Stood Up: Poem Number 59

March 15, 2012

Mary Agnes Yerkes, Moon Set and Sunrise Glow

Our next poem in the series devoted to women in March deals with something women of today know all too well:

やすらはで Yasurawade
寝なまし物を Nenamashi mono wo
小夜更けて Sayo fukete
かたぶくまでの Katabuku made no
月を見しかな Tsuki wo mishi kana

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

Though I’d have preferred
to have gone off to bed
without hesitating,
the night deepened and
I watched the moon till it set!

The author, Akazome Emon, was another court lady in waiting for Empress Shoshi, along with Lady Murasaki (poem 57) and Lady Izumi (poem 56). She has an impressive 93 poems in the Shūishū Imperial anthology, and composed at least part of the Eiga Monogatari another classic from the era.

While Lady Murasaki had harsh words for some of her associates, according to Mostow, she describes Akazome as having “great poise” and takes her poetry seriously, without composing verses just for the fun of it. Indeed, Lady Murasaki states she is “most accomplished”.

The poem above itself is a bit of a mystery though. The headnote to the poem is explained as Akazome writing a poem on behalf of her sister who waited all night for her lover, Middle Regent Michitaka, but was stood up. As explained before, women lived sheltered lives in his era, and men rarely could see them except by secret arranged meetings, and yet sometimes the women might wait all night without her lover ever coming. This is a frequent topic in the Hyakunin Isshu anthology as well, both real and fictional.

However, there is some research that suggests that maybe Akazome didn’t author the poem, though it’s unclear who did. Nevertheless, whoever was stood up that night, I hope Michitaka apologised the next day. 🙂

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