Category Archives: Poetry Competition in Six Hundred Rounds

Spring II: 14

Left (Win).

冬枯れの芝生が下に住みしかど春は雲ゐにあがる雲雀か

fuyugare no
shibafu ga shita ni
sumishikado
haru wa kumoi ni
agaru hibari ka
Winter-burned
The greensward, and beneath it
Dwelling, yet
With springtime to the skies
Ascending, ‘tis the skylark.

Lord Kanemune.

87

Right.

雲雀あがる春の燒野の末遠み都のかたは霞なりけり

hibari agaru
haru no yakeno no
sue tōmi
miyako no kata wa
kasumi narikeri
Skylarks soar above
The springtime stubble burned fields;
To the distance far
Towards the capital, all
With haze is covered.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.

88

The Right state that the Left’s poem ‘would probably be better’ without the final ka (the use of this particle, marking rhetorical tone, was considered old-fashioned by the time the poem was written, and this old-fashioned air is what the Right are criticising). The Left reply that the final two stanzas of the Right’s poem ‘are not effective’, probably suggesting that the poem implies the capital is on fire, rather than simply being concealed by smoke from stubble-burning.

Shunzei merely remarks that the Left’s criticisms are ‘apposite, in general’ and awards them the victory.

Spring II: 13

Left (Win).

末遠き若葉の芝生うちなびき雲雀鳴野の春の夕暮

sue tōki
wakaba no shibafu
uchinabiki
hibari naku no no
haru no yūgure
To the distance far
The growing greensward
Stretches;
Skylarks singing o’er the plain
In the springtime evening.

Lord Sada’ie

85

Right.

雲に入るそなたの聲をながむれば雲雀落ち來る明ぼのゝ空

kumo ni iru
sonata no koe no
nagamureba
hibari ochikuru
akebono no sora
From within the clouds
Comes song: thither
Staring,
Skylarks swooping
Through the skies at dawn.

Lord Takanobu.

86

The Right team question what it is that the greensward ‘streams’ (nabiku) towards, while the Left say that starting with ‘within the clouds’ (kumo ni iru) is ‘somewhat abrupt’.

Shunzei comments of the Right’s question, ‘whatever it streams towards, in truth, from point of view of form, it should not stream at all,’ meaning that there’s no need to use the expression at all in the poem. As for the Right’s poem, somewhat facetiously, he says, ‘what is “within the clouds” is, most likely a ball, and while gazing “thither at their song”, one would think that, no doubt, the skylark, too, would soon come swooping down, but one would have to stop staring in order to catch it!’ In addition, ‘wouldn’t it be to dark at dawn to distinguish a skylark?’ So, ‘Skylarks singing o’er the plain/In the springtime evening’ should be the winner.

Spring II: 12

Left.

妻戀のやたけの雉心せよ通ふ裾野も人あさる也

tsuma koi no
yatake no kigisu
kokoro seyo
kayou susono mo
hito asarunari
Longing for your hen,
O, peak-dwelling Pheasant,
Take care!
For in the meadows on the mountains’ skirts
Folk are seeking you!

Kenshō

83

Right (Win).

狩人の入野の雉妻戀て鳴ねばかりに身をやかへてん

karibito no
iruno no kigisu
tsuma koite
nakune bakari ni
mi o ya kaeten
Hunters
Enter the meadows and, a pheasant,
Longing for his hen,
A single call
Exchanges for his life.

Jakuren

84

The Right state that the expression ‘peak-dwelling pheasant’ (yatake no kigisu) is ‘not one we’re familiar with’ [kikinarawazu], and question the use of ‘Folk are seeking’ (hito asaru) in the Left’s poem. (The standard expression would have been kigisu asaru (‘seeking pheasants’), and they are probably indicating some resistance to the Left’s unusual phrasing.) The Left, on the other hand, simply say that the Right’s poem ‘is satisfying’ [kanshin ari].

