Battle of the Love Poems, part 1: Poem Number 40

Photo by Viktoria Slowikowska on

Another poem on the theme of love. Many of the poems from 40-50 share this common theme…

忍ぶれどShinoburedoEven though I hide it,
色に出でにけりIro ni ide ni keriit shows all over my face,
わが恋はWaga koi wasuch is my longing,
物や思ふとMono ya omou toso that people ask me
人の問ふまでHito no tou made“What are you thinking about?
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

According to Mostow’s book, this poem by Taira no Kanemori was part of a famous poetry contest in 960, and was pitted again poem number 41 by Mibu no Tadami.

The judges couldn’t decide which poem was the winner, so after consulting with other poetry experts (who also couldn’t decide), they came before Emperor Murakami and sought his opinion about which poem was superior. According to the story, the Emperor hummed the verses from this poem under his breath, tactfully judging Taira no Kanemori’s poem the winner.

Mostow points out that the poem is highly regarded for it’s combination of excellent prose, mixed with a more natural style at the end. Anyone who’s been in love before can certainly sympathize. 🙂

Taira no Kanemori is also one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry (sanjūrokkasen, 三十六歌仙), and his family, the Taira Clan or Heike (平家), would totally dominate Japanese politics centuries later under Taira no Kiyomori, only to be tragically swept aside in the disastrous Genpei War by their rivals, the Minamoto.

One response to “Battle of the Love Poems, part 1: Poem Number 40”

  1. Reblogged this on kuuru..

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