Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First Day of Autumn




This was composed on the first day of autumn when some courtiers took a trip to Kamo river.

There is a chill
In the breeze from the river,
As the waves break on the shore
It almost feels like
Autumn arrives with them.


This is the second poem in the first volume dealing with autumn in the Kokinshuu. The author's full name is Ki no Tsurayuki and he is the compiler of the entire Kokinshuu and thus the most famous poet in the Kokinshuu. I like this poem in particular but it's important to realize that poems in this collection can be analyzed microscopically as well as macroscopically. What I mean by that is that you can analyze and dissect each individual poem for the kakekotoba ("pivot word", like a double entendre) or makura kotoba ("pillow word", this references a famous place in Japanese literature or history).  
By macroscopically I mean that you look at the whole series of poems together and decipher a pattern. Ki no Tsurayuki spent a lot of creative energy not only to compose his own poetry and pick quality poems from other authors but he also arranged them in a way that flowed nicely and contributed aesthetically to the collection as a whole.
This poem or waka in particular is nice but I don't think it has any kakekotoba or makura kotoba or even metaphorical language. It does have some nice imagery though. I like the combination of chillness and the coming of autumn. It's very fitting. Another nice aspect of this poem is that if you look at the original Japanese the two principal verbs are うち寄する and 立つ which mean to break or fall (onto the shore) and to rise or stand up respectively. I like the image of the waves of the river falling onto the shore with the essence (chillness) of autumn arising from it. It's a nice juxtaposition which I found difficult to convey in the English translation.  

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