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31shortyones08) straight into the speaker's heart & too much of something is no good news ― Sayaka becomes aware of the meaning of honesty & genius






★straight into the speaker’s heart & too much of something is no good news ― Sayaka becomes aware of the meaning of honesty & genius★

Jaugo: Here comes the firefly again, only this time glowing much more conspicuously than the last one. How do you like it?… or, hate it, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: I’ve never seen any TANKA like this before.

Jaugo: Glad to hear you say that again… so, you like it?

Sayaka: Much more than that… I’m… carried away by this poem.

Jaugo: To where? At the scene of the poem, on the bank of 御手洗川(Mitarashi river)?

Sayaka: Straight into the heart of the poet… or in the middle of countless fireflies. No word for my feeling… it’s just… POETRY!

Jaugo: Convenient exclamation.

Sayaka: How do YOU express it, Jaugo-san?

Jaugo: Mm… I have my own expression, all right, but I’d rather hear it from YOUR mouth, Sayaka-san. You said, this poem has carried you away straight into the heart of the poet, or…?

Sayaka: Or straight into the middle of countless fireflies.

Jaugo: Great! You never fail to hit the target… right in the middle of an open book like this poem.

Sayaka: Open book?

Jaugo: Yes, it’s quite open, nothing hidden, no rhetoric, no allusion, no pretense, no consciousness whatsoever of what others may say when they see it; she expresses just what she feels at the sight of the glimmering clouds of wandering fireflies. This poem is an open book, as open as the first page of the first diary that a small child writes down on a sheet of paper, without thinking about the eyes of others who may see it… and yet, it IS poetry. Without any pretentious technique, she has made POETRY of her own feelings ― that’s the authentic genius.

Sayaka: Genius… who was this poet… 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu)? Do you think she was a genius?

Jaugo: A genius is just another convenient term I hate very much, but… she IS a genius, I admit.

Sayaka: Why do you hate the term “genius”?

Jaugo: For many reasons: for one thing, it denies the personal struggle of a human being behind an apparently superhuman achievement; secondly, it prevents us from trying to delve deeper into what it is that has made the achievement so magnificent; thirdly, it precludes you from trying to achieve as much or even more than the “genius” you admire ― Who are you to aspire to be greater than a “genius”?… the moment you admit the existence of “genius”, you are for ever destined to remain “sub-genius”, an ordinary human being incapable of doing anything really great… Shall we continue?

Sayaka: Uh… yes, please.

Jaugo: Um… no, let’s not talk about “genius” any more. We should instead delve into what 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) did in this particular poem, right?

Sayaka: Yes.

Jaugo: Is she using “fireflies” as a metaphor, like the poems I introduced in the previous episode… the way 藤原高遠(Fujiwara-no-Takatou) or 源重之(Minamoto-no-Shigeyuki) or 紫式部(Murasaki-shikibu) did in their firefly poems?

Sayaka: I don’t think so. They sound different from this poem by 和泉(Izumi).

Jaugo: Different, good,… in what way? Can you describe the difference?

Sayaka: (…) Compared with this poem by Izumi, they all sound… fake… oh no, I’m going too far again…

Jaugo: It’s OK, you can be as direct and honest as you will… before me, that is, not in front of others. Between you and me, you don’t have to hesitate to say anything that comes to your mind, for honesty is the mother of correct interpretation. But if I were to rephrase for you, those firefly TANKA by 高遠(Takatou) or 重之(Shigeyuki) or 紫式部(Lady Murasaki) were just paying elegant homage to the original TANKA rhymed out of the pure heart of that small servant-girl who was in premature love with the magnificent Prince Atsuyoshi(敦慶親王) in 『大和物語(Yamato-monogatari)』.

Sayaka: That was a charming one, I love it.

Jaugo: I’d guess you do… because it’s so purely honest.

Sayaka: Yes… ah, the degree of honesty ― that’s what makes that small servant-girl’s poem and this great one by Izumi completely different from the rest. These two are honest, coming right out of the heart of the girl in love and the woman… deserted by her lover?

Jaugo: The 詞書(kotoba-gaki = annotation) says so.

Sayaka: When a woman is lost in love, does she feel her own heart wandering off out of her body into the air… to sadly glimmer in the form of fireflies?

Jaugo: Please don’t ask me, Sayaka-san, do I look like a woman?

Sayaka: No. But you sometimes look as if you came straight out of 『大鏡(Oo-kagami)』, so… I thought you might know everything.

