Lost Without An Oar: Poem Number 46

Old rowboat


Continuing our theme for Valentine’s Day, this poem is quite fitting and another example of a “love poem” from the 40’s section of the Hyakunin Isshu:

由良のとをYura no to woLike a boatman, crossing
わたる舟人Wataru funabitothe Strait of Yura,
かぢをたえKaji wo taewhose oar-cord has snapped,
行く方もしらぬYukue mo shiranuI’m lost and know not my way
恋の道かなKoi no michi kanaon the road of love!
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author, Sone no Yoshitada (dates unknown), lived toward the end of the 11th century, but as Mostow writes, very little else is known about him. Apparently he was a prolific poet and had his own collection, which was common among the aristocracy of day, but his style was considered unconventional and unappreciated until the time of Fujiwara no Teika, who compiled the Hyakunin Isshu.

The poem is somewhat confusing, Mostow explains, for two reasons. The first is that the location of “Yura” isn’t know, but exists in both Kii and Tango provinces. Since Yoshitada was a secretary in the province Tango, perhaps he meant that Yura, but it’s only speculation on my part. The second is the phrase kaji wo tae (かぢをたえ), the third line. It can either be read as kaji wo tae (to lose an oar), or kaji-o tae (the oar cord snaps). Mostow makes a convincing argument for the latter.

But in any case, I think we all know that feeling when we were young and experienced love for the first time how happy, yet lost we were. Things haven’t changed in 900 years it seems. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: