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SOME UTA SPECIMENS FROM THE HYAKUNIN ISHIU ANTHOLOGY COMPILED IN 1235 BY SADAIYE, A NOBLE OF THE KYOTO COURT


"The flowers and my love
Passed away under the rain,
While I idly looked upon them
Where is my yester-love?"
Ono no Komachi.


"Ono no Komachi," Ki no Tsurayuki remarks, "belongs to the school of Sotoori Hime of ancient times. There is feeling in her poems, but little vigour. She is like a lovely woman who is suffering from ill health. Want of vigour, however, is only natural in a woman's poetry." Although she left little work, her poetical capacity as well as her beauty, it is said, caused her to be called to the Imperial House. She was not from a family of high position by any means, as she was a daughter of a certain chief officer of a county. There is no other woman of old Japan whose life figures so largely in fiction; and her name as a model of beauty more than as a poetess is universally known. Komachi is regarded as a synonym of "beautiful woman "; there were or are many beautiful women nicknamed Komachi. Whether a fiction or not, Fukakusa no Chujo's love-story with her is famous: it is said that his love was utterly scorned, and he called her to admit him to her house with no success whatever, and that he died under the winter snow on his hundredth journey.

 

"Behold the heavenly vastness,
The sky of the moon!
Is it not the same moon I once saw
Out of Kasuga's Mikasa hill?"
Abe no Nakamaro.


Abe no Nakamaro left Japan for China in his sixteenth year, and stayed in China for thirty-eight long years. The Emperor Benso admired his ability and appointed him as his secretary; and Nakamaro changed his name and took the Chinese name of Choko, and considered himself as a Chinese. But it was the 4th of Tenbio Shoho (729), when the Japanese ambassador to China, Fujiwara no Kiyokawa, was going back, and Nakamaro's thought of home stirred. And he decided to return to Japan; and many of his friends, Oi and Rihaku, the two famous Chinese poets, among them, held a farewell party in Nakamaro's honour. It was a moonlit night when the dinner took place, and he wrote this Uta thinking about the moon that used to come out of Kasuga's Mikasa hill, which he knew well in his boyhood days. The Mikasa hill is in the outskirts of Nara. It is said that every member of the party wept over his Uta. However, Nakamaro could not return home after all; the ship in which he sailed met with a tempest, and he was shipwrecked. He died in China at the age of eighty-one.

 

"O thou, fisher's boat,
Tell men that I sailed
Away into the eighty isles,
Into the bluest field, the sea!"
Sangi Takamuba.


This Sangi Takamura's Uta was written when he was put in a boat to be an exile in the far-away Iki island. It happened that he had been appointed vice-ambassador to China, the chief being Fujiwara no Tsunetsuyu, and the four ships which were to take the entire company were announced officially. And the first ship which Tsunetsuyu rode in was damaged when it had hardly left the shore, and he insisted on having Takamura exchange ships for his safety. The latter grew angry, and at once turned the head of his boat and landed; and he resigned, saying that his old father needed him so that he could not go so far off. The Emperor Saga (810-842) was obliged to impose on him an official punishment since he had disobeyed his august command for such a reason.

He wrote some seventy Uta poems on his exile journey, which are said to be beautiful in diction and full of meaning. This Uta is one of them.

"To gaze upon the moon
Is to be sad in a thousand ways,
Though all the Autumn
Is not meant to be my own self's."
Oye no Chizato.


" 'Tis the Spring day
With lovely far-away light.
Why must the flowers fall
With hearts unquiet?"
Ki no Tomonori.


Some commentator says that this Uta poem is the best among all the Uta poems ever written in Japan.


"Alas, my face betrayed
The secret of my love.
All men ask me why
I am so sad."
Taiea no Kanemoei.


"That I love thee
Is known already. Ah, me!
I had been thinking that
No one would know it."
Mibu no Tadami.


This Uta was written, it is said, on the 2nd of Tentoku (957), when the Emperor Reizei gathered the court poets and poetesses to hold an Uta contest. Among the love poems on this occasion, this is one of the best, the other best one being Taira no Kanemori's Uta, which precedes this poem. The poetical umpire Ononomiya pronounced Kanemori's the better. Tadami took the failure too hard to his heart; and it is said that he died after ceasing to eat for some days.

 

"The moon has nothing to make
Me think and cry,
But, alas, my own tears alone
Do lament and fall."
Saigyo Hoshi.


"Oh, thread of my life,
Be torn off now if it must!
I fear in longer life
My secret would be hard to keep."
Shikishi Naishinno.


"I might show thee
How the Oshima island fishers' sleeves
Never change their tints, though wet through.
But, alas, tearful sleeves of mine!"
Impuku Monin no Osuke.

"List, the crickets sing!
Upon the mat of the frost-night,
I, my raiment not yet unbound,
Have to sleep alone."
Gokyokoku Sessho Sakino Dajodaijin.


" 'Tis not the stormy snow
Luring the garden flower,
But what is falling fast
Is nothing but my own self."
Nyudo Sakino Dajodaijin.


"My sleeves are like
The wide sea rocks unseen
Even at the lowest tide. Nobody would know
That their tears never dry."
Nijonoin Sanuki.

 

SOME HOKKU SPECIMENS BY THE MASTERS

"To-day, at last to-day,
I grew to wish to raise
The chrysanthemum flowers."
Ransetsu.


"Autumn's full moon;
Lo, the shadows of a pine tree
Upon the mats!"
Kikaku.


"Yellow chrysanthemum, white chrysanthemum:
Why, the other names for me
Are of no use."
Ransetsu.


"'Let day pass,
Let night break.'
The frogs sing—they sing morning and eve."
Buson.


"Ah, how sublime—
The green leaves, the young leaves,
In the light of the sun!"
Basho.

 

Printed by Hazell, Watson and Viney, Ltd., London and Aylesbury.