Even At Low Tide: Poem 92

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

Another poem dedicated to those who were lonely for Valentine’s Day recently:

わが袖はWa ga sode waMy sleeves are like
潮干に見えぬShiohi ni mienuthe rock in the offing that
沖の石のOki no ishi nocan’t be seen even at low tide,
人こそしらねHito koso shiraneunknown to anyone, but
かはくまもなしKawaku mamo nashithere’s not a moment they are dry.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author of this poem was “Nijōin no Sanuki” who’s real name and dates aren’t well-understood. It is known that she was a daughter of famous warrior/poet Minamoto no Yorimasa and served the retired Emperor Nijō, hence her name nijōin (Imperial House of Nijō). The “Sanuki” part comes from Sanuki Province where her father was once posted on assignment.

Sanuki, like Sokushi, was a leading female poet of her day, and this poem helps illustrate why. As we discussed recently in poem 90, the image of sleeves wet with tears was a popular poetic technique used at the time for unrequited love (again, see poems 42, 65, and 72) but the idea of such sleeves being hidden like a submerged rock offshore was a novel, new way of expressing this.

Indeed, Sanuki became so famous for this verse, she herself was often referred to as oki no ishi no Sanuki (沖の石の讃岐) by later poets and authors. It was pretty rare for a poet to receive such a name for a famous verse they composed but a few other examples exist. Another female poet named kunaikyō (宮内卿) was called wakakusa no kunaikyō (若草の宮内卿) because of a famous verse she wrote regarding young grass (wakakusa, 若草) from the Shin Kokin Wakashū:

薄く濃きUsuku kokiLight and dark:
野辺のみどりのNobe no midori nothe green of the field’s
若草のWakakusa noyoung herbs
あとまで見ゆるAto made miyurudistinct in
雪のむら消えYuki no muragiepatches of fading snow.
Translation source unknown

Pretty awesome when you can make a name for yourself that way.

One response to “Even At Low Tide: Poem 92”

  1. This one is probably my most favourite poem from the collection. Thank you for the explanation. It is very helpful!

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: