japonisme: before break dancing

09 July 2009

before break dancing

from THE TALES OF ISE (Ise Monogatari)

In the past, there was a prince known as Prince Koretaka. He had a palace at a place called Minase, on the far side of Yamazaki. Every year when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, he went to that palace. On those occasions he always took along a person who was the director of the right imperial stables. It was long ago and I have forgotten his name.

Not enthusiastic about hunting, they just drank saké continuously and turned to composing poems in Japanese. The cherry blossoms at the Nagisa residence in Katano, where they often hunted, were especially beautiful. They dismounted under the trees, and breaking off blossoms to decorate themselves, everyone, of high, middle, and low rank, composed poems. The director of the stables composed this:

If only this world
were without cherry blossoms
then would our hearts
be at ease
in springtime.

Another person composed this:

It is because they fall soon
that the cherry blossoms
are so admired.
What can stay long
in this fleeting world?

When they left the trees to return to Minase, it already was dark. The prince's attendants came from the fields with servants bringing the saké. Seeking out a good place to drink it, they came to a place called Amanokawa. The director of the stables gave the prince a cup of saké. The prince said, “When you hand me the cup, compose a poem on coming to the banks of Amanokawa after hunting at Katano.” The director of the stables composed this and handed it to him:

I've spent the day hunting
and now will seek lodging
from the Weaver Maid
for I have come
to the River of Heaven.

The prince recited this over and over but could not come up with a response. Ki no Aritsune was attending the prince. He responded:

She who waits patiently
for a lord who comes
but once a year
will not, I am sure,
lodge any other.

They went back to Minase, and the prince entered his palace. They drank and conversed until deep in the night, and then the prince prepared to sleep, somewhat drunk. As the moon of the eleventh day of the month began to sink behind the mountains, the director of the stables composed this:

How can the moon
hide itself
before we are satisfied?
I wish the mountain rim would flee
so the moon might stay in view.

In place of the prince, Ki no Aritsune replied:

I wish the peaks
one and all
might be leveled:
if there were no mountain rims
the moon would not hide.

Narihira (Ariwara no Narihira) (825–80)

translation by Lewis Cook and Jamie Newhard

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5 Comments:

Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Oh, I like this! Did you see my post about the film, "Cherry Blossom?" They are companion pieces in a way.

10 July, 2009 22:32  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

I linked this post to the film review I just mentioned.

10 July, 2009 22:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Sake Veritas! d

11 July, 2009 03:46  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you princess -- it sounds wonderful.

11 July, 2009 12:37  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

d -- bien sur.

11 July, 2009 12:38  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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