Spring I: 5

Left (Tie).


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



Right (Tie).


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.




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.

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