especially if one's thoughts are occupied by things that may not even come to pass.

Forty-Five



けんとくこう

あわれとも
いうべきひとは
おもおえで

みのいたずらに
なりぬべきかな



45

Kentoku Ko (Fujiwara no Koretada)

Sure that there is none
Who will speak a pitying word,
I shall pass away.

My death, alas, shall only be
My own folly's fitting end.




45

I knew by the look
you gave me, then,
I had made again

some sad mistake —
Yet looking back,
I remember only

walking by the river,
bending over pools
for pretty stones.




Notes

Fujiwara no Koretada, active in the 900s C.E., was made curator of poetry by the Emperor. He rose to a position of great importance. Descended from, and ancestor of, important poets, he appears in several collections. In the poem, his regret for an inappropriate love affair apparently hyperbolically extends to his entire career, whereas Risa is thinking only of a memory of a difficult moment which she finds emblematic of a difficult relationship.

Hokusai's Old Nurse sees a group of women spinning, winding and weaving thread. They resemble the Fates, and there is a suggestion, in the Buddhist texts on the monumental spinning wheel, that we create our own reality (thus creating the Fates -- our destiny is in our own hands, not theirs, for we have only imagined them). Peter Morse quotes Keyes to the effect that these women are also a constellation in the sky, with Vega ("The Weaver") in the window, weaving sadly.



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