Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

leading poets of his day. Under his direction the Shinkokinshu was compiled. The Mei-getsu-ki was, it is said, a daily record kept by Teikakyō, 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.

[ocr errors]

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 Yasaburo, 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 shoji 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, Renshō, 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, Renshō, 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 shōji 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:

some, displaying the very finest quality, appearing side by side with others that are of inferior worth.

The mode of production of the collection, however, is a matter of comparative indifference. This "Century of Songs" exists:-by the fortune of circumstances, in time it became known everywhere as the Ogura Hyakuninisshu.

How the hundred poems happened to come into use for a household game at cards is not known. The first decided notice of the game is found after the time of the fourth Shogunate, or in the age of Genroku (1688-1703 a D). It was in this period that Kaibara Yekken wrote the "Great Learning for Women" (Onna Daigaku), and other books for the education of women. Special attention was paid to the education of girls then. Girls' books were much in demand. At that time the Hyakunin-isshu became useful as a text-book for private female education. During the Shogunate, when the poems had been transferred to separate cards, a package of the Hyakunin-isshu was looked upon as a part of the bride's household outfit. At that time, many samurai in Kyoto, skilled in calligraphy, aided in the financial support of their households by writing the hundred poem-cards for the market. Some of these cards, written by well known noblemen, have had great pecuniary value. A story is handed down, that about six hundred years ago, the Imperial Court guards had a habit in night-watches of writing with bits of charcoal inside their porcelain plates, each, one of the "parts" of extemporized poems, renga, and of seeing how one part would fit with another. This verse-play, it is supposed by some, suggested a similar use of the hundred songs. But, as said before, the origin of the uta-garuta, or "song cards," is unknown. We must be satisfied with the fact that two centuries or more ago, the poems somehow had gained place in the homes of the Japanese people in the form of a game, whereby they have become the common property of old and young, and are to-day as household words. (See Transactions of this Society, Vol. II, page 129.)

Before making a closer examination of the Hyakunin isshu, let us take a glance at Japanese poetry generally. What are its special characteristics,-in form, in content and in general quality?

Simplicity and brevity in its forms, are probably the most prominent characteristics that appear to an eye accustomed to, and familar with, the poetry of the West. The standard model for Japanese poetic structure is a five-versed stanza, named the tanka, in which all the songs of the Hyakunin-isshu, and by far the most of Japanese poems, are embodied. The tanka is composed of only thirty-one syllabics. These syllabics are arranged in five verses, or measures; the first and third measures containing as a rule five syllabics each; and the second, fourth, and fifth measures, each including seven. Usually these five verses may be divided into two complete parts, namely, the "first," or "upper," part (kami no ku), made up of the first three lines; and the "second," or "lower," part (shimo no ku), consisting of the fourth and fifth lines.

The reputed most ancient song treasured in Japanese tradition, the song of the god Susa-no-o, sung at the building of the bridal palace for a celestial pair, is the prototype of this popular measure. "When this Great Deity first built the palace of Suga," says the Kojiki, "clouds rose up thence. Then he made an august song. That song said :

"Yakumo tatsu

Izumo yae gaki

Tsuma gomi ni

Yaegaki tsukuru:

Sono yae gaki wo!"

Or, in somewhat free translation, but according to the

original metre:

"Many clouds appear:

Eight-fold clouds a barrier raise

Round the wedded pair.

Manifold the clouds stand guard,
O that eight-fold barrier-ward!"

Besides the tanka there are numerous variations in arrangement of the fundamental five and seven-syllabic verses, but the limits of this study prevent their illustration. There are, however, two extremes of composition that may be noticed in passing :-the naga uta, or "long song," and the hokku, or "first verses." The naga uta is indefinite in length. It is made up of couplets of the two kinds of verses,-the five and the seven syllabled verses, the end of the poem being in an additional seven syllabic verse. The hokku is a complete poem contained in only seventeen syllabics that make up the first three lines, or "part," of the tanka. The hokku must be an exceedingly compact bit of word and thought skill to be worth anything-as literature. The following hokku, which is also an acrostic of the fulness," "abundance," is a good

Yufudachi ya

Ta wo mi-meguri no

Kami naraba.

If the summer shower

word yutaka, "fruitillustration of its kind.

Would but round the rice-fields go

As it were a god!

So far as cadence is concerned, Japanese poetry is almost without it. Careful students of the language, like Dr. W. G. Aston, and Professor B. H. Chamberlain, fail to find any. "The cadence of Japanese poetry," the former says, "is not marked by a regular succession of accented syllables as in English." It has, says the latter, "neither rhyme, assonance, alliteration, accentual stress, quantity, nor parallelism." These judgments are true,—but with some qualification. It is true that Japanese verse has, normally, an irregular cadence, yet much of it may easily receive, and often does receive in the reading, the movement of some of the simpler measures of English poetry. It is common, for example, to hear such verses as the following read as though they were composed in trochaic

movement:

Nikumarete

Nikumi kaesu na

Nikumarero

Nikumi nikumare

Hateshi nakereba.

Hated though you be,

Hate for hate do not return;

Hatred given accept.

If for hatred you give hate,
Then to hating comes no end.

So, in a Buddhist hymn, Nori no Hatsune (The Dominant
Note of the Law), its lines generally take the rhythm of
English anapestic verse, as:-

Itazura goto ni hi wo kasane;

Rokushiu ruten no tane wo maki;
Hakanaku kono yo wo s'gosu nari, etc.

In spending my days chasing things that are trifles;
In sowing the seed of the six.fold migration;

I pass through the world with my life purpose

baffled, etc.

However, speaking broadly, the prosody dominant in Western poetry does not appear in the poetry of Japan, except, we may say, through the influence of a natural, but unacknowledged, rhythmic instinct.

Again, in the construction of Japanese verse there are certain special rhetorical oddities, such as redundant expletives and phrases, called "Pillow-words" and "Introductions," that are of especial importance in a study of this poetry. These expressions are purely conventional ornaments or euphonisins. Much of the superior merit of this verse-writing depends also upon a serious use of puns and of other word-plays. By way of description of these special verbal devices let me repeat the words of an honored member of this society, Professor Chamberlain, as given in an essay read here more than twenty years ago. (Transactions. Vol. V. p. 81.) The "Pillow-words" says Prof. Chamberlain, "are as a rule, simple epithets that were formerly applied quite naturally and appropriately

« PredošláPokračovať »