Lesson 7

Japanese art―和歌と俳句



Waka is a genre of verse of various prosodic(韻律の) types that began to take form in the hands of the court aristocracy(貴族制) in the mid-6th century. By the late 8th century the term was used synonymously(同意語として) with short poem[短歌], a type of verse that consists of five lines() in 31 syllables(音節) in the pattern 5-7-5-7-7 and that is still composed today. Early Japanese song, waka arose, and the derivative(派生的な) genres linked verse[連歌] and haikai[俳諧] (later known as haiku) are distinguished(区別する) from waka, as is modern free verse. The sinicized(中国風の) term waka, in use by the Heian period (794-1185), replaced the previous term poetry of the land of Yamato[大和歌], but both imply the distinction of native verse from verse composed in Chinese[漢詩] by Chinese or Japanese poets.



Classical waka employed a high proportion of images drawn from nature, personification(擬人化) of which led increasingly to allegory(寓意/比喩). However, unlike Western allegory, with its personified(擬人化した) conceptual(抽象) abstractions(概念), allegory in waka tended to be concrete(具象的な) and personal (e.g., a poem about an orange tree that awaits the arrival of the cuckoo(カッコウ) in early summer might also represent a lady awaiting her dilatory(遅れた) lover). The conventions(しきたり) of waka militated(作用する) against the innovative use of natural images the stock(家畜) of which, in the case of insects, included the cicada(セミ) and the cricket(コオロギ), but not the butterfly, the bee, or the firefly(ホタル) and a consequence of this narrowing of content was that a new poem inevitably(必然的に) alluded(言及する) to earlier poems in the tradition.

Waka poets concentrated on a handful of subjects, primarily human affairs (celebration, separation, grief, and especially love) and nature (natural beauty and the changing aspects of the seasons), avoiding war, physical suffering, death, and all that was ugly or low. Furthermore, the themes of beauty and sadness increasingly dominated waka. With the growing influence of a Buddhist world view holding all life to be ephemeral(はかない) and all human attachment(愛着) to be an impediment(妨げ) to enlightenment, nature poetry came typically to express a lyric(叙情的) melancholy(もの悲しさ), while poetry of love expressed a poignant(鋭い) consciousness of the impermanence(永久ではないこと) of personal ties.





Following Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves[万葉集], which is the late-8th-century anthology(名詩選集) of poetry, the next major collection of waka was Collection from Ancient and Modern Times[古今集], the first of 21 imperial anthologies[二十一代集]. These anthologies varied considerably(かなり) in size and quality, but each was considered the most important literary enterprise(事業) of its day. Among the chief sources from which poems were drawn for inclusion(含まれるもの) in the imperial anthologies were the collections of poetry written and compiled by individual poets[私家集]. Other important repositories(宝庫) of classical waka and of critical judgments are the records of poetry matches (歌合).

Waka of the Kokinshu was much influenced by the mannered elegance(優雅さ) and precious(凝った) conceits(発想) of Chinese poetry of the late Six Dynasties period[六朝時代] (222-589). Nevertheless, the Kokinshu also displays in its verse, as well as in the vernacular(日常口語の) preface(はしがき) written by one of its compilers, Ki no Tsurayuki[紀貫之], a strong consciousness of a native poetics(詩論). Tsurayuki distinguishes between the essence or "heart" of a poem and the construct of language by means of which it is embodied(表現する). The ideal which the poet strives for, Tsurayuki declares, is a harmony of heart and words, of individual feeling and sincerity(裏表のないこと) with rhetorical(修辞的) elegance and purity of diction(言い回し).

The eighth imperial anthology, New Collection from Ancient and Modern Times[新古今集], one of whose editors was Fujiwara no Teika[藤原定家], brought to fulfillment(実践) the organizational concepts, already apparent in the Kokinshu, of association(連想) and progression(連鎖). Adjacent(近隣の) poems were linked by such devices(工夫) as similarity of image or common allusion(暗示) to an older poem, while all of the poems of the major divisions of the anthology, such as those devoted to individual seasons or to love, were ordered on the basis of the appearance of seasonal phenomena(現象) or the progress of a love affair. The principles of association and progression were among the influences that contributed to the development of the genre of linked verse.

