As I wait for someone who will never come, my body burns like the seaweed drying on the shores of Matsuho.
Konu hito wo
matsuho no ura no
yaku ya mo-shiho no
mi mo kogaretsutsu
Fujiwara no Teika 藤原定家 (also read as Sadaie, 1162-1241) lived at the times very different from those of the earlier Hyakunin Isshu 百人一首 ("One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each", compiled around 1230) poets but it was precisely because of the times that Teika lived in that his life and his achievements are so significant even 800 years later.
Fujiwara no Teika was born in 1162 and lived to the year 1241. This means he was born at the very end of the Heian period (平安時代; 794-1192) and saw the establishment of Kamakura shogugate (鎌倉幕府 Kamakura bakufu) or military government in Kamakura, hence beginning of Kamakura period (鎌倉時代; 1192-1333). And so it is, as if Teika stood at the edge of Heian period and could observe it all, collecting all of it into the Hyakunin Isshu, in reality Ogura Hyakunin Isshu 小倉百人一首, – an anthology so significant that the words Hyakunin Isshu now naturally invoke the meaning of the anthology compiled by Teika.
But it is not only the Hyakunin Isshu that makes Teika so significant. Sei Shōnagon's 清少納言 (b. 965? - ?) The Pillow Book (枕草子 Makura no sōshi), Murasaki Shikibu's 紫式部 (about 973 - about 1014) The Tale of Genji (源氏物語 Genji monogatari), or Kokinshū 古今集 (Kokin wakashū 古今和歌集; „Collection of Early and Modern Japanese Poetry”; 905) of the early Heian period (平安時代 Heian jidai; 794–1192) – these pieces of literature, that are inseparable from Heian culture as we know it today, are here at least partly because of Teika's efforts to copy them. Hence, as readers of Japan's classics from Heian and even earlier periods, we are can be thankful to this man named Teika.
Teika was a son of Fujiwara no Shunzei 藤原俊成 (also read as Toshinari; 1114-1204), who was "a great poetic arbiter of his time" (McMillan 2008, 146), yet Teika's status as an heir to Shunzei was not guaranteed, as it took Shunzei's letter to make Ex-Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽院 Gotoba no in, previously Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽天皇 [Gotoba tennō], 1180-1239) to persuade the Ex-Emperor to even invite Teika to compose for "Ex-Emperor Gotoba's First Hundred Poem Sequences" (後鳥羽院初度百 Gotoba no in shodo hyakushu) contest. After the contest, however, for which Teika submitted a sublime sequence of 100 poems, Teika's position as the supreme arbiter of poetry at Court was more or less established and Teika became one of the eleven Fellows (寄人 yoriudo) at Gotoba's Bureau of Poetry (和歌所 Wakadokoro), and later one of the six Fellows appointed as compilers of Shinkokinshū 新古今集 (新古今和歌集 Shin kokin wakashū; "New Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern"; 1205).
Yet, during the compilation of Shinkokinshū, Teika's opinion was often ignored by Gotoba, who had the final say regarding the compilation of the anthology. Furthermore, as Gotoba chose many poems by poets that were relatively unknown, Teika felt discontent and Teika's criticisms had reached Gotoba, who was naturally displeased. Both remained on bad terms until the end of their lives, Teika even choosing not to include any poems of Gotoba in Shin Chokusenshū 新勅撰集 (Shin Chokusen Wakashū 新勅撰和歌集; "New Imperial Waka Collection"; 1236), although the reason for it might as well have been purely political, - inclusion of poems by Gotoba, who in 1221 tried to overthrow the Kamakura shogunate (鎌倉幕府 Kamakura bakufu) in Jōkyū War (承久の乱 Jōkyū no ran), might have offended the shogunate.
One of the compilers of Shinkokinshū, the sole compiler of Shin Chokusenshū, Hyakunin Isshu, the person who copied so many of Heian classics we might say we are indebted to him, someone for whom poetry was a way of life, but also a man who was banished from Court for striking a superior officer (Brower 1972, 15), someone suffering chronic bronchitis and rheumatism (Ibid. 17), - that was Teika. So much more of his life and encounters can be told by reading his diary Meigetsuki 明月記 ("The Record of the Clear Moon"), notably his encounters with Princess Shikishi (式子内親王 Shikishi Naishinnō; 1149-1201, poem 89) but also his dissatisfaction with Ex-Emperor Gotoba's handling of Shinkokinshū, and struggles having to follow Gotoba to his residence at Minase 水無瀬, yet having nowhere to stay when there. Teika's diary tells considerably more than can be written here, hence it's a topic for another day.
500 years of waiting on the shore of Matsuho...
Originally poem was included in Shin Chokusenshū, which Teika himself compiled and wrote the preface for. In the headnote there, however, the poem is dated as written in Kenpō 6 (建保６年), which is a misunderstanding, as it is known that the poem was created for Dairi hyakuban utaawase 内裏百番歌合 of 1216, which was carried out in Kenpō 4 (建保４年). It seems like the poem was against a poem by Emperor Juntoku (順徳天皇 Juntoku tennō; 1197-1242), which would have ensured a natural loss for Teika, but this poem was considered a winner of the round (Kubota 2009, 123).
That, in addition to the fact that Teika chose this poem to represent himself Hyakunin Isshu, attests the idea that Teika himself should have considered the poem as one of this finest.
As the poem was composed for a poetry competition, it had a set theme. The way Teika used the theme, however, is masterful, as he drew on a poem from Man'yōshū 万葉集 ("Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves", around 759). And while none of the images that Teika’s poem evokes are new, the clever use of intertextuality, associations, and metaphors makes the poem feel modern (as modern as it can get for a 800+ year old poem, I guess) and innovative, yet in touch with a long poetic tradition that existed before Teika's time.
