Tag Archives: springtime

Spring II: 9

Left (Win).


haru yama no
kasumi no uchi ni
naku kigisu
omou kokoro wo
yoso ni shire to ya
In the springtime mountain
A pheasant calls,
His longing to the distance
Must he wish to make known…

Lord Kanemune




shinobi amari
hito ni shiretsutsu
naku kigisu
sono tsuma koi no
hodo yo ika ni zo
Too much to conceal, so
To all must he tell it,
A calling pheasant:
His fondness for his hen,
How great must it be?

Lord Takanobu


The Right team query why mountains are singled out in the Left’s poem, while the Left say that it is ‘unimpressive’ to conclude a poem ‘How great must it be?’ (ika ni zo) after beginning it with ‘Too much to conceal’ (shinobi amari).

Shunzei starts by addressing the Right’s question, stating that it is ‘perfectly normal’ for pheasants to call from mountains and meadows in springtime, and it is not the case that a poem on the theme of pheasants has to contain a reference to meadows. As for the final line of the poem, ‘Must he wish to make known’ (shire to ya), ‘there have, of late, been some who have a liking for this form of expression,’ but ‘it is not particularly desirable.’ The Right’s expression, ‘To all must he tell it’ (hito ni shiretsutsu) was old-fashioned, but ‘failed to sound impressive.’ In addition, the final line was ‘not satisfactory,’ whereas the initial line of the Left’s poem was ‘not bad’ (the commentators suggest Shunzei is referring to the image of a pheasant calling from the concealment of the mountain mists here), and so they must be the winner.

Spring II: 7



tatsu kiji no
naruru nohara mo
ko o omou michi ya
haru madouran
The flying pheasants
Know these fields so well, yet
The fond way to their fledglings
Does it sink springtime in confusion…?

Lord Sada’ie


Right (Win).


kigisu no yado o
susono no hara no
shiba no shitagusa
The crying, flying
Pheasants’ lodging
Should you seek out, look
In meadows on the mountains’ skirts
Among the brushwood undergrowth…



The Right team wonder whether ‘know a field well’ (hara ni naruru) isn’t a bit ‘modern’ for poetry. Furthermore, ‘sink springtime in confusion’ (haru madouran) ‘seems to be missing something’ (by this they probably mean that you would expect the expression to be haru ni madouran, with the grammatical structure more clearly expressed). The Left team respond that the first line of the Right’s poem ‘grates on the ear’ and wonder, ‘What one is to make of “pheasants’ lodgings” (kigisu no yado)?’, meaning that traditional poetic expression called for ‘warblers’ lodgings’ (uguisu no yado).

Shunzei rather harshly says that the Left’s poem is ‘poorly constructed and unacceptable in both spirit and diction,’ wondering whether there was ‘a single school which would not find fault with it on the grounds of both logic and poetic form’? It would be possible to say ‘flying pheasants’ springtime confusion’ (tatsu kigisu no haru madou), and this would ‘not require any criticism’, just as ‘crying, flying pheasants’ lodging’ does not. Furthermore, the Right’s final stanza, ‘Among the brushwood undergrowth’ (shiba no shitagusa) is ‘particularly pleasant’ and so the Right’s poem must be awarded the victory.

Spring II: 6

Left (Tie)


mina hito no
haru no kokoro no
narenuru nobe no
hana no kage kana
Everyone who
Loves the springtime
Come to
These familiar fields and rest
‘Neath the blossoms’ shade!

Lord Sada’ie.


Right (Tie)


soko tomo iwazu
hana no yado kase
nobe no uguisu
My friends,
Heedless of our place
Has darkness fallen:
Lend us your lodging ‘mongst the blooms,
O, warbler, in the fields!



Neither side has any comments to make about these two poems.

Shunzei says both poems possess a ‘scintillating beauty’, but wonders whether the Right’s hasn’t borrowed too heavily from the Monk Sosei’s poem:

Composed as a Spring Poem

Faru no yamabe ni
soko tomo iFanu
tabine sitesika
My friends,
In springtime in the mountain meadows
Did we gather,
Heedless of our place,
Wanted we to sleep out on our trip!

KKS II: 126

However, using the variation to borrow lodging from a warbler is, indeed, ‘scintillating’ and neither poems ‘sounds the least bit old-fashioned’. Hence, the round must be a tie.

Spring II: 5

Left (Win)


yado o kasumi no
yoso ni mite
kinō mo kyō
nobe ni kurashitsu
Capital folk of
Their homes, through the haze,
Catch a distant glimpse
Yesterday, and again today,
Have they spent among the fields.

A Servant Girl.




kore zo kono
haru no nobe yo to
miyuru kana
ōmiyabito no
For springtime in the fields
Is most apt, indeed:
Folk from the mighty palace
Gathering all together!



For once, the Right describe the Left’s poem as ‘moving’ and have no criticisms to make of it. The Left merely wonder whether ‘folk from the mighty palace’ are entirely suited to the fields.

Shunzei agrees that the construction of ‘Their homes, through the haze,/Catch a distant glimpse’ is particularly good, and that it cannot be said that ‘folk from the mighty palace’ are appropriate for the fields in springtime, but that if they are gathering together, it might be possible. However, in this theme the poet should not be looking on, but be part of the scene, so the Left’s poem must be the winner.

Spring II: 4

Left (Tie)


shiru shirazu
koto ari gao no
matoi kana
tsubana nuku no ni
kyô mo kurashitsu
Folk I know and strangers, both,
Purposefully have come
For music-making;
Gathering reed-ears from the meadow,
Today I’ll pass my day…

Lord Kanemune.


