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I did warn you that autumn goes on for more even poems than spring. Moreover, this book is more obsessive than the first half of autumn: with most of the miscellaneous topics out of the way, the focus is on the autumn leaves -- in all their spendor and transience. That the editors could keep the obsession from becoming tedious may have been due to a deep tradition of autumnal poetry, in part because of Chinese influences, resulting in poets using a large range of often quite striking imagery. Separating leaves into two sections, on changing and on falling, separated by a digression into one last late flower, didn't hurt.

But enough -- on to the leaf-peeping. Elegant leaf-peeping, to be sure. (As always, corrections and suggestions for improvement welcome.)

249.  Fun'ya no Yasuhide

A poem from the poetry contest at the house of Prince Koresada.

fuku kara ni
aki no kusaki no
mube yamakaze o
arashi to iuramu
    As soon as it blows,
the autumn trees and grasses
    instantly wither --
that must be, yes, why they call
this mountain wind "fury"ous.

The book leads off introducing its main theme: the seasonal changing of vegetation. At the poem's core is a mostly untranslatable kanji pun: arashi, "tempest," is a noun form of arasu, meaning "lay waste," but is written not with that word's kanji but one (嵐) that's a compound of mountain (山) + wind (風). "Furious" is the closest synonym with a destructive root I can think of. Regardless of one's opinion of punny content, this is otherwise a well-constructed poem -- and it is worth noting both that Tsurayuki in his preface praised Yasuhide's skill with words and that Chinese poets sometimes played with character components in this manner.

250.  (Fun'ya no Yasuhide)

(from the same contest)

kusa mo ki mo
iro kawaredomo
watatsuumi no
nami no hana ni zo
aki nakarikeru
    Although the colors
of both the trees and plants change,
    for the flowers
of the ocean-crossing waves
there is indeed no autumn.

While wata-tsu-umi, sometimes spelled watatsumi, is the name of a draconic sea-god usually written with kanji meaning "ocean diety" (where wata is an archaic synonym for "sea"), here the word is a stock epithet for the waves with a sense of something like "sea-crossing" (where wata is the stem of wataru, "to cross over"); however, it's possible to hear an implicit contrast of the sea-god in his domain with Tatsutahine, the goddess of autumn (see #298). Comparing whitecaps to flowers was a conventional image (see for example #272), one that Yasuhide has only sightly freshened by using it as a direct metaphor, though otherwise it is again a competent poem.

251.  Ki no Yoshimochi

Written when there was an autumn poetry contest.

momiji senu
tokiwa no yama wa
fuku kaze no
oto ni ya aki o
    On Evergreen Hill,
where the leaves are not changing
    into bright colors,
do they keep hearing autumn
in the sound of blowing winds?

Based on his appearences in court records starting in 896, Yoshimochi was probably born around 880 or shortly before, had a career as a middling courtier, and died in 919. In addition to this one poem in the Kokinshu, he also wrote the Chinese-language preface. ¶ The contest is otherwise unrecorded. The name of Mt. Tokiwa (see #148) is a homophone of tokiwa meaning "eternal" or "evergreen," from whence the conceit that autumn leaves don't change there and my rendering of Evergreen Hill. The pronoun issue is more tricky than usual here, as neither who hears the wind nor the speaker's location are explicit. The speaker wondering about listeners over yonder seems the easiest reading of the verb's speculative inflection, but he could be on the hill speculating on whether it's in the wind that autumn is heard. OTOH, I have no justification for padding out the line with "into bright."

252.  Author unknown

Topic unknown.

kiri tachite
kari zo nakunaru
kataoka no
ashita no hara wa
momiji shinuramu
    The mists are rising,
and I hear wild geese calling.
    On Ashita Plain
in Kataoka surely
the autumn leaves have now turned.

Kataoka ("side hill") is in what's now Kitakatsuragi District in the mountains southwest of Nara, but Ashita (usually "tomorrow" but at the time also "morning") is unknown, even though it became a poetic toponym because of this poem.

253.  (Author unknown)

(Topic unknown.)

shigure mo imada
furanaku ni
kanete utsurou
kannabi no mori
    Though the winter rains
of the Godless Month are not
    even falling yet,
it's the consecrated grove
where the leaves already change.

