31shortyones11) the first is the best ― Sayaka envies Jaugo his uniquely exciting boyhood


11)(詠天)

そらのうみにくものなみたちつきのふねほしのはやしにこぎかくるみゆ

「空の海に雲の波立ち月の船星の林に漕ぎ隠る見ゆ」

柿本人麻呂(かきのもとのひとまろ)

♪(SING)♪

★the first is the best ― Sayaka envies Jaugo his uniquely exciting boyhood★

Jaugo: What do you say to this panoramic TANKA, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: I’ve never seen any TANKA…

Jaugo: …Like this before! You like this one, of course?

Sayaka: Of course! You agree with me, Jaugo-san?

Jaugo: Of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen it for exhibition. In fact, it’s one of my personal ALL-TIME BEST!

Sayaka: I’m really curious who wrote this?

Jaugo: None other than 柿本人麻呂(Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro), the greatest poet of 奈良時代(Nara period) and the holiest of the whole TANKA poets in Japan.

Sayaka: No wonder it sounds so unique; somewhat crude, maybe, but incredibly powerful. 男歌(otoko-uta = a manly song) I feel inclined to say.

Jaugo: Yeah, you hit the target right on… primitive and powerful, if not so elegant as Heianese TANKA. That’s the life-force of ancient TANKA in 奈良時代(Nara period), or should I say “万葉調短歌(Man-you-chou TANKA = poems in the style of 万葉集:Man-you-shuu)”… in the vocabulary of 賀茂真淵(Kamo-no-Mabuchi:1697-1769), it’s called “益荒男振り(masurao-buri = manly style)” as opposed to Heianese “手弱女振り(taoyame-buri = womanish style)”.

Sayaka: Is there any other such powerful sketch of Nature by 人麻呂(Hitomaro)?

Jaugo: I’m afraid this is one and only… there could be nothing like this even by 人麻呂(Hitomaro), let alone by others. It’s just like “Star Wars Episode IV”!

Sayaka: What?

Jaugo: “Episode IV: A New Hope” released for the first time in 1977 and took everyone by surprise by its wholly new description of the galactic saga… haven’t you ever seen “Star Wars” films?

Sayaka: No, I’ve only heard about them.

Jaugo: Aren’t you very interested in space adventure movies?

Sayaka: Not quite. I’m more attracted to the real McCoy.

Jaugo: A real action hero like Bruce Lee?

Sayaka: Yeah! Bruce Lee is the greatest! Jackie Chan is nearly as good. Sammo Hung also turns me on!

Jaugo: SUMOU fan?

Sayaka: Sammo Hung Kam-bo, who fought with Bruce Lee in the opening combat sequence of “Enter the Dragon”… He even paid homage to Bruce in a film called “Enter the Fat Dragon”!

Jaugo: Fat Dragon!… That’s why he is called “お相撲はん(o-SUMOU-han)”?

Sayaka: (…) SAMO_HUNG_KAM-BO… He is a little too fat, to be sure, but his speedy action is all the more superb for being SO FAT! Their action sequence is very real. I know it’s fictional, but they use their actual bodies to create spectacular combat scenes ― no wire work, no computer graphics ― real McCoy! That’s why I prefer their real action films to CG space adventures.

Jaugo: I know what you mean. OK, our personal preferences aside, there is one thing no one can deny ― that the first time is always the best; all those that follow, however refined, are mere imitators, no originator ― imitation can never exceed the original. And there is something that can only exist once, which will simply become meaningless or even foolish when repeated twice, like hordes of cheap imitative space operas following in the footsteps of “Star Wars”. This is such a poem ― the one and only one of the kind, denying the existence of any other imitation by anyone, even by 人麻呂(Hitomaro) himself.

Sayaka: I understand. This TANKA is attractive because it is perfectly original.

Jaugo: …Which means it is totally unique and almost unlike Japanese TANKA.

Sayaka: …Which means I was quite right in exclaiming “I’ve never seen any TANKA like this before!”

Jaugo: Absolutely. I’m glad we’ve come to an agreement.

Sayaka: Yeah!… Say, Jaugo-san, how about seeing classic kung fu films with me one of these days?

Jaugo: Featuring Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or… SOME-FUN?

Sayaka: SAMO_HUNG_KAM-BO. Let’s have some fun watching them fight without CG!

Jaugo: Mm… I’d guess not ― I’ve already seen them tons of times in my life!

Sayaka: Oh…! You cheated me into thinking you didn’t like them, then?

Jaugo: A man would never be a real man if he didn’t like or try to be like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung Kam-bo or Yuen Biao… in the 1970’s, that is.

Sayaka: So, you were a boy of the 70’s?

Jaugo: Boyhood in the sixties and seventies was full of such new experiences and new heroes that made you exclaim ― “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Sayaka: Wow, I envy you… so, you saw “Enter the Dragon” real time?! It sounds almost unfair to me!

Jaugo: Yeah, I agree, I feel sorry for you… what’s there that’s really new for you, girls of 2010s?

