Category Archives: Poetry Competition in Six Hundred Rounds

Spring I: 14

Left (Tie).

氷ゐし水の白浪立かへり春風しるき池の面かな

kōri i
shimizu no shiranami
tachikaeri

harukaze shiruki
ike no omo kana
To the iced
Clear waters waves of white
Return again;
Spring’s breezes well know
This mere’s face.

Lord Sada’ie

27

Right (Tie).

諏方の海の氷のうへの通ひ路はけさ吹く風に跡絶えにけり

suwa no umi no
kōri no ue no
kayoiji wa
kesa fuku kaze ni
ato taenikeri
At the Sea of Suwa
Upon the ice
The trackways,
With the breath of wind this morning
Have left no trace at all…

The Master of the Empress’ Household Office.

28

The Right team state that the concluding line of the Left’s poem, ‘this mere’s face’ (ike no omo kana) is ‘weak’. The Left team reply that the first three lines of the Right’s poem are identical to those of a poem by Minamoto no Akinaka (1064-1138), in the Hundred Poem Sequence from the Reign of Former Emperor Horikawa (a sequence composed by a number of poets between 1104-07 and presented to Horikawa):

諏方の海の氷のうへの通ひ路は神の渡りて解くるなりけり

suFa no umi no
koFori no uFe no
kayoFidi Fa
kami no watarite
tokuru narikeri
At the Sea of Suwa
Upon the ice
The trackways,
With the passage of the God
Have melted.

and that this gave the poem its idea.

Shunzei comments that ‘waters waves of white/Return again’ is a ‘well-worn’ image with nothing special about it, and the Right team have already identified the weakness of the final line, and, of course, it ‘could not be as strong as a Deva King!’ As for the Right’s poem, he accepts the point made by the Left, but as it is not well-known that even in Hundred Poem sequences there are examples which are not ‘excellent work’, it is difficult to completely avoid composing poems with conceptions that resemble them. Thus, the round has to be a tie.

Spring I: 13

Left (Win).

つらゝゐし汀を渡る春風に池のこゝろも解けやしぬらん

tsuraraishi
migiwa o wataru
harukaze ni
ike no kokoro mo
toke ya shinuran
The ice-bound
Waters’ edge a’crossing goes
The breath of spring;
Has the mere’s heart, too,
Melted?

Kenshō

25

Right.

雪つもろ峰に春日やさしつらむ谷の小川の水まさり行

yuki tsumoru
mine ni haruhi ya
sashitsuramu
tani no ogawa no
mizu masariyuku
Upon the snow-laden
Peaks has the spring sun
Shone?
For the valley streamlets are
With water overflowing…

Lord Tsune’ie

26

Neither team had anything deep to say about the other’s poem this round.

Shunzei states that, while both are of the same quality, the phrase ‘spring sun’ (haruhi) was not one that he liked to see used (why remains unclear, although there is speculation that it was because it was an ancient term dating from the Man’yōshū), and so the Left’s poem was just the winner.

Spring I: 12

Left (Win).

空はなを霞もやらず風冴えて雪氣にくもる春の夜の月

sora wa nao
kasumi mo yarazu
kaze saete
yukige ni kumoru
haru no yo no tsuki
The skies are still
Untouched by haze;
The wind clearly brings
A sense of snow to cloud
The moon, this springtime night.

A Servant Girl

23

Right.

梅が枝の匂ばかりや春ならんなを雪深し窓のあけぼの

ume ga e no
nioi bakari ya
haru naran
nao yuki fukashi
mado no akebono
Is a branch of plum’s
Scent alone
Spring?
Still the snows lie deep
Outside my window this dawn.

Jakuren

24

Neither team has any criticisms to make of the other’s poem in this round.

Shunzei comments that both poems are simply and beautifully constructed in both form and phrasing, and the final two lines of both poems are equally charming. He feels, though, that the beginning of the Right’s poem would have been improved if, instead of ‘a branch of plum’ (ume ga e), which focuses the audience’s attention on the branch, and not the blossom, it had begun ‘Is the plum beneath my eaves’ (noki no ume), instead. In addition, while reluctant to discount ‘outside my window this dawn’ (mado no akebono), he cannot help but feel that ‘the moon, this springtime night’ (haru no yo no tsuki) is a more superlative conclusion, and so has to award victory to the Left.

Spring I: 11

Left (Tie).

天の原春とも見えぬながめかなこぞのなごりの雪の明ぼの

ama no hara
haru tomo mienu
nagame kana
kozo no nagori no
yuki no akebono
Upon the plain of Heaven
Of Spring there is no sign
In sight:
A memento of the year that’s gone,
Snowfall with the dawning.

Lord Ari’ie

21

Right (Tie).

なごりには春の袂も冴えにけり霞より散る雪のけしきに

nagori ni wa
haru no tamoto mo
saenikeri
kasumi yori chiru
yuki no keshiki ni
The memento
Also upon my springtime sleeves
Stands clear:
Drifting from the haze,
A scene of snow.

Nobusada

22

In this round the Right team have no criticisms to make of the Left’s poem, but the Left query beginning a poem with ‘memento’, as the audience then immediately wonder, ‘A memento of what?’

