Tag Archives: Takanobu

Spring II: 9

Left (Win).


haru yama no
kasumi no uchi ni
naku kigisu
omou kokoro wo
yoso ni shire to ya
In the springtime mountain
A pheasant calls,
His longing to the distance
Must he wish to make known…

Lord Kanemune




shinobi amari
hito ni shiretsutsu
naku kigisu
sono tsuma koi no
hodo yo ika ni zo
Too much to conceal, so
To all must he tell it,
A calling pheasant:
His fondness for his hen,
How great must it be?

Lord Takanobu


The Right team query why mountains are singled out in the Left’s poem, while the Left say that it is ‘unimpressive’ to conclude a poem ‘How great must it be?’ (ika ni zo) after beginning it with ‘Too much to conceal’ (shinobi amari).

Shunzei starts by addressing the Right’s question, stating that it is ‘perfectly normal’ for pheasants to call from mountains and meadows in springtime, and it is not the case that a poem on the theme of pheasants has to contain a reference to meadows. As for the final line of the poem, ‘Must he wish to make known’ (shire to ya), ‘there have, of late, been some who have a liking for this form of expression,’ but ‘it is not particularly desirable.’ The Right’s expression, ‘To all must he tell it’ (hito ni shiretsutsu) was old-fashioned, but ‘failed to sound impressive.’ In addition, the final line was ‘not satisfactory,’ whereas the initial line of the Left’s poem was ‘not bad’ (the commentators suggest Shunzei is referring to the image of a pheasant calling from the concealment of the mountain mists here), and so they must be the winner.

Spring II: 4

Left (Tie)


shiru shirazu
koto ari gao no
matoi kana
tsubana nuku no ni
kyô mo kurashitsu
Folk I know and strangers, both,
Purposefully have come
For music-making;
Gathering reed-ears from the meadow,
Today I’ll pass my day…

Lord Kanemune.


Right (Tie)


itsu shika to
ne no hi ni ideshi
haru no no o
sumire tsumu made
How quickly came
The Rat’s Day: I went out to
The springtime fields and,
Until violet-gathering season comes
Will I tread them down.

Lord Takanobu.


The Right say that it seems that people must have come for something more important than ‘field pleasures’ if they come ‘purposefully’, to which the Left respond that, of course, people take their field pleasures seriously, and suggest that the Right refer to the winning poem in the previous round. They then ask if reed ears don’t appear later in the season than violets, and so query whether the Right’s poem is appropriate at this stage in the contest.

Shunzei says merely that, ‘the comments by both teams are entirely appropriate’ and makes the round a tie.

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: 19

Left (Tie).


nawa tatsu koma o
ika ni shite
nobe no hatsugusa
Seeming driven wild and
Tether snapping is my steed:
How might
He be tied,
By the fresh grasses on the plain?



Right (Tie).


kesa mireba
sawa no wakazeri
shitane toke
midori ni hayuru
yuki no mura kie
Looking this morning on
The fresh dropwort by the marsh,
Melting round the roots –
So greenly growing –
Snow spots were vanishing.

Lord Takanobu


The Right team comment here that the Left’s poem is in the same spirit as Shun’e’s poem in the Shikashū (SKS I: 12). Into this has been inserted the additional idea of ‘tether snapping’ (nawa tatsu), and this is ‘grating on the ear’.

The Left team, in turn, say that the Right’s poem contains both ‘melting’ (toke) and ‘vanishing’ (kie) and this is an error. (Japanese poetics held that a poem should not contain two words with identical meanings.) It is also ‘undesirable’ to use ‘growing’ (hayuru).

Shunzei comments that the Right team have correctly identified the resemblance of the Left’s poem to that by the Monk Shun’e, and in such poems, it is commonplace not to avoid this. However, as in Taira no Sadafun’s poem in the Shūishū (SIS XVIII: 1185). ‘Tether snapping’ (nawa tatsu) is used of approaching a woman. (Nawa tatsu 縄絶つ ‘tether snapping’ is homophonous with na wa tatsu 名は立つ ‘one’s name would arise (in conversation)’ – in other words, ‘be gossiped about’.) Here, though, it is simply used about breaking a rope, or cord, and ‘is this not mundane?’ The Right’s poem starts ‘very well’, but to use ‘growing’ (hayuru) is ‘not good at all’. Both poems are ‘commonplace’ and so neither deserves a win.

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: 10

Left (Win).


kasumi aezu
nao furu yuki ni
sora tojite
haru monofukaki
uzumibi no moto
No trace of haze and
Still the falling snow
Seals the sky;
Spring lies deep
Amongst the buried embers.

Lord Sada’ie




kasumi shiku
kesa sae sayuru
tamoto kana
yuki furu toshi ya
mi ni tsumoruran
Haze spreads:
Today, ‘tis clear
Upon my sleeve:
Is it with snow fall this year
That I am buried?

Lord Takanobu


The Right team state that the final line of the Left’s poem is ‘grating on the ear’, but that otherwise they can find nothing wrong with it. Shunzei remarks somewhat testily, that they are pre-empting his role as judge, but broadly agrees, finding the central image of snow ‘sealing the sky’ particularly fine. He finds the Right’s poem problematic in that ‘haze spreads’ in the middle of spring, and this poem is supposed to be describing the season’s beginning – it should be ‘haze rises’ (kasumi tatsu), and there is nothing remarkable about the rest of it. Thus, he awards the round to the Left.

Spring I: 4



haru kureba
hoshi no kurai ni
kage miete
kumoi no hashi ni
izuru taoyame
When spring is come
A sprinkling of star
Light seems
Upon the walkways of the cloud-borne palace
To emerge: gentle maidens.



Right (Win).


itsushika to
sode o tsuranuru
momoshiki ni
yorozuyo meguru
haru no sakazuki
How swiftly,
Sleeves overlapping at the
Hundredfold palace;
For ten thousand generations will we pass round
The wine cups in springtime.

Lord Takanobu


The Right state that the ‘form of the Left’s poem does not match the emotional tone’. The Left have no criticisms of the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: ‘A mismatch of form and emotion in the Left’s poem has been suggested by the gentlemen of the Right. I am not certain whether I agree with this suggestion or not [yuki, yukazu no jō wa, mata ekokoroehaberanedo], but the final line of the second poem sounds splendid [yoroshiku kikoehaberi] and hence it must win.