Tag Archives: Suetsune

Spring II: 8

Left (Win).


hito ya kikuran
sugi no no ni
saodoru kigisu
koe shikirinari
Does the hunting
Party hear it?
Among the cypress groves
The waltzing pheasants’
Cries come clearly.

Lord Suetsune




kigisu naku
katano no hara no
todachi koso
makoto ni kari no
The pheasants cry upon
The plain of Katano:
In the bird-brakes,
Truly, will they find only brief

Lord Tsune’ie


The Right say they have no particular criticisms of the Left’s poem this round. The Right, on the other hand, say that ‘pheasants crying in the bird brakes’ (kigisu naku todachi) sounds ‘clumsy’. After all, a bird-brake is a place from where birds fly, and those birds are pheasants. The Left counter that Fujiwara no Kintō’s poem, ‘Of my mountain hut, the blossoms are the lodgings’ (yamazato Fa Fana koso yado no) is a similar case, as there is no difference between a ‘hut’ and ‘lodgings’, and there is nothing to criticise in this poem.

Shunzei begins by saying that the Left’s poem, below ‘cypress groves’ (sugi no no) is ‘old-fashioned’, while the top two stanzas are ‘modern poetry’, and wonders whether it is not ‘unsuitable’ to mix these styles in one poem. As to the question of whether the Right’s poem is ‘defective’, the poem they cite in its defence is ‘even more defective’ (meaning that the complete version of Kintō’s poem uses the same auxiliary verb (-keri) twice). However, in ancient times, and the past, too, it was the normal state of affairs that ‘such defects were not avoided.’ Is it not the case, he asks, whether ‘the anthologies and poetry competitions are entirely different?’ (The commentators take this as suggesting it’s better to avoid producing ‘defective’ poems in competition.) Thus, though he finds the use of old-fashioned expressions like ‘waltzing’ (saodoru) displeasing, the Left’s poem is not defective and so must win this round.

Spring II: 2

Left (Win).


sumire tsumu ma ni
tobuhino no
kasumi no uchi ni
kyō mo kurashitsu
Gathered all together,
In picking violets,
On Tobuhi Plain
Amongst the haze
Have we spent this day…





kurenuru ka
iza kaerinan
haru no no no
matoi wa kyō ni
kagirubeki ka wa
Is dusk a’falling?
Well then, let’s be homeward bound.
Among the fields in Springtime,
Music, this day
Alone, will not sound.


The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office


The Right team state that the Left’s poem certainly expresses the conception [kokoro wa tashika nari] of ‘Field Pleasures’ but perhaps introduces the topic of ‘violets’ too early for this poetry competition’s sequence. The Left respond, ‘If the poem matches the conception for Field Pleasures [yayū no kokoto dani araba], the matter of timing is no great fault [fukaki toga naku]! The Right’s poem is more on the theme of ‘longing to be heading home’, than ‘Field Pleasures’, and the sentiment of the latter topic is weak [kokorozashi asashiki]’.

Shunzei judges that the Left’s poem seems well-constructed [utazama wa yoroshiki], but that the diction [kotoba] of using ma ni (‘while’) in the expression sumire tsumu ma ni (‘In picking violets’), is ‘undesirable’. The Right’s use of diction is charming [kotobazukai okashikaran], but the poem really is about longing to be off home. The Left’s final stanza is excellent [yoroshiki], and so their poem has to be the winner.

Spring I: 28

Left (Win).


momoshiki ni
azusa yumi
haru mo tomone no
mezurashiki kana
By the hundredfold palace
Catalpa bows:
Sprung in springtime, bowstring on bracer:
How rare the sound!

Lord Suetsune




toneriko ga
tomo uchinarasu
azusa yumi
ite hikiwataru
haru wa kinikeri
The guardsmen lads’
Bracers sound;
Catalpa bows,
Drawn by archers:
Springtime is here, indeed!

Lord Takanobu


Again, the Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem this round, but the Left say the initial line of the Right’s poem is ‘unsatisfactory’. Shunzei, once again, agrees, remarking that, ‘the initial line sounds like the name of the tree used when referring to adding water to an ink-stone. Again, the Left is the winner.’ What he means by this is that toneriko, ‘guardsmen lads’ was homophonous with the word for ‘ash tree’. The old Japanese extracted a wax from ash trees, which was used to ease the running of sliding doors and shutters, and so by association, toneriko was used in poetry to refer to adding water to an ink-stone so that the ink, produced in solid sticks, would slide over it more easily. This image is inappropriate for a poem about the New Year Archery festival, and so the poem is of inferior quality, compared to the Left’s offering.

Spring I: 21



na ni tateru
oiso no mori no
shita kusa mo
toshi wakashi to ya
futaba naruran
By repute,
Ancient is the sacred grove of Oiso, yet
Here, too, the undergrowth,
Perhaps with the year’s youth,
Puts forth new leaves.

