Autumn III: 13



nasake nomi ka wa
sogagiku no
iro motehayasu
shirotae no sode
To tell between them
Does not need soft thoughts alone ?
Yellow chrysanthemumsf
Hues combined with
Sleeves of white mulberry cloth.





nagatsuki no
kyō kokonoka
to ii kao ni
oriete miyuru
shiragiku no hana
‘Of the Longest Month
Today is the Ninth day,’
So seem to say,
Plucked and in my sight,
These white chrysanthemums.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right say that the meaning of sogagiku is unclear. The Left respond, ‘They are yellow chrysanthemums. Emperor Ninmyō [Soga] was known to be fond of the colour yellow and so this is a term for yellow chrysanthemums.’ The Right then continue, ‘The Man’yōshū uses the term sogai (“rear”), in poems with the conception of “pursuing after” [oisugai no kokoro nari]. So are these not, therefore, chrysanthemums which are later in blooming on riverbanks, perhaps?’

The Left content themselves with saying that the Right’s poem shows no particular brilliance of construction, nor significant faults.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s ‘Does not need soft thoughts alone’ (nasake nomi ka wa) is by no means bad in the context of this poem [kono uta ni torite wa ashikarazarubeshi]. The explanation about yellow chrysanthemums is, indeed, one that has had some circulation recently. Lord Toshiyori apparently declared sogagiku to be ‘a single stem of yellow chrysanthemums’. The Right’s other query on the relationship with the Man’yō term sogai, does not seem to be without merit [muri ni arazaru]. It has been said that the Right’s poem lacks faults, but I cannot appreciate ‘so seem to say’ (ii kao ni) as proper diction [shokisebekarazaru kono kotoba haberubeki]. In the absence of definite proof from the reign of Emperor Ninmyō about the sense of sogagiku, I make this round a tie.

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