Jaugo: Even the wise old men in 『大鏡(Oo-kagami)』 living more than one hundred years wouldn’t know everything… especially when it comes to feminine psychology. I’d rather ask you, Sayaka-san, haven’t you ever felt like Izumi says she did ― in a kind of trance due to some quite shocking circumstances overwhelming you?

Sayaka: (…) I once felt I was at the end of my life when I…

Jaugo: …Would you mind telling me when?

Sayaka: When I was… too ignorant to know that I was a woman… you know what I mean?

Jaugo: Uh-huh… you mean… you turned pale and gray after you saw… red?

Sayaka: Yes… I was really shocked. I felt the world around me starting to whirl and falling down upon me.

Jaugo: Did you faint?

Sayaka: I almost did.

Jaugo: That must have been quite an experience for you, Sayaka-san.

Sayaka: It sure was… I’m embarrassed why I’m telling you this…

Jaugo: Because you felt you could be honest before me… but I would refrain from too much personal stories like this in front of other people if I were you.

Sayaka: I never would, just before you, Jaugo-san… what were we talking about by the way?

Jaugo: About shocking circumstances for women, so shocking that she feels her heart and mind deserting her body to wander off into the air and gleam in the form of fireflies… do you think this is no exaggeration, the very true feeling of Izumi when she was deserted by a man?

Sayaka: Yes. Although I don’t know anything about the personal life of 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu), this poem appeals so directly to my heart, which means the emotion must be real.

Jaugo: You said it right ― if the emotion is real, the poem must sound real… if the poem sounds not so real, it’s something other than emotion that the poem tries to present. Most Heianese TANKA are not so much emotional as… how should I say… artistic, rhetorical, pedantic… anyway, purely personal emotion that makes such direct appeal to the heart of modern readers as this poem by 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) is quite rare to find among Heianese TANKA.

Sayaka: That’s what makes this poem quite unique, I see.

Jaugo: When other Heianese poets refer to fireflies, they just use the term “蛍(hotaru = fireflies)” as a poetical trigger.

Sayaka: Poetical trigger?

Jaugo: A trigger is a mechanical device of a gun that you pull to fire a bullet out of the muzzle. Just a little squeeze on the poetical trigger of 蛍(hotaru = fireflies) will go off with a muzzle flash ― faint gleam of fireflies in the dark ― which then ignites the memory in the reader’s mind that the faint silent glow of fireflies stands for “speechless affection burning secretly at heart”… all this process happens as a kind of intellectual chain reaction. There can be considerable time lag between the gleam and your reaction; there will even be no reaction at all if you are ignorant of the metaphorical significance of the gleam of fireflies. Do you think this particular poem by 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) calls for such chain reaction?

Sayaka: No. It acts on my feeling much more directly.

Jaugo: Yes, that’s the difference. The 蛍(hotaru = fireflies) in this TANKA by Izumi is no poetical trigger ― it’s at once gunpowder and the muzzle flash that explodes as soon as the poem concludes itself: it needs no esoteric knowledge about Heianese 蛍(hotaru = fireflies) being an icon for secretly burning love. There is no need for you to “react”, for you have already been drawn directly into the poetic trance Izumi presents you as a vicarious experience of her own disconcerted circumstances where she feels completely at a loss what to do after she is deserted by the man.

Sayaka: The poem moves us because it’s the real-life story of 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu)?

Jaugo: I think so. Although I don’t mean to say the rest of Heianese TANKA are not based upon the real-life emotions of the poets, the nature of “real” ― “the degree of honesty” as Sayaka-san says ― is on a different level in the case of 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu). She did not hesitate to expose herself in a poem.

Sayaka: She was an honest poet?

Jaugo: Yes, as much or even more honest than you are, Sayaka-san. She was far more honest than the rest of Heianese poets, the only exception being 西行法師(Saigyou-houshi) at the beginning of 鎌倉時代(Kamakura period). She was even as honest as any modern poets whose job it is to expose themselves to the world in as queer and fashionable a way as they could possibly make them out to be… often to the bewilderment of all those who see and scorn them away. 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) was different from those laughable modern exhibitionists in that she was always beautiful in her exposure. She was not afraid to become naked in her poems, as it were, and the readers were eager to see her naked, too… in poems, as much as many men of the day wanted to see her naked in her room, too.

Sayaka: Was 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) a prostitute!?