Shunzei’s judgement: The Right’s poem says ‘a single call’ (nakune bakari ni) will cost a the pheasant his life, but is a call really enough? When hunters enter a field, they have dogs to sniff out the pheasant’s scent, so he’d be caught whether he called or not. However, in the Left’s poem, ‘peak-dwelling’ (yatake) is pretentious [kotogotoshiku], and ‘folk are seeking’ (hito asaru) sounds dreadful [ito osoroshiku kikoyu]. Thus, in any case, the Right’s poem must win.

Spring II: 11

Left.

武蔵野に雉も妻やこもるらんけふの煙の下に鳴なり

musashino ni
kigisu mo tsuma mo ya
komoruran
kyō no kemuri no
shita ni nakunari
Upon Musashi Plain
Is the cock pheasant’s hen, also,
Concealed?
For today from beneath
The smoke come plaintive cries…

A Servant Girl.

81

Right (Win).

妻戀のきゞす鳴なり朝霞晴るればやがて草隱れつゝ

tsuma koi no
kigisu nakunari
asa kasumi
harureba yagate
kusagakuretsutsu
Longing for his hen
The pheasant calls;
When morning’s haze
Has cleared, how swiftly
He hides among the grass.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.

82

The Right comment that the Left’s poem resembles Minamoto no Yorimasa’s poem:

霞をや煙と見えん武蔵野に妻もこもれる雉鳴くなり

kasumi wo ya
kemuri to mien
musasino ni
tuma mo komoreru
kigisu nakunari
The haze
Does seem as smoke;
On Musashino Plain
With his hen hidden
A pheasant calls.

The Left snap back that as Yorimasa’s poem is not included in the imperial anthologies, they could not have seen it, and in any case, what sort of criticism is it to say that it ‘resembles Yorimasa’s poem?’ As for the Right’s poem, ‘do pheasants always hide in the grass come the morning?’

Shunzei comments that it is ‘a bit much’ to avoid Yorimasa’s poem altogether. Although he does then go on to say that ‘there’s no reason to strong arm in examples’ of poems not in the imperial anthologies. However, ‘what’s the point’ of associating ‘today’ (kyō) so strongly with ‘smoke’ (kemuri)? (It was supposed to be used only for particular days, such as the first day of spring.) In the Right’s poem ‘When morning’s haze/Has cleared, how swiftly’ (asa kasumi/harureba yagate) ‘has nothing needing criticism about it’, so the their poem is superior this round.

Spring II: 10

Left (Tie).

煙立つ片山きゞす心せよ裾野の原に妻もこもれり

kemuri tatsu
katayama kigisu
kokoro seyo
susono no hara ni
tsuma mo komoreri
Smoke is rising
From the mountain slopes, O Pheasant,
Beware!
In the meadows on the mountain’s skirts,
Does your wife lie hidden…

Lord Ari’ie

79

Right (Tie).

燒捨てし枯野の跡やかすむらん煙にかへるきゞす鳴也

yaki suteshi
kareno no ato ya
kasumuran
kemuri ni kaeru
kigisu naku nari
Left to burn,
All sign of the sere fields
Seems lost in haze;
Returning to the smoke
A pheasant calls…

Ietaka

80

The Right have no particular remarks to make about the Left’s poem this round, while the Left say that they understand the general import of the Right’s poem, but are ‘unable to grasp’ the sense of ‘Returning to the smoke’ (kemuri ni kaeru) (that is, why a pheasant would do it).

Shunzei merely adds that ‘the smoke in both poems prevents one from seeing very far’, so there is no clear winner and the round must be a tie.

Spring II: 9

Left (Win).

春山の霞のうちに鳴く雉思ふ心をよそに知れとや

haru yama no
kasumi no uchi ni
naku kigisu
omou kokoro wo
yoso ni shire to ya
In the springtime mountain
Haze
A pheasant calls,
His longing to the distance
Must he wish to make known…

Lord Kanemune

77

Right.

