Tag Archives: skies

Spring II: 30

Left (Tie).


aki no mo masare
aware kana
tsuki kage kasumu
ariake no sora
The clarity of
Autumn, too, is splendid and
Moving, indeed, I feel in
The hazy moonlight from
The daybreak sky.

Lord Ari’ie.


Right (Tie).


ima wa tote
tanomu no kari mo
oborozukiyo no
akebono no sora
‘Now we must return,’
The field resting geese
Lament, under the
Misty moonlit
Dawning sky.



The Right team once again rate the Left’s poem as ‘satisfying’, while the Left say the Right’s is ‘especially satisfying. ’

Shunzei’s judgement is that ‘the Left’s “hazy moonlight from the daybreak sky” (tsuki kage kasumu ariake no sora) and the Right’s “Misty moonlit dawning sky” (oborozukiyo no akebono no sora) are both splendid. It is difficult, indeed, to decide between them. Another excellent tie.’

Spring II: 28



kasumi ka wa
hana uguisu ni
haru ni komoreru
yado no akebono
Is this haze?
No, in blossom and warbler song
Am I sealed;
Shut in by springtime
Is my home this dawn.

Lord Sada’ie


Right (Win).


kasumi tatsu
sue no matsuyama
honobono to
nami ni hanaruru
yokogumo no sora
The hazes rise
Around the pine-clad peak of Sué;
Departing from the waves,
Narrow clouds trail across the sky.



The Right team have no particular remarks to make about the Left’s poem this round, but the Left state that the Right’s poem is ‘most satisfying.’

Shunzei’s judgement is: ‘The Left’s “Is this haze?” (kasumi ka wa) seems like it wants to be “Is this just haze?” (kasumi nomi ka wa). “In blossom and warbler song am I sealed” (hana uguisu ni tojirarete) and “my home this dawn” (yado no akebono) remind one of “the lofty palace of Shinsei stands behind warblers and blossom” and this is excellent. As for the Right’s poem, this is particularly moving, with its depiction of the scene “departing from the waves, narrow clouds trail across the sky” (nami ni hanaruru yokogumo no sora), recalling “the pine-clad peak of Sué” (sue no matsuyama). The poem does start with “hazes rise” (kasumi tatsu) and having “haze” (kasumi), “wave” (nami) and “cloud” (kumo) means the poem is somewhat overburdened with similar imagery. “Narrow clouds trail across the sky”, though, does make a particularly strong impression, and the Left’s poem is merely satisfying, as has been said. Thus, “my home this dawn” must lose, I think.’

Spring II: 25

Left (Tie).


kasumi bakari wa
soko tomo miezu
akegure no sora
The drifting,
Misty haze
Blurs all;
Nowhere can I see
The softly lightening sky.

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Tie).


kasumi mo ya
akeyuku sora o
tachiwataru kana
Does the haze, too,
The lightening sky
In sad solitude
Does it cover all.

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right team state that, ‘the expression ‘softly lightening’ (akegure) gives the impression that the scene is rather earlier than dawn,’ to which the Left snap back that ‘sad solitude’ (kokorobosogeni) is ‘puerile.’

Shunzei’s judgement is, ‘The comments by both teams are apt. The poems seem of equivalent quality.’

Spring II: 24

Left (Win).


haru no itoyū
iku yo hete
onaji midori no
sora ni miyuramu
Time and time again
The threaded heat haze of spring,
As uncounted ages pass,
In identical azure
Skies must appear…

Lord Sada’ie.




yūhi no sora o
usukurenai ni
somuru itoyū
When on the tranquil
Sunset sky
I gaze,
Pale crimson
Stains the haze.



Neither team has anything to say about the other’s poem this round.

Shunzei, however, says, ‘Although the expressions ‘time and time again’ (kurikaeshi) and ‘uncounted ages pass’ (iku yo hete) seem somewhat forced connections with ‘threaded’ (ito), the final section beginning ‘identical azure’ (onaji midori) is superb. The essence of the Right’s poem, of gazing at the sky at sunset with the threads of haze stained, is charming, but I wonder whether it would not have been better not to force the reference to sunset into the poem. ‘Azure skies’ must win.

Spring II: 22

Left (Win).


haru kureba
sora ni midaruru
itoyū wo
hito suji ni ya wa
ari to tanoman
When Spring is come,
The sky is disarrayed by
Heat haze, yet
For it to be all that is –
In that I cannot trust!

Lord Ari’ie.




haru kaze no
nodoka ni fukeba
aoyanagi no
eda mo hitotsu ni
asobu itoyū
When spring breezes
Gently blow
Fresh willow
Fronds as one are
Wavering hazes…



Both teams find no particular faults with the other’s poems.

Shunzei, however, comments, ‘Both poems are excellent in appearance, but the Left has ‘The sky is disarrayed’ (sora ni midaruru). The Right is ‘Fresh willow fronds as one’ (aoyanagi no eda mo hitotsu ni asobu): does this not suggest that haze wavers only in the vicinity of willows? The Left must win.’

Spring II: 20

Left (Win).


nani bakari naru
itoyū no
nokiba ni hito no
How unclear!
For what, do
The wavering hazes
Along the eaves’ edges folks’
Gaze interrupt?