Jaugo: No, no. Yet she was certainly one of the most scandalous women of the day who would, today, regularly appear on the front pages of gossip newspapers. She was the daughter of a middle-ranking officer 大江雅致(Oue-no-Masamune), possibly serving as a small girl-servant with 昌子内親王(Shoushi-naishinnou), wife of 冷泉天皇(Emperor Reizei), according to some legends. In adolescence, she first got married to a moderately wealthy nobleman called 橘道貞(Tachibana-no-Michisada) at perhaps eighteen; her name 和泉(Izumi) is taken from the region to which her husband was assigned as an Imperial officer.

Sayaka: Did that man ― 橘道貞(Tachibana-no-Michisada) desert her?

Jaugo: Yes.

Sayaka: Why did he desert such a talented woman? Was too much talent to blame, I wonder.

Jaugo: Too much beauty along with her poetic genius, I should say.

Sayaka: Was she that beautiful?

Jaugo: Judging from her wondrous love affairs, she must have been irresistibly attractive as a woman as well as incredibly excellent as a poet.

Sayaka: Was she involved in so many love affairs?

Jaugo: She was the wife of two different men, and was a concubine of two noble princes of 冷泉(Emperor Reizei), 為尊(Tametaka) and his brother 敦道(Atsumichi), and was known to have intimate relationship with several other men.

Sayaka: (…) All because she was deserted by 橘道貞(Tachibana-no-Michisada)?

Jaugo: Her divorce with the first husband might have been a trigger, but not the cause of her succeeding adventures and misadventures, I suppose. Gunpowder, and that extremely explosive gunpowder, was within 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) herself.

Sayaka: Unparalleled beauty and poetic genius?

Jaugo: Excessive gift in any one field often has a way of being compensated for by corresponding deficiency in something else.

Sayaka: …I’m curious, are you excessively poor at something, Jaugo-san?

Jaugo: Oh… you took my word for it, Sayaka-san, and you seem to take me for an excessively gifted man in some way, thank you very much. OK, in token of my gratitude ― I’m very poor in material possessions, does that satisfy your curiosity?

Sayaka: Oh… honestly?

Jaugo: Honestly. I’m a very poor man indeed from material point of view, in accordance with my considerable intellectual achievement, I should say. Does that seem fair to you?

Sayaka: No, it’s unfair… you should be more… rewarded.

Jaugo: Rewarded with what? Money?

Sayaka: Yes… are you really poor?

Jaugo: Wha
t reason is there for me to pretend to be poor before you: you ain’t no taxman. Are you unhappy to find yourself talking with such a poor man?

Sayaka: No, that’s not what I mean… I mean… you are going to be a richer man, I’m sure.

Jaugo: I agree with you on that: in fact, I could hardly be a poorer man.

Sayaka: No, I just wanted to say, in view of your great ability to teach, you should find no trouble gaining money.

Jaugo: Gaining money is not in my specialties, I’m afraid. Besides, money goes to those who most want it, not to those who most need it or deserve it. To be honest with you, I find myself at odds with money, and with all those who admire money… I hope you are not one of them.

Sayaka: No, I’m not… I just…

Jaugo: You just wanted to know if what I told you was true ― that too much plus in one thing tends to be balanced with corresponding minus in another: I think I have shown it to be very true, now that I have shown you the excessively unworldly part of me, in a rather dramatic way… did this lesson make you afraid, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: I was… a little embarrassed, honestly. Do you really hate money?

Jaugo: Not quite, when it gets attracted to me, not me to it. I’m just not so much attracted to money as I’m attracted to many other things, some other people, including you, of course.

Sayaka: Thank you. I’m relieved to hear that. And thanks for the very impressive lesson.

Jaugo: You mean, the plus/minus going hand-in-hand theory?

Sayaka: Yes. It was quite impressive for me.

Jaugo: Impression is a queer thing: an ordinary impression a minute ago will totally erase a greater impression ten minutes ago… do you remember how much impressed you were by the genuine glow of genius we found in the firefly TANKA by 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu)?

Sayaka: Yes, of course, but… yes, you are right, it seems to me to have been a lesson of yesterday.

Jaugo: Too much of something is not necessarily a good thing, you see?

Sayaka: I see.

Jaugo: So, in order to save some good things for next time, shall we say ― so much for today?

Sayaka: Yes, thank you very much. See you soon.








(on fireflies flying around Mitarashi river near Kifune, where the author paid a visit when she was deserted by a man)

As I wander around mountain streams,

Lost in thought on fruitless love,

Is it my soul evading my body

Glittering in the dark in the form of fireflies?