Right (Tie)


itsu shika to
ne no hi ni ideshi
haru no no o
sumire tsumu made
How quickly came
The Rat’s Day: I went out to
The springtime fields and,
Until violet-gathering season comes
Will I tread them down.

Lord Takanobu.


The Right say that it seems that people must have come for something more important than ‘field pleasures’ if they come ‘purposefully’, to which the Left respond that, of course, people take their field pleasures seriously, and suggest that the Right refer to the winning poem in the previous round. They then ask if reed ears don’t appear later in the season than violets, and so query whether the Right’s poem is appropriate at this stage in the contest.

Shunzei says merely that, ‘the comments by both teams are entirely appropriate’ and makes the round a tie.

Spring II: 2

Left (Win).


sumire tsumu ma ni
tobuhino no
kasumi no uchi ni
kyō mo kurashitsu
Gathered all together,
In picking violets,
On Tobuhi Plain
Amongst the haze
Have we spent this day…





kurenuru ka
iza kaerinan
haru no no no
matoi wa kyō ni
kagirubeki ka wa
Is dusk a’falling?
Well then, let’s be homeward bound.
Among the fields in Springtime,
Music, this day
Alone, will not sound.


The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office


The Right team state that the Left’s poem certainly expresses the conception [kokoro wa tashika nari] of ‘Field Pleasures’ but perhaps introduces the topic of ‘violets’ too early for this poetry competition’s sequence. The Left respond, ‘If the poem matches the conception for Field Pleasures [yayū no kokoto dani araba], the matter of timing is no great fault [fukaki toga naku]! The Right’s poem is more on the theme of ‘longing to be heading home’, than ‘Field Pleasures’, and the sentiment of the latter topic is weak [kokorozashi asashiki]’.

Shunzei judges that the Left’s poem seems well-constructed [utazama wa yoroshiki], but that the diction [kotoba] of using ma ni (‘while’) in the expression sumire tsumu ma ni (‘In picking violets’), is ‘undesirable’. The Right’s use of diction is charming [kotobazukai okashikaran], but the poem really is about longing to be off home. The Left’s final stanza is excellent [yoroshiki], and so their poem has to be the winner.

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: 28

Left (Win).


momoshiki ni
azusa yumi
haru mo tomone no
mezurashiki kana
By the hundredfold palace
Catalpa bows:
Sprung in springtime, bowstring on bracer:
How rare the sound!

Lord Suetsune




toneriko ga
tomo uchinarasu
azusa yumi
ite hikiwataru
haru wa kinikeri
The guardsmen lads’
Bracers sound;
Catalpa bows,
Drawn by archers:
Springtime is here, indeed!

Lord Takanobu


Again, the Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem this round, but the Left say the initial line of the Right’s poem is ‘unsatisfactory’. Shunzei, once again, agrees, remarking that, ‘the initial line sounds like the name of the tree used when referring to adding water to an ink-stone. Again, the Left is the winner.’ What he means by this is that toneriko, ‘guardsmen lads’ was homophonous with the word for ‘ash tree’. The old Japanese extracted a wax from ash trees, which was used to ease the running of sliding doors and shutters, and so by association, toneriko was used in poetry to refer to adding water to an ink-stone so that the ink, produced in solid sticks, would slide over it more easily. This image is inappropriate for a poem about the New Year Archery festival, and so the poem is of inferior quality, compared to the Left’s offering.

Spring I: 27

Left (Win).


azusa yumi
haru no kumoi ni
hibiku made
tomone ni kayou
mato no oto kana
Catalpa bows
In springtime round the cloud-borne palace
Bowstring on bracer and
Arrow on target – what a sound!

Lord Kanemune




azusa yumi
môke no ya ni ya
hate made kyô wa
atarinuru kana
Catalpa bows’
Spare arrows: will they
Be drawn, I wonder?
By this day’s end
All will have struck the target…

Lord Tsune’ie


The Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem, but the Left state that the initial section of the Right’s poem is ‘prosaic [heikai]’. Shunzei agrees, saying that the term ‘spare arrows’ is ‘unsuitable diction for poetry’ [uta kotoba ni yoroshikarazaru] and so the Left’s poem must be adjudged the winner.

Spring I: 11

Left (Tie).


ama no hara
haru tomo mienu
nagame kana
kozo no nagori no
yuki no akebono
Upon the plain of Heaven
Of Spring there is no sign
In sight:
A memento of the year that’s gone,
Snowfall with the dawning.

Lord Ari’ie


Right (Tie).


nagori ni wa
haru no tamoto mo
kasumi yori chiru
yuki no keshiki ni
The memento
Also upon my springtime sleeves
Stands clear:
Drifting from the haze,
A scene of snow.



In this round the Right team have no criticisms to make of the Left’s poem, but the Left query beginning a poem with ‘memento’, as the audience then immediately wonder, ‘A memento of what?’

Shunzei comments that the Left’s poem starts extremely well, but that, even though ‘in sight’ (nagame kana) has been frequently used in poetry recently, its spirit has yet to be fully determined, and so including it here must be considered a mistake. Furthermore, the concluding line, ‘snowfall with the dawning’ (yuki no akebono), has also been much used in recent poetry. As for the Right’s poem, he feels it ends extremely well, but echoes the criticism of the Left about the beginning. Thus, the best result for this round is a tie.