Tag Archives: skies

Summer I: 21



ochikochi ni
nagame ya kawasu
yami o hikari no
kagaribi no kage
Near and far
My gaze goes back and forth;
Cormorant boats
Light the darkness with
Fishing-fires’ glow.

Lord Sada’ie.


Right (Win).


aware to zo miru
mononofu no
yaso ujigawa no
yūyami no sora
The cormorant boats
Seem so keen!
Eighty in all, on Uji River,
Beneath the darkening evening sky…



The Right comment that, ‘In the Left’s poem, “light the darkness” (yami o hikari) does not seem that elegant an expression,’ while the Left can find no fault with the Right’s poem.

Shunzei agrees: ‘“Light the darkness with fishing-fires’ glow” (yami o hikari no kagaribi no kage) does not seem particularly satisfactory in sense. The Right’s “Eighty in all, on Uji River, beneath the darkening evening sky” (yaso ujigawa no yūyami no sora) is especially fine. There is no question but that it wins.’

Spring III: 10



niowazu wa
fuguku sora to zo
hana chirimagau
shiga no yamagoe
Were there no fragrance,
Wind-driven skies,
One would think,
Blossoms scattered all around
The path across the Shiga Mountains.

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Win).


michi mo se ni
hana no shirayuki
fuyu ni zo kaeru
shiga no yamagoe
The path narrows to naught,
A blizzard of blossom
Falling and settling:
Winter has come once more
To the path across the Shiga Mountains.



The Right query the Left’s use of ‘wind-driven’ (fuguku), wondering whether it’s appropriate in poetry, while the Left have no criticisms to make of the Right’s poem.

Shunzei remarks testily that, ‘The Left appear to have regrettably little sense of how to compose on the topic of ‘the path across the Shiga Mountains’, an impression which could have been reversed if only ‘a mountain path’ (yama michi) had been mentioned. The Right’s ‘winter has come once more to the path across the Shiga Mountains’ (fuyu ni zo kaeru shiga no yamagoe), however, is charming. Thus, it must win.’

Spring III: 6

Left (Tie).


ono no e o
kakute ya hito wa
yamaji oboyuru
haru no sora kana
‘His axe haft:
Is this how he
Let it rot away?’
I wonder on the mountain paths
Under the springtime skies.

Lord Kanemune.


Right (Tie).


haru no hi wa
nada no shioya no
amabito mo
itoma arite ya
In the springtime sun
At Nada, the salt-making
Fisher-folk, too,
Have time to spare, and
Live with it heavy on their hands…



Both teams say they can find nothing to criticise in the other’s poem.

Shunzei agrees, saying, ‘You gentlemen have already stated that there is no reason to fault either poem. The round must be a tie.’

Spring II: 30

Left (Tie).


aki no mo masare
aware kana
tsuki kage kasumu
ariake no sora
The clarity of
Autumn, too, is splendid and
Moving, indeed, I feel in
The hazy moonlight from
The daybreak sky.

Lord Ari’ie.


Right (Tie).


ima wa tote
tanomu no kari mo
oborozukiyo no
akebono no sora
‘Now we must return,’
The field resting geese
Lament, under the
Misty moonlit
Dawning sky.



The Right team once again rate the Left’s poem as ‘satisfying’, while the Left say the Right’s is ‘especially satisfying. ’

Shunzei’s judgement is that ‘the Left’s “hazy moonlight from the daybreak sky” (tsuki kage kasumu ariake no sora) and the Right’s “Misty moonlit dawning sky” (oborozukiyo no akebono no sora) are both splendid. It is difficult, indeed, to decide between them. Another excellent tie.’

Spring II: 28



kasumi ka wa
hana uguisu ni
haru ni komoreru
yado no akebono
Is this haze?
No, in blossom and warbler song
Am I sealed;
Shut in by springtime
Is my home this dawn.

Lord Sada’ie


Right (Win).


kasumi tatsu
sue no matsuyama
honobono to
nami ni hanaruru
yokogumo no sora
The hazes rise
Around the pine-clad peak of Sué;
Departing from the waves,
Narrow clouds trail across the sky.



The Right team have no particular remarks to make about the Left’s poem this round, but the Left state that the Right’s poem is ‘most satisfying.’

Shunzei’s judgement is: ‘The Left’s “Is this haze?” (kasumi ka wa) seems like it wants to be “Is this just haze?” (kasumi nomi ka wa). “In blossom and warbler song am I sealed” (hana uguisu ni tojirarete) and “my home this dawn” (yado no akebono) remind one of “the lofty palace of Shinsei stands behind warblers and blossom” and this is excellent. As for the Right’s poem, this is particularly moving, with its depiction of the scene “departing from the waves, narrow clouds trail across the sky” (nami ni hanaruru yokogumo no sora), recalling “the pine-clad peak of Sué” (sue no matsuyama). The poem does start with “hazes rise” (kasumi tatsu) and having “haze” (kasumi), “wave” (nami) and “cloud” (kumo) means the poem is somewhat overburdened with similar imagery. “Narrow clouds trail across the sky”, though, does make a particularly strong impression, and the Left’s poem is merely satisfying, as has been said. Thus, “my home this dawn” must lose, I think.’

