Thursday, January 15, 2015






Dainagon Tsunenobu (Minamoto no Tsunenobu)

When the evening comes,
From the rice leaves at my gate
Gentle knocks are heard,

And, into my round rush-hut,
Autumn's roaming breeze makes way.


Hear the difference
when there is wind
against a new house

and against an old house.


A military governor and prolific poet, Minamoto no Tsunenobu lived from 1016 to 1097 C.E. After the rice harvest, sheaves of the cut stems are stacked for later use and their dried foliage rustles in the winds, a sign of approaching winter. Thus they figure in much Japanese poetry.

The Old Nurse instead envisions an earlier stage of the harvest, with the hard-working common people (as noted by Morse) carrying and washing rice to be pounded for making rice cakes. It's like she is saying, "when you live, LIVE. When you are ready to stop working, lie down and DIE. Enough with the romanticism about the approaching darkness."

Risa holds to the romanticism, to an extent. She notices that the mournful piping winds of popular imagination have to do with houses that have no insulation, with the cracks between the boards serving as whistles -- increasingly a rural experience, or having to do with abandoned buildings. These sounds were more common in the "developed" world in "simpler" times, and may become so again.