Thursday, February 5, 2015

One Hundred




(Emperor) Juntoku-In

O Imperial House,
When I think of former days,
How I long for thee,

More than even the clinging ferns
Hanging beneath your ancient eaves.


One door, no
windows, earth floor,
darkness from rafter

to sill. Still,
he could not have been
sad; seated in

his doorway
mending gear,
he must have looked

west and east
all morning,
and east and west

at will.


A poetry student of Teika'sEmperor Juntoku (1197-1242 C.E.) sided with the previous Emperor, Go-Toba, in the Jōkyū uprising against the power of the Shogunate, which they lost. His is a poem of exile, in which he expresses his attachment to the old palace as greater even than that of the ferns and mosses which which it is increasingly covered, an appropriately mournful poem with which to end the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, compiled in such troubled times.

We do not have a print or drawing from Hokusai for this poem, which is too bad, as it is quite evocative.

Risa, upon reading to the end of this collection, suddenly recalls having discovered, in the middle of nowhere in northern Idaho, a roofless (and fern-covered) one-room log cabin possibly built by a miner or pioneer in the nineteenth century. It had a door but no windows. She imagines the pioneer sitting in the doorway stitching leather and occasionally looking out upon the splendid mountains in view to left and right. There are many ways to be an exile.