Hyakunin Isshu No. 9

Hyakuninisshu 009
Hyakuninisshu 009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ono no Komachi`s famous poem from the Hyakunin Isshu
\

How the color

has faded from the flowers.

As I gaze in reverie

at the falling rain,  I find my beauty, too,

has fallen in this world`s esteem.

Original:

花の色は うつりにけりな いたづらに    わが身世にふる ながめせしまに

*****

Ono no Komachi is known for her passion, but this poem (perhaps her most well-known) is more contemplative. Notable in the original is the intricate use of kakekotoba, or “pivot-words” which can be interpreted multiple ways. They are like puns in English, but in Japanese they are serious tools at the disposal of poets. In this poem one will notice ふる furu, which can be read with the preceding わが身世にふる wagami yo ni furu to mean one’s (in this case Ono no Komachi’s status as a beautiful woman) status in the world has fallen. Read onward though ふるながめ furu nagame becomes “long rains that fall.” Then we have a second kakekotoba ながめ nagame which can mean “long rains” or “reverie,” which when read with the final words as ながめせしまに nagame seshi ma ni, becomes “as I was in a reverie.”

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