Once Was Enough: Poem 44

February 14, 2012

Tale of Genji Toyokuni Utagawa print

Although I have been posting love poetry from the Hyakunin Isshu all week in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I felt like posting this poem for all those who don’t like Valentine’s Day, or had a lousy time:

逢ふことの Au koto no
絶えてしなくは Taete shi nakuwa
中々に Nakanaka ni
人をも身をも Hito wo mo mi wo mo
恨みざらまし Urami zaramashi

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

If there were no such things
as ever having met her, then,
contrary to all expectations,
neither her coldness nor my pain
would I have to resent!

According to commentators, this poem was part of the same poetry contest as poems 40 and 41 and implies frustration that a woman has not consented to a visit by her presumed lover. Life would have been easier if they simply hadn’t bothered to try and meet.

However, Mostow also points out that the interpretation by Fujiwara no Teika (who compiled the Hyakunin Isshu), was different, and implied that they had met, and she wouldn’t meet him again. It didn’t end well, in other words, and the lover is bitter over it.

Fujiwara no Asatada, the author, was the fift son of Fujiwara no Sadataka (poem 25) and one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. I happen to consider this one of my favorite poems in the entire anthology, so I think it’s a fair ranking. 🙂

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