Long Summer: Poem Number 98

Iyagatani (伊屋ヶ谷) waterfall, of Ryujuin (龍樹院) Temple. Photo by 松岡明芳, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As Summer starts to wind down, I thought this would be a good poem. In fact, it’s one of the few about Summer in the Hyakunin Isshu:

風そよぐKaze soyoguIn the evening
ならの小川のNara no ogawa nowhen the wind rustles the oaks
夕ぐれはYugure waat Nara-no-Ogawa,
みそぎぞ夏のMisogi zo natsu noit is the ablutions that are
しるしなりけるShirushi narikeruthe only sign it’s still summer!
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author of this poem is “Ietaka of Second Junior Rank”, who was the son-in-law of Jakuren (poem 87) and studied poetry under Shunzei (poem 83).

The notion of ablution or misogi (禊ぎ) is a Shinto ritual involving purification through cold water, prayer, etc. The practice is still alive and well today, and is often done in the summer months, but it varies depending on the particular Shinto shrine. In Shinto, people accumulate impurities through bad actions or traumatic events, and have to expunge them through ritual to balance their lives. As Professor Mostow explains, it was also popular in the author’s time as a well of making up for carrying on illicit affairs too. 😉

According to the Hyakunin Isshu Daijiten, the second verse of the poem is a good example of a kakekotoba ( 掛詞) wordplay, in that it has two meanings. First, nara can mean an oak tree (楢), especially Quercus serrata trees. The second meaning, nara no ogawa, refers to the font at the upper Kamo Shrine also called the Kamigamo Shrine (kamigamo-jinja, 上賀茂神社). The homepage can be found here.

The nara=no-ogawa next to the Kamigamo Shrine. Photo courtesy of 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another concept in late summer is the notion of zansho (残暑) which is the long, hot, humid summer that comes after the monsoon season in June-July. Speaking from first-hand experience, it’s stifling hot, but here the poem implies that the summer is nearly over, and only the ablutions remain.

One response to “Long Summer: Poem Number 98”

  1. Reblogged this on kuuru..

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