Saturday, May 2, 2009

The heart of fickle flowers and lovers...

Sorry for the delay, this week! Today we'll be looking at poem 101 from the second
Book of Spring Poems of the Kokin wakashuu.


Kanpyou ontokikisai no miya no utaawase no uta

saku hana ha chikusa nagara ni adanaredo dare kaha haru wo uramihatateru
Fujiwara no Okikaze

A poem from the poetry meet in the fifth year of Kanpyou (893) at the Imperial Court

Despite how swiftly / every blooming flower / scatters here and there / who could hardly bear a grudge / for the spring that brings them forth

Fujiwara no Okikaze


As noted in my previous post, poems grouped into the seasonal books often have multiple meanings completely unrelated to the actual season. In the last poem by Ki no Tsurayuki, we explored the implications of its metaphors in relation to his daughter's death. Today's poem also carries an additional metaphorical meaning, although of a romantic nature. As I believe I've mentioned before, the idealized development of love in classical Japanese literature is not dissimilar to that of the development of the seasons through the year. Let's look more closely at poem 101 of the Kokin wakashuu to see an example.

Taken at face value, the poet, Fujiwara no Okikaze, is extolling the beauty of the spring flowers and expressing lamentation of their inevitable scattering. However, the editors have illuminated an interesting dimension of the poem. While the poet is clearly saddened by the thought of the flowers' scattering, he's expressing, in so many words, the old adage: "'Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all." While this sentiment is overtly about the flowers, its double meaning becomes more obvious as we look more closely at the poem.

The editors point out that the "every blooming flower scatters here and there" is a metaphor for the flightiness of the human heart. So, while the flowers must eventually scatter and the hearts of our lovers are so fickle, who can begrudge the spring (or love) for bringing the flowers and our lovers. Whether in spring or in love, all the beauty we see and experience inevitably ends, but the poet does not hold ill will and cannot imagine anyone else would either.

Personally, I think it's a wonderful sentiment, and I hope you'll agree with me!


Thanks for reading today! See you Monday.

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