Lonely Autumn: Poem Number 47

Interesting garden building and entrance to Vine Cottage - geograph.org.uk - 521117
Carol Rose / Interesting garden building and entrance to Vine Cottage

This is a poem a like a lot from the Hyakunin Isshu that vividly expresses the mood of Autumn:

JapaneseRomanizationTranslation
八重むぐらYaemuguraTo the lonely house
しげれる宿のShigereru yado nowhere the weeds, eight layers deep,
さびしきにSabishiki nihave grown rank,
人こそ見えねHito koso mienenot a soul can be seen—
秋は来にけりAki wa ki ni keribut autumn, at least, has come.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The poet, Egyō Hōshi (恵慶法師, Dharma Master Egyō), was a Buddhist monk active during the last half of the tenth century, and as Professor Mostow explains, was closely associated with other poets who frequently met at the Kawara Mansion on the banks of the Kamo River. According to Mostow, these included Yoshinobu (poem 49) and Motosuke (poem 42) among others.

The poem was given as an entry to a poetry contest about the coming of autumn to a ‘dilapidated house’ according to Mostow, but he points out that the “house” in question was probably mean to the Kawara Mansion itself.

Given that Egyō is a Buddhist monk, and well-versed in the Buddhist teachings of the effervescence of life, it seems reasonable that he used the house and the seasons to give the poem a bit of a Buddhist theme. Spring gives way to Summer, Summer to Fall, Fall to Winter and so on. In the same way, things rise and fall, and Egyō wanted to remind his audience that “Autumn” comes sooner or later.

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