A Cold Shoulder: Poem Number 45

February 5, 2013

Genji emaki TAKEKAWA2

This is another poem in our series leading up to Valentine’s Day. This one is perhaps a bit more unrequited, than the last poem I posted here:

あはれとも Aware to mo
いふべき人は Iu beki hito wa
思ほえで Omooede
身のいたづらに Mi no itazura ni
なりぬべきかな narinu beki kana

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

Not one person who would
call my plight pathetic
comes at all to mind,
and so, uselessly,
I must surely die!

This poem was composed by Fujiwara no Koremasa (924-972) who served as regent to the Emperor from 970 onward, and was frequently involved in compiling (and writing poems for) the second Imperial anthology of the time, the Gosenshō.

The poem, simply put, is Koremasa’s efforts to gain a girl’s attention, even after she spurned him previously. Mostow explains that according to the original sources, this poem was composed by Koremasa thinking “I will not be defeated!” and sent this poem as a last-ditch effort.

Nowadays, we might call such people stalkers, but at the time, this kind of persistent, dramatic effort wasn’t unusual. Men of the Court might try months if not years to gain a girl’s attention, and if she spurned him a few times, he might have chosen to persist, or possibly find a new lover.

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