Happy Summer 2021

One of my favorite poems of the Hyakunin Isshu anthology is also one of the first:

春過ぎてHaru sugiteSpring has passed, and
夏来にけらしnatsu ki ni kerashisummer has arrived, it seems
白妙のshiro tae noHeavenly Mount Kagu
衣ほすてふkoromo hosu chōwhere, it is said, they dry robes
天の香具山Ama no Kaguyamaof the whitest mulberry!
English translation by the excellent Joshua Mostow.

According to Professor Mostow, this poem in general causes a lot of headaches for commentators and translators over generations because of the confusing relation between certain lines. I love it because it shows a prime example of using “pillow words” or makura-kotoba in Japanese waka poetry, which are special, stock phrases. They also don’t really translate into English. However for those familiar with waka poetry, they evoke powerful imagery and many waka poems in antiquity use them. In this poem, the pillow word is the phrase shirotae 白妙, which evokes the images of pristine, white mulberry cloth (or paper).

More on the poem’s backstory, Mount Kagu and the author can be found here.

I hope you all get a chance to enjoy the summer a bit, even in trying times.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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