The Autumn Moon: Poem Number 79

September 20, 2013

P9297161

Because this is the Harvest Moon, I felt this poem was perfect for the occasion:

秋風に Akikaze ni
たなびく雲の Tanabiku kumo no
たえまより Taema yori
もれ出づる月の More izuru
かげのさやけさ Kage no sayakesa

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

From between the breaks
in the clouds that trail
on the autumn wind
leaks through the moon-
light’s clear brightness!

The author is Fujiwara no Akisuke (1090-1155) who served as the administrator of the western half of the capitol of Kyoto. In those days, the capitol was modeled off of the Chinese capitol of Chang-an of the illustrious Tang Dynasty, and was divided into a “western” and “eastern” half with an administrator for each one. Additionally, Professor Mostow explains that Akisuke was the father of Kiyosuke (poem 84) and established a poetry school (the Rokujō School) in opposition to Shunzei (poem 83) who happened to be the father of Fujiwara no Teika the compiler of the Hyakunin Isshu. Teika apparently didn’t mind including his poems in the anthology anyway. Being a pre-eminent poet, Emperor Sutoku (poem 77) also commissioned him to compile a new anthology, the Shika Wakashū.

The poem itself is somewhat unusual in the Hyakunin Isshu, because the poem is completely straightforward. The poem literally paints a wonderful image of a hazy autumn moon-lit night, with no additional allusions. When you compare other poems in the Hyakunin Isshu about the moon, usually they have some additional meaning. This poem is unusually genuine and still well-composed.

So, as you enjoy the Harvest Moon this evening, take a moment to enjoy this poem if you can. If you’re in Japan, happy o-Tsukimi! 🙂

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