Scattered Gems: Poem Number 37

October 10, 2012

Gems P4061909

Another iconic poem about Autumn in the Hyakunin Isshu:

白露を Shiratsuyu wo
風のふきしく Kaze no fukishiku
秋の野は Aki no no wa
つらぬきとめぬ Tsuranuki tomenu
玉ぞちりける Tama zo chiri keru

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

In the autumn fields where the wind blows repeatedly
on the white dewdrops,
the gems, not strung together,
do scatter about indeed.

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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