Autumn Sunset: Poem Number 70

Avenue of trees against autumn sunset, Bosley Fields Farm - - 559377
Avenue of trees against autumn sunset, Bosley Fields Farm, photo by Ron Perry, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My favorite poem related to fall in the Hyakunin Isshu is this one:

寂しさにSabishisa niWhen, from loneliness
宿を立出てYado wo tachi ideteI stand up and leave my hut
ながむればNagamurebaand look distractedly about:
いづこもおなじIzuko mo onajieverywhere it is the same
秋の夕暮Aki no yugureevening in Autumn.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author of this poem is a monk named Ryosen Hōshi (良暹法師, “Dharma Master Ryosen) who supposedly composed it while doing austerities in a remote hut outside the capitol.

The notion of “Autumn Sunset” appears a lot in Japanese poetry, but apparently its meaning differs depending on the time and place. Ryosen Hoshi gives a more melancholy, almost Buddhist, tone implying that the world around him is declining into winter and possibly, metaphorically declining in a general Buddhist sense. However, Sei Shonagon (poem 62) also wrote about Autumn Sunset in her Pillow Book, but used it to describe crows and wild-geese flying

An Autumn Sunset means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it still is significant one way or another. For me, I tend to like Ryosen’s imagery the best, and it’s the one I imagine whenever I read this poem.

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