Shunzei comments that the Left’s poem starts extremely well, but that, even though ‘in sight’ (nagame kana) has been frequently used in poetry recently, its spirit has yet to be fully determined, and so including it here must be considered a mistake. Furthermore, the concluding line, ‘snowfall with the dawning’ (yuki no akebono), has also been much used in recent poetry. As for the Right’s poem, he feels it ends extremely well, but echoes the criticism of the Left about the beginning. Thus, the best result for this round is a tie.

Spring I: 10

Left (Win).

霞みあへず猶降る雪に空とぢて春物ふかき埋み火のもと

kasumi aezu
nao furu yuki ni
sora tojite
haru monofukaki
uzumibi no moto
No trace of haze and
Still the falling snow
Seals the sky;
Spring lies deep
Amongst the buried embers.

Lord Sada’ie

19

Right.

霞しくけさゝへ冴ゆる袂かな雪ふる年や身につもるらん

kasumi shiku
kesa sae sayuru
tamoto kana
yuki furu toshi ya
mi ni tsumoruran
Haze spreads:
Today, ‘tis clear
Upon my sleeve:
Is it with snow fall this year
That I am buried?

Lord Takanobu

20

The Right team state that the final line of the Left’s poem is ‘grating on the ear’, but that otherwise they can find nothing wrong with it. Shunzei remarks somewhat testily, that they are pre-empting his role as judge, but broadly agrees, finding the central image of snow ‘sealing the sky’ particularly fine. He finds the Right’s poem problematic in that ‘haze spreads’ in the middle of spring, and this poem is supposed to be describing the season’s beginning – it should be ‘haze rises’ (kasumi tatsu), and there is nothing remarkable about the rest of it. Thus, he awards the round to the Left.

Spring I: 9

Left (Win).

信樂の外山は雪も消えにしを冬を殘すや谷の夕風

shigaraki no
toyama wa yuki mo
kienishi o
fuyu o nokosu ya
tani no yūkaze
From Shigaraki’s
Mountains, the snow
Has gone, yet
Does winter remain in
The valleys’ evening breeze?

Kenshō

17

Right.

春風は吹くと聞けども柴の屋はなをさむしろにいこそ寢られね

haru kaze wa
fuku to kikedomo
shiba no ya wa
nao samushiro ni
i koso nerarene
The spring breeze
Blows, I hear, yet
My twig-roofed hut is
Yet chill: beneath a threadbare blanket
I cannot fall asleep.

Lord Tsune’ie

18

Shunzei states the first part of the Left’s poem is ‘elevated in tone’, but that the final line is problematic: a reference to ‘morning’ might have been better, or just to the ‘valleys’ breeze’, but this would not have fitted the syllable count. If the intention had been to add a sense of ‘darkness’ to the poem, an expression such as ‘the valleys, shadowed by the crags’ would have been better. As for the Right’s poem, the image of the ‘twig-roofed hut’ is lonely, but the overlaying of the ‘cold’ with ‘blanket’ (in the original poem ‘samushiro’ is a play-on-words with both senses) is pedestrian, and so the Left’s poem, despite its faults, is adjudged the winner.

Spring I: 8

Left (Tie).

春來ても猶しみこほる山里はかけひの水のをとづれもなし

haru kitemo
nao shimikōru
yamazato wa
kakehi no mizu no
otozure mo nashi
Though spring has come,
Yet chill seeps within
My mountain home:
Water from the pipes
Makes no sound at all…

Lord Kanemune

15

Right (Tie).

春來ても雪降る空をながむれば霞も冴ゆる心地こそすれ

haru kitemo
yuki furu sora o
nagamureba
kasumi mo sayuru
kokochi koso sure
Though spring has come
When on the sky, full of falling snow,
I gaze,
Even the haze of spring is clearly cold
I feel.

Ietaka

16

The Right team here disapprove of the Left’s use of shimikōru, calling it, ‘grating on the ear’ – Shunzei disagrees, saying that neither component, shimi or kōru, is ‘vulgar’. Both poems, he feels, start well, and the fourth line of the Right poem, kasumi mo sayuru, is particularly fine, but, once again, the round must be adjudged a tie.

Spring I: 7

Left (Tie).

なを冴ゆるけしきにしるし山ざくらまだ冬ごもる梢なるらん

nao sayuru
keshiki ni shirushi
yamazakura
mada fuyugomoru
kozue naruran
Still so clear
Is the scene: it must be a sign that
Mountain cherries are
Yet sealed in winter,
Outstanding on the treetops…

Lord Suetsune

13

Right (Tie).

したふべき冬には雪のをくれゐて春ともいはず冴えわたるらん

shitaubeki
fuyu ni wa yuki no
okureite
haru tomo iwazu
saewataruran
How it must long for
Winter – the snow
Remains,
Though ‘tis spring, needless to say:
That is clear, indeed!

The Provisional Assistant Master of the Empress’ Household Office

14

The Right state that as the entirety of the topic is expressed in the first line of the Left’s poem, it lack care [nen nashi]. The Left respond that saying that the characters of the topic appear in the first line of our poem suggest the Right is unable to count correctly! As for the Right’s poem, we find no particular faults, but it is ordinary [mezurashiki ni arazu].

