Hidden Love Amongst the Grass: Poem Number 39

An example of pleioblastus simoni (shinodaké 篠竹), photo by I, KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The sixth poem in our series dedicated to Valentine’s Day is one of hidden love:

浅茅生のAsajiu noThough I reveal my love
小野の篠原Ono no shinoharaas sparingly as the sparse reeds
忍ぶれどShinoburedothat grow in low bamboo fields,
あまりてなどかAmarite nado kait overwhelms me—why is it
人の恋しきHito no koishikithat I must love her so?
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author of the poem was Sangi Minamoto no Hitoshi (880-951), who according to Mostow held many provincial posts, but is lesser known in the poetry world. Apparently the poem was sent to a woman, and is a fine specimen of love poetry.

The poem, when read aloud in Japanese, has a nice sound to it, owing to the way that shinohara and shinobu repeat, but also the poem has a nice contrast to it. According to Professor Mostow, the fourth line reverses the idea of scarcity with talk of being overwhelmed by love creating a kind of balance in the poem.

Hopefully the girl was impressed. 🙂

An example of imperata cylindrica (chigaya 茅), CC BY-SA 3.0, photo via Wikimedia Commons

One final note: the poem alludes to a couple plants of note: one is common reed-grass using for thatching known as chigaya (茅, imperata cylindrica), the other is bamboo grass or shinodaké (篠竹, pleioblastus simonii?). The latter is more commonly know as medaké in modern Japanese. The scene described in the poem is a mixed field with taller bamboo grass amongst shorter reed grass.


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