KKS XV: 747

Narihira had been seeing a woman living in the western wing of the palace of the Gojô Empress, and loved her dearly. Shortly after the Tenth day of the First Month, she disappeared off to somewhere else and, though he found out where she was, he could not communicate with her. When Spring came and the plum blossom was in full bloom, on a night when the moon was especially beautiful, he was yearning for the love of the previous year and went back to the western wing and, until the moon was low in the sky, lay upon the bare boards; then he composed the following:


tuki ya aranu
Faru ya mukasi no
Faru naranu
wa ga mi Fitotu Fa
moto no mi ni site
Is this not that moon?
And Spring: is as the Spring of old
Is it not?
Only this body of mine
Is as it ever was…

Ariwara no Narihira

2 thoughts on “KKS XV: 747”

  1. Two questions on grammar points:

    1. I have read that や can be used to indicate a rehotorical question, or for emphasis. Is it the latter sense here?

    2. Is the meaning of にして in this poem generally the same as in modern Japanese (even, only)?

    1. In answer to (1), the や ya here is marking a rhetorical question. Ki no Tsurayuki famously remarks in the preface to Kokinshū that one of the features of Narihira’s poetry is that his ‘conception is too great for his diction’ – that is, he packs so many ideas into the limited number of words allowed for a waka that his poems become difficult to understand. So, tuki ya aranu ‘Isn’t this the [same] moon?’ Well, yes it is, because the moon is eternal, but it’s a year later, so it’s also, of course, not the same moon, because he’s seeing it at a different time. And, isn’t spring the same as that of the year before? Again, yes, of course, because spring is the same every year, but also no, because each year is different. Only I am the same – well, he’s still suffering from his broken heart, but people change far more than spring or the moon do, so he’s kidding himself, partly deliberately, about how he hasn’t changed, when he certainly has.
      As for (2), in this context にして is parsed as a compound word composed of the copula verb nari in its continuative form ni, with the addtion of the continuative particle shite. Thus, it’s simply a somewhat more emphatic equivalent of ni, which Narihira has used to keep to the required syllable count and means ‘being X’, with the X in this case being moto no mi ‘original self’.

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