The start of definitely changing colors. The Godless Month (kannazuki or kaminazuki, another unmarked key 5-syllable word), when the Shinto deities all leave their local shrines for their annual convention in Izumo, is the lunisolar Tenth Month -- the first month of winter, roughly early-November to early-December. The point of the month being that you might expect that only then the absent gods would no longer be able to protect their shrine. The belief that water, in the form of rain or dew, causes leaves to change colors appears intermittently throughout this book. It's not clear whether kannabi is supposed to be a specific place (see #284) or understood generically as "consecrated"/"sacred" -- I went with the latter to highlight the wordplay on the time and place. "Leaves" is another omitted-but-understood word, as is "it's."

254.  (Author unknown)

(Topic unknown.)

kannabi yama no
momijiba ni
omoi wa kakeji
uturou mono o
    I won't get attached
to the colored autumn leaves
    on this mountain
sacred to the mighty gods
-- for even they will scatter.

Chihayaburu is a stock epithet with a general sense of "awesome" or "mighty" (originally something like having a wild, uncontrollable strength) applied to kami, "gods," which is the first part of the compound kannabi, here clearly generically "consecrated"; applying the epithet in English requires splitting the adjective, much as in #140. "Even" is an interpretive addition strongly implied by the syntax.

255.  Fujiwara no Kachion

In the Jôgan era [859–877], there was a plum tree in front of the Ryôkiden [palace bathing chambers]. Written when some courtiers were composing poems on a branch on the the west side of the tree that had begun changing colors.

onaji e o
wakite ko no ha no
utsurou wa
nishi koso aki no
hajime narikere
    As for the changing
(though all branches are the same)
    of only these leaves
on the tree, it is because
the west is where autumn begins.

Kachion's dates are unknown but based on headnotes he was active from at least the 870s through the 890s. He has four poems in the Kokinshu. ¶ In the yin-yang/five-elements cosmology imported from China and nativized as onmyôdô, autumn is associated with the west (and the metal element, the white tiger, and so on). I'd render the final clause as "it must be because" were the verb not inflected as an affirmative realization instead of a speculation.

256.  Ki no Tsurayuki

Written on seeing the autumn leaves on Mt. Otowa when he made a pilgrimage to Ishiyama.

akikaze no
fukinishi hi yori
mine no kozue mo
    Ever since the day
I heard the autumn winds blow,
    even the treetops
on the peak of Mt. Otowa
have, ah!, been changing colors.

Ishiyama Temple was another pilgrimage site on the western shore of Lake Biwa. Otowa (see #142) is noted for its autumn leaves; its name is a possible pivot-word, where the oto can be understood as "sound" -- whether to do so is debated because syntactically it would belong to the second clause but logically should go with the first. I chose to do so in part because it makes the reuse of the first two lines of #173 pull more weight. Japanese leaves conventionally start changing in the valleys first, thus the surprise at "even" high-altitude leaves.

257.  Fujiwara no Toshiyuki

A poem from the poetry contest at the house of Prince Koresada.

shiratsuyu no
iro wa hitotsu o
ika ni shite
aki no ko no ha o
chijini somuramu
    Given the white dew
is but a single color,
    how is it it dyes
the leaves of the autumn trees
thousands and thousands of them?

Another of Toshiyuki's Chinese-style ponderings of an apparent paradox. Regarding the dew's color, note that yin-yang/five-elements cosmology associates autumn and white. (Those of you familiar with Tang Dynasty poetry probably are looking askance at my description of this as "Chinese-style," but early Heian poets were most influenced not by their contemporaries in China but by the Six Dynasties period a few centuries before, the time when Japan was being actively Sinified. Have I mentioned before that history is fascinating?)

258.  Mibu no Tadamine

(from the same contest)

aki no yo no
tsuyu o-ba tsuyu to
kari no namida ya
nobe o somuramu
    On autumn nights,
maybe it's that dew settles
    just as dewdrops, while
it's the tears of the wild geese
that are dyeing the fields?

One possible answer to the previous. For goose tears and dewdrops, see also #221; the tears are, naturally, a product of an implied naku/call/weep pun. It's debated whether the tears are supposedly replacing or augmenting the dew. I'm forced toward the former because the only reading of the text that makes sense to me requires adding the interpretive "just."

