Rejection: Poem Number 21

December 10, 2012

Japanese Calendar 2

No one likes getting rejected. Even back in classical Japan:

今来むと Ima kon to
いひしばかりに Iishi bakari ni
長月の Nagatsuki no
有明の月を Ariake no tsuki wo
待ち出でつるかな Machi idetsuru ka na

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

It was only because you said
you would come right away
that I have waited
these long months, till even
the wan morning moon has come out.

This poem was composed not by a woman as one would expect, but by a Buddhist priest named Sosei Hōshi (素性法師, “Dharma Master Sosei”, dates unknown) who was the son of Henjō who wrote poem 12. Sosei was a prolific and popular poet and according to Mostow heavily represented in the more official anthology, the Kokin Wakashū. He is also one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry.

As we’ve seen with other poems from this earlier era, it was common to write about poetry themes, and to write from a role outside one’s own. So, for a monastic to be writing from the perspective of a lonely woman wasn’t unusual.

Mostow explains the contradiction in this poem between the “one long night” and “months” as being an issue of interpretation. Though most people assumed it was a long Autumn night, Fujiwara no Teika, the compiler of the Hyakunin Isshu anthology, felt it was more like a long passage of time.

P.S. Photo above is a Japanese calendar we have a home. More on that in a related post in my other blog.

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