Ki no Tsurayuki’s “The fallen flowers weep” (Kokinshu #9)

Translation On snow falling Spring mist sweeps Through budding leaves, But in the village Where the snow fell The fallen flowers weep. Japanese Pronunciation きのつらゆき Ki no Tsurayuki 霞たち Kasumi tachi このめもはるの Ko no me mo haru no 雪ふれば Yuki fureba 花なきさとも Hana naki sato …

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Funya no Yasuhide’s “Touched by the light of a spring day” (Kokinshu #8)

Translation On the third day of the New Year, Empress Nijou, then known as the Mother of the Crown Prince, summoned Yasuhide to receive her requests. As he bowed before her, she saw snow falling on his head while the sun was shining. She ordered …

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Author unknown, “How deep was the dye of my longing” (Kokinshu #7)

Translation How deep was the dye Of my longing: A flower appeared, I went to pluck, And found just lingering snow. Commentary There was a note that said the former Chancellor, Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, may have written the poem. The poem describes the narrator having …

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Monk Sosei’s “Snow on the branches where the cuckoo sings” (Kokinshu #6)

Translation Poem of the snow that falls on trees As spring begins The white flowers we see May just be the snow On the bough Where the cuckoo sings Commentary From a distance, one cannot tell the difference between the white flowers on a mountain …

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Author unknown, “The cuckoo sings and cries” (Kokinshu #5)

Translation Spring begins though Snow is falling still: The cuckoo Sings a cry On the plum tree bough. Commentary This poem is set in the beginning of spring, though winter lingers through falling snow. The key wordplay here is “naku,” which can mean either “to …

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Fujiwara Takaiko’s “The bush warbler’s frozen tears” (Kokinshu #4)

Translation Nijou consort’s “beginning of spring” poem Spring begins In the midst of snow: Perhaps now, at last, The bush warbler’s Frozen tears will melt. Commentary Fujiwara Takaiko was the Consort of Emperor Seiwa. After an affair with the priest Zenyuu she was demoted, but …

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Unknown Author, “The snow is falling on beautiful Yoshino” (Kokinshu #3)

Translation Topic unknown Mount Yoshino— The snow is falling On beautiful Yoshino, Where the springtime Haze is far away. Commentary The poem works well as a literal interpretation of a beautiful snowfall on Mount Yoshino in spring while the humid mists are rising elsewhere. Because …

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Ki no Tsurayuki, “Spring wind begins today” (Kokinshu #2)

Translation Composed on the First Day of Spring Spring wind Begins today: The frozen water melts, I cup my hands And wet my sleeves. Commentary Derived from a passage in the Book of Rites, one of the five Confucian classics, “In spring’s first month, an …

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Basho’s “Inside the Mountain Temple”

Translation Inside the Mountain Temple A full bloom But outside, they do not know Japanese うち山や外様しらずの花盛り Pronunciation Uchiyama ya Tozama shira-zu no Hana-zakari Literal Notes [Inside Mountain = Uchiyama (temple in Nara)] Outsider/visitor-from-outside/non-Tokugawa-feudal-lord know not ’s Blossoms-in-full-bloom/blossom-viewing-party/a-woman’s-peak-beauty-age The Uchiyama Temple was an esoteric Buddhist sect …

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Retired Emperor Juntoku, “Hundreds of spreading stones” (Hyakunin Isshu #100)

Translation Poem by Retired Emperor Juntoku Hundreds of spreading stones The Palace’s ancient eaves, Remembering the climbing ferns— But still, there isn’t much Of the olden days… Original Japanese Pronunciation 順徳院御製 Juntoku In Gyosei 百敷や Momoshiki ya 古き軒端の Furuki nokiba no しのぶにも Shinobu ni mo …

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