The last imperial anthology, New Collection from Ancient and Modern Times, Continued[新続古今集] was completed in 1439.

Following the Shin kokinshu, imperial anthologies displayed an increasingly sterile(無味乾燥の) style, marked by a slavish(独創性のない) veneration(崇拝) of the conventions of the Heian period, and by the Edo period (1600-1868) the center of waka composition(作成) had passed from the court to society at large.

Early in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the influential poet-critics Yosano Tekkan[与謝野鉄幹] and Masaoka Shiki[正岡子規] called for a break with the past and, following their practice, the custom arose of referring to the art of 31-syllable poetry as tanka, rather than waka. In 1899, with other young tanka poets, Tekkan founded the New Poetry Society[新詩社], which in 1900 initiated(始める) the publication of the literary magazine Bright Star[明星]. One of the leading contributors was Yosano Akiko[与謝野晶子], whose passionate lyricism(叙情詩調) brought a new vigor(活力) to the genre.

Tanka continues in the post-World War II period to be a widely practiced form of verse; nevertheless, though today hundreds of societies millions of practitioners carry on the tradition, the best Japanese poets have increasingly chosen to work in the genre of free verse. But, the importance of convention in waka has led to the preservation of classical grammar in tanka composition, thus waka still survives in today’s Japanese literary() arena().



Haiku is a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical(韻律の) units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. One of the most important forms of traditional Japanese poetry, haiku remains popular in modern Japan, and in recent years its popularity has spread to foreign countries.

Loose(自由な) usage by students, translators, and even poets themselves has led to much confusion about the distinction between the three related terms haiku, hokku[発句], and haikai[俳諧]. The term hokku literally means starting verse. A hokku was the first or starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as a haikai no renga, or simply haikai, in which alternating sets of 5-7-5 syllables and 7-7 syllables were joined. Hokku gradually took on an independent character. Largely through the efforts of Masaoka Shiki, the character was formed in the 1890s through the creation of the term haiku. Haiku was a new type of verse, in form quite similar to the traditional hokku, but different in that it was to be written, read, and understood as an independent poem, complete(完結する) in itself, rather than as part of a longer chain.

Strictly speaking, then, the history of haiku begins only in the last years of the 19th century. The famous verses composed by haikai poets [俳諧師] in Edo-period (1600-1868) such as Matsuo Basho[松尾芭蕉] (1644-1694), who is famous for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North[奥の細道]”, Yosa Boson[与謝蕪村] (1716-1784), and Kobayashi Issa[小林一茶] (1763-1827) are properly referred to as hokku, even though they are now generally read as independent haiku.



The West's first introduction to haiku came in B. H. Chamberlain's pioneer work, “Japanese Poetry” (1910), in chapter entitled “Basho and the Japanese Epigram(短い詩)”. William Porter's early anthology of translations was entitled “A Year of Japanese Epigrams” (1911). Haiku was first introduced to France by Paul-Louis Couchoud at the time of the Russo-Japanese War[日露戦争]. The title of his introduction to haiku was “Les Epigrammes(短い詩) Lyriques(叙情的な) du Japon”. The use of the term “epigram” in these titles is indicative of how haiku was first interpreted abroad.

Ezra Pound quickly noticed and appropriated(借用する) the haiku technique of cutting up the poem into two independent yet associated images. In France Paul Eluard wrote poems in the haiku style. Haiku has rapidly become naturalized both in Europe and in the United States, and then magazines of original haiku are published.



()田津(きたつ)に (ふな)乗りせむと 月待てば (しほ)もかなひぬ、今は漕ぎ出でな

At the Nikitatsu, I’d wait for the spray tide to board a ship. The tides come in and now let’s sail out to sea.   


信濃(しなぬ)()は 今(はり)(みち) 刈りばねに 足踏ましむな 沓はけ我が背

My dear, please wear a pair of shoes in case you should step on stumps along the rough Shinano-Trail.



閑けさや 岩にしみいる 蝉の声

Of tranquility, the chirp of cicada penetrates through a chunk of rock.


やせがえる 負けるな一茶 これにあり

A Lean flog, Hang in there! Issa is here to cheer for you.




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