Tag Archives: Field Pleasures

Spring II: 6

Left (Tie)


mina hito no
haru no kokoro no
narenuru nobe no
hana no kage kana
Everyone who
Loves the springtime
Come to
These familiar fields and rest
‘Neath the blossoms’ shade!

Lord Sada’ie.


Right (Tie)


soko tomo iwazu
hana no yado kase
nobe no uguisu
My friends,
Heedless of our place
Has darkness fallen:
Lend us your lodging ‘mongst the blooms,
O, warbler, in the fields!



Neither side has any comments to make about these two poems.

Shunzei says both poems possess a ‘scintillating beauty’, but wonders whether the Right’s hasn’t borrowed too heavily from the Monk Sosei’s poem:

Composed as a Spring Poem

Faru no yamabe ni
soko tomo iFanu
tabine sitesika
My friends,
In springtime in the mountain meadows
Did we gather,
Heedless of our place,
Wanted we to sleep out on our trip!

KKS II: 126

However, using the variation to borrow lodging from a warbler is, indeed, ‘scintillating’ and neither poems ‘sounds the least bit old-fashioned’. Hence, the round must be a tie.

Spring II: 5

Left (Win)


yado o kasumi no
yoso ni mite
kinō mo kyō
nobe ni kurashitsu
Capital folk of
Their homes, through the haze,
Catch a distant glimpse
Yesterday, and again today,
Have they spent among the fields.

A Servant Girl.




kore zo kono
haru no nobe yo to
miyuru kana
ōmiyabito no
For springtime in the fields
Is most apt, indeed:
Folk from the mighty palace
Gathering all together!



For once, the Right describe the Left’s poem as ‘moving’ and have no criticisms to make of it. The Left merely wonder whether ‘folk from the mighty palace’ are entirely suited to the fields.

Shunzei agrees that the construction of ‘Their homes, through the haze,/Catch a distant glimpse’ is particularly good, and that it cannot be said that ‘folk from the mighty palace’ are appropriate for the fields in springtime, but that if they are gathering together, it might be possible. However, in this theme the poet should not be looking on, but be part of the scene, so the Left’s poem must be the winner.

Spring II: 4

Left (Tie)


shiru shirazu
koto ari gao no
matoi kana
tsubana nuku no ni
kyô mo kurashitsu
Folk I know and strangers, both,
Purposefully have come
For music-making;
Gathering reed-ears from the meadow,
Today I’ll pass my day…

Lord Kanemune.


Right (Tie)


itsu shika to
ne no hi ni ideshi
haru no no o
sumire tsumu made
How quickly came
The Rat’s Day: I went out to
The springtime fields and,
Until violet-gathering season comes
Will I tread them down.

Lord Takanobu.


The Right say that it seems that people must have come for something more important than ‘field pleasures’ if they come ‘purposefully’, to which the Left respond that, of course, people take their field pleasures seriously, and suggest that the Right refer to the winning poem in the previous round. They then ask if reed ears don’t appear later in the season than violets, and so query whether the Right’s poem is appropriate at this stage in the contest.

Shunzei says merely that, ‘the comments by both teams are entirely appropriate’ and makes the round a tie.

Spring II: 3

Left (Win)


narenuru hito no
kokoro o ba
nobe no kasumi mo
hedate ya wa sen
To a gathering
Of friendly folk
With hearts all in accord,
The haze across the fields
Will be no hindrance, at all.

Lord Ari’ie.




haru no higurashi
irusa no hara ni
matoi o zo suru
A catalpa bow:
Spring, all day long,
Drawn out
Upon Irusa Plain
Let’s music make!

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right have nothing special to say about the Left’s poem, but the Left grumble that the Right’s seems to be more on the theme of bows, than ‘field pleasures’, and add that they ‘fail to understand’ the reason why Irusa Plain has been singled out, among all the plains in Japan.

Shunzei, however, says that this criticism is ‘completely unjustified’ and that the Right’s poem is ‘strictly in accord’ with the theme of ‘field pleasures’. He goes on to praise the use of association in the poem, with azusa yumi, ‘catalpa bow’, associating with haru (‘spring’, but also ‘draw (a bow)’), hiki (‘pull’), iru (‘shoot (a bow)’) and mato (‘target’). Moving on to the Left’s poem, he says that the final stanzas seem ‘particularly good’, and that it would ‘do a disservice’ to the composition of poetry if he awarded a victory based on association alone, so the Left’s poem must be the winner.

Spring II: 2

Left (Win).


sumire tsumu ma ni
tobuhino no
kasumi no uchi ni
kyō mo kurashitsu
Gathered all together,
In picking violets,
On Tobuhi Plain
Amongst the haze
Have we spent this day…





kurenuru ka
iza kaerinan
haru no no no
matoi wa kyō ni
kagirubeki ka wa
Is dusk a’falling?
Well then, let’s be homeward bound.
Among the fields in Springtime,
Music, this day
Alone, will not sound.


The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office


The Right team state that the Left’s poem certainly expresses the conception [kokoro wa tashika nari] of ‘Field Pleasures’ but perhaps introduces the topic of ‘violets’ too early for this poetry competition’s sequence. The Left respond, ‘If the poem matches the conception for Field Pleasures [yayū no kokoto dani araba], the matter of timing is no great fault [fukaki toga naku]! The Right’s poem is more on the theme of ‘longing to be heading home’, than ‘Field Pleasures’, and the sentiment of the latter topic is weak [kokorozashi asashiki]’.

Shunzei judges that the Left’s poem seems well-constructed [utazama wa yoroshiki], but that the diction [kotoba] of using ma ni (‘while’) in the expression sumire tsumu ma ni (‘In picking violets’), is ‘undesirable’. The Right’s use of diction is charming [kotobazukai okashikaran], but the poem really is about longing to be off home. The Left’s final stanza is excellent [yoroshiki], and so their poem has to be the winner.

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.