Spring II: 1

Left (Tie).


wakana tsumu
nobe o shimireba
takatori no
okina mo mube zo
taware aikeru
Fresh greens are picked from
The field I gaze upon;
The Bamboo Cutting
Ancient, too, perhaps
Once gambolled there!



Right (Tie).


wakana tsumi
ne no hi ni izuru
tomo naku wa
ieji omowanu
tabine semashi ya
Plucking fresh greens:
If, on the Rat’s Day, travelling
Comrades had I none,
Unthinking of the homeward path,
Might I sleep the night away?



The Right team state that ‘Bamboo Cutter’ (takatori), in the Left’s poem, is usually pronounced taketori, and wonder if the Left can cite an earlier poem as proof that this reading is possible. In reply, the Left say that both takatori and taketori can be found in the Man’yōshū, and in the Hundred Poem Sequence Composed for Former Emperor Horikawa, Minamoto no Morotoki had used this reading.

The Left then wonder whether ‘unthinking of the homeward path, sleeping away’, in the Right’s poem is something which would only be done on an excursion to the fields. The Right reply that the poem was most likely composed when recalling an excursion to pick fresh greens on the Day of the Rat, and thinking of the fields.

In his judgement, Shunzei states first of all that there is no doubt that both taka and take are possible readings for the Old Bamboo Cutter. As poetic evidence that takatori is a possible reading for the Old Man in this case, in the Man’yōshū, just in a headnote, it says, ‘In ancient times, there was an old man. His name was Bamboo Cutting Ancient (takatori no okina). In the Third Month, this old man climbed a hill to gaze into the distance, whereupon he suddenly came upon nine maidens brewing fresh greens. Their beauty was beyond description, with faces fairer by far than flowers. The maidens called mockingly to the old man, “Come here, old fellow! Blow on our fire!” “Oho!” said the Old Man, and slowly made his way up to them, arriving close by in due course. After a while, the Maidens said to one another, laughing, “Who called this old man here?” The Bamboo Cutting Ancient replied quickly, “Unintentionally have I encountered divinity. In my confused heart, I had no ill intent. Let me pay for the sin of approaching too closely with a poem.” This is the poem he promptly composed.’ (MYS XVI: 3791).

After this lengthy quotation, Shunzei goes on to say that it is ‘not unreasonable’ to refer to this in a poem on the topic of ‘Field Pleasures’. However, the Left have already mentioned that both readings are given in the Man’yōshū. After this anthology was converted to modern language by Minamoto no Shitagō, kana readings were attached to the Chinese characters. However, it is now impossible to refer to this text, and it is unclear who assigned the readings take and taka. Lord Morotoki’s reasoning agrees with this. Furthermore, in the poem by the old man to the nine maidens, the character ‘bamboo’ (take) does not appear – it is only in the head-note – and so this reading may not have been given by Shitagō.

In general, on the point that both readings are possible, take would be more usual – taka is written with the character for ‘bamboo grove’, and this accords too with Chinese rhyming patterns. It is also used for the name of the poet, Ono no Takamura. Thus, normally, take could be said to be correct. Regardless of which reading is used, however, besides the fact that there is nothing exceptional in this poem’s construction, it is undesirable to include the expression ‘Ancient, too, perhaps’ (okina mo mube zo) in a poem. Although the Right’s poem appears more commonplace, it is impossible to decide on a victor between the two, and so a tie is awarded.

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