Lord Ōtomo no Sadehiko, on receiving a special imperial command, was sent to a distant land as an ambassador. Readying his boat, he set sail and gradually became more distant on the aquamarine surface of the sea. His wife, Matsura no Sayohime, grieving at how easily people were parted in this world, sorrowed at the thought of how difficult it would be to meet her husband once more. So, she climbed to the top of Mount Takayama and, gazing at the boat growing ever more distant, in an extreme of loss cut open her belly, feeling that her soul was gone and the world was in darkness before her eyes. Then, at the last, she waved her stole. Of the folk who accompanied her, there was not one who was not in tears. It was from these events that the peak became known as Mount Hirefuri (‘Stole-wave’), and this poem was composed.
topo tsu pito
pire purisi yori
operu yama no na
A distant man
Awaiting, did Matsura no Sayohime
Loving her man
Wave her stole, and ever since
Has this mountain borne that name!
The Right have two criticisms of the Left’s poem: ‘First, are cormorants used on moonlit nights? Moreover, why continue on from the “mountain’s shadow” (yamakage) with a moonlit night?’ In turn, the Left query, ‘Why continue on from “seven swifts and stills” (nanase no yodo) with cormorant boats?’
Shunzei comments, ‘The defects of the Left’s poem have already been adequately identified by the gentlemen of the other team. The Right’s sequence “Seven swifts and stills the cormorant boats” certainly seems poor. Furthermore, “dawn ending night” (akenu kono yo wa) has a somewhat pretentious air. There is nothing much to distinguish between them, and the round should tie.’