Backfired: Poem Number 74

July 18, 2013

A typhoon approaching Hong Kong, courtesy of Wikimedia.

Even the Hyakunin Isshu has its comedic moments:

うかりける Ukarikeru
人をはつせの Hito wo hatsuse no
山おろしよ Yama oroshiyo
はげしかれとは Hageshikareto wa
祈らぬものを Inoranu mono wo

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

“Make that heartless
woman, O mountain storm
of Hatsuse Temple—
crueller still!”—this is not
what I prayed for, and yet…

The author is Lord Minamoto no Toshiyori (1055-1129) who is the author of Tsunenobu (poem 71) and father of Shun’e (poem 85) and was one of the leading poets of his day, plus he helped compile the Imperial Anthology the Kinyōshū, as well as many poems of his own in various anthologies. He was also a leading poet of his era, along with Mototoshi (poem 75).

As Professor Mostow explains, Fujiwara no Teika, who compiled the Hyakunin Isshu, valued this poem very highly because of its depth of feeling and excellent word choices. As the anthology explains, the poem was written out of frustration after having prayed to be able to meet a certain woman, and somehow she became even more resistant.

The name “Hatsuse Temple” is another name for a famous Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan called Hasedera. Hasedera is very well-known in Japan, and apparently was a frequent pilgrimage site for lovers and those with romantic interests. If you ever do happen to be in Japan, especially in the Nara area, I’d highly recommend visiting Hasedera temple.

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