Long Summer: Poem Number 98
August 12, 2013
As Summer starts to wind down, I thought this would be a good poem. In fact, it’s one of the few about Summer in the Hyakunin Isshu:
風そよぐ Kaze soyogu
ならの小川の Nara no ogawa no
夕ぐれは Yugure wa
みそぎぞ夏の Misogi zo natsu no
しるしなりける Shirushi narikeru
Which Professor Mostow translates as:
In the evening
when the wind rustles the oaks
it is the ablutions that are
the only sign it’s still summer!
The notion of ablution or misogi (禊ぎ) is a Shinto ritual involving purification through cold water, prayer, etc. The practice is still alive and well today, and is often done in the summer months, but it varies depending on the particular Shinto shrine. In Shinto, people accumulate impurities through bad actions or traumatic events, and have to expunge them through ritual to balance their lives. As Professor Mostow explains, it was also popular in the author’s time as a well of making up for carrying on illicit affairs too. 😉
Another concept in late summer is the notion of zansho (残暑) which is the long, hot, humid summer that comes after the monsoon season in June-July. Speaking from first-hand experience, it’s stifling hot, but here the poem implies that the summer is nearly over, and only the ablutions remain.