A Sad Autumn Moon: Poem Number 23

Picture #98 of the One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: “The moon’s four strings (Tsuki no yotsu no o)”, by Yoshitoshi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hyakunin Isshu is full of poems about Autumn as we’ve seen so far, and this is another example:

月見ればTsuki mirebaWhen I look at the moon
千々に物こそChiji ni mono kosoI am overcome by the sadness
悲しけれKanashi kereof a thousand, thousand things—
わが身ひとつのWaga mi hitotsu noeven though it is not Fall
秋にはあらねどAki ni wa aranedofor me alone.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author, Ōe no Chisato, is the nephew of Yukihira (poem 16) and Narihira (poem 17) and boasted a famous collection of his own called the Kudai Waka.

Similar to poem 22, this poem has influence from Chinese Six Dynasties style, but as Mostow explains, the poem reflects a change where Chinese poetic style is adapted into more native Japanese style. Mostow explains that the poem may allude to a famous poetic line by Bo Juyi.

As mentioned before, the moon plays a really important role in the Hyakunin Isshu, and poetry in general. But also, it’s a source of festivities too. In Japan, the 15th lunar day of the 8th month (harvest moon in the West), marks a fun time called o-tsukimi or “moon-viewing”. More on that in the other blog coming soon.

As for the poem, it kind of expresses a quiet humility too, I think, which is why I always find it one of the most memorable. The Moon inspires a lot of deep feelings, but this poem reminds us that it does not shine just for us.

Happy Moon Viewing everyone!

One response to “A Sad Autumn Moon: Poem Number 23”

  1. eeeee804@gmail.com Avatar

    very very goooooood poem

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