Stood Up: Poem Number 59

Photo by Brian Lazo on

Our next poem in the series devoted to women in March deals with something women of today know all too well:

やすらはでYasurawadeThough I’d have preferred
寝なまし物をNenamashi mono woto have gone off to bed
小夜更けてSayo fuketewithout hesitating,
かたぶくまでのKatabuku made nothe night deepened and
月を見しかなTsuki wo mishi kanaI watched the moon till it set!
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author, Akazome Emon, was another court lady in waiting for Empress Shoshi, along with Lady Murasaki (poem 57) and Lady Izumi (poem 56). She has an impressive 93 poems in the Shūishū Imperial anthology, and composed at least part of the Eiga Monogatari another classic from the era.

While Lady Murasaki had harsh words for some of her associates, according to Mostow, she describes Akazome as having “great poise” and takes her poetry seriously, without composing verses just for the fun of it. Indeed, Lady Murasaki states she is “most accomplished”.

Akazome Emon depicted centuries later in Yoshitoshi’s “100 Aspects of the Moon“, Yoshitoshi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The poem above itself is a bit of a mystery though. The headnote to the poem is explained as Akazome writing a poem on behalf of her sister who waited all night for her lover, Middle Regent Michitaka, but was stood up. As explained before, women lived sheltered lives in his era, and men rarely could see them except by secret arranged meetings, and yet sometimes the women might wait all night without her lover ever coming. This is a frequent topic in the Hyakunin Isshu anthology as well, both real and fictional.

However, there is some research that suggests that maybe Akazome didn’t author the poem, though it’s unclear who did. Nevertheless, whoever was stood up that night, I hope Michitaka apologised the next day. 🙂

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