The twenty-second poem in the Hyakunin Isshu is a brilliant example of word-play:
|吹くからに||Fuku kara ni||As soon as it blows,|
|秋の草木の||Aki no kusaki no||the autumn trees and grasses|
|しをるれば||Shiorureba||droop, and this must be why,|
|むべ山風を||Mube yama kaze o||quite rightly, the mountain wind|
|あらしといふらむ||Arashi to iuran||is called “the ravager.”|
Here, from the English translation, it’s hard to see what is so clever about this poem, until you look at the last two lines.
The fourth line talks about mountains 山 and wind 風, but the fifth line mentions the word arashi (あらし) which means “storm” and whose kanji is composed of both mountain and wind 嵐. You can even see it on karuta cards for this poem:
According to the Hyakunin Isshu Daijiten, this poetic method, called moji-asobi (文字遊び) is not limited to this poem, or even Japanese poetry. It appears to be a poetic method employed originally in China, and adopted by early Japanese poets. Even in the earliest anthology, the Manyoshu, there are other examples:
|雪降れば||Yuki fureba||Because the snow fell|
|木毎に花ぞ||Kigoto ni hana zo||White “blossoms”, one by one,|
|吹きにける||Fukinikeru||Sprout on the tree.|
|いづれを梅と||Izure wo ume to||How am I to tell the blossoms from the snow|
|わきて折らまし||Wakite oramashi||Without snapping them off?|
Here, the word for plums (as well as plum blossoms), umé 梅, is made up of the Chinese characters 木 and 毎 which happen to appear on the second line of the poem.
Pretty clever, really.
In any case, the Hyakunin Isshu Daijiten and Professor Mostow both point out that the word arashi also has a double-meaning. The basic meaning is “storm”, but it is also the noun-form of the verb arasu meaning to ravage, hence the translation above: arashi (荒らし).
Amazing what people could do with a few lines of verse and some Chinese characters. It’s no surprise that the author, Fun’ya no Yasuhide, was counted among the original Six Immortals of Poetry and later the Thirty-Six Immortals.
P.S. Kind of been a while, good to be back. 🙂
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