Tag Archives: skylarks

Spring II: 19

Left (Tie).


tsu no kuni no
koya no watari no
nagame ni wa
asobu ito sae
hima nakarikeri
In the land of Tsu,
When out from Koya
I turn my gaze,
Even the wavering hazes
Seem to take no rest.

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Tie).


haru kureba
nabiku yanagi no
tomogao ni
sora ni magau ya
asobu ito yū
When the spring is come,
Fluttering willow fronds’
In the skies can be perceived:
Wavering hazes.

Lord Takanobu.


The Right say that the Left’s poem, ‘suggests heat haze only occurs at Koya in Tsu,’ while the Left say, ‘what are we to make of phrasing such as “like” (tomogao ni)?’, obliquely suggesting that it’s inappropriate poetic diction.

Shunzei says simply that, ‘the purport of both sides’ comments about both poems is apposite,’ and makes the round a tie.

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.’

Spring II: 17

Left (Tie).


harubaru to
ogi no yakehara
tatsu hibari
kasumi no uchi ni
koe agarunari
Into the distance, far,
The silver-grass plain is aflame;
A skylark takes flight, and
From within the haze, its
Song soars.

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Tie).


haru fukaki
nobe no kasumi no
shita kaze ni
fukarete agaru
yū hibari kana
Now is the height of spring, and
Haze lies o’er the plains;
The breeze beneath
Gusts, lifting
A skylark, at eventide.



The Right have no comments to make about the Left’s poem, but the Left say they are ‘unused to hearing’ the expression ‘breeze beneath the haze’ (kasumi no shita kaze), and then continue to ask, facetiously, ‘Do you mean to say that skylarks don’t soar without a breeze?’ The Right reply that, ‘when the wind is blowing gently, it appears as if the bird is lifted by it – that is the scene.’

Shunzei states that Left’s poem, with its essence of the skylark’s call emerging from the haze is ‘truly charming’. He did ‘wonder’ about the Right’s essence of the bird being lifted by the breeze, can see the scene of a gentle ‘breeze beneath the haze across the plains’ (nobe no kasumi no shita kaze), and is attracted by both sides’ poems. Thus, there are no winners or losers this round.

Spring II: 16

Left (Win).


kataoka no
kasumi mo fukaki
kogakure ni
asahi matsu ma no
hibari nakunari
At Kataoka
The haze is deep upon
The shade of the concealing trees;
Awaiting dawn’s first light,
A skylark sings.

A Servant Girl.




nobe mireba
agaru hibari mo
ima wa tote
asaji ni otsuru
yūgure no sora
Looking out across the plain,
A soaring skylark
Seizes the second
To plunge among the cogon-grass
From the evening sky.



Neither team has any criticisms to make of the other’s poem.

Shunzei states that, ‘Left and Right deal with the skylark at morning and evening respectively. Both poems are alike in content, yet the Right’s poem conveys a particularly desolate feeling. Why should this be? Once more, the Left is the victor.’ Commentators are divided as to whether in this judgement he is suggesting that loneliness is an inappropriate emotion to convey in a skylark-themed poem, or whether, knowing that the Left’s poem was composed by Fujiwara no Yoshitsune, the host of the competition and the highest-ranking person present, he is simply flattering a powerful man’s work.

Spring II: 15

Left (Win).


toko o hibari no
yukue mo shiranu
kumo ni irinuru
His marital
Bed, the skylark
Has left, and
Within the drifting
Clouds has vanished

Lord Ari’ie.




yakino no kusa wa
tobitatsu hibari
nedoko sadameyo
Looking out,
The stubble-burned fields’ grasses
Are all withered:
O, skylark, flying forth,
Find your bed, somewhere!

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right state that they would have preferred it if the Left’s poem had been phrased ‘the skylark’s bed’ (hibari no toko), rather than ‘bed, the skylark’ (toko o hibari no), which essentially is an argument in favour of avoiding the non-standard grammatical pattern of Direct Object-Subject. The Left’s criticism of the Right is on the grounds of content, saying, ‘Is it not the case that in a “stubble-burned field” (yakino) there would be nothing to “wither”? If something is burned, there is nothing left.’

Shunzei states that he finds it ‘difficult to agree’ with the Right’s criticism of the Left’s poem, and then goes on to state that ‘the stubble-burned fields’ grasses are all withered’ must mean either that they were burned after withering; or, that they withered after sprouting afresh following a burn. Though he does not say so explicitly, neither would be appropriate in a Spring poem, so ‘the Left must win.’

Spring II: 14

Left (Win).


fuyugare no
shibafu ga shita ni
haru wa kumoi ni
agaru hibari ka
The greensward, and beneath it
Dwelling, yet
With springtime to the skies
Ascending, ‘tis the skylark.

Lord Kanemune.




hibari agaru
haru no yakeno no
sue tōmi
miyako no kata wa
kasumi narikeri
Skylarks soar above
The springtime stubble burned fields;
To the distance far
Towards the capital, all
With haze is covered.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right state that the Left’s poem ‘would probably be better’ without the final ka (the use of this particle, marking rhetorical tone, was considered old-fashioned by the time the poem was written, and this old-fashioned air is what the Right are criticising). The Left reply that the final two stanzas of the Right’s poem ‘are not effective’, probably suggesting that the poem implies the capital is on fire, rather than simply being concealed by smoke from stubble-burning.

Shunzei merely remarks that the Left’s criticisms are ‘apposite, in general’ and awards them the victory.

Spring II: 13

Left (Win).


sue tōki
wakaba no shibafu
hibari naku no no
haru no yūgure
To the distance far
The growing greensward
Skylarks singing o’er the plain
In the springtime evening.

Lord Sada’ie




kumo ni iru
sonata no koe no
hibari ochikuru
akebono no sora
From within the clouds
Comes song: thither
Skylarks swooping
Through the skies at dawn.

Lord Takanobu.


The Right team question what it is that the greensward ‘streams’ (nabiku) towards, while the Left say that starting with ‘within the clouds’ (kumo ni iru) is ‘somewhat abrupt’.

Shunzei comments of the Right’s question, ‘whatever it streams towards, in truth, from point of view of form, it should not stream at all,’ meaning that there’s no need to use the expression at all in the poem. As for the Right’s poem, somewhat facetiously, he says, ‘what is “within the clouds” is, most likely a ball, and while gazing “thither at their song”, one would think that, no doubt, the skylark, too, would soon come swooping down, but one would have to stop staring in order to catch it!’ In addition, ‘wouldn’t it be to dark at dawn to distinguish a skylark?’ So, ‘Skylarks singing o’er the plain/In the springtime evening’ should be the winner.