A working space for my notes on Ogura Hyakunin Isshu - a classical Japanese anthology of 100 poems by 100 poets. My thanks to Jane Reichhold and fellow members of the AHApoetry Forum for their encouragement, advice and participation; and also to my fellow fellow members of Eratosphere for their comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

#008 わが庵は

わが庵は 
都のたつみ 
しかぞすむ 
世をうぢ山と 
人はいふなり




waga io wa miyako no tatsumi shika zo sumu yo o ujiyama to hito wa iu nari



Kisen, the (Buddhist) Monk






My mountain dwelling
is south-east of the City. 
Though I live content,
my world's a "Mount of Sorrow" 
they call Mount Uji, I hear.


(trans. Köy Deli )

my hermitage
is south-east of the capital
I like where I live
even when other people call it
ujiyama - Maggot Mountain
(trans. Jane Reichhold)
Kisen Hōshi
source: wikicommons (Public Domain)

Crib

My hut/hermitage
is south-east of the capital/city,
thus (agreeably) I live,
(as for this) world/life: "Uji (Disagreeable) Mountain"
people say, so I've heard / i hear / it is rumoured.


Parsing 


waga io wa 
my | hut | topic marker
miyako no tatsumi 
City | of | south-east
shika zo sumu 
thus (agreeable) | particle | live 
yo o ujiyama to 
world | acc. particle | Uji (disagreeable) Mountain | quotative 
hito wa iu nari 
people | topic marker | say | so they say 


From 'io wa' to 'hito wa' - 'wa' may also be read as a contrastive particle - emphasising the contrast between an agreeable (shika) district (Tatsumi) that people say is disagreeable (Uji). 




Devices


The essential conceit appears to be a contrast between the Buddhist monk's experience (life is pleasant enough) and supposition (the world is sorrow, so it is said); between a play on words reading 'shika' (thus) as 'agreeable' and the name of Mount Uji as disagreeable; but the verse is playfully ambiguous and dense with word-play that allows for varying and contradictory readings.


south-east is made up of two words meaning dragon and snake (the districts around Kyoto, named after signs of the zodiac)
shika may mean thus, or agreeable, or deer


south-east of the City
we live peacefully
the dragons, snakes, deer and I


But the main play and question is around the name of Mount Uji, which acts as a pivot word, a homophone of words for disagreeable, bitter, grief, sorrow; and the question as to whether the monk-poet's mode of living should be read as being in contrast to the sentiment that the World is Sorrow, or in agreement with it.


The last line as people say, so I hear seems like a clue from a modern day cryptic crossword puzzle, alerting us to look for pun(s), just in case we may have missed them (and his 'cleverness'!?) - though use of pivot words is such a standard device of classical waka that it is not really one a reader familiar with the form should need alerting to - as if he doesn't trust that the cleverness of his readers may match his own - or to say, read carefully, there's more than one! It also adds to the contrastive sense, between what is said in the bottom two lines and the experiential of the top three.



I suspect there is word-play too in that Yamato was a name for Japan itself in the period - so Uji Yama to- "Uji Mountain", can perhaps be seen as microcosmic of all Japan (Uji Yamato) - うぢ山と - ujiyamato:


世をうぢ山と yo-o-uji-yama-to


as-for this world/life/society/age: (a) "Bitter Mountain" / sad Mountain Dwelling [Japan*]
people say, so I hear (人はいふなり). 



* quote
"Some say that in ancient Japanese 'to' meant "dwelling" and that because people dwelt in the mountains, the country was known as Yama-to - "mountain dwelling."
 Sources of Japanese Tradition: from earliest times to 1600 by Willian Theodore De Barry, Yoshiko Kurata Dystra, p.359


io
Hut; hermitage;

1, 8
waga
わが
My; mine; one’s own; our;

1, 8
Wa (ha)
Emotive, emphatic or contrastive particle
miyako
City; capital;

8
no
Genitive particle
tatsumi
たつみ
South-east (dragon, snake)

8
shika
しか

Deer; just; is only;  only the/a; thus; agreeable, to one’s liking.

5, 8
zo

Emotive particle
sumu
すむ

to reside; to live in; to inhabit; to dwell

8
yo
World; life; generation; society; age

8
wo
Direct object particle
uji
うじ
Disagreeable; grief; sorrow; bitter; maggot

8
yama
mountain


Ujiyama
うじ山
Place name, Uji Mountain

8
to

Conjunctive particle (even if); quotative particle (signifying end of direct quote).
hito
Person, man, (other) people;

8
ifu
いふ
to say

8
nari
なり 
Supposition; hearsay (I hear; I’ve heard that, rumour has it;

8



1 comment:

  1. This explanation of the poem has been a lot of fun to read, and has really contributed to my understanding of the layers of wordplay involved.

    Please do the full one hundred! I would love to read your explanations of them all. (I wish you'd been the one teaching my Japanese classics class. We skipped past the 百人一首, which is a real shame. These poems are magic.)

    ReplyDelete