259.  Author unknown

Topic unknown.

aki no tsuyu
iroiro koto ni
okeba koso
yama no ko no ha no
chikusa narurame
    It must be because
the autumn dew settles in
    such various ways
that the leaves of mountain trees
take on a thousand colors.

Another possible answer to #257. Textual issue: my base text has goto ni = "every" (modifying "various"), which doesn't really make sense, and by dropping a diacritic mark you get koto ni = "especially" -- which every other text I checked does, including a romanization by the base text's editor, so I do as well. Wordplay: iroiro is literally "color-color" but idiomatically "various," while chikusa is literally "thousand-plants" but can, as here, be understood as short for "the colors of many plants" -- giving us a literal-but-not-there color balanced by a nonliteral-but-really-there color.

260.  Ki no Tsurayuki

Written near Mt. Muro.

shiratsuyu mo
shigure mo itaku
moruyama wa
shitaba nokorazu
    Both the winter rains
and white dew are terribly
    on the Mount Dripping --
the lower leaves, ah, have now
entirely changed colors.

Mt. Moru is on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa -- probably the hill now called Mikami in modern Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, though some commentaries prefer Mt. Mori a little to its southwest, closer to the main road heading east from Kyoto. In any case, I translated the name as it's a pivot-word on moru = "to drip/leak" -- and rendering both name and verb in a single word this way gives something of the flavor of how pivots work in Japanese, albeit at the expense of Tsurayuki's graceful directness. The lower leaves in particular because water must seep down to them and so are expected to change last. While shigure is usually rendered as "winter rains," they start in late autumn and so are an image for this season as well -- in contrast, the dew is from early autumn, giving us the entire season.

261.  Ariwara no Motokata

Written as an autumn poem.

ame furedo
tsuyu mo moraji o
kasatori no
yama wa ikade ka
momiji somekemu
    Although the rain fell
not even a dewdrop dripped through --
    so how can it be
that Umbrella-Taking Hill
was dyed with these autumn leaves?

"Umbrella-Taking Hill" is the literal meaning of Mt. Kasatori, but commentaries disagree over whether it's the one near Uji somewhat south of Kyoto or one in the closer southeast hills whose name was changed to Mt. Daigo in the 870s. Either way, it's another of Motokata's weak word-play conceits. Fortunately for the reader, his question does not get answered.

262.  Ki no Tsurayuki

Written on seeing autumn leaves within the sacred fence when he passed by a god's shrine.

kami no igaki ni
hau kuzu mo
aki ni wa aezu
    Even the kudzu
creeping within the precinct
    of the mighty gods --
it cannot, against autumn:
it also has changed colors.

Same stock epithet for the gods as in #254, giving the piece a somewhat elevated tone. The kudzu (an arrowroot vine, Pueraria lobata) technically creeps within the "fence" but in the grounds is the more natural idiom in English; were it not for the headnote, it'd also be possible to read it as creeping, even more naturally, "on" the fence. "Also" is interpretive, but that's the clear sense. And speaking of clarity, just to be explicit, "shrines" are Shinto and "temples" are Buddhist. By placing this quite good poem between two weaker ones, I suspect Tsurayuki (not for the first time) of making himself look all the better in contrast.

263.  Mibu no Tadamine

A poem from the poetry contest at the house of Prince Koresada.

ame fureba
kasatoriyama no
momijiba wa
yukikau hito no
sode sae zo teru
    Taking umbrellas
for the rainfall -- Kasatori,
    where bright autumn leaves
set even sleeves of people
going and coming aglow.

Another name-play on kasatori = "umbrella-taking," here used as a pivot-word to create a preface that doesn't add much to the main statement aside from its cleverness. (It's possible to not read a pivot, but then the location is pointless.) Whether the leaves or the people need shelter is ambiguous, apparently in support of the wordplay. Also ambiguous is whether this is the same Kasatori as #261: commentaries note that while the important temple on the Kasatori that's now Mt. Daigo would explain the passing people, the identification is problematic as the name changed almost 20 years before this contest. The conceit is an interesting conception, but this is not Tadamine's best execution.

