Poetry as Wordplay: Poem Number 22

October 24, 2011

Arashi Promotional Fan

(A completely different “Arashi” from my other blog 😉 )

Poem 22 in the Hyakunin Isshu is a brilliant example of word-play:

吹くからに Fuku kara ni
秋の草木の Aki no kusaki no
しをるれば Shiorureba
むべ山風を Mube yama kaze o
あらしといふらむ Arashi to iuran

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

As soon as it blows,
the autumn trees and grasses
droop, and this must be why,
quite rightly, the mountain wind
is called “the ravager.”

Here, from the English translation, it’s hard to see what is so clever about this poem, so let’s look at the last two lines.

The fourth line talks about mountains and wind , but the fifth line mentions the word arashi which means “storm” and whose kanji is composed of both mountain and wind . Pretty clever, really.

But also, as Mostow points out in his book, the word arashi also has a double-meaning. The basic meaning is “storm”, but it is also the noun-form of the verb arasu meaning to ravage, hence the translation above.

Amazing what people could do with a few lines of verse and some Chinese characters. It’s no surprise that the author, Fun’ya no Yasuhide, was counted among the original Six Immortals of Poetry and later the Thirty-Six Immortals.

P.S. Kind of been a while, good to be back. 🙂

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