Composed when it was said that a poetry competition was to be held at the residence of the Middle Captain Lady of the Bedchamber in the Ninna period.
oshi to omoFu kokoro Fa ito ni yorarenan tiru Fana goto ni nukite todomemu
If regrets Within my heart should into threads Be spun, then Through every scattered blossom Would I sew to hold them here…
 It was taboo to record the personal names of noble women of high rank unless they were made empress. The Ninna 仁和 period began on the 11th day of the Third Month, 885, and lasted until the 30th day of the Fifth Month, 889. ‘Lady of the Bedchamber’ (miyasudokoro 御息所) was a title given to imperial consorts who had given birth to a prince, while ‘Middle Captain’ (chūjō 中将) was a military position in the palace guards. Contemporary readers would have been able to identify who the ‘Lady who had given birth to an imperial prince and whose father held the position of Middle Captain during the Ninna period’ was, but modern scholarship has not done so; nor have records of this poetry competition survived.
The Right state: the Left’s poem has no faults to mention. The Left state: neither beginning nor end is sufficiently forcefully expressed.
In judgement: the conception and configuration of the Left’s ‘fisherman at Shiga Bay’ (shigatsu no ama) certainly seem splendid. That is really all there is to say about this poem. To make a deliberate point of seeking out elements which sound difficult is a pointless activity for the Way of Poetry and an individual poet. As for the Right’s poem, diving ‘to the sea bed’ (soko made) is just something that fisher-girls do. The Left must win.
The Right state: the Left’s poem is fine. The Left state: the Right’s poem has no faults to mention.
In judgement: both poems are certainly by men entranced by thoughts of player-girls. The configuration and diction of ‘are his sleeves as mine?’ (sode wa mono ka wa) and ‘would I fall in love?’ (kouru mono ka wa) are both not unpleasant. Thus, I make this a tie.
The Right state: the Left’s poem has no entertainers, or conception of love, either. The Left state: the Right’s poem lacks entertainers.
In judgement: it seems that the Gentlemen of both teams have already stated that both poems lack the conception of Love. However, they seem to me to both capture the conception of entertainers. The Right’s configuration and conception are fine. It should win, I think.
Left and Right state: there are no faults to mention in either poem.
In judgement: both Left and Right here refer to a ‘person’ (kimi), with the Left’s ‘making her an offering’ (nusa wa sen) that she might ‘trail in my direction’ (ware ni nabiku ya), while the Right’s has left his heart on Mirror Mount and ‘is not in haste to rise and don his travelling garb’ (isogi tatarenu tabigoromo): each of these poems is evocative, and makes effective use of wordplay, with the Left’s ‘make her an offering’ certainly resembling something I have come across previously, but the initial ‘goddess Asake’ is poor. The Right’s ‘Mirror Mount’ (kagami yama) is something I am familiar with, and this has a gentle tone. Thus, the Right wins.
In judgement: the use of ‘surely’ (sashite) in the final section of the Left’s poem sounds like it has been deliberately used to evoke a connection with the earlier ‘boat’ (fune). The initial section of the Right’s poem draws, yet again, on Mochitoki’s over-long line. The latter section also sounds like a deliberate use of evocative language, and the final line lacks impact. It is inferior to the Left’s poem.
The Right state: the Left’s poem lacks much of a conception of pleasure girls. In appeal: the poem was written in the conception of Mochitoki’s Chinese poem on pleasure girls ‘the reed-leaves are fresh in springtime’. The Left state: the Right’s poem has nothing worth mentioning.
In judgement: is the conception of pleasure girls really absent from the Left’s ‘parting the reeds, and singing to the moon’ (ashima wake tsuki ni utaite)? The case certainly cannot rely on ‘the reed-leaves are fresh in springtime’. A Chinese poem expresses its topic in its initial line. It is normal for the introduction of the topic to be vague. Japanese and Chinese poetry have aspects where they are similar, and aspects where they differ. Thus, it is not appropriate to cite a Chinese poem’s broaching of its topic as evidence for a Japanese poem’s content. There are certainly other examples by Mochitoki, such as his overlong line in ‘in a boat atop the waves, but I find the same pleasure in life’. The line about reed-leaves can in no way function as proof. Thus this poem, as ‘an old fisherman sings a single shanty’ could be said to be about an old man. As a result, given the lack of clarity in the poem, it is not possible to accept that it is about a pleasure girl. The Right’s poem concludes ‘that moon-sung girl is dear to me, indeed’ (tsuki ni utaishi imo zo koishiki). The final line seems to be almost pointlessly pedestrian, but the poem is certainly about love for a pleasure girl. The Right must win.
The Right state: we wonder whether ‘deepest indigo dipped many times’ (kara’ai no yashio) should not be scarlet. How dark would the colour be then? In response: there is no possibility of interpreting this as scarlet. We have used deep indigo, so what is there to criticise in then using dark? The Left state: while we understand the conception of the poem, we feel the expression is somewhat lacking. ‘My heart’s depths are stained with secret longing’ (kokoro zo fukaki shinobu mojizuri) does not link well with the initial part of the poem.
In judgement: the Left’s initial ‘deepest indigo’ (kara’ai) certainly sounds elegant, and there is no reason to make it scarlet. I also see no reason to fault the use of dark, either. As for the Right, it does not sound as if ‘stained with fern-patterned longing’ (shinobu mojizuri) links with the remainder of the poem – from the beginning to ‘my heart’s depths’ (kokoro zo fukaki). The final ‘stained with fern-patterned longing’ seems to appear abruptly. Deepest indigo should win.