Tag Archives: catalpa bow

Spring I: 30

Left (Tie).


momoshiki ya
ite hiku niwa no
azusa yumi
mukashi ni kaeru
haru ni au kana
Hundred fold, the palace, where
Archer draw, within the gardens
Bows of catalpa wood:
Olden times are recalled
And meet again, this springtime.

Lord Sada’ie


Right (Tie).


azusa yumi
haru no kumoi ni
keshiki kotonaru
kyô no morobito
Catalpa bows:
In springtime to the cloud-borne palace
They are brought;
How exceptional the scene:
A crowd of noble folk, this day.



The Right query why in the Left’s poem an annual festival should ‘recall olden times’, to which the Right respond that it is normal to compose poems about annual observances as if they had been discontinued and then revived. The Left make no comment about the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement is that, indeed, the Left’s poem had been composed as if an ancient rite had been revived and, furthermore with the reference to an ‘exceptional scene’ the intent had probably been to praise court festivals. Nevertheless, he has to adjudge the round a tie.

Spring I: 29

Left (Tie).


azusa yumi
ite hiku haru no
kai arite
kyō no moroya wa
yo ni hibiku nari
Catalpa bows,
Archers drawing them in springtime
Has an effect, indeed:
Today, the paired arrows
Resound throughout the world!



Right (Tie).


azusa yumi
haru kokonoe ni
chiru yuki o
kyô tachimai no
sode ni miru kana
Catalpa bows:
Drawn in the ninefold palace walls, yet
Falling snow
This day’s dancing
Sleeves do seem!



The Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem, but the Left remark that ‘catalpa bow’ is a makura kotoba (a conventionalised poetic image) used with ‘spring’, and it is difficult to think that it is being used appropriately if related to ‘New Year archery’. (The complaint here seems to be related to the fact that in his original Nobusada writes haru, which I’ve translated here as ‘drawn’, phonetically, rather than with a Chinese character, making it initially seem like the verb haru ‘draw (a bow)’, rather than the homophonous ‘spring’.) The Left go on to make the aside that dancing took place within the palace on many other occasions besides the New Year Archery festival.

Shunzei, however, states bluntly that both poems contain ‘unnatural associations’ of ‘catalpa bow’ with ‘springtime effects’ for the Left, and ‘drawn in the ninefold palace’ for the right, so neither can be declared a winner.

Spring I: 26



kokoro aru
ite no toneri no
keshiki kana
tama shiku niwa ni
tomone hibikite
Souls stirred,
The archers, guardsmen all,
Are a sight
Within the gem-strewn gardens,
As bowstring snaps to bracer!

Lord Ari’ie.


Right (Win).


hiku te bakari wa
yoso naredo
kokoro ni iru wa
kumo no uebito
A catalpa bow:
Drawn simply by the hand,
Distant, it is, yet
Letting fly, within their hearts, are
The folk above the clouds…



The Right team remark here that they were ‘unable to grasp’ the first line of the Left’s poem, possibly suggesting a judgement that kokoro aru, which I’ve translated here as ‘Souls stirred’, and which refers to the ability to be moved emotionally by phenomena, or events, was an unsuitable expression for mere ‘guardsmen’. The Left team state bluntly that the reference to ‘the folk above the clouds’ was ‘unsuited to this rite’, meaning the New Year archery contest, in which members of the higher nobility, the ‘folk above the clouds’, did not participate.

Spring I: 25

Left (Win).


kyō wa wa ga
kimi ga mimae ni
toru fumi no
sashite katamaru
azusayumi kana
Today to Our
Lord’s Presence
We take, missives
Attached and drawn tight,
Bows of catalpa wood…

A Servant Girl.




momoshiki ya
chikaki mamori no
wa ga hiku kata zo
kokoro ni wa iru
Hundred-fold, the palace;
Close by, sentries with
Catalpa bows:
Drawing them,
Their hearts fly forth!

The Provisional Master of the Empress Household Office.


The Right team state simply that they ‘don’t understand the content’ of the Left’s poem, while the Left remark airily of the Right’s that it ‘hits the topic dead on!’ Nevertheless, Shunzei says that the Left’s poem, ‘seems charming, with its image of letters to His Majesty attached to staves’, and awards it the victory.