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Five poems from the Man’yoshu

One of the great poets of Japan

(Translation by Ian Hideo Levy)

  • (7)
  • I remember
  • our temporary shelter
  • by Uji’s Palace ground,
  • when we cut the splendid grass
  • on the autumn fields
  • and sojourned under thatch.
  • (8)
  • Wanting to board ship
  • in Nikita Harbor,
  • we have waited for the moon,
  • and now the tides too are right—
  • let us cast off!
  • (9)
  • Gazing afar
  • over the stilled waves in the cover,
  • my husband stands there
  • beneath the divine oak.
  • (16)
  • When spring comes
  • bursting winter’s bonds
  • birds that were still
  • come out crying
  • and flowers that lay unopening
  • split into blossoms.
  • But, the hillsides being overgrown,
  • I may go among the foliage
  • yet cannot pick those flowers.
  • The grass being rank,
  • I may pick
  • yet cannot examine them.
  • Looking at the leaves of the trees
  • on the autumn hillsides,
  • I pick the yellowed ones
  • and admire them,
  • leaving the green ones
  • there with a sigh.
  • That is my regret.
  • But the autumn hills are for me.
  • (20)
  • Going this way on the crimson-
  • gleaming fields of murasaki grass,
  • going that way on the fields
  • of imperial domain—
  • won’t the guardians of the fields
  • see you wave your sleeves at me?
Princess Nukada

Princess Nukada (c. 630-690 AD) was a Japanese poet during a golden age for the arts in Japan known as the Asuka period (circa 538-710). A daughter of Japanese royalty, she had been the consort of Emperor Tenji (626-672), who like Nukada, wrote verse which appeared in the Man’yoshu (“Ten Thousand Leaves”), the classic anthology of Japanese verse. Nukada is considered one of the great poets of Japan, and her verse was widely celebrated in her own time. Poem (9) is considered one of the most difficult poems in the anthology to interpret.

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(Translation by Ian Hideo Levy)

  • (7)
  • I remember
  • our temporary shelter
  • by Uji’s Palace ground,
  • when we cut the splendid grass
  • on the autumn fields
  • and sojourned under thatch.
  • (8)
  • Wanting to board ship
  • in Nikita Harbor,
  • we have waited for the moon,
  • and now the tides too are right—
  • let us cast off!
  • (9)
  • Gazing afar
  • over the stilled waves in the cover,
  • my husband stands there
  • beneath the divine oak.
  • (16)
  • When spring comes
  • bursting winter’s bonds
  • birds that were still
  • come out crying
  • and flowers that lay unopening
  • split into blossoms.
  • But, the hillsides being overgrown,
  • I may go among the foliage
  • yet cannot pick those flowers.
  • The grass being rank,
  • I may pick
  • yet cannot examine them.
  • Looking at the leaves of the trees
  • on the autumn hillsides,
  • I pick the yellowed ones
  • and admire them,
  • leaving the green ones
  • there with a sigh.
  • That is my regret.
  • But the autumn hills are for me.
  • (20)
  • Going this way on the crimson-
  • gleaming fields of murasaki grass,
  • going that way on the fields
  • of imperial domain—
  • won’t the guardians of the fields
  • see you wave your sleeves at me?
Princess Nukada

Princess Nukada (c. 630-690 AD) was a Japanese poet during a golden age for the arts in Japan known as the Asuka period (circa 538-710). A daughter of Japanese royalty, she had been the consort of Emperor Tenji (626-672), who like Nukada, wrote verse which appeared in the Man’yoshu (“Ten Thousand Leaves”), the classic anthology of Japanese verse. Nukada is considered one of the great poets of Japan, and her verse was widely celebrated in her own time. Poem (9) is considered one of the most difficult poems in the anthology to interpret.

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