The Morning After: Poem 50

July 20, 2012

Uji-bashi 04

To celebrate our 50th poem on this blog, I am posting poem 50, which happens to be a particularly good one:

君がため Kimi ga tame
惜しからざりし Oshi karazarashi
命さへ Inochi sae
ながくもがなと Nagaku mo gana to
おもひけるかな Omoi keru ka na

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

Even the life that
I’d not have been sorry to lose
just to meet you once,
now, having met, I think:
“I want it to last forever!”

This poem was composed by one Fujiwara Yoshitaka, third son of Fujiwara Koremasa (poem 45). It was composed and sent after spending the night with his lover. These kind of “morning after” poems are very common at the time because lovers could not meet openly during the day, so they often met at night and slept together. The term for this kind of poem is kinuginu no uta (後朝の歌), and were often a way of sharing feelings after the two have parted company.

As Mostow also explains, it’s not clear why he valued his life so little, but the main interpretation is that he loved her so much, he was willing to throw his life away just to meet her. Other interpretations are, among other things, that he would have thrown away his life for her sake if he could.

What really makes this poem extra tragic though, is that Yoshitaka died at the age of twenty (he lived from 954 to 974), from smallpox. We don’t know what happened between him and his lover, but at least his words live on.

Anyhow, we’re at the halfway-point of this blog, and I wanted to thank everyone for your support. The biggest thanks go to Professor Mostow who graciously allowed me to use his translations for this blog (if you like to study the Hyakunin Isshu more in depth, I recommend his book).

And we’ve still got 50 to go. 🙂

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2 Responses to “The Morning After: Poem 50”

  1. Tulio said

    That’s such a beuatiful poem! Thank you for translating it.

    • Doug said

      Thanks Tulio and welcome. Actually I didn’t translate the poem (Professor Mostow did), but I am glad you enjoy. Hopefully he will read this too.

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