The Right state: the Left’s poem lacks much of a conception of pleasure girls. In appeal: the poem was written in the conception of Mochitoki’s Chinese poem on pleasure girls ‘the reed-leaves are fresh in springtime’. The Left state: the Right’s poem has nothing worth mentioning.
In judgement: is the conception of pleasure girls really absent from the Left’s ‘parting the reeds, and singing to the moon’ (ashima wake tsuki ni utaite)? The case certainly cannot rely on ‘the reed-leaves are fresh in springtime’. A Chinese poem expresses its topic in its initial line. It is normal for the introduction of the topic to be vague. Japanese and Chinese poetry have aspects where they are similar, and aspects where they differ. Thus, it is not appropriate to cite a Chinese poem’s broaching of its topic as evidence for a Japanese poem’s content. There are certainly other examples by Mochitoki, such as his overlong line in ‘in a boat atop the waves, but I find the same pleasure in life’. The line about reed-leaves can in no way function as proof. Thus this poem, as ‘an old fisherman sings a single shanty’ could be said to be about an old man. As a result, given the lack of clarity in the poem, it is not possible to accept that it is about a pleasure girl. The Right’s poem concludes ‘that moon-sung girl is dear to me, indeed’ (tsuki ni utaishi imo zo koishiki). The final line seems to be almost pointlessly pedestrian, but the poem is certainly about love for a pleasure girl. The Right must win.
The Right state: what is the Left’s poem about? In appeal: it reflects Changkang, who, feeling a woman living next door was beautiful, painted her and was then able to meet her. The Left state: the Right’s poem has no faults to mention.
In judgement: I, too, was unsure of the meaning of ‘my unquiet heart filled with feelings upon her’ (mune yasukaranu omoi woba hito no ue ni zo), and after reading the Left’s response, I am still unclear. In general, in these cases it is customary to cite the source of such things, and to hear of such wide reading is interesting indeed, but this is simply, ‘it reflects Changkang, who, feeling a woman living next door was beautiful, painted her and was then able to meet her’, so it would be difficult to locate within the usual Three Histories; furthermore, I have no recollection of a person named in this Chinese manner, and so an ignorant old man like myself can only ask, who is this Nagayasu? More importantly, though, I do not feel the conception of this poem is particularly well-matched to the topic. The Right’s ‘a lady painted in a picture’ (e ni kaku imo) is a little over-explicit, but ‘how lacking are’ (makoto sukunaki) would seem to be in the style of the Kazan Archbishop, and as I feel this is easier to understand than Nagayasu, I make the Right the winner.
The Right state: the Left’s poem certainly has no faults. The Left state: the Right’s poem has no conception of Love.
In judgement: both Gentlemen’s pictures are ‘painted’ (kakitomete), with the Left then using ‘upon my darling’ (imo ga ue ni mo), which certainly has a conception of love. The Right simply draws a picture of a maidenflower and drenches it with dew, so it does not seem as if he is being moved by the sight of a person. Thus, again, the Left seems the superior poem.
The Gentlemen of the Right state: we wonder about the appropriateness of making one’s way across when there is no ‘bridge’? The Gentlemen of the Left state: there are no faults to indicate in the Right’s poem.
In judgement: the gentleman of the Left has composed his poem referring to the conception of the Man’yō poem ‘A silent-footed / Colt I’d have: / In Kashitsuka, / The clapper bridge at Mama / To ceaselessly traverse!’, but must have misplaced the bridge somewhere. Truly, I do wonder how it is possible to make one’s way across in the absence of a bridge. Although to say ‘for my steed I’ll go gather grasses’ (sono koma ni kusa torikawan) is something commonplace, doing it to prevent one’s mount getting tired, despite the length of the journey, seems better than lacking a bridge.
The Right state: clichéd from beginning to end. The Left state: the style of the Right’s poem is unattractive.
In judgement: the second and third lines are certainly old-fashioned. I also cannot call the poem tasteful, because the initial line of it is unattractive. The style of the Right’s poem is not particularly elegant, but the Left is old-fashioned, so the Right wins.