The Right state: ‘drifting boat’ (ukifune) fails to link properly with ‘single night’ (hitoyo). The Left state: although ‘diving girl’ (ama no ko) is used in the source poem in the section on pleasure girls in the Collection of Poems to Sing, we wonder about the appropriateness of simply using it to mean pleasure girl.
In judgement: there is no need to critique whether or not ‘drifting boat’ links with ‘single night’. In the final section ‘why so rarely’ (nado arigataki), though, makes me wonder why this should be the case! On the matter of the Right’s use of ‘diving girl’, our predecessors, including Lord Kintō, have provided poems on pleasure girls in the Collection of Poems to Sing, and who, indeed, would not utilize this? Furthermore, ‘knowing not with whom she’ll briefly sleep, and regret’ (tare to naki ukine o shinobu) certainly sounds like a pleasure girl! Thus, the Right must win over a pleasure girl finding it hard to get custom.
The Gentlemen of the Right state: there are too many uses of no. Would it not have been better to reduce their number with, for example, ‘o, sea-plains!’ (unabara ya)? We also wonder about the use of ‘wake touched by the tidewinds’ (ato no shiokaze). The Gentlemen of the Left state: ‘does my love live’ (hito wa sumu) is grating on the ear.
In judgement: saying that the Left’s poem has too many identical words is clearly relying upon the long-established hornet-hip or crane-knee faults. In today’s poetry there are countless poems in which these faults can be identified. In addition, ‘into the sea-plains’ (unabara no) and ‘o, sea-plains’ (unabara ya) are the same. I may be wrong here, but it seems to me that in this poem, it has to be ‘into the sea-plains’. Finally, ‘wake touched by the tidewinds’ is elegant. As for the Right’s ‘beyond its waves does my love live’ (nami no anata ni hito wa sumu), this is not grating, is it? It seems that the Gentleman of the Right, being so well-read in Chinese scholarship, has required revisions to the faulty poem of the Left in the absence of the judge. Thus, what can a grand old fool do but make the round a tie.
wobune piki sope
sika no arawo ni
kaduki apame ya mo
If a great ship to
A little boat were attached, and
Dived down, even so
Would Arao from Shika
Meet them beneath the seas?
It is said that the above poems were composed in the years of Jinki [724-729], when the Dazai provincial government ordered a peasant by the name of Munakatabe no Tsumaro from the district of Munakata in Chikuzen province to captain a boat taking provisions to Tsushima. So, Tsumaro went to the home of a fisherman called Arao in the village of Shika in the district of Kasuya, and said to him, ‘I have a request to make of you. Will you hear me out?’ Arao replied, ‘The district in which I live is different from yours, but we have sailed on the same ship for many years. I feel closer to you than to my brothers. Even should we be about to die together, I would not dare to abandon you.’ So Tsumaro said, ‘The officials of the Dazai government have ordered me to captain a boat carrying provisions to Tsushima. However, I am grown old and my strength is failing me, and I do not think I would survive the voyage. Thus I have come to you. I beg you, please take on this duty in my place.’ Arao agreed and in due course, in line with his duty, set sail from Mineraku Point in Matsura in Bizen Province. As he was sailing straight across to Tsushima, suddenly clouds filled the sky, the wind and the rain arose, he could not catch a favourable breeze, and his ship sank to the bottom of the sea. His wife and children, unable to endure feeling like a calf which has lost its mother, composed these poems. An alternative explanation is that the Governor of Chikuzen, Yamanoue no Okura felt sympathy for the woman and her children, and composed them in their stead.