Snowfall: Poem Number 31

January 4, 2013

Wheeler Crest pink sunrise

Similar to the previous poem, this one deals with the moon, but I think this poem epitomizes the winter season:

朝ぼらけ Asaborake
有明の月と ariake no tsuki to
みるまでに miru made ni
吉野の里に Yoshino no sato ni
ふれる白雪 fureru shirayuki

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

So that I thought it
the light of the lingering moon
at dawn—
the white snow that has fallen
on the village of Yoshino

The author, Sakanoue no Korenori, is one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry, but otherwise nothing much is known about him.

This poem, as Professor Mostow explains, is similar to poem 29, and is part of a theme on “elegant confusion” which is a hallmark of Chinese poetry. Early poetry in Japan was still greatly indebted to Chinese poetry and many of the imagery, and idioms used in the Hyakunin Isshu anthology are not exception.

I happen to like this poem also because it has a lot of obscure, but cool Japanese poetic terms. We’ve seen ariake discussed in poem 30, but also this poem uses the term asaborake (朝ぼらけ) which means a dawn in either winter or autumn. It’s a kind of slow, late dawn that you only find in that time of year. Compare with akatsuki (暁), which Professor Mostow explains can mean “dawn” any time of the year.

Also, I am not sure which village of “Yoshino” this poem refers to, but I suspect it might be the Yoshino in Nara Prefecture. I could be wrong though.

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One Response to “Snowfall: Poem Number 31”

  1. Dear blogger,

    It amuses me how well you reach out to your readers with subtlety, passion and depth. I was looking for Hyakunin Isshu so earnestly for long and when I finally found your blog, it gave me more than I expected. I loved the simple index, English pronunciation in detail, translation and the history behind the poem and about the poet. Also, I loved the pictures as they befit the poem most certainly and help me connect the poem to to what defines Japan. I thought I’d wait till I finish all the 100 and then express my gratitude but I guess I could not hold it on any longer.
    Thank you sooo much for your wonderful blog!!!

    Do contact me if you can let me in on any of the other related blogs or if you want to talk about Japanese poetry in general:)

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