Monday, January 19, 2015






(Emperor) Sutoku

Though a swift stream be
By a rock met and restrained
In impetuous flow,

Yet, divided, it speeds on,
And at last unites again.


Even as I turned
toward the green hills,
I plotted how I might

return to you
forever. The green
hills had plans of

their own.


Emperor Sutoku reigned from 1123 through 1142 C.E. Deposed, as noted in the notes to the preceding poem, he became a monk and copied scriptures (in his own blood, it is said) and sent them to court, where they were refused as they were regarded to be possibly cursed. He died soon after, and was regarded to have resented the refusal to the extent that he became a demon and did curse the court, leading to the fall of imperial power and the rise of the shoguns. While the poem ostensibly is for lovers' separating and reuniting, one can see political ramifications as well.

The Old Nurse sees no rock, only the stream rushing around a bend and underneath a bridge. Two women, a rich one who is traveling, and a farm woman who is perhaps much nearer home, stop to gaze on the water. In the moment, they too are united.

Risa recalls a moment that she thought of at the time as temporary separation, but life does not always take us where we think we are going, does it?