Hidden Love Amongst the Grass: Poem Number 39

An example of pleioblastus simoni (shinodaké 篠竹), photo by I, KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The sixth poem in our series dedicated to Valentine’s Day is one of hidden love:

浅茅生のAsajiu noThough I reveal my love
小野の篠原Ono no shinoharaas sparingly as the sparse reeds
忍ぶれどShinoburedothat grow in low bamboo fields,
あまりてなどかAmarite nado kait overwhelms me—why is it
人の恋しきHito no koishikithat I must love her so?
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author of the poem was Sangi Minamoto no Hitoshi (880-951), who according to Mostow held many provincial posts, but is lesser known in the poetry world. Apparently the poem was sent to a woman, and is a fine specimen of love poetry.

The poem, when read aloud in Japanese, has a nice sound to it, owing to the way that shinohara and shinobu repeat, but also the poem has a nice contrast to it. According to Professor Mostow, the fourth line reverses the idea of scarcity with talk of being overwhelmed by love creating a kind of balance in the poem.

Hopefully the girl was impressed. 🙂

An example of imperata cylindrica (chigaya 茅), CC BY-SA 3.0, photo via Wikimedia Commons

One final note: the poem alludes to a couple plants of note:

  • one is chigaya (茅, Cogongrass, imperata cylindrica), which in the poem is called asajiu.
  • the other is a kind of thin bamboo grass called shinodaké (篠竹, pleioblastus simonii?), more commonly know as medaké in modern Japanese.

The scene described in the poem is a mixed field with taller bamboo grass poking out above a field of shorter reed grass.

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