Shunzei’s judgement: The form of both poems is splendid [sugata wa yū ni koso haberumere]. In general, the mass of modern composition, whether or not it shows understanding of the form and diction of poetry [kinrai no utayomi no tomogara, sugata kotoba wa shireru ka shirazaru ka], also frequently fails to show enough attention to details of techique [bimyō no fūjō] and that I have cause to say this is certainly not laudable [kanshin serezaru koto]. However, the Right’s ‘the snow remains’ (yuki no okureite), seems somewhat contrived [sukoshi omoubeku], though the final one is excellent [yoroshikuhaberu]. Thus, it’s impossible to distinguish between the two poems.

Spring I: 6

Left (Win).

袖交す御階のきはに年ふりていくたび春をよそにむかへつ

sode kawasu
mihashi no kiwa ni
toshi furite
ikutabi haru o
yoso ni mukaetsu
Sleeve brushes sleeve
On the palace walkways’ edge
Year on top of year;
How many springtimes
Have I but distantly seen it in?

Lord Kanemune

11

Right.

いつしかと御階のきはに節に會大宮人や春を知るらん

itsushika to
mihashi no kiwa ni
sechi ni au
ōmiyabito ya
haru o shiruran
Soon, indeed,
On the palace walkways’ edge
The season-greeting banquet will come
Upon the palace-folk; is that how
They know it’s spring?

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office

12

Shunzei awards victory to Kanemune’s poem for its fine use of ‘palace walkways’ (mihashi) and ‘how many springtimes’ (ikutabi haru), while finding the Right team’s poem ‘splendidly constructed, but insufficiently clear’, as it doesn’t explicitly mention ‘sechie’ – a particular palace New Year banquet – although it does contain all the relevant characters.

Spring I: 5

Left (Tie).

むつき立けふのまとゐや百敷の豊明のはじめなるらん

mutsuki tatsu
kyô no matoi ya
momoshiki no
toyo no akari no
hajimenaruran
On the year’s turn
Today, with a congenial gathering
At the hundredfold palace,
Do the banquets – rubicund faces all –
Perhaps, begin?

Kenshō

9

Right (Tie).

百敷や袖を連ぬる盃にゑひをすゝむる春の初風

momoshiki ya
sode o tsuranuru
sakazuki ni
ei o susumuru
haru no hatsukaze
At the hundredfold palace,
Arrayed sleeves and
Wine cups are
Pressed to a pleasant drunkenness by
The first breeze of spring.

 

Jakuren

10

The Right state that ‘on the year’s turn’ (mutsuki tatsu) is an expression they ‘are not accustomed to hearing’ [kikinarezu oboyu]. The Left, in response, say that this expression occurs in the Man’yōshū. The Right then state that ‘rubicund faces all’ (toyo no akari) is unclear. The Left reply that the various Imperial seasonal banquets are referred to as such in Imperial proclamations. The Left have no criticisms of the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: The gentlemen of the Right have stated that mutsuki tatsu is something particularly worthy of criticism, but I do not feel this to be the case at all [makoto ni oboehaberazu]. I definitely recall seeing poems containing mutsuki tatsu in the Man’yōshū. However, even if something occurs in the Man’yōshū, I do not feel either Left or Right should cite it in support [sayū naku shōko to subeshi to mo oboehaberazu]. Someone now dead once told me that we should pick the tasteful sections of the Man’yōshū [man’yōshū wa yūnaru koto o toru beki]. Meaning that in that anthology there are many poems which sound unpleasant [kikinikuki], such as ‘Dig it from Lord Yamada’s nose!‘ and ‘Drinking wine, weeping drunkenly‘ which it would be difficult to select now. To the time of that anthology, they did not avoid poetic faults [uta no yamai]. Therefore, such poems should definitely not be used as sources for poetry competitions [kanarazushimo uta’awase no toki wa rei to nasubekarazaru]. This is not the case with the poem in question, but it needs to be said. Moreover, in Imperial Proclamations,toyo no akari (豊明) appears to be written 豊楽. Both Left and Right have already given their opinions on the poem’s overall conception [fūtei]. In terms of its sense, in one area alone is it surprising: instead of ‘custom’ (narai wa) which is normal in poetry in these situations, it uses ‘congenial gathering’ (matoi), which evokes the plucking of a catalpa bow; when one uses toyo no akari, one would normally then continue with expressions such as “cloudless world” (kumori naki yo ). In the present poem, however, there is nothing for it to connect to. The Right’s poem simply concludes ‘first breeze of spring’ (haru no hatsukaze), and while one can hear the New Year in this, the scenery of ‘Pressed to a pleasant drunkenness’ (ei o susumuru) is more that of the Twisting Waters banquet (gokusui no en) or of composition on ‘peach blossom skies‘. In sum, then, the poem fails to sound elegant in style [uta no tei mo yū ni shi mo kikoehaberazarubeshi]. The Left’s matoi, too, has no links within the poem. Neither is worthy of a win I feel. Thus, this round is, again, a tie.