Tag Archives: reeds

Love X: 1


ashima wake
tsuki ni utaite
kogu fune ni
kokoro zo mazu wa
Parting the reeds, and
Singing to the moon,
Boats come rowing out –
My heart, it is, that is first
Aboard and carried away…


Right (Win)

nami no ue ni
kudaru o fune no
tsuki ni utaishi
imo zo koishiki
Upon the waves,
Her boat departs,
Vanishing into the mist;
That moon-sung
Girl is dear to me, indeed!

The Supernumerary Master of the Empress’ Household Office

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.

MYS II: 128

A futher poem sent by the Elder Maiden of Ishikawa to  Ōtomo no Tanushi.


wa ga kikisi
mimi ni yoku niru
asi no ure no
asi yamu wa ga se
As I have heard
So it does seem to be:
As the reed tips
Pierce your legs, my darling,
Get well soon!

The above poem was presented by the Elder Maiden of Ishikawa to Chūrō, when she visited him on hearing that his legs were troubling him.


Composed to accompany a painting of the few remains of the bridge at Naraga on a folding screen for His Majesty, during the Tenryaku era.


asima yori
miyuru nagara no
mukasi no ato no
sirube narikeri
From between the reeds
Can one see at Nagara
The bridge pillars:
A trace from long ago
To guide us now…

Fujiwara no Kiyotada

Love I: 24

Left (Win).


wasurezu yo
honobono hito o
mishimae no
tasogare narishi
ashi no mayoi ni
Never will I forget you
Who I glimpsed faintly
In the dusk of Mishima Bay
A single reed
Causes confusion.

A Servant Girl.




hana no iro ni
utsuru kokoro wa
kasumi no ma yori
A blossom’s hue
Has caught my heart;
A mountain cherry
Through the parted mists
Has set me on the path of love.

Lord Takanobu.


The Gentlemen of the Right state: saying simply ‘dusk’ (tasogare) when it should be ‘the hour of dusk’ (tasogare toki) sounds somewhat strange. The Gentlemen of the Left state: the Right’s poem is composed to recall the Kokinshū’s ‘A mountain cherry through the drifting mists’ (yamazakura kasumi no ma yori), but is inferior to the original.

Shunzei’s judgement: in regard to the Left’s poem, it is certainly the case that, even without the ‘hour’, ‘in the dusk’ is a standard expression. The Right’s poem sounds old-fashioned. The Left, though, does not sound unpleasant, even though its mentioning of ‘never will I forget’ (wasurezu yo) recollects ‘a tiled kiln’. It should win.

Love I: 23



ushi tsurashi
asaka no numa no
kusa no na yo
kari ni mo fukaki
en wa musubade
How cruel and cold!
At Asaka Marsh
The once seen reeds do grow;
Briefly, a deep
Bond will not be made.

Lord Sada’ie.




sugata no ike no
oshi no koe
kikite wa sode no
nureshi kazu ka wa
Such a
Form! On Sugata Pond
The loving mandarin duck calls
I hear and my sleeves:
Drenched how many times?



Neither team has any criticisms this round.

Shunzei’s judgement: ‘The Left’s ‘At Asaka Marsh’ (asaka no numa) and the Right’s ‘On Sugata Pond the loving mandarin duck calls’ (sugata no ike no oshi no koe) are both tasteful in diction [yū no kotoba ni wa haberu], but beginning with ‘How cruel and cold!’ (ushi tsurashi) sounds like the poet is writing a love letter, and this is overly informal for a poetry competition [uta’awase ni wa kegen naru yō ni ya haberan]. ‘On Sugata Pond the loving mandarin duck calls’ is charming, but why did the poet not continue with ‘I did hear and my sleeves’ (kikishi wa sode no)? In any case, this round neither poem is markedly superior to the other.

Love I: 4

Left (Win).


nabikaji na
ama no moshiobi
kemuri wa sora ni
She has not so much as waved to me, yet
The fisher-folk salt fires
Have begun to kindle and
The smoke into the skies
Has yet to rise…

Lord Sada’ie.




ashi no ya no
hima moru ame no
shizuku koso
oto kikanu yori
sode wa nurekeri
Through a roof of reeds’
Chinks, drenching rain
Make no sound, yet
Soak my sleeves.

Lord Takanobu.


The Right state that it should be kuyuru in the Left’s poem – and that they are not accustomed to hearing kuyuri. The Left state that, ‘while the rain falling on a roof of reeds would make no sound, once it became drops dripping through, it would. In addition, while it “makes no sound”, how can it be love?’

Shunzei’s judgement: The gentlemen of the Right’s claim that the Left’s poem should be kuyuri is incorrect. This is simply a case of the same diction as in utsuru-utsuri, todomaru-todomari – I should not have to give more examples. In form the poems do have good and bad points [utazama zen’aku arubeki]. I have the feeling I have recently seen something similar to the Right’s metaphorical use of a roof of reeds. Or maybe it was not that recently. The Left’s ‘has yet to rise’ seems better. I shall make it the winner.