November marks the last throes of Fall, and so with the recent cold here in Seattle, I thought this poem seemed really fitting:
|心あてに||Kokoroate ni||Must it be by chance,|
|折らばや折らむ||Orabaya oran||if I am to pluck one, that I pluck it? —|
|初霜の||Hatsushimo no||white chrysanthemums|
|おきまどはせる||Oki madowaseru||on which the first frost|
|白菊の花||Shiragiku no hana||lies bewilderingly.|
Ōshikōchi no Mitsune was a very prodigious poet and his works appear in many later anthologies in Japanese history, and is also one of the compilers of the famous Kokinshū anthology. Not surprisingly he is among the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry too. Professor Mostow notes that this poem is subject to many different interpretations ranging from simple word-repetition, to rhetorical questions or the speaker’s mental debate.
In any case, the imagery of white frost on white chrysanthemum’s is in large part why this poem is so highly prized and made it into the Hyakunin Isshu anthology.
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