niou ide o ba
yoso ni mite
kaiya ga shita mo
kawazu naku nari
Glow in Idé,
Beneath the heated hut, too,
The frogs are calling.
sanae no hazue
sudaku kawazu no
koe no hibiki ni
|As yet unpicked,
The rice seedlings’ tips
Seem to stretch forth;
The swarming frogs’
There’s something of a dispute between the teams over this round, so I’m going to give their comments separately, as they argue back and forth:
Right: Is ‘Beneath the heated hut’ (kaiya ga shita) really appropriate for Spring? The original poem, ‘In the hazy morning, beneath the heated hut frogs call’ (asagasumi kapiya ga sita ni naku kapadu) is contained in the Autumn section of the Man’yōshū, and ‘hazy mornings’ (asagasumi) do not occur solely in Spring – one can compose on haze in the autumn, too, and there are many such examples in the Man’yōshū.
Left: ‘Frogs’ in ancient anthologies and poetry contests, and recent ones, too, is considered a spring topic. As for ‘In the hazy morning, beneath the heated hut frogs call’, where is the difficulty in composing on a ‘heated hut’ in a Frog-themed poem?
Right: We do not dispute that ‘Frogs’ are a spring topic. What we do doubt is whether ‘heated hut’ is appropriate for spring.
Left: There are various types of heated huts. One among them – and called this – is used in the country for keeping silkworms, and frogs swarm beneath the huts in order to eat them. This is what peasants call them, it is said. We don’t see any issue with this.
Right: If this is true, we have a further criticism: silkworms are kept from the Fourth Month, and thus, this reference is inappropriate in a Spring poem.
Left: Once the hut is constructed, it’s there for good, so there will be frogs underneath in both spring and summer! Furthermore, keeping silkworms is something that everyone does from the end of the Third Month, and the situation in the poem does not depart from this.
‘Beneath the heated hut frogs call’ (kapiya ga sita ni naku kapadu) has nothing unusual about it, but the addition of ‘too’ (mo) gives the poem a modern cast. The issue of whether or not ‘heated hut’ is appropriate in a spring poem is unclear, and the dispute between Left and Right over silkworms is pointless.
I should first point out that there are two ‘beneath the heated hut’ poems in the Man’yōshū: the first occurs in the spring section of Book Ten (‘In the hazy morning,/Beneath the heated hut/Frogs call:/From my voice, alone,/I wonder, would you love me?’), and the second is:
kapiya ga sita no
sinopitutu ari to
tugemu ko mo gamo
|In the hazy morning,
Beneath the heated hut
Secretly, I think of you –
If only there was one to let you know…
The spirit of these poems is of men watching over fields in the mountains from their huts, commanded to be away from home in the mountains, listening to the frogs calling and composing in consolation.
Furthermore, the spirit of ‘heated huts’ is of fire being kindled there, making them smoky, or else to keep wild monkeys and deer away, and thus while there are these two possible explanations, there are no others. The explanation of folk in recent years of a ‘heated hut’ being built over pools of water by thrusting sticks in has been long-lasting, but is mistaken.
And so we come on to the previous discussion them being for silkworm keeping in the country, and the frogs gathering to eat the silkworms. This does not hold water, for reasons I have given already. Places for keeping silkworms are called ‘silkworm houses’ (komuro). As we know from Shunrai’s 俊頼 writings – where he discusses the ‘jewelled broom’ (tamabahaki 玉箒) – the method of raising silkworms with a jewelled broom from the first Day of the Rat in Spring is as follows: on the first Day of the Rat in the First Month, a child, or a woman born in the Year of the Ox – and called a Keeper Maid (kaime 飼女) – sweeps the silkworm house and makes the first celebrations. Next, on the first Day of the Horse in the Second Month, the first silkworm eggs are laid out, and kept warm. On the first Day of the Horse in the Third Month, the silkworms are given mulberry for the first time, and in the Fourth and Fifth Months, he says, the cocoons are spun. Given this, what earthly reason is there to suppose that the peasants would allow frogs into their silkworm houses? Nor can one conceive of them permitting water to flow beneath, or construct them near marshes, or ponds!
Moreover, it is said that Emperor Hui of the Jin Dynasty listened to toads at the Garden of Blossoming Trees, and Tachibana no Kiyotomo composed on frogs at Ide. In both Chinese and our own poetry, the places where one listens to frogs are all out among the fields, and in the two previously mentioned Man’yō poems, it is most appropriate to regard them as concerning listening to frogs beneath huts out among the fields in the mountains. A ‘hazy morning’ (asagasumi), too, is undoubtedly a reference to the smoke from fires kindled during the night trailing between the valleys and obscuring the shapes of the mountains. This is apt for the aforementioned poems. The gentlemen of the Right’s criticism over the period for silkworm raising is thus misplaced, and they should instead criticise the idea that the ‘heated hut’ in this case is for raising silkworms. As for the gentlemen of the Left: I ask them in which region their poem might take place? In any case, the only conclusion is that they should cease to circulate it.
The Right’s poem, on the spirit of young rice plants tips stretching forth, sounds most pleasant. It is the only possible winner.