Reel Her In: Poem Number 25

February 9, 2012

Vine

This is the third poem in the series dedicated to Valentine’s Day:

名にしおはば Na ni shi owaba
逢坂山の Osakayama no
さねかづら Sanekazura
人にしられで Hito ni shirarede
くるよしもがな Kuru yoshi mo gana

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

If they bear such names:
the “come-sleep vine” of
“Meeting-Slope Hill” —
how I wish there was a way to come to you,
as if pulling in a vine, unknown to others.

The poem was composed by Fujiwara no Sadataka (873-932) who was the father of Fujiwara no Asatada (poem 44) and brother of Kanesuke (poem 27). He was a minor poet in the day, whose poetry appeared in a few collections.

In the days of the Heian Court, men and women frequently lived apart and meeting one another was very difficult. Also, traditionally, if they were going to meet, it was the man’s role to meet the woman. Thus poetry was a very useful means of expressing one’s love, arranging meetings, etc. Here Sadataka uses the image of a vine pulling his lover to him (rather than him visiting her), but also a lot of clever word-play. The name of the place, Ōsaka (逢坂, no relation to the modern city) can mean “meeting place-hill”, while the name of the vine, sanekazura has the words sa ne in there, meaning “come, sleep!” according ot Professor Mostow. Lastly, the word kuru can mean either “come” or to “reel in”.

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