publisher colophon
  • Three Heian Poems
  • Translation with calligraphy by Kyoko Selden

Kyoko Selden studied calligraphy with Kamijō Shinzan (1907-97), a prominent calligrapher and powerful advocate for returning calligraphy to public school curricula in the postwar era, throughout her high school and college years in Tokyo. She continued, in the ensuing decades, to pull out her inkwell and brushes whenever she was asked by non-profit organizations or authors to produce calligraphied logos, or was herself inspired to brush a classical Chinese or Japanese poem.

These three Heian-period waka poems—the first by Buddhist priest Henjō (816-89), the second by court poet Ōshikōchi no Mitsune (859-925), and the third by female poet Ise no Taifu (circa 989-1060)—were prepared for Marc Peter Keane’s book, Songs in the Garden: Poetry and Gardens in Ancient Japan (Ithaca: MPK Books, 2012). Although these particular versions of the poems did not make the final cut for the book manuscript, Kyoko saved them in a scrapbook along with other favorites she had produced over the years. [End Page 275]

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蓮の露を見て読める hasu no tsuyu o mite yomeru
はちす葉のにごりに染まぬ心もて なにかは露を珠とあざむく hachisuba no nigori ni shimanu kokoro mote nanika wa tsuyu o tama to azamuku
        僧正遍昭         Sōjō Henjō
        (古今和歌集 165)         (Kokin wakashū, poem 165)

Composed on seeing the dew on a lotus.

The lotus leaves, unstained by the muddy waters—
why then do they deceive us with dewdrops shimmering gem-like?

*The opening of the poem references 不染世間法 如蓮華在水, a line in the Lotus Sutra that compares the purity of the Dharma with that of a lotus rising from the waters. [End Page 276]

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物思ける時、幼き子を見て、 mono omoikeru toki, itokinaki ko o mite,
よめる yomeru
今更に生ひいづらむ竹の子の imasara ni nani oiizuramu take no ko no
憂き節しげき世とは知らずや uki fushi shigeki yo to wa shirazu ya
        凡河内躬恒         Ōshikōchi no Mitsune
          (古今和歌集 957)         (Kokin wakashū, poem 957)

Composed on seeing his young child when he was in a pensive mood.

Why ever come into this life to grow, young sprout—
don’t you know sorrows flourish in this world as countless as
the nodes on a bamboo stalk?
[End Page 277]

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物思ふこと有りける頃、 mono omou koto arikeru koro,
萩を見て詠める hagi o miteyomeru
おき明し見つつ眺むる萩の上の oki akashi mitsutsu nagamuru hagi no ue no
露吹き乱る秋の夜の風 tsuyu fuki midaru aki no yo no kaze
        伊勢の大輔   Ise no Taifu
        (後拾遺和歌集 295)         (Goshūi wakashū, poem 295)

Composed on seeing a bush clover at a time when she was filled with cares.

Peering hour after sleepless hour into the dark, my vacant gaze fixes on the dew
scattered atop the bush clover by the autumn night’s wind
[End Page 278]

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