忍あまり人に知れつゝ鳴く雉その妻戀のほどよいかにぞ

shinobi amari
hito ni shiretsutsu
naku kigisu
sono tsuma koi no
hodo yo ika ni zo
Too much to conceal, so
To all must he tell it,
A calling pheasant:
His fondness for his hen,
How great must it be?

Lord Takanobu

78

The Right team query why mountains are singled out in the Left’s poem, while the Left say that it is ‘unimpressive’ to conclude a poem ‘How great must it be?’ (ika ni zo) after beginning it with ‘Too much to conceal’ (shinobi amari).

Shunzei starts by addressing the Right’s question, stating that it is ‘perfectly normal’ for pheasants to call from mountains and meadows in springtime, and it is not the case that a poem on the theme of pheasants has to contain a reference to meadows. As for the final line of the poem, ‘Must he wish to make known’ (shire to ya), ‘there have, of late, been some who have a liking for this form of expression,’ but ‘it is not particularly desirable.’ The Right’s expression, ‘To all must he tell it’ (hito ni shiretsutsu) was old-fashioned, but ‘failed to sound impressive.’ In addition, the final line was ‘not satisfactory,’ whereas the initial line of the Left’s poem was ‘not bad’ (the commentators suggest Shunzei is referring to the image of a pheasant calling from the concealment of the mountain mists here), and so they must be the winner.

Spring II: 8

Left (Win).

御狩する人や聞くらん杉の野にさをどるきゞす聲しきりなり

mikarisuru
hito ya kikuran
sugi no no ni
saodoru kigisu
koe shikirinari
Does the hunting
Party hear it?
Among the cypress groves
The waltzing pheasants’
Cries come clearly.

Lord Suetsune

75

Right.

雉鳴く交野の原のとだちこそまことにかりの宿りなりけれ

kigisu naku
katano no hara no
todachi koso
makoto ni kari no
yadorinarikere
The pheasants cry upon
The plain of Katano:
In the bird-brakes,
Truly, will they find only brief
Lodgings!

Lord Tsune’ie

76

The Right say they have no particular criticisms of the Left’s poem this round. The Right, on the other hand, say that ‘pheasants crying in the bird brakes’ (kigisu naku todachi) sounds ‘clumsy’. After all, a bird-brake is a place from where birds fly, and those birds are pheasants. The Left counter that Fujiwara no Kintō’s poem, ‘Of my mountain hut, the blossoms are the lodgings’ (yamazato Fa Fana koso yado no) is a similar case, as there is no difference between a ‘hut’ and ‘lodgings’, and there is nothing to criticise in this poem.

Shunzei begins by saying that the Left’s poem, below ‘cypress groves’ (sugi no no) is ‘old-fashioned’, while the top two stanzas are ‘modern poetry’, and wonders whether it is not ‘unsuitable’ to mix these styles in one poem. As to the question of whether the Right’s poem is ‘defective’, the poem they cite in its defence is ‘even more defective’ (meaning that the complete version of Kintō’s poem uses the same auxiliary verb (-keri) twice). However, in ancient times, and the past, too, it was the normal state of affairs that ‘such defects were not avoided.’ Is it not the case, he asks, whether ‘the anthologies and poetry competitions are entirely different?’ (The commentators take this as suggesting it’s better to avoid producing ‘defective’ poems in competition.) Thus, though he finds the use of old-fashioned expressions like ‘waltzing’ (saodoru) displeasing, the Left’s poem is not defective and so must win this round.

Spring II: 7

Left.

立つ雉のなるゝ野原もかすみつゝ子を思ふ道や春まどふらん

tatsu kiji no
naruru nohara mo
kasumitsutsu
ko o omou michi ya
haru madouran
The flying pheasants
Know these fields so well, yet
Haze-covered,
The fond way to their fledglings
Does it sink springtime in confusion…?

Lord Sada’ie

73

Right (Win).