Sayaka: Please don’t try to make me any more miserable; I’m already feeling more than miserable… it’s really unfair!

Jaugo: Tough luck. That’s why I invite you to this series of poetic adventure with lots of TANKA you’ve never seen before. I hope it’s something of a compensation for you.

Sayaka: Yes, I’m grateful to you for that. I really enjoy it. Please keep on delighting me with such wholly new experiences, Jaugo-san!

Jaugo: All right. And please keep on exclaiming “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Sayaka: So long as you keep showing me a poem like this.

Jaugo: I will… So, until next time, so long.

Sayaka: Thank you. See you.


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11)(詠天)

そらのうみにくものなみたちつきのふねほしのはやしにこぎかくるみゆ

「空の海に雲の波立ち月の船星の林に漕ぎ隠る見ゆ」

『拾遺集』雑・四八八・(『万葉集』巻七)柿本人麻呂(かきのもとのひとまろ)(ca.660-c.720:男性)

(天空を詠んだ歌)

『夜空いっぱいに広がる大海原に、幾重にも立つ雲の波を乗り越えて、まばゆい光を放つ月の舟が漕ぎ進み、星々の森の中へと分け入って行くのが見える。』

(on the heavens)

In the vast oceans of the sky

On waves after waves of clouds

Sail the shiny vessel of the moon

Into the yonder starry forests.

そら【空】〔名〕<NOUN:the sky>

の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

うみ【海】〔名〕<NOUN:the sea, ocean>

に【に】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(PLACE):on>

…in the oceans of the sky

くも【雲】〔名〕<NOUN:the clouds>

の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

なみ【浪】〔名〕<NOUN:the waves>

たつ【立つ】〔自タ四〕(たち=連用形)<VERB:be stirred up, rise up>

…there stir up waves of clouds

つき【月】〔名〕<NOUN:the moon>

の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

ふね【舟】〔名〕<NOUN:the ship, vessel>

ほし【星】〔名〕<NOUN:the stars>

の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

はやし【林】〔名〕<NOUN:the forest, woods>

に【に】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(PLACE):into, towards>

こぐ【漕ぐ】〔他ガ四〕(こぎ=連用形)<VERB:row>

かくる【隠る】〔自ラ四〕(かくる=連体形)<VERB:hide away, conceal itself>

みゆ【見ゆ】〔自ヤ下二〕(みゆ=終止形)<VERB:I can see, it looks as if>

…a ship of the moon is seen to hide behind the forest of stars

《sora no umi ni kumo no nami tachi tsuki no fune hoshi no hayashi ni kogi kakuru miyu》


■人麻呂(Hitomaro) is only HITOMARO when authenticated in 万葉集(Man-you-shuu); otherwise, it’s possibly 他人放る(hito maru = shit of others pretending to be Hitomaro)■

 The author of this TANKA ― totally unlike Heianese poems in its crude yet powerful description of Nature without any subjective emotional reflection ― is 柿本人麻呂(Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro:ca.660-ca.720), who is called 詩聖(shisei = the holy poet) along with his contemporary 山部赤人(Yamabe-no-Akahito:??-ca.736), both of whom are representative of the crude yet powerful style TANKA of 『万葉集(Man-you-shuu)』, the oldest poetic anthology in Japan preceding 『古今集(Kokin-shuu)』(A.D.905) by a century.

 This panoramic representation of Nature is practically unseen in any TANKA made by poets of Heian period: Heianese poets were too subjective, reflective, intellectual, artistic and detail-oriented to sound like 人麻呂(Hitomaro). Since many presumptuous poets (and not a few sloppy editors) attributed to 柿本人麻呂(Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro)strange works of later years that appeared somewhat primitive and not unlike HITOMARO’s, caution is advised when you see any work entitled “伝 人麻呂(den Hitomaro = reportedly made by Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro)”. When the same work can be traced back to 『万葉集(Man-you-shuu)』, you can rest assured that it is an authentic piece by 柿本人麻呂(Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro) ― otherwise it should be taken with a grain of salt. Authentic TANKA by 人麻呂(Hitomaro) sounds essentially different from any Heianese poems… to the ears of authentic poets, that is.

 When 紀貫之(Ki-no-Tsurayuki), the greatest TANKA master of Heian period, consciously attempted to vie with 人麻呂(Hitomaro) in his panoramic description of Nature as seen from a ship at sea, he made a poem like this:

《てるつきのながるるみればあまのがは いづるみなとはうみにぞありける:teru tsuki no nagaruru mireba amanogawa izuru minato wa umi ni zo arikeru》『後撰集(Go-sen-shuu)』羈旅(Travel) No.1364

・・・照る月の(the moon shining from above)流るる(floating down the Galactic river)見れば(I look up to find)天の河(the Milky Way)出づる(coming out…)・・・

… so far so good, so much like 人麻呂(Hitomaro); but…

・・・出づる湊は海にぞありける(…coming out of the port of the ocean)

… in the end, 貫之(Tsurayuki) couldn’t resist turning intellectual ― as a Heianese poet should ― by likening “the sea” to “the port” out of which the heavenly vessel of “the moon” and its navigational route of “the Milky Way/Galactic river” both flowed out. As has been repeatedly pointed out in this series of lectures, Heianese poets rarely or never describe Nature as it is, instinctively trying to see natural objects as subjective reflections of human emotion or liken them to man-made artifacts.