264.  Author unknown

A poem from the poetry contest held in the palace of the consort in the Kanpyô era.

kanete zo oshiki
momijiba wa
ima wa kakiri no
iro to mitsureba
    Though they've not scattered,
already I'm regretful
    -- for I've gazed upon
the bright autumn leaves now at
the climax of their colors.

A reminder of the mournful anticipation previewed in #187.

265.  Ki no Tomonori

Written on seeing the mist rising on Mt. Saho while traveling to Yamato Province.

ta ga tame no
nishiki nareba ka
akigiri no
saho no yamabe o
    For whose sake does it
think this leaf brocade exists? --
    the autumn mist that
rises to conceal from us
the slopes skirting Mt. Saho.

Yamato Province is the former name of Nara Prefecture, and Saho is a hill in Nara now famous for its autumn foliage -- though when the capital was in Nara it was associated with spring because, following five-elements/yin-yang cosmology, it was east of the imperial palace. The brocade of autumn leaves is a metaphor borrowed from Chinese poetry -- regarding which "leaf" is a gloss-within-the-text. "Does it think" is interpretive, but possibly warranted given there's already personification and it helps keep Tomonori's polished loveliness from sounding stiff. Compare to #51 and other springtime concealers of flowers passim.

266.  Author unknown

A poem from the poetry contest at the house of Prince Koresada.

akigiri wa
kesa wa na tachi so
sahoyama no
hahaso no momiji
yoso nite mo mimu
    O mists of autumn,
do not rise up this morning:
    I would from afar
gaze upon the autumn leaves
of the oaks of Mt. Saho.

The Nara area is especially noted for its oak trees. More literally, the speaker wants to see the leaves "even while in another place."

267.  Sakanoue no Korenori

Written as an autumn poem.

sahoyama no
hahaso no iro wa
aki wa fukaku mo
narinikeru kana
    Although it is light,
the color of yellow oaks
    upon Mt. Saho,
the season of autumn, ah!,
has become even deeper.

Korenori's birth and death dates are unknown, but he participated in the Kanpyô era consort's competition in c.893 and appears in court records as a minor official between 908 and 924. He has seven poems in the Kokinshu. ¶ The entire point being the contrast of the "light" color of yellow leaves and autumn getting "deep." As deep autumn and a deep color are different things, I'm not sure the wordplay quite works, even though in both English and Japanese the same word is used in both senses. "Yellow" is added as a gloss-within-the-text.

268.  Ariwara no Narihira

Poem attached to a chrysanthemum planted in someone's garden.

ueshi ueba
aki naki toki ya
hana koso chirame
ne sae kareme ya
    If planted this way,
even were there no autumn,
    wouldn't it still bloom?
-- and though its flowers may scatter
would the root wither as well?

The start of a digression on late-autumn chrysanthemums, which at the time meant a species of short white asters (Chrysantemum morifolium) rather than the showy modern varieties. Even more than usual for Narihira, this is dense with conditionals and subjunctives and unclear referents, plus a rhetorical question strongly marked as demanding a negative answer. In the headnote, it's not clear whether the planting was before or after the poem was tied on -- the latter is the traditional reading. I am, however, amused by how the first line's literal meaning comes pretty darn close to "if it's planted like a planted thing" -- sometimes, modern slang is older than you think; I am guessing that this "way" of a planted thing is to be well-planted, but beyond that, Narihira's tissue of meaning tears in my clumsy hands.

269.  Fujiwara no Toshiyuki

Written by command in the Kanpyô era [889–898] on chrysanthemum flowers.

hisakata no
kumo no ue nite
miru kiku wa
ama tsu hoshi to zo

kono uta wa, mada tenjou yurusarazarikeru toki ni meshi-agerarete tsukau-matsureru to namu
    These chrysanthemums
I spotted up there above
    the celestial clouds --
I did indeed mistake them
for the stars of heaven.

It's said this poem was presented on imperial order when he had not yet risen to high rank.

The command would have given by Uda, the emperor during the Kanpyô era. Despite the footnote, by Uda's accession Toshiyuki had already risen to Fifth Rank and so was in the upper ranks of aristocratic office. At the time, "above the clouds" idiomatically referred to being out of social reach, usually specifically the imperial court, and in that context the stars would be higher-ranked courtiers. Comparisons of asters to stars were also made in the West -- witness the Latin-derived English name. "Celestial" here translates hisakata no (see #84), as "eternal" is very odd epithet for clouds.

