Friday, July 6, 2012

Fun'ya no Yasuhide: Tricky Dick

Can be found here

Fun’ya no Yasuhide is a less well-known waka poet but he is listed as one of Ki no Tsurayuki's Six Best Waka Poets. There are only a couple of details from Yasuhide's life that we know. First, he died in 885 A.D. which makes him one of the founding fathers of waka. He also apparently had an affair with Ono no Komachi. That's about all we know. He has only 5 poems featured in the Kokinshuu so even if he was so respected he may have only contributed a small amount of work. Ki no Tsurayuki described his poems as having style but lacking in content. I have neutral opinion on this. His poetry does have some nice wordplay but can also be quite deep. As always these are all my translations. Enjoy!



The warming light
Of spring sunshine
Is not enough
To melt the frosty snow
Upon my head.

Fun’ya no Yasuhide

This poem contains the metaphor "かしらの雪" which literally means "head snow". Snow on one's head refers to gray hair which of course represent old age. The poem was apparently written as a reaction to a very young crown prince taking the reign as the emperor of Japan and even the blessing from a such a youthful emperor ("warming light of spring sunshine") was not enough to "melt" the gray hair from his head. 



Suddenly the wind blows,
The trees and grasses wither
On this autumn day,
Indeed those mountain winds
Wreak havoc like a storm.

Fun’ya no Yasuhide

 This poem is interesting because of its intriguing wordplay and it is featured in Fujiwara no Teika's Hyakuninisshu or"Hundred Poems from a Hundred Poets.In the poem, "山風", yamakaze, literally means "mountain wind" but then look at the character for storm: "" arashi. It is really a combination of the two characters. The last line of the poem reads: "arashi to ifuramu" which means something like "It is indeed called a storm." So the mountain wind alludes to a storm but then there is further wordplay because arashi also means "havoc" or "disaster". 

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