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written speech; and it reached its culminating excellence nearly a thousand years ago. At the present day, when the Japanese people have been released from their long held seclusion from the other peoples of the world, there is the probability that their poetry will come under the same stimulus that has vivified and started forward their sciences and their other products of mental energy; but, so far, there has appeared little sign of promise for any noteworthy poetic development. A study of Japanese poetry, therefore, carries one far back in the centuries, and into a literary realm that lies as isolated in the world of letters as the Empire of Japan has lain in the world of nations.
With a wish to make a contribution to the study of the poetry of Japan, I invite you to turn to the collection of poems known as the Hyakunin-isshu. This collection may be accepted as fairly representative of that which is characteristic, as a whole, of the unique poetry of this people. It is not the largest single collection of Japanese poems ; it did not originate, as was true of most other collections, under Imperial direction ; nor does it contain any of the few longer poems that once promised much for the future of Japanese poetry ; but, in these single songs of one measure, taken from the works of a hundred writers, there have been gathered many that are of the very highest excellence. All of them are distinctive in form and in subject-matter, and nearly all of them were produced in that period of Japan's history whose literature has been commended as “classic.” Besides, this collection of poems as a whole is comprised within an easily managed round number. And, moreover, whatever may be its worth throughout, it is at present, and has been for a long time, in largest part the household poetry of the Japanese, in the form of a game at cards, in which man, woman and child repeat over and over again in their play the measures and thoughts of these verses. In brief, there is no other gathering of Jappanese poems so manageable for a single course of study. For all ordinary investigation, it is sufficiently instructive concerning the peculiar characteristics of the poetry of Japan; and, for readers in Europe and America, it will serve to show well the kind of poetic production and pleasure that has the largest favor with this people.
These “ Single Songs of a Hundred Poets were not gathered together in this form until towards the middle of the Thirteenth Century. At that time there were existing many comprehensive and accepted compilations of verse. The poems that, according to tradition, had been sung by the gods and ancient heroes had been preserved in such authorized bistories as the Kojiki (Record of Old Things), and the Nihon-shoki (History of Japan), which brought the traditions and records of the country down from the farthest past to about the end of the Seventh Century of the Christian era. But, near the middle of the Eighth Century, during the reign of the Empress Koken, Tachibana no Moroe began to collect into one work all the poems then extant, which work, in the Ninth Century, as supplemented by Otomo no Yakamochi and others, came into literature as the celebrated Manyoshū (Collection of Myriad Leaves). In the twenty volumes constituting this collection there are 4,515 poems, among which are gathered 268 of what are called naga uta, “ long songs," because
* they are composed of more than the five lines to which the standard Japanese poem is limited. The “ long songs," or naga uta, of the Manyūshū are spoken of as especially admirable. They have been used for centuries as models of their kind by Japan's poets. Among the many writers distinguished in the Manyoshū are Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (No. 3), Yamabe no Akahito (No. 4), and tomo no Yakamochi (No. 6), specimens of whose verse appear in the Hyakuninisshu.
In the Tenth Century, after the Imperial capital had been fully established in Kyoto and a hundred years and more of the dominance of Chinese influence in Japanese literature had passed, a revival of literature distinctively Japanese took place. By order of the Emperor Daigo, between the years 905 and 922 A.D., Ki no Tsurayuki (No. 35), a poet of the rank of the earlier Hitomaro, made a new compliation of verse, called the Kokinshū (Ancient and Modern Songs). This work is now esteemed the finest, and it is the most studied, collection of poems in
Japanese literature. It contains more than 1,100 " songs, or uta, only 5 of which are naga uta. This work, divided into twenty parts, has among its treasures quite a number of uta, of the standard measure commonly known as tanka, which are repeated in the Hyakunin-isshu. Among the tanka so quoted, is the one ascribed to the Emperor Tenchi (No. 1), and those written by Sarumaru (No. 5), Ki-sen (No. 8), Ono no Komachi (No. 9), Henjō (No. 12), Kawara no Sadaijin (No. 14), Yukihira (No. 16), Narihira (No. 17), Yasuhide (No. 22), Kanesuke (No. 27), Mineyuki (No. 28), Oshikōchi (No. 29), Korenori (No. 31), Okikaze (No. 34), and Fuka yabu (No. 36). It was at this period in the Empire's history that poetry began to have a language peculiarly its own, distinctly marked off from that of ordinary speech.
Fifty years later than the compilation of the Kokinshū, about 970 A.D., a school of poetry was established in the Imperial Palace, and poetic composition became, and for a long time remained, one of the chief accomplishments of the members of the Court and of the nobility. Various collections of verse, supplementary of the Manyōshū and the Kokinshū, were then made under Imperial command, Between the time of the completion of the Kokinshū (922 A.D.), and of the gathering of the Hyakunin-isshu (1235 A D.), no less than seven authorized and distinguished collections of poems were made. These were, 1. Gosenshū (After Collection), 2. Shūishū (Gathered Remnants), 3. Goshuishū (Post-Gathered Remnants), 4. Kinyoshū (Golden Leaves), 5. Shikwashū (Wild Flowers), 6. Senzaishū (Immortal Songs) and 7. Shinkokinshū (New Kokinshu). These works together with the Kokinshū are known in literature as the Hachidaishū (Collections of Eight Dynasties). They are all possessed of much merit. It is said that the Shinkokinshū “contains stanzas constructed with remarkable skill, the phraseology subtle and elegant, the rhythm easy and graceful, the style refined and the ideas profound." It "stands at the head of all collections of poems published under Imperial auspices."