If we looked only at the very beginning of the poem Konu hito wo matsu (来ぬ人をまつ), the meaning of it would be "Waiting for someone who does not come", which would render matsu まつ as 待つ, which is read in the same way and means "to wait". However, Teika's matsu is also part of matsuho no ura まつほの浦, which means "Matsuho's shore". In poetry matsuho no ura is a frequently used placename that has appeared in poems as early as Man'yōshū (such placenames are called utamakura 歌枕). In reality, it's a shore on the island of Awaji 淡路島 in what once was Awaji no kuni 淡路国 and is now part of Hyōgo prefecture (兵庫県 Hyōgo-ken), so it's close to modern-day Kobe 神戸市 and Ōsaka 大阪市 in Western Japan.
As mentioned above, matsuho no ura has appeared in Man'yōshū and it seems that the poem Teika chose to include to the Hyakunin Isshu is an inversion of a poem from Man'yōshū (6th scroll, poem no. 935).
[Note that poems were written without making distinctions between lines but make the rhythm easier to understand and to make Japanese reading more accessible, the poem is broken down into lines here, as is often done in many Western anthologies of Japanese classics of poetry. Also, the transcription of some characters differs from the modern transcription, e.g. the last o in moshio is ho → moshiho , o in amaotome is wo → amawotome, etc. as such is the usual transcription of classical Japanese.]
funase yu miyuru
Matsuho no ura ni
mi ni ikamu
yoshi no nakereba
kokoro ha nashi ni
funagadi wo na
On the occasion of the Sovereign's journey to Inami District, Harima Province, in autumn, on the fifteenth of the ninth month of the third year of Jinki (726).
On Matsuho's shore of Awaji Island,
Seen yonder from Funase* of Nakisumi,
(seen yonder from the harbour of Nakisumi,)
There are fisher-maids, I am told,
Who cut the dainty seaweed in the morning calm,
And in the evening calm burn salt-fires.
But I, knowing not how to reach them,
And deprived of my manly courage,
Am maid-like distraught with sorrow,
And wander about yearning for the far beach-
Helpless without boat and oar! (Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai, 1965, 102)
*Funase 船瀬 is a noun, which means a harbor. For some reason it seems to be translated as a placename, hence the second line (which is actually the first two lines in Japanese), could be translated as seen yonder from the harbour of Nakisumi.
The yuu-nagi ni 夕なぎに line in Teika's poem is also taken from the Man'yōshū original. Yuu 夕means "evening", while nagi なぎ is a state of calm, when there is no wind or waves, hence it can be understood as “evening calm”.
Mo-shiho 藻塩 (pronounced as mo-shio) is a type of salt that's made by adding seaweed into seawater and boiling the water until it evaporates, leaving the dry seaweed and salt. Apparently, the mo-shiho has been made on Matsuho shores, so to an experienced reader, the salt and the placename actually form a clear association.
Furthermore, matsuno no ura no yuu-nagi ni yaku ya mo-shiho no is a jokotoba 序詞, a metaphor of over 7 morae, that is linked to the main body of the poem. In Teika's poem the association is made between moshio, or salt made by burning seaweed, and kogaretsutsu こがれつつ. Kogaretsutsu expresses a continuous action, as tsutsu つつ is added to the ren'yōkei 連用形 or continuative form of a verb kogaru こがる (焦がる). The verb means "to burn" or "to burn until black" and is not used in modern Japanese, where modern verb kogareru 焦がれる is used. The modern kogareru means "to yearn for", which is also a meaning of kogaru, but kogareru does not form the association, as it does not have to do with burning. It is through the meaning of "burning" that the classical kogaretsutsu connects with moshio as well as yaku 焼く("to burn"), while the meaning of "yearning" alludes to Konu hito wo matsu understood as "waiting for someone who does not come".
As mentioned above, Teika's poem is considered to be an inversion of the Man'yōshū poem. In Man'yōshū the one reciting the poem is a man looking at fisher-maids or amaotome 海少女 (in Man'yōshū "amawotome") of Matsuho shore. But in Teika's poem, it's one of the amaotome waiting for a lover who does not come. Hence, one could even see Teika's poem as creating a dialogue and showing continuity of poetic tradition all the way from Man'yōshū to Teika's day. An inclusion of such a poem into an anthology representative of poetry from the Man'yōshū days only strengthens an image of continuity of poetic tradition while at the same time showing the different tastes and poetic styles of Teika's day.
This poem was read in episode 20 of anime adaptation of Chihayafuru. There Chihaya came to Yoshino Tournament because Taichi was playing there but he had already lost when she came, and told her that Arata was there, playing. When Chihaya was going to the hall, the poem was read. As I wait for someone who will never come my body burns like the seaweed drying on the shores of Matsuho.
This is probably a sign of her not believing Arata would come, her fear for him not to come back, yet, unlike someone who never came to the one speaking in the poem, Arata came back.
In Karuta konu hito wo こぬひとを is one of six cards that start with ko こ. The ko cards, however, can be divided into two groups – those separated by the second syllable and those separated by the fourth. There are four cards separated by the second syllable konoこの (poem 24)、kohi こひ (poem 41)、konu こぬ (poem 97)、kore これ (poem 10) and two separated by the fourth kokoroaこころあ (poem 29)、kokoroni こころに (poem 68).
konu hito wo
matsuho no ura no
yaku ya moshiho
yaku ya moshio
mi mo kogaretsutsu
This is how the poem would be written down on the karuta cards. Notice the bolded parts as well, as they are written differently than they are pronounced. The reading is noted in italic rōmaji below.