Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Akazome Emon: Daisy Among Roses

I decided to write about a less well-known female poet by the name of Akazome Emon. She was a contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, Izumi Shikibu, and Sei Shonagon. Being surrounded by the previously mentioned poetic giants makes her easy to gloss over. She was a lady who served at court underneath some very influential people. Her poetry was featured in a few collections but she lacks the notoriety that her contemporaries still have. 
Can be found here

Her poetry is sound and interesting. I found a couple examples that I hope you enjoy and as always, these are my translations.


I should’ve slept soundly,
Relaxed and carefree...
Late into the night,
I gazed at the moon
As it finally set.

Akazome Emon

This poem is from the Hyakuninisshu or Collection of a Hundred Poems from a Hundred Poets. The collection was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika and it is one of the most famous poetry collections in Japan. Every Japanese person is aware of it and practically every Japanese student knows the card game associated with it, karuta.
Can  be found here

This poem is about a lady who believed the promise of a man who said he would visit her in the night. She waited all night and watched the moon until finally dawn came. The poem is a bit bitter but is elegant in its own way. The normal conventions are all there: the moon as a harbinger of loneliness and the late night romantic visits depicted in the Tale of Genji and the Tale of Ise.  The poem exemplifies the boredom and restlessness of women at the time who spent countless hours waiting for visits from unreliable men. Considering that men at the time usually had several mistresses outside of their marriage and had 100% control over who they visited and communicated with, it’s an understandable sentiment.
Can be found here



Fields of autumn,
When I see the flowers,
My heart, it feels like
It’s completely content, or maybe
It yearns to leave me forever.

Akazome Emon

This poem was very difficult for me to translate because of the last two lines:
They both pertain to her heart which is introduced in the third line but have contrasting meanings. I had to consult this website to help with the translation. I’m still a beginner with traditional Japanese but I can notice that the two lines are practically identical except for the first word: ゆく(yuku) and とまる(tomaru). Yuku is an old fashioned way to write Iku which means “to go” and tomaru (same as modern Japanese) means “to stop”. From what I read, the first line has the meaning of complete satisfaction and contentment, and the second line has a similar meaning but means literally that her heart wants to stop or stay in this field.
So actually both lines have essentially the same meaning but she is contrasting two opposing verbs. Very tricky lady...

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