Tag Archives: Cormorants on the River

Summer I: 24

Left (Win).


yogawa tatsu
satsuki kinurashi
sese o tome
yasotomo no o mo
kagari sasu wa ya
The night fishing
Fifth Month has come, and to
Rapid after rapid go
Eighty gentlemen
Bearing fishing fires…





takase sashikosu
hodo nare ya
kagaribi no kage
The cormorant boats:
O’er the risen rapids
Will they pass this time?
All in tangles are
The lights of the fishing fires…



The Right state simply that the Left’s poem is ‘grating on the ear’, and the Left are equally blunt: ‘It is unconvincing to state that fire tangles.’

Shunzei states, ‘“Night fishing” (yogawa tatsu) seems to me to be an extremely overblown expression. And, “All in tangles are the lights of the fishing fires” (musubōreyuku kagaribi no kage) – this is, indeed, something that can be seen when crossing rapids where the water is high. The Left’s poem is certainly unmelodious, however, having such a dichotomy between the beginning and end of a poem, as in the Right’s case is, I think, insupportable. Thus, for this reason, the Left should win, I think.

Summer I: 23

Left (Tie).


nao yamakage ni
yowa no tsukikage
Upon the Ōi River,
Yet beneath the mountain’s shadow are
Cormorant boats,
Impossible to avoid,
Within the midnight moonlight.

A Servant Girl.


Right (Tie).


nanase no yodo o
kudashi mo hatede
akenu kono yo wa
Down Matsura River’s
Seven swifts and stills
The cormorant boats,
Descent unfinished,
Find dawn ending night.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right have two criticisms of the Left’s poem: ‘First, are cormorants used on moonlit nights? Moreover, why continue on from the “mountain’s shadow” (yamakage) with a moonlit night?’ In turn, the Left query, ‘Why continue on from “seven swifts and stills” (nanase no yodo) with cormorant boats?’

Shunzei comments, ‘The defects of the Left’s poem have already been adequately identified by the gentlemen of the other team. The Right’s sequence “Seven swifts and stills the cormorant boats” certainly seems poor. Furthermore, “dawn ending night” (akenu kono yo wa) has a somewhat pretentious air. There is nothing much to distinguish between them, and the round should tie.’

Summer I: 22

Left (Win).


kagaribi no
kage dani araji
nochi no yo no
yami o mo shiranu
ukaibune kana
Not even the fishing fires’
Light will reach
The world to come
Darkness all unknowing are
The cormorant boats.

Lord Kanemune.




ikuse noboreba
arashi no yama no
Ōi River
Rapids running up are
The cormorant boats;
To the Mount of Storms
Does dawn return?



The Right state merely that, ‘The Left’s poem has nothing to apologise for,’ while the Left comment, ‘stating that “dawn” (ake) returns to a mountain to the west is illogical. Moreover, in the three lines “The cormorant boats; To the Mount of Storms Does dawn return?” (ukaibune arashi no yama no akewataruran) the meanings of each line are different and fail to follow on one from the other.’

Shunzei is in general agreement: ‘The gentlemen of the Right have already allowed that the Left’s poem has nothing to apologise for. The have also stated that it is not the case that night lightens from the west, but it is certainly the case that it is possible to see the dawn light growing upon the western mountains. However, the cormorant boats’ practice is normally to run down the rapids, and saying “rapids running up” (ikuse noboreba) suggests that this is happening after they have gone down. Dawn is then exceptionally late. In any case, the Right’s poem has a number of doubtful sections, while the Left’s is without error, as has already been stated. It must win.’

Summer I: 20



nochi no yo o
shirasegao ni mo
kagaribi no
kogarete suguru
ukaibune kana
The afterlife:
Foretold by
The fishing-fires,
Ever blazing from
The cormorant boats.

Lord Ari’ie.


Right (Win).


masurao ga
yo kawa ni tatsuru
kagaribi ni
fukaki aware o
ikade misuran
Stalwart men:
Upon the night-time river
Why do the fishing-fires
Such deep sorrow

Lord Takanobu.


Again, neither team has any criticisms to make this round.

Shunzei states, ‘The wording after the Left’s “Foretold by the fishing-fires” (shirasegao ni mo kagaribi no) is surely somewhat unsatisfactory. The Right’s “Such deep sorrow” (fukaki aware o) appears much better. It should win.’

Summer I: 19

Left (Tie).


onaji se o
noboru ayuko ni
kudari zo aranu
kagaribi no kage
At the same swift waters:
Sweetfish sprats head up
The Ōi River,
Waiting, unmoving are
The lighted fishing-fires.

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Tie).


kudari mo aranu
ubune kana
kono se ni nomi ya
ayuko sabashiru
Upon Katsura River,
Waiting, unmoving are
The cormorant boats;
Is it only at these swift waters, that
The sweetfish sprats do race?

Lord Tsune’ie.


Neither team sees any difficulties with the other’s poems this round.

Shunzei comments tersely, ‘Both poems use “sweetfish sprats”, and this old-fashioned term cannot help but give them a less than pleasant air. Neither is worthy of victory.’