Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

December 5, 2016

Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each): Poem 22 (Fun'ya no Yasuhide)

Hyakunin Isshu, Poem 22

fuku kara ni
aki no kusaki no
shiorureba
mube yama kaze o
arashi to iuran
    
吹くからに
秋の草木の
しをるれば
むべ山風を
あらしといふらむ

as soon as it blows
autumn grasses and shrubs
whither - this must indeed be
why the mountain wind
is called "the wrecker"

Fun'ya no Yasuhide (? - 885)


[Grasses of autumn - susuki grass
- photo Wkipedia]

This is a rather artificial poem, written at a poetry contest ("at Prince Koresada's Residence"), playing upon the fact that the kanji for "arashi" 嵐 (storm) is written by combining two other kanji, that for "mountain" written above that for "wind."

Various kanji and word games were popular in Chinese poetry of the Six Dynasties period (220-589), and became known in Japan through the authoritative anthology of Chinese literature, the Wenxuan ("Selections of Refined Literature," ca. 530, Monzen in Japanese), which was required reading for the Japanese aristocracy of the Heian period. By the time of the compiler of the Hyakunin Isshu, however, such playful poetry had completely lost favor and a greater seriousness was expected from poets, so probably on purpose in the Hyakunin Isshu version of this poem the word "arashi" is not written in kanji, but in hiragana script, and moreover, Fujiwara no Teika interpreted "arashi" as the noun of the verb "arasu," "to wreck, to ravage." In that way, a poem that originally was based on a rebus-like ideograph play, was transformed into a lament about the desolate feeling of weather-beaten autumn fields. My translation follows this second meaning.

[Fun'ya no Yasuhide]

Fun'ya no Yasuhide was counted as one of the Six Poetic Immortals, although only six of his poems have been transmitted to us. He lived around the same time as Narihira (poem 17) and legends have it that he was involved in a relationship with Ono no Komachi (poem 9) - in reality, nothing is known about his life. The preface to the Kokinshu criticizes his word games as "Yasuhide used words skillfully, but his words do not match the content. His poetry is like a merchant dressed up in elegant clothes."

[Kokinshu 249]
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); Hyakunin Isshu, Ocho waka kara chusei waka e by Inoue Muneo (Chikuma Shoin, 2004); 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 (Stanford 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 - Poem 21 - Poem 22 - Poem 23 - Poem 24 - Poem 25 -