Rejection: Poem Number 21

A Japanese calendar from 1907, published by Nakai Tokujiro , Hiroshige Museum of Art, published by Nakai Tokujirō, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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

JapaneseRomanizationTranslation
今来むとIma kon toIt was only because you said
いひしばかりにIishi bakari niyou would come right away
長月のNagatsuki nothat I have waited
有明の月をAriake no tsuki wothese long months, till even
待ち出でつるかなMachi idetsuru ka nathe wan morning moon has come out.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

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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