もの【物】〔名〕<NOUN:various things>

おもふ【思ふ】〔他ハ四〕(おもへ=已然形)<VERB:think about, ponder, brood over>

ば【ば】〔接助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(TIME):when, as, while>

…as I get lost in thought

さは【沢】〔名〕<NOUN:the waterside, riverside, quagmire>



も【も】〔係助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(ADDITION):even, the very, also, too>

…even fireflies at the riverside

わ【我】〔代名〕<PRONOUN:I, me, myself>

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

み【身】〔名〕<NOUN:the body, flesh>

より【より】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(PLACE):from, out of>

あくがれいづ【憬れ出づ】〔自ダ下二〕(あくがれいづる=連体形)<VERB:wander off, split off>

たま【魂】〔名〕<NOUN:my spirit, soul>




みる【見る】〔他マ上一〕(みる=連体形係り結び)<VERB:it seems, it looks as if, I feel as though>

…look as if they were [burning bright fueled by] my soul wandering off from my body

《mono omoe ba sawa no hotaru mo waga mi yori akugare izuru tama ka to zo miru》

■Japanese legends ― genuine and fake■

 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) is arguably the greatest superstar in the world of Heianese TANKA: her talent for appealing to the reader’s imagination by clever use of words was simply unparalleled in itself, and in such personally emotive poems as this firefly TANKA, her literary genius was doubly brilliant when her personal life ― well-known (in a scandalous way) among Heianese nobles ― was overlapped with the poetic representation of her inner world. In this sense, she was somewhat like a superstar of the modern world: her unique popularity is not just due to the greatness of her songs alone ― our emotional commitment to the ups and downs of her personal life makes us love her, along with her poems, still more deeply and personally. The way we love 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) is not unlike the way we love John Lennon(1940-1980): to know them is to love them ― to love their songs is to live their lives in a vicarious guided tour offered to us in such forms as “fireflies(ca.1001)” or “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band(1970)”… We may be able to love the songs of 紀貫之(Ki-no-Tsurayuki) without ever caring about who wrote them; such non-personal appreciation is simply impossible with quite a lot of songs by 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) or John Lennon… and 西行法師(Saigyou-houshi:1118-1190). We can’t feel deeply involved in their songs without personally empathizing with the joys and sorrows of their own lives.

 Such personally attractive power of 和泉式部(Izumi-shikibu) and 西行法師(Saigyou-houshi) understandably gave rise to hordes of unattractive side stories at the hands of less-than-creative, totally unimaginative and utterly unworthy writers of later years. This particular TANKA in 『後拾遺集(Go-Shuui-shuu)』 is accompanied by the following “reply song from the god of 貴布禰明神(Kifune myoujin)” presumptuously added by the editor… so much for the perfect poetic beauty of Izumi:

おほんかへし(ohon-kaeshi = a benevolent reply from the god)

《おくやまにたぎりておつるたきつせの たまちるばかりものなおもひそ:okuyama ni tagirite otsuru taki-tsu-se no tama chiru bakari mono na omoi so》『後拾遺集(Go-Shuui-shuu)』雑(Miscellany) No.1165

(この歌は貴布禰の明神の御返しなり。男の声にて和泉式部が耳に聞えけるとなむ言ひ伝へたる:kono uta wa Kifune no myoujin no kaeshi nari. otoko no koe nite Izumi-shikibu no mimi ni
kikoekeru to namu iitsutaetaru = This rhyme is the reply from the god of Kifune which, as the legend goes, was heard ringing in the ears of Izumi-shikibu in the voice of a male human)

御返し(ohon kaeshi = in reply)

奥山に(deep in the mountain)滾りて落つる(water keeps running down with a loud splash)瀧つ瀬の(at the edge of a waterfall)玉/魂散るばかり(like such drops of water splashing away into the air, you say your soul seems to wander away from you and crash)物な思ひそ(stop torturing yourself with such self-destroying worries)

・・・Such cheaply abundant voices of gods on paper in Japan have almost made it impossible or meaningless to try to truly appreciate the genius of such great creators as 柿本人麻呂(Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro), in the floods of so many fake TANKA by “伝 人麻呂(would-be-HITOMAROs)” shamelessly littering the world of TANKA… it is so hard for authentic charisma to survive intact in this country which didn’t (and DOESN’t) pay honest respect for original creativity.

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?)
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