The Scattering Years of My Life: Poem 96

The wind of spring

Something we all have to face in the end:

花さそふ Hana sasou
あらしの庭の Arashi no niwa no
雪ならで Yuki nara de
ふりゆくものは Furi yuku mono wa
わが身なりけり Wa ga mi narikeri

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

It entices the flowers—
the storm—but through the garden’s white,
it is not snow,
and what it is that’s scattering
are, in fact, the years of my life!

The author, Fujiwara no Kintsune (1171-1244) was a powerful member of the elite Fujiwara family and extended his support to the Hyakunin Isshu’s compiler, Fujiwara no Teika (poem 97), after he married Kintsune’s older sister. According to Mostow, through Kintsune’s own marriage to a niece of Minamoto no Yoritomo, he eventually became the grandfather of the Shogun, Kujō Yoritsune.

This poem, unlike other poems recently posted which were more clear-cut in meaning, often was the subject of much interpretation. The contrast between the aging man and the scattering of flowers in the wind, called hana fubuki (花吹雪) led to many interpretations by later commentators particularly about the man growing old, according to Professor Mostow. Perhaps he won’t be back next year?

Due to his association with the new Kamakura Shogunate, when the Shogunate defeated Emperor Go-toba (poem 99) in the Jōkyū Disturbance, Kintsune helped start a new branch of the Fujiwara clan called the Saionji (西園寺) after a nearby temple in northern Kyoto which became their traditional seat of power. It was said that he planted many cherry trees, build ponds, etc. Thus, this poem alludes to these cherry trees as the ones that are scattering in the wind.

The image of hana fubuki also is noteworthy, because it isn’t a small scattering of flowers. It refers to great scattering of blossoms in the wind, just like a snowfall. Thus Kintsune is witnessing this great scattering even as he contemplates his own decline even after so many years in power.

Pretty awesome poem, really, for a man who lived a noteworthy life.

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