The Autumn Moon: Poem Number 79

Photo by Joonas ku00e4u00e4riu00e4inen on

Because this is the Harvest Moon, I felt this poem was perfect for the occasion:

秋風にAkikaze niFrom between the breaks
たなびく雲のTanabiku kumo noin the clouds that trail
たえまよりTaema yorion the autumn wind
もれ出づる月のMore izuruleaks through the moon-
かげのさやけさKage no sayakesalight’s clear brightness!
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author is Fujiwara no Akisuke (1090-1155) who served as the administrator of the western half of the capitol of Kyoto. In those days, the capitol was modeled off of the Chinese capitol of Chang-an of the illustrious Tang Dynasty, and was divided into a “western” and “eastern” half with an administrator for each one. Additionally, Professor Mostow explains that Akisuke was the father of Kiyosuke (poem 84) and established a poetry school (the Rokujō School) in opposition to Shunzei (poem 83) who happened to be the father of Fujiwara no Teika (poem 97) the compiler of the Hyakunin Isshu. Teika apparently didn’t mind including his poems in the anthology anyway. Being a pre-eminent poet, Emperor Sutoku (poem 77) also commissioned him to compile a new anthology, the Shika Wakashū.

The poem itself is somewhat unusual in the Hyakunin Isshu, because the poem is completely straightforward. The poem literally paints a wonderful image of a hazy autumn moon-lit night, with no additional allusions. When you compare other poems in the Hyakunin Isshu about the moon, usually they have some additional meaning. This poem is unusually genuine and still well-composed.

So, as you enjoy the Harvest Moon this evening, take a moment to enjoy this poem if you can. If you’re in Japan, happy o-Tsukimi!

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