Spring II: 25

Left (Tie).


kasumi bakari wa
soko tomo miezu
akegure no sora
The drifting,
Misty haze
Blurs all;
Nowhere can I see
The softly lightening sky.

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Tie).


kasumi mo ya
akeyuku sora o
tachiwataru kana
Does the haze, too,
The lightening sky
In sad solitude
Does it cover all.

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right team state that, ‘the expression ‘softly lightening’ (akegure) gives the impression that the scene is rather earlier than dawn,’ to which the Left snap back that ‘sad solitude’ (kokorobosogeni) is ‘puerile.’

Shunzei’s judgement is, ‘The comments by both teams are apt. The poems seem of equivalent quality.’

Spring II: 24

Left (Win).


haru no itoyū
iku yo hete
onaji midori no
sora ni miyuramu
Time and time again
The threaded heat haze of spring,
As uncounted ages pass,
In identical azure
Skies must appear…

Lord Sada’ie.




yūhi no sora o
usukurenai ni
somuru itoyū
When on the tranquil
Sunset sky
I gaze,
Pale crimson
Stains the haze.



Neither team has anything to say about the other’s poem this round.

Shunzei, however, says, ‘Although the expressions ‘time and time again’ (kurikaeshi) and ‘uncounted ages pass’ (iku yo hete) seem somewhat forced connections with ‘threaded’ (ito), the final section beginning ‘identical azure’ (onaji midori) is superb. The essence of the Right’s poem, of gazing at the sky at sunset with the threads of haze stained, is charming, but I wonder whether it would not have been better not to force the reference to sunset into the poem. ‘Azure skies’ must win.

Spring II: 22

Left (Win).


haru kureba
sora ni midaruru
itoyū wo
hito suji ni ya wa
ari to tanoman
When Spring is come,
The sky is disarrayed by
Heat haze, yet
For it to be all that is –
In that I cannot trust!

Lord Ari’ie.




haru kaze no
nodoka ni fukeba
aoyanagi no
eda mo hitotsu ni
asobu itoyū
When spring breezes
Gently blow
Fresh willow
Fronds as one are
Wavering hazes…



Both teams find no particular faults with the other’s poems.

Shunzei, however, comments, ‘Both poems are excellent in appearance, but the Left has ‘The sky is disarrayed’ (sora ni midaruru). The Right is ‘Fresh willow fronds as one’ (aoyanagi no eda mo hitotsu ni asobu): does this not suggest that haze wavers only in the vicinity of willows? The Left must win.’

Spring II: 20

Left (Win).


nani bakari naru
itoyū no
nokiba ni hito no
How unclear!
For what, do
The wavering hazes
Along the eaves’ edges folks’
Gaze interrupt?

Lord Kanemune.




sao hime ya
kasumi no koromo
haru nomi sora ni
asobu itoyū
Has the goddess of Spring
A garb of haze
‘Tis only in the springtime skies, that
The heat haze wavers…

Lord Tsune’ie.


Here, the Right say that, ‘it’s unclear what gaze it is the haze is interrupting,’ but the Left have no comments to make.

Shunzei, however, says, ‘It is not the case that there is no reason to say “For what, do the wavering hazes” (nani bakari naru itoyū). The Right’s poem has “A garb of haze a’woven?”. “A’woven” (oritsuran) does not seem to correspond with the conclusion of the verse. In general terms, it’s banal [kotogoto furinitarubeshi]. The Left’s conclusion is somewhat difficult to interpret [kikiwakigataki yō], but in construction the poem is superb [utazama masari].’

Spring II: 18



haru hi ni wa
sora ni nomi koso
hibari no toko wa
are ya shinuran
The springtime sun
Alone, into the skies
Does seem to lift
The skylark: his nest,
I wonder, if ‘tis in disarray?



Right (Win).


ko o omou
sudachi no ono o
asa yukeba
agari mo yarazu
hibari nakunari
Caring for her chick,
Starting from the nest into the meadow,
With the coming of the morn,
Without taking flight,
The skylark gives call.



The Right team state that the initial and central stanzas of the Left’s poem are ‘grating on the ear’, while the Left snap back that they ‘don’t understand the meaning’ of ‘caring for her chick, starting from the nest’ (ko o omou sudachi), and moreover, having both ‘starting from the nest’ (sudachi) and ‘take flight’ (agari) in one poem is clumsy technique as the meanings are too similar.

Shunzei judges that the initial stanza of the Left’s poem is ‘truly awful’. And, ‘in general, from what we know of how skylarks live, there is no reason to expect that they would heedlessly fly off after fouling their nests. In spring, they raise their young in the fields, and when the evenings are warm, or the spring sun is bright, they remain flying in the sky and look down on their chicks from above. They are birds which swoop and soar. Thus, one cannot say that they heedlessly foul their nests. The Right is in keeping with the skylark’s nature, and in form the poem also appropriately poetic, but because of the distance of the first stanza from the last, it is possible that one might not grasp the sense of the poem on first hearing. “Starting from the nest” (sudachi) and “take flight” (agari) are, though, too similar. However, as the Left’s poem has an unpleasant line, and is contrary to the essence of skylarks, despite its faults, the Right’s poem must win.’