Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sixty-One


いせのたいふ

いにしへの
ならのみやこの
やえざくら
 
きょうここのへに
においぬるかな





61

(Lady) Ise no Osuke

Eight-fold cherry flowers
That at Nara, ancient seat
Of Our State, have bloomed —

In Our Nine-fold Palace court
Shed their sweet perfume today.






61

Cherries
bloomed along
the still river

when our heads
were broken
for speaking

against war.



Notes

Morse says that Ise no Tayu was a well-connected lady-in-waiting to the Empress, was commissioned to write a poem in praise of a cherry branch (which perhaps had eight twigs or eight blossoms, or was simply eight times as beautiful as some ordinary thing) that had been brought to court as a gift. She does so by noting the appropriateness of this gift for the palace, which had nine walls.

Hokusai's old nurse snorts, and imagines the whole tree being brought in. What less for a palace?

Risa remembers that the cherry trees on the Potomac were in glorious bloom when she, and a million others, went to Washington to protest the Vietnam war. Did the trees offer a greeting? The police certainly did.


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