Scattered Gems: Poem Number 37

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Another iconic poem about Autumn in the Hyakunin Isshu:

JapaneseRomanizationTranslation
白露をShiratsuyu woIn the autumn fields
風のふきしくKaze no fukishikuwhere the wind blows repeatedly
秋の野はAki no no waon the white dewdrops,
つらぬきとめぬTsuranuki tomenuthe gems, not strung together,
玉ぞちりけるTama zo chiri kerudo scatter about indeed.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author, Fun’ya no Asayasu, is the son of the author of poem 22, but is otherwise unknown.

The poem is something of an oddity in the Hyakunin Isshu because, as Mostow explains, it seems to be a relatively common poem. It uses a popular motif of dew as gems, comparing them to pearls or jewels, and you can find similar imagery in other poems of the time. So, why did Fujiwara no Teika select this poem for this anthology?

Mostow points out that this poem is featured in other anthologies as well, so for some unknown reason, it was highly prized, even though the significance is lost now.

Still, there is something beautiful about the idea of gems scattering in the Autumn wind in particular and perhaps that is what sets this poem apart from others from the same era.

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