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March 28, 2016

Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each): Poem 13 (Emperor Yozei)

Hyakunin Isshu, Poem 13

Tsukuba ne no
mine yori otsuru
Minanogawa
koi zo tsumorite
fuchi to narinuru


  Like the River Mina
falling down from the peak
of Mount Tsukuba,
so my longing has grown
into a deepening pool.

筑波嶺の
峰より落つる
みなの川
恋ぞつもりて
淵となりぬる

The Retired Emperor Yozei (868-949)

[Mount Tsukuba]

As time goes by, the poet's love grows deeper, like the deep pools in a river, which starts as a small trickle, but then expands into a wild stream.

The poet, Emperor Yozei (868-949), reigned from 876 to 884, as a child emperor. He was forced to abdicate by Regent Fujiwara no Mototsune and replaced by Emperor Koko, a son of Emperor Ninmyo. The histories transmit several anecdotes about Yozei's cruelty and mental instability, but these should probably be taken with a large grain of salt, for (as so often happened in Chinese and Japanese historiography) they may be fabrications to justify the forced abdication and whitewash the action by the Fujiwara powermonger.

After he had abdicated, Yozei led a very long life, and he often organized poetry gatherings. However, the present poem is the sole one with which he is represented in the imperial anthologies. In the Gosenshu anthology, this poem is accompanied by a head note reading "Sent to the Princess of the Tsuridono."

The "Princess of the Tsuridono" has been identified as Suishi, the daughter of Emperor Koko; the princess indeed did become the wife of Ex-Emperor Yozei, so this poem can be considered as a rare example of a love poem that actually was effective!

Mt Tsukuba stands in central Ibaraki Prefecture and has two peaks, Nantaisan and Nyotaisan. It is already sung about in the 7th c. Manyoshu. Its height is 876 meters; the Tsukuba Shrine is located on the mountain. As the mountain with its characteristic shape can be seen from afar in mainly flat Ibaraki, it is a famous landmark.

This poem uses the technique of jo-kotoba, a preface, consisting of the first three lines. "Fuchi" is a deep pool in a body of water.

[Same poem in Gosenshu 776]
References: Pictures of the Heart, The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image by Joshua S. Mostow (University of Hawai'i Press, 1996); Traditional Japanese Poetry, An Anthology, by Steven D. Carter (Stanford University Press, 1991); Hyakunin Isshu by Inoue Muneo, etc. (Shinchosha, 1990); Genshoku Hyakunin Isshu by Suzuki Hideo, etc. (Buneido, 1997); Ogura Hyakunin Isshu at Japanese Text Initiative (University of Virginia Library Etext Center); Hyakunin Isshu wo aruku by Shimaoka Shin (Kofusha Shuppan); Basho's Haiku (2 vols) by Toshiharu Oseko (Maruzen, 1990); The Ise Stories by Joshua S. Mostow and Royall Tyler (University of Hawai'i Press, 2010); Kokin Wakashu, The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry by Helen Craig McCullough (Staford University Press, 1985); Kokinshu, A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern by Laurel Rasplica Rodd and Mary Catherine Henkenius (University of Tokyo Press, 1984); Kokin Wakashu (Shogakkan, 1994); Shinkokin Wakashu (Shogakkan, 1995); Taketori Monogatari-Ise Monogatari-Yamato Monogatari-Heichu Monogatari (Shogakkan, 1994).
Hyakunin Isshu Introduction - Poem 1 - Poem 2 - Poem 3 - Poem 4 - Poem 5 - Poem 6 - Poem 7 - Poem 8 - Poem 9 - Poem 10 - Poem 11 - Poem 12 - Poem 13 - Poem 14 - Poem 15 - Poem 16 - Poem 17 - Poem 18 - Poem 19 - Poem 20 -