Lord Suetsune


Right (Win).


shimo okishi
kozo no kareha no
nokoru mase ni
sore tomo mienu
haru no waka kusa
Frost fell
Last year on the withered leaves
Remaining on this brushwood fence, yet
It does not seem so for
The fresh growth of spring.



The Right team have nothing to say about the Left’s poem in this round, while the Left merely wonder whether the fact that the Right’s poem has six syllables in its middle line means that it doesn’t scan correctly.

Shunzei comments testily that fashionably using expressions with contradictory connotations, such as the ‘ancient sacred grove’ and ‘year’s youth’ is ‘platitudinous’. The Right’s poem, however, is ‘without doubt, extremely affecting’. There are many cases where lines with six or seven syllables are used in place of a five syllable one in the centre of a poem – particularly when the final line is ‘independent’, although this has yet to be ‘well understood’. So, for appropriately using this, the right deserves the victory.

Spring I: 15



oto su nari
asaji ga shita no
kōrishi hodo wa
shirarezarishi o
The sound is heard
From beneath the sparse strands of cogon grass:
Forgotten streamlets which,
When frozen,
Were all unknown.

Lord Suetsune


Right (Win).


mine no arashi ni
itsushika to
otozure kawaru
tani no shitamizu
Well accustomed to the howl
Of storm-winds round the peaks,
The sound does change:
To waters running on the valley floor.

Lord Takanobu


The Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem this round, but the Left wonder whether storm-winds really blow in spring?

Shunzei comments that the opening of the Left’s poem is ‘extremely charming’. As for the criticism that storm-winds do not blow in spring, it’s ‘not the case that they do not blow at all’ at that time. After the end of spring, when storm-winds become gentler and their voice fainter, is when one must have poems in the spirit of rising waters flowing through the valleys. He also feels that ‘The sound does change:/To waters running on the valley floor.’ (otozure kawaru/tani no shitamizu) is superior to the Left’s ‘When frozen,/Were all unknown.’ (kôrishi hodo wa/shirarezarishi o), and so gives the Right the victory this round.

Spring I: 7

Left (Tie).


nao sayuru
keshiki ni shirushi
mada fuyugomoru
kozue naruran
Still so clear
Is the scene: it must be a sign that
Mountain cherries are
Yet sealed in winter,
Outstanding on the treetops…

Lord Suetsune


Right (Tie).


fuyu ni wa yuki no
haru tomo iwazu
How it must long for
Winter – the snow
Though ‘tis spring, needless to say:
That is clear, indeed!

The Provisional Assistant Master of the Empress’ Household Office


The Right state that as the entirety of the topic is expressed in the first line of the Left’s poem, it lack care [nen nashi]. The Left respond that saying that the characters of the topic appear in the first line of our poem suggest the Right is unable to count correctly! As for the Right’s poem, we find no particular faults, but it is ordinary [mezurashiki ni arazu].

Shunzei’s judgement: The form of both poems is splendid [sugata wa yū ni koso haberumere]. In general, the mass of modern composition, whether or not it shows understanding of the form and diction of poetry [kinrai no utayomi no tomogara, sugata kotoba wa shireru ka shirazaru ka], also frequently fails to show enough attention to details of techique [bimyō no fūjō] and that I have cause to say this is certainly not laudable [kanshin serezaru koto]. However, the Right’s ‘the snow remains’ (yuki no okureite), seems somewhat contrived [sukoshi omoubeku], though the final one is excellent [yoroshikuhaberu]. Thus, it’s impossible to distinguish between the two poems.

Spring I: 2



toshi no hajime wa
toyo miki ni
kasanete tamau
hirohata no kinu
Newly arrived is
The year, and at its head,
A goodly draught of wine,
Once more, bestowed with
A broad bolt of silken cloth!

Lord Suetsune

Right (Win).


taenu himuro ni
suberaki no
chiyo ni tameshi o
kyō zo tatekeru
In Matsugasaki,
Unenduring ice-houses: within,
Of His Majesty’s
Thousand ages, a sign
Stands there this day.

Lord Tsune’ie

The Right state that there is not doubting the conception of the Left’s poem as a Festival poem [sechie no kokoro wa utagainashi]. The final section, though, does not fit this [kokoro yukazu]. The Left state that the first five syllables of the Right’s poem are grating to hear [mimi ni tachite kikoyu].

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s poem is truly completely in keeping with the conception of the topic [dai no kokoro wa makoto ni kagirinaku], but ‘A broad bolt of silken cloth!’ (hirohata no kinu) really does seem unsuited. The Right’s poem concerns the Ice Testing on New Year’s Day, and so does have the conception of a festival poem, but [en no kokoro mo habaramedo] on the face of it the poem feels more like one on the topic of Ice-Houses. However, it is still the case that hirohata sounds poor [yoshikarazu kikoe]. I will make ‘Ice Houses’ the winner.