In these seven compilations may be found some of the best tanka reproduced in the Hyakunin-isshū, For ex
ample, those written by Hitoshi (No. 39), and Tadami (No. 41), are found in the Gosenshū; those by Ukon (No. 38), Kanemori (No. 40), Kentokuko (No. 45), Eikei (No. 47), Yoshitaka (No. 50), Sanekata (No. 51), Michinobu (No. 52), Kinto (No. 55), Izumi Shikibu (No. 56), Daini no Sammi (No. 58), Akasome Emon (No. 59), Sei-Shonagon (No. 62), Michimasa (No. 63), Masafusa (No. 73), are taken from the two Shuishū; those by Gyöson (No. 66), Tsunenobu (No. 71), Yushi Naishi no Ki (No. 72), are quoted from the Kinyoshū; those by Yoshinobu (No. 49), İse no āsuke (No. 61), Hoshāji no Nyūdo (No. 76), Sutoku-in (No. 87), are from the Shikwashū; and those by Tadayori (No. 64), Suwo no Naishi (No. 67), Toshiyori (No. 74), Mototoshi (No. 75), Horikawa (No. 80), GOTokudaiji (No. 81), Dõin (No. 82), Toshinari (No. 83), Shunye (No. 85), Saigy) (No. 86), Kwoka Mon-in no Betto, (No. 88), Impu Mon-in no Taiu (No. 90), Nijā no In no Sanuki (No. 92), Jien (No. 95), are from the Senzaishū. The Shinkokinshū was in large measure only a re-editing of the poetical collections made subsequently to that of the Kokinshū. The leading poets of the later time, that is, towards the Thirteenth Century, were Toshinari, Saigyo, Letaka (Karyū), and Sadaie. Special mention should be made of the poet-Shogun, Sanetomo (No. 93), of the end of the Twelfth Century, whose songs, it has been said, "find no parallel in cognate compositions subsequent to the Nara Epoch.”
With this store of poetic treasures al command, some one about the year 1235 A.D., brought together these
Songs of a Hundred Poets as one anthology. Just by whom and how the Hyakunin-isshu came to be gathered is no longer known. Certainly, in its present form, its editorship is doubtful. The author of the Dai Nihon-shi (History of Great Japan) was satisfied, upon the authority of the Mei-getsu-ki (Record of Brilliant Months), that the collection was made by Teikakyo, whose family name was Fujiwara no Sadaie (No. 97). Sadaie, or Teikakyo, held high office. He was an Imperial Vice-Counsellor prior to, and under, the reign of the Emperor Shijō (1233-1242 A.D.). He was also one of the
leading poets of bis day. Under his direction the Shinkokinshū was compiled. The Mei-getsu-ki was, it is said, a daily record kept by Teikakyo, The original manuscript has almost wholly perished. Indeed, some of the supposed authorized sheets of the work are doubtful. And there is much question whether the present form of the Hyakuninisshu is that which it had at the first.
Among the traditions connected with the compilation of the anthology is this:-Teikakyō was a skilful writer of the kana syllabary. He also held a posi. tion that might be called the poet-laureateship of the time. Among his friends, or relatives, was a noble named Utsunomiya Yasa buro, or Renshō, who became a lay-priest, or nyūdō, and lived in a cottage in the village of Ogura in Saga. In the “Record of Brilliant Months” it is stated, “I wrote for the shōji of the * Middle House of Saga,' colored papers, and sent them. At night I sent them to Ringo.” Ringo, whose name is generally known as Tameie, was Teikakyo's son and was married to Utsunomiya Yasaburo's daughter. With some, the supposition is that the latter, Rensho, who was a poet also, had requested Sadaie through the son to write down, with his skilled pen, a hundred poems which he, Renshō, had selected for the decoration of shōji in his new country house at Ogura. Sadaie obligingly complied with the request. Were this story true, Rensbo, not Sadaie, would have whatever reputation belongs to the compilation of the hundred songs. Afterwards, when Tameie, as it is said, copied the poems from the shikishi, or thick fancycolored paper, used for the writing of poems, he arranged them in an approximate chronological order.
Another tradition locates the poetic ornamentation of the shöji in the poet's own country house at Ogurayama, whither the poet had retired after resignation of his office in the Imperial Court. Sadaie's choice of the poems, according to this story, was made without special forethought and, without system. He wrote down the verses at random, just as they happened to come into memory, while he had brush in hand. Strict literary judgment did not guide him. For this reason, the songs show unequal merit :