Waves Beating Against The Shore: Poem Number 48

The waves at Porto Covo, west coast of Portugal. Stitch of four photos. Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I decided to post this one after Valentine’s Day for all those whose plans didn’t go well. You’re not alone, as we shall see.

JapaneseRomanizationTranslation
風をいたみKaze wo itamiWaves that beat against the rocks,
岩うつ波のIwa utsu nami nofanned by a fierce wind—
おのれのみOnore nomiit is I alone
くだけて物をKudakete mono wowho breaks, those times
おもふ頃かなOmou koro kanawhen I think of her!
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author, Minamoto no Shigeyuki (?-1001?) was a well-associated poet who knew Kanemori (poem 40) and Sanekata (poem 51) according to Mostow. He is the last of the Thirty Six Immortals of Poetry featured in the blog (not all 36 are in the Hyakunin Isshu).

The poem, like poem 45 and poem 19, features the popular theme of a cold lover. For some reason, I had a difficult time understanding the analogy of this poem the first time, but Shigeyuki is comparing himself to the waves that crash on the shore. His lover is like the rocks that are unmoved by the waves.

It turns out though that this poem was actually composed for a poetry game involving a hundred-poem sequence “when Retired Emperor Reizei was still called the crown prince” according to Mostow. Such poetry games were popular in the late Heian Period, and influenced people like Fujiwara no Teika and the Hyakunin Isshu anthology.

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