270.  Ki no Tomonori

A poem from the poetry contest at the house of Prince Koresada.

tsuyu nagara
orite kazasamu
kiku no hana
oisenu aki no
    Let's pluck and wear you,
O chrysanthemum flower,
    while there's still dew --
that never-aging autumn
must then abide forever.

The association of chrysanthemums with long life was imported from China along with their use in the longevity festival on the Ninth of the Ninth Month, which at the time fell some time in what's now October. According to Chinese folklore, drinking the dew off a chrysanthemum retarded aging or even, in some circumstances, granted immortality. Strictly speaking the wish is "for a (very) long time," but the effect (especially combined with "not aging") is close to "forever."

271.  Ôe no Chisato

A poem from the poetry contest held in the palace of the consort in the Kanpyô era.

ueshi toki
hana machidô ni
arishi kiku
utsurou aki ni
awamu to ya mishi
    When I planted you,
chrysanthemum whose flowers
    I so anxiously
awaited, did I foresee
we'd meet in fading autumn?

The fading of autumn is of course transference from, or at least transferable to, the fading of the flowers. Compare to #172 for another autumnal look back to spring. Despite the rule of thumb that rhetorical questions should always be answered in the negative, I want to respond, "Yes of course you did" -- followed by a muttered baka!

272.  Sugawara no Michizane

A poem attached to a chrysanthemum flower planted in a suhama for a chrysanthemum contest during the same reign; written on a depiction of chrysanthemums planted in Fukiage Beach.

akikaze no
fukiage ni tateru
shiragiku wa
hana ka aranu ka
nami no yosuru ka
    White chrysanthemums
standing in Fukiage
    where autumn winds blow --
they are flowers, are they not? --
might they be approaching waves?

Born in 845 to an academic family, Michizane was not only a leading Chinese scholar of his generation but with Emperor Uda's patronage rose to Minister of the Right based on his abilities and not being a Fujiwara. After Uda's abdication in 897, political opponents lead by Tokihira (see #230) got Michizane demoted on trumped-up charges in 901, and he died in an obscure provincial office in 903. After a series of calamities were attributed to his vengeful spirit, including the deaths of Tokihira and Sugane (see #212), in propitiation he was deified as Tenjin, initially a storm-god but now a patron of scholars, especially prayed to by students taking exams. He has two poems in the Kokinshu. ¶ Uda held this contest, which included comparisons between both flowers and poems, around 891. A suhama is a tray with an elaborate model landscape used collect the entries, be they flowers or poems or whatnot, in these sorts of contests -- apparently this particular one was a model Fukiage Beach, near modern Wakayama City, whose name is used as a pivot-word on fuki = "blowing." The effect of three question-marking particles in the last two lines is a startled hesitance (much like in #159). For the reverse comparison of whitecaps to flowers, see #250.

273.  Sosei

Written on a depiction of someone approaching a hermit's dwelling through chrysanthemums.

nurete hosu
yamaji no kiku no
tsuyu no ma ni
itsu ka chitose o
ware wa henikemu
    Drenched through and dried out --
however briefly the dew
    on chrysanthemums
by the mountain path may last,
for me, a thousand years passed by.

Based on the syntax of the headnotes, this and the next two poems seem to have been from the same contest as #272, each based on different suhama models, though they've also been interpreted as describing paintings on screens. In any event, in contrast to the spectator of the previous, this one's from the point of view of the depicted person. Wordplay: tsuyu is both the literal "dew" but also part of the idiom tsuyu no ma = "instantly" (lit. "the duration of dew"). In Chinese lore, a day in the retreat of a Taoist sage lasts a thousand years in the rest of the world, plus there's an implicit reference to the longevity imparted by drinking the dew from 'mums.

274.  Ki no Tomonori

Written on a depiction of a person waiting among chrysanthemum flowers for someone.

hana mitsutsu
hito matsu toki wa
shirotae no
sode ka to nomi zo
    Waiting for someone,
I kept glancing at the flowers --
    mistaking them for
nothing so much as his sleeves
white as mulberry-bark cloth.

