Summer is Back: Poem Number 81
May 17, 2012
As spring turns into summer, I thought this poem seemed really appropriate and a great topic for discussion:
鳴きつる方を nakitsuru kata wo
ただ有明の tada ariake no
月ぞ残れる tsuki no nokoreru
Which Professor Mostow translates as:
when I gaze out towards where
he was singing,
all that remains is the moon,
pale in the morning sky.
This poem was composed by Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139-1191) who was the first cousin of Fujiwara no Teika, who compiled the Hyakunin Isshu anthology and author of poem 97, as well as the nephew of Shunzei (poem 83). He was ranked as the Tokudaiji Minister of the left in the Heian Court, and left behind an extensive poetry collection and his personal diary.
According to Professor Mostow, the poem was composed on the topic of staying up all night, to hear one cry.
The hototogisu (ホトトギス), or “lesser cuckoo”, in Japan is a famous bird known for its early summer call. You can see this video below:
So, as Professor Mostow explains, the author is waiting all night to hear the first call of the hototogisu as the first sign of summer.
One other note is the term 有明 (ariake), which is one of many poetic terms for the moon. Specifically it means the moon that remains in the morning, after daybreak. This normally occurs on the 16th day of the lunar cycle according to the old Japanese calendar.
P.S. Like the title, I’m back too. 😉