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ta ga misogi
yuFutukedori ka
tatuta no yama ni
oriFaFete naku
For whose lustration is
This mulberry cloth? A cockerel
Crows upon the Cathay robe
Cut out on Tatsuta Mountain,
Endlessly calling.


This poem relies upon an elaborate series of overlapping word plays and images in order to achieve its effect.

First, we have ta ga misogi yuFu tuke ‘For whose lustration ceremony is this mulberry cloth fastened?’. This overlaps with yuFutukedori ka karakoromo ‘A cockerel crows’ (karakoromo sounded to old Japanese ears like a cock’s crow). In turn, this overlaps with karakoromo tatu ‘A Cathay robe cut out’, which overlaps with tatuta no yama ‘Tatsuta Mountain’. Karakoromo was, in fact, a makura kotoba conventionally associated with tatu. A further double meaning is achieved in the final line where oriFaFete ‘endlessly’, is derived from a verb, oriFaFu 織延ふ, meaning ‘weave at great length’.

Additionally, implicit in the poem is the knowledge that a Cathay robe would have been made out of brocade (nisiki 錦), which was an image frequently used in poetry to describe the panoply of scarlet autumn leaves at places such as Tatsuta.

So, the poem presents us with a progression of images: from the simplicity of the sacred mulberry cloth to the richness of the brocade robe; the cockerel used in a religious ceremony, recollecting the lustration, while simultaneously being an embroidered decoration on the Chinese robe, with his crows echoing endlessly through the autumn leaves at Tatsuta, and frozen into an endless crow upon the garment.

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