Another apparently from the same contest, written about another model. The point of view isn't as clear-cut as in the previous poem, but the person within the model is the easiest reading. In contrast to #22, the stock epithet shiratae no is here just a fancy way of saying "white." Scholars speculate that this may have been inspired by a verse by Tao Qian, a fifth-century Chinese poet admired in Japan, and at the same time point out not much is gained by the allusion aside from a spot of learnedness.

275.  (Ki no Tomonori)

Written on a depiction of chrysanthemums planted by Ôsawa Pond.

hito moto to
omoishi kiku o
oosawa no
ike no soko ni mo
tare ka uekemu
    A chrysanthemum
with but a single stem,
    or so I believed,
but within Osawa Pond,
another -- who planted that?

Last one apparently from the contest. Ôsawa is an artificial lake built on an estate of Emperor Saga in the foothills to the west of Heian Kyoto, which became Daikaku Temple after his death. The other flower is, of course, a reflection. Tomonori is not notable for his cleverness, but even for him this is a weak conceit.

276.  Ki no Tsurayuki

Written on seeing a chrysanthemum flower while thinking about transience in this world of ours.

aki no kiku
niou kagiri wa
hana yori saki to
shiranu waga mi o
    While they're still splendid,
these chrysanthemums of autumn,
    given it's not known
whether I'll precede the flowers,
I'll adorn myself with them.

Back to the longevity theme. Reproducing something of Tsurayuki's smoothness had the side-effect of de-emphasizing the limit of the flowers' blooming. Exactly what he would do ahead of the flowers is left unstated, and required supplying a verb.

277.  Ôshikôchi no Mitsune

Written on white chrysanthemum flowers.

kokoro-ate ni
orabaya oramu
hatsushimo no
shiragiku no hana
    To pick one at all,
I must pick it at random:
    a white flower
of the late chrysanthemums
camouflaged by the first frost.

Kokoro-ate ni (literally, "by bits-of-heart") more usually means "by guesswork," but "at random" is also a connotation. With the first frost, winter approaches -- which I emphasize with the interpretive "late." Compare to the confusions of snow and plum flowers from winter's other shoulder season early in Book I. All in all, one of Mitsune's better poems.

278.  Author unknown

A poem from the poetry contest at the house of Prince Koresada.

iro kawaru
aki no kiku o-ba
hitotose ni
futatabi niou
hana to koso mire
    We indeed do see
the autumn chrysanthemums
    changing colors
as flowers that are splendid
twice within a single year.

Following the usual progression, after blooming comes fading. White chrysanthemums turn purplish/reddish before they wither, a shade this and the next poem admire. Contrast with #131.

279.  Taira no Sadafun

Written when chrysanthemum flowers were summoned to Ninna Temple and he was commanded to present an accompanying poem.

aki o okite
toki koso arikere
kiku no hana
utsurou kara ni
iro no masareba
    Autumn aside,
this especially is their time
    -- for the moment that
chrysanthemum flowers change,
their colors only improve.

Ninna Temple in western Kyoto was commissioned by the Ninna-era emperor, Kôkô (see #21), and completed in 888 under Emperor Uda, who retired there after his abdication; the incident happened in 904. Overtone lost in translation: for plants, the "change" of utsurou is usually the color but can also be the location -- giving an alternate reading that the flowers have gained glory by being transplanted near the retired emperor. It's also possible to take the 'mums as symbols of Uda, who gained a measure of political influence after his abdication (notwithstanding his inability to protect Michizane). You always have watch for this sort of layered flattery from courtiers.

280.  Ki no Tsurayuki

Written on transplanting chrysanthemum flowers that were at someone's house.

yado shi kawareba
kiku no hana
iro sae ni koso
    Since changing the home
where they first dyed their blossoms,
    the chrysanthemums --
especially even their colors --
have, I see, faded away.

And thus ends chrysanthemum season -- with a decay attributed, oddly, to a non-natural cause. Compare also the odd end of cuckoo season in #164. More literally, it's where they "began blooming," but rendering this freely brings out the contrast of somu, used in its metaphoric extension of "beginning" an action but literally meaning "to dye," and the fading colors of utsurou. That Tsurayuki also uses another verb for changing, kawaru, is more clunky than usual for him.

Since there's far too many leaves for one mere signature, time to start another -- one filled with swirling, scattering colors.

(Index for this series)