Sleepless Nights: Poem Number 85

Murasaki Shikibu Nikki Emaki (Hinohara - scene 3) painting only

Where as the last love poem expressed love and anxiety after a first-meeting, this poem is quite a different story:

夜もすがら Yo mo sugara
物思ふ頃は Mono omou koro wa
明けやらぬ Ake yaranu
ねやのひまさへ Neya no hima sae
つれなかりけり Tsure nakari keri

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

All through the night
recently, as I dwell on things,
even the gap between the doors
of my bedroom, which does not lighten,
seems cruel and heartless to me.

The author is a Buddhist monk named Shun’e Hōshi (俊恵法師, “Dharma Master Shun’e”) who was the son of Minamoto no Toshiyori (poem 74) and grandson of Minamoto no Tsunenobu (poem 71). Though he had taken tonsure, Shun’e was quite a social figure and gathered many poets and writers around him and his residence called the Karin’en (歌林苑, “Garden in the Poetic Woods”). According to Professor Mostow, one of his students was a famous writer named Kamo no Chōmei who wrote the “Account of a Ten Foot Hut” or Hōjōki.

This poem is another example of when a poem expressing a woman’s anguish is written by a man, presumably on a set topic for a poetry contest. Other examples include poem 18 and poem 21. Obviously being able to express a woman’s feelings, namely that of a jilted lover, so well from a male author was not an easy task, and was a mark of excellent poetic skill. Not surprisingly Shun’e is counted among the Later Six Immortals of Poetry. Similarly, this is probably why Kabuki actors who play women’s parts are so highly revered.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: