He Spurned Me: Poem Number 19

A Reed Warbler clings to a reed stem at the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes. Photo by sootyskye, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the second poem in “women only” theme for March, and another classic:

難波潟Naniwa gataTo go through this life, not meeting
みじかき芦のMijikaki ashi nofor even as short a time as the space
ふしのまもFushi no ma mobetween two nodes of a reed
あはでこの世をAwade kono yo woin Naniwa Inlet—
過ぐしてよとやSugushite yo to yais that what you are telling me?
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

Lady Ise (伊勢, c. 875- c. 938) is another celebrated female poet from antiquity. Her sobriquet comes from her father’s position as governor of the prosperous Ise Province, but she earned a name for herself through her extensive poetry both in her private collection, the Ise Shū and through Imperial anthologies where her poetry is both frequent and prominent.

As Professor Mostow explains, the poem has two possible interpretations: one where she has been spurned by a cold lover, and the other where she cannot reveal her hidden love.

Naniwa Inlet is the bay of what is now the famous city of Osaka, though back then it was a far smaller city, with many waterways, streams and such. Naniwa (Osaka) is often associated with reeds at the time as other poems of the time show, and is mentioned in two other poems in the Hyakunin Isshu (poem 20 and poem 88).

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