鳴て立つきゞすの宿を尋ぬれば裾野の原の柴の下草

nakitetatsu
kigisu no yado o
tasunureba
susono no hara no
shiba no shitagusa
The crying, flying
Pheasants’ lodging
Should you seek out, look
In meadows on the mountains’ skirts
Among the brushwood undergrowth…

Nobusada

74

The Right team wonder whether ‘know a field well’ (hara ni naruru) isn’t a bit ‘modern’ for poetry. Furthermore, ‘sink springtime in confusion’ (haru madouran) ‘seems to be missing something’ (by this they probably mean that you would expect the expression to be haru ni madouran, with the grammatical structure more clearly expressed). The Left team respond that the first line of the Right’s poem ‘grates on the ear’ and wonder, ‘What one is to make of “pheasants’ lodgings” (kigisu no yado)?’, meaning that traditional poetic expression called for ‘warblers’ lodgings’ (uguisu no yado).

Shunzei rather harshly says that the Left’s poem is ‘poorly constructed and unacceptable in both spirit and diction,’ wondering whether there was ‘a single school which would not find fault with it on the grounds of both logic and poetic form’? It would be possible to say ‘flying pheasants’ springtime confusion’ (tatsu kigisu no haru madou), and this would ‘not require any criticism’, just as ‘crying, flying pheasants’ lodging’ does not. Furthermore, the Right’s final stanza, ‘Among the brushwood undergrowth’ (shiba no shitagusa) is ‘particularly pleasant’ and so the Right’s poem must be awarded the victory.

Spring II: 6

Left (Tie)

みな人の春の心のかよひ來てなれぬる野邊の花の陰哉

mina hito no
haru no kokoro no
kayoikite
narenuru nobe no
hana no kage kana
Everyone who
Loves the springtime
Come to
These familiar fields and rest
‘Neath the blossoms’ shade!

Lord Sada’ie.

71

Right (Tie)

思ふどちそこともいはず行暮ぬ花の宿かせ野邊の鶯

omoudochi
soko tomo iwazu
yukikurenu
hana no yado kase
nobe no uguisu
My friends,
Heedless of our place
Has darkness fallen:
Lend us your lodging ‘mongst the blooms,
O, warbler, in the fields!

Ietaka

72

Neither side has any comments to make about these two poems.

Shunzei says both poems possess a ‘scintillating beauty’, but wonders whether the Right’s hasn’t borrowed too heavily from the Monk Sosei’s poem:

Composed as a Spring Poem
おもふどち春の山邊に打群れてそこともいはぬ旅寢してしか

omoFudoti
Faru no yamabe ni
utimurete
soko tomo iFanu
tabine sitesika
My friends,
In springtime in the mountain meadows
Did we gather,
Heedless of our place,
Wanted we to sleep out on our trip!

KKS II: 126

However, using the variation to borrow lodging from a warbler is, indeed, ‘scintillating’ and neither poems ‘sounds the least bit old-fashioned’. Hence, the round must be a tie.

Spring II: 5

Left (Win)

都人宿を霞のよそに見て昨日もけふ野邊にくらしつ

miyakobito
yado o kasumi no
yoso ni mite
kinō mo kyō
nobe ni kurashitsu
Capital folk of
Their homes, through the haze,
Catch a distant glimpse
Yesterday, and again today,
Have they spent among the fields.

A Servant Girl.

69

Right.

これぞこの春の野邊よと見ゆるかな大宮人のうちむれてゆく

kore zo kono
haru no nobe yo to
miyuru kana
ōmiyabito no
uchimureteyuku
This,
For springtime in the fields
Is most apt, indeed:
Folk from the mighty palace
Gathering all together!

Nobusada.

70

For once, the Right describe the Left’s poem as ‘moving’ and have no criticisms to make of it. The Left merely wonder whether ‘folk from the mighty palace’ are entirely suited to the fields.

Shunzei agrees that the construction of ‘Their homes, through the haze,/Catch a distant glimpse’ is particularly good, and that it cannot be said that ‘folk from the mighty palace’ are appropriate for the fields in springtime, but that if they are gathering together, it might be possible. However, in this theme the poet should not be looking on, but be part of the scene, so the Left’s poem must be the winner.