Lord Kanemune.




sao hime ya
kasumi no koromo
haru nomi sora ni
asobu itoyū
Has the goddess of Spring
A garb of haze
‘Tis only in the springtime skies, that
The heat haze wavers…

Lord Tsune’ie.


Here, the Right say that, ‘it’s unclear what gaze it is the haze is interrupting,’ but the Left have no comments to make.

Shunzei, however, says, ‘It is not the case that there is no reason to say “For what, do the wavering hazes” (nani bakari naru itoyū). The Right’s poem has “A garb of haze a’woven?”. “A’woven” (oritsuran) does not seem to correspond with the conclusion of the verse. In general terms, it’s banal [kotogoto furinitarubeshi]. The Left’s conclusion is somewhat difficult to interpret [kikiwakigataki yō], but in construction the poem is superb [utazama masari].’

Spring II: 18



haru hi ni wa
sora ni nomi koso
hibari no toko wa
are ya shinuran
The springtime sun
Alone, into the skies
Does seem to lift
The skylark: his nest,
I wonder, if ‘tis in disarray?



Right (Win).


ko o omou
sudachi no ono o
asa yukeba
agari mo yarazu
hibari nakunari
Caring for her chick,
Starting from the nest into the meadow,
With the coming of the morn,
Without taking flight,
The skylark gives call.



The Right team state that the initial and central stanzas of the Left’s poem are ‘grating on the ear’, while the Left snap back that they ‘don’t understand the meaning’ of ‘caring for her chick, starting from the nest’ (ko o omou sudachi), and moreover, having both ‘starting from the nest’ (sudachi) and ‘take flight’ (agari) in one poem is clumsy technique as the meanings are too similar.

Shunzei judges that the initial stanza of the Left’s poem is ‘truly awful’. And, ‘in general, from what we know of how skylarks live, there is no reason to expect that they would heedlessly fly off after fouling their nests. In spring, they raise their young in the fields, and when the evenings are warm, or the spring sun is bright, they remain flying in the sky and look down on their chicks from above. They are birds which swoop and soar. Thus, one cannot say that they heedlessly foul their nests. The Right is in keeping with the skylark’s nature, and in form the poem also appropriately poetic, but because of the distance of the first stanza from the last, it is possible that one might not grasp the sense of the poem on first hearing. “Starting from the nest” (sudachi) and “take flight” (agari) are, though, too similar. However, as the Left’s poem has an unpleasant line, and is contrary to the essence of skylarks, despite its faults, the Right’s poem must win.’

Spring II: 16

Left (Win).


kataoka no
kasumi mo fukaki
kogakure ni
asahi matsu ma no
hibari nakunari
At Kataoka
The haze is deep upon
The shade of the concealing trees;
Awaiting dawn’s first light,
A skylark sings.

A Servant Girl.




nobe mireba
agaru hibari mo
ima wa tote
asaji ni otsuru
yūgure no sora
Looking out across the plain,
A soaring skylark
Seizes the second
To plunge among the cogon-grass
From the evening sky.



Neither team has any criticisms to make of the other’s poem.

Shunzei states that, ‘Left and Right deal with the skylark at morning and evening respectively. Both poems are alike in content, yet the Right’s poem conveys a particularly desolate feeling. Why should this be? Once more, the Left is the victor.’ Commentators are divided as to whether in this judgement he is suggesting that loneliness is an inappropriate emotion to convey in a skylark-themed poem, or whether, knowing that the Left’s poem was composed by Fujiwara no Yoshitsune, the host of the competition and the highest-ranking person present, he is simply flattering a powerful man’s work.

Spring II: 14

Left (Win).


fuyugare no
shibafu ga shita ni
haru wa kumoi ni
agaru hibari ka
The greensward, and beneath it
Dwelling, yet
With springtime to the skies
Ascending, ‘tis the skylark.

Lord Kanemune.




hibari agaru
haru no yakeno no
sue tōmi
miyako no kata wa
kasumi narikeri
Skylarks soar above
The springtime stubble burned fields;
To the distance far
Towards the capital, all
With haze is covered.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right state that the Left’s poem ‘would probably be better’ without the final ka (the use of this particle, marking rhetorical tone, was considered old-fashioned by the time the poem was written, and this old-fashioned air is what the Right are criticising). The Left reply that the final two stanzas of the Right’s poem ‘are not effective’, probably suggesting that the poem implies the capital is on fire, rather than simply being concealed by smoke from stubble-burning.

Shunzei merely remarks that the Left’s criticisms are ‘apposite, in general’ and awards them the victory.

Spring I: 20

Left (Tie).


nobe no kasumi o
keburi nite
kore ya wakakusa
Spreading, everywhere,
Across the plain, the haze
Seems smoke:
Is the burning the buds
Of new-grown grass…

Lord Kanemune


Right (Tie).


nobe no haru kusa
sue wakami
sora to tomo ni zo
asamidori naru
Shooting up
Across the plain, the grass’
Tips are so young
That, with the skies,
They celadon seem…

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


Both teams say there is ‘nothing remarkable’ about the other’s poem, while Shunzei says simply the purport of both is ‘generally appropriate’ and that it would be ‘difficult to determine’ a winner.