A poem from the Poetry Contest held by the Empress Dowager during the reign of the Kanpyō emperor.
omoFu teFu koto no Fa nomi ya aki wo Fete iro mo kaFaranu mono ni Fa aruran My fond thoughts expressed In words, and leaves, simply On reaching autumn’s surfeit— Won’t they change their hues? No, that will never be.
Next Door 隣
nakagaki ni ouru kusaki no ha o shigemi natsu zo tonari wa utoku narikeru The fence between is Overgrown with plants with Leaves so lush, that In summer, next door Seems far away, indeed!
Dwarf Bamboo 小篠
ha o shigemi michi miezu tote yasuraeba soyosoyo to iu ozasawara kana So lush the leaves My way is hidden, I think – And when I take my ease a while ‘That’s right! That’s right!’ rustle The dwarf bamboo groves!
chihayaburu kami no shimesasu sakakiba no sakayuku miyo ni au zo ureshiki The mighty Gods’ own Leaves of the sacred tree An ever-flourishing reign Reveal – how pleasant!
kamiyo yori iro mo kawaranu sakakiba wa sakae tokiwa ni niou narikeri Since the Age of Gods Unchanged are the hues of Leaves upon the sacred tree: Eternal glory Shining forth!
sakakiba o kami no mimuro to agamureba yūtsukedori no negura narikeri Leaves upon the sacred tree, as The gods’ dwelling place Are worshipped, so A cockerel’s Roost are they!
shimo okedo iro mo kawaranu sakakiba wa kimi ga chitose no kazashi narikeri Frost falls, yet Unchanged are the hues of Leaves upon the sacred tree: For my Lord a thousand years of Decoration will they be!
ko no ha chiri shika naku aki no yamadera wa iriai no kane no oto zo sabishiki Leaves scattering from the trees, and Stags crying – in autumn At a mountain temple The sunset bell’s Toll is lonely, indeed!
hisakata no ame mo puranu ka patisuba ni tamareru midu no tama ni nitaru mimu Is it that from the eternal Heavens, rain has long not fallen, That on the lotus leaves Water rests and Seems all the more like gemstones?
ima sara ni
tare ni kokoro o
ware to sumi e wa
kakitaenikeri Now, once again,
To whom will his heart
Shift? His reflection in
A drawing of ink, is all that’s left
Drawn, now he no longer lives with me…
ato mo naku
iro ni nariyuki
koto no ha ya
sumi e o tomuru
kodachi naruran No lines remain,
All is turned to colour;
Will his leaves of words
Remain here at my home, as an ink
Sketch of a grove?
The Right state: the Left’s poem has no faults in particular. The Left state: why would you say that an ink drawing that remains ‘leaves no trace’? We would have preferred it had it been ‘colours most fair’ (
In judgement: both Left and Right have the conception of ‘ink drawings’ (
sumie) and, when viewed together, I do not feel that they show much promise, but the Right, beginning with ‘no lines remain’ ( ato mo naku) which I do not feel is in tune with the latter part of the poem, in addition, then concludes with ‘sketch of a grove’ ( kodachi naruran) which is undesirable. The Left’s ‘a drawing of ink, is all that’s left’ ( ware to sumi e wa) is a metaphorical expression which at least strives at charm. Thus, I must say that the Left is superior.