Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eighty



たいけんもんいんのほりかわ

ながからん
こころもしらず
くろかみの

みだれてけさは
ものをこそおもえ






80

(Lady) Taiken Mon-In no Horikawa

If it be forever
That he wills our love should last?
I do not know;

This morn my anxious thoughts,
Like my black hair, are confused.







80

We remember what
we said in the night,
but do the men?







Notes

Lady Horikawa was a poet/lady-in-waiting to the Empress Dowager Taiken, who later became a nun. She is said to have been asked to write a slightly risqué tanka, and this was the result. She doesn't know the man's intentions, and as a result, her mind is full of loose ends, like her hair. The poem touches upon a matter much deeper than its surface eroticism, however.

The Old Nurse, like the poet, is in the present, which is what is known as the "morning after." "You had better pull yourself together," the drawing suggests, "And here are some things to help with that." Two servants bringing bath water and makeup, perhaps (Morse).

Risa addresses the veiled expression of inequity directly. A woman has much to lose from an affair, and very little leverage when it comes to promises that have been made. What makes a man manly is not his capacity to love 'em and leave 'em but his capacity to keep a promise. This is what we look for in their eyes and hope for in their absences.


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