 When 凡河内躬恒(Oushikouchi-no-Mitsune), 貫之(Tsurayuki)’s fellow editor of 『古今集(Kokin-shuu)』 looked up at the sky on the last day of June (by lunar calendar… the end of July on solar calendar) and tried to be as 人麻呂(Hitomaro)-like as possible, he rhymed out as follows:

《なつとあきとゆきかふそらのかよひぢは かたへすずしきかぜやふくらむ:natsu to aki to yukikau sora no kayoiji wa katae suzushiki kaze ya fuku ramu》『古今集(Kokin-shuu)』夏(Summer) No.168

・・・夏と秋と行き交ふ空の通ひ路は(at the crossroad of the heavens where Summer and Autumn cross over)

… good, good, a grand canvas on which to draw a 人麻呂(Hitomaro)-like picture of Nature; but…

・・・片方涼しき風や吹くらむ(is the wind blowing cool on one side, still hot on the other?… Never say “At the end of June? Are you a fool? It won’t even on 立秋(risshuu = the first day of Autumn) on July 9th!” ― remember: he is just playing on words.)

… 躬恒(Mitsune) ended up in a witty remark typical of Heianese TANKA yet absolutely unbecoming to 万葉調短歌(Man-you-chou TANKA = poetry in the style of 万葉集:Man-you-shuu).

 As years went on, Heianese TANKA became more and more detail-oriented, concentrating on the description of the finest points of natural objects with the scrutinizing eyes of Sherlock Holmes or an able naturalist:

《ささがにのすがくあさぢのすゑごとに みだれてぬけるしらつゆのたま:sasagani no sugaku asaji no sue goto ni midarete nukeru shiratsuyu no tama》『後拾遺集(Go-Shuui-shuu)』秋(Autumn) No.306 by 藤原長能(Fujiwara-no-Nagayoshi:949-1009)

・・・小蟹の巣懸く(spiders spread out their nets)浅茅(on the thatch)の末毎に(at the end of each of which)乱れて(shaking)貫ける(and penetrating)白露(are white drops of water)の玉(like so many pearls)

・・・Dwelling upon minute details, as you can see, is a time-honored tradition of Japan more than a millennium old.

 Another typical trait of the Japanese ― blatant duplication and repetition of something they have seen others successful in ― naturally gave rise to the following two TANKA, both made with 長能(Nagayoshi)’s TANKA above as the common template:

《あさぢはらはずゑにむすぶつゆごとに ひかりをわけてやどるつきかげ:asaji-hara sue-ba ni musubu tsuyu goto ni hikari wo wakete yadoru tsuki-kage》『千載集(Senzai-shuu)』秋(Autumn) No.296 by藤原親盛(Fujiwara-no-Chikamori)

・・・浅茅原(in the field where thatch plants grow)葉末に(at the end of each leaf of those numberless plants)結ぶ露(there is a tiny drop of dew)毎に(on each such dew)光を分けて(reflecting its due share)宿る月影(rests the light of the moon)

 The following TANKA was made by paying dual tribute to the Japanese tradition ― 1)it is a decorated carbon copy of those two poems above, 2)this plagiarism was shamelessly attributed to another legendary poet of early Heian era 蝉丸(Semi-maru):

《あきかぜになびくあさぢのすゑごとに おくしらつゆのあはれよのなか:akikaze ni nabiku asaji no sue goto ni oku shira-tsuyu no aware yononaka》『新古今集(Shin-Kokin-shuu)』雑(Miscellany) No.1850 伝 蝉丸(purportedly made by Semi-maru)

・・・秋風に靡く浅茅(thatch plants waving in the Autumnal wind)の末毎に(at the end of each of which)置く白露(there is a drop of water just like a white pearl)の哀れ世の中(just as tiny and ephemeral is the world that we humans live in)

 The Japanese had already been a different kind of nation 1,000 years ago from the simply naturalistic folks represented by 人麻呂(Hitomaro) and 赤人(Akahito) just a hundred years before. What brought about this drastic alteration in the early years of Heian period is an intriguing question: whatever the answer, there is little doubt that the modern Japanese are the direct descendants of the detail-oriented, copy-prone, originality-neglecting Heianese nobles… Did I sound too blatant? Pardon me for being so direct, it’s a possible echo of 人麻呂(Hitomaro)’s great Natural rhyme.


Having an English-speaking self within you is just like having a conversation partner like Sayaka-san/Jaugo-san beside you.
We provide you not with actual conversation partners, but we enable you to engage in intellectually enticing conversation with Sayaka-san/Jaugo-san(…no mean feat, isn’t it?)
===!CAUTION!===
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