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250 NIIMANABI Kamo no Mabuchi | 1765 [Mabuchi sees the composition of poetry as a fundamental characteristic of Japan. He argues that studying the poetry of Man’yōshū helps the student learn that the ancient Japanese had a masculine character that was later weakened by continental influence. He outlines this decline, and proposes the solution to return to the state of the ancient past, which will remedy the situation. Thus, the Japanese people will be able to return to a natural state, one suitable to nature, as he believed the ancient Japanese had been before foreign influences shattered that ideal.] Ancient poetry is mainly concerned with melody. This is because ancient poetry was originally sung vocally. Generally speaking, the melody of poetry was tranquil, clear, pure, and slightly melancholy; a variety of human emotions produced numerous melodies, but the common factor among all these was that the poetry was lofty and straightforward. A sense of elegance exists within this loftiness, while a feeling of masculinity underlies its straightforwardness. The reason for stating this is because heaven and earth—which are the father and mother of everything—are divided into spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Everything the earth has created is divided into these four seasons; one can divide things into these four classifications, and the melody of the singer is the same. Also, each season does not have completely peculiar traits, spring overlapping with summer and autumn overlapping with winter. Resembling the actual state of the seasons, there are melodies borrowed from two different variations. Though there are many varieties, each variety has its own excelling rhythmical song. Therefore, to come to an understanding of the ancient state of life, when one experiences the structure of ancient poetry, we come to see that the ancient capital in the province of Yamato was masculine in nature, and women followed the style of men. Thus, the poetry in Man’yōshū is for the most part masculine in nature. The next era, when the capital was in the province of Yamashiro, was feminine in nature, and men followed the style of women. That is why most of the poetry in Kokinshū is written in a feminine style. And when one debates about the six styles in Kokinshū, people judge the peaceful and refreshing style as superior. The reason the Kokinshū preface says that the provincial style is strong and mascu- MABUCHI | Niimanabi251 line1 is because poets in the present place and time think that the current style is ideal, and they do not even attempt a broad study of the poetic styles of the ancients. Now, though there are changes in everything like the four seasons, Kokinshū, following the mood of its preface, places value only on spring with its elegance, and discards summer and winter; it values the feminine element while avoiding the masculine. Now, in the era when successive rulers made Yamato their capital, the emperor ruled the country. The emperor showed courageous authority on the surface, but underneath he was generous and gentle. Because of this, imperial reigns rolled on, and the prosperity of the state increased, the common man generally respected and honored his rulers, being straightforward and sincere , which disposition [of the common man] continued for generations. After the court removed the capital to the province of Yamashiro, the authority of the august emperor gradually declined, and the commoner was flattered by the change, and their disposition worsened. Why do people think this occurred? The reason is because the people in the capital located in Yamashiro did not accept the tradition of the masculine disposition common in the Yamato era, but acquired an affinity for feminine things. Add to this the popularity of Chinese learning, and the common people lost their respect for their rulers, and an increasingly wicked disposition only worsened. Therefore, everything in the world is lacking, because we have lost the true variation of the four seasons, the elegance of spring, the strength of summer, the ephemeral flight of autumn, and the dreariness of winter. Since the appearance of Kokinshū, people think that meekness has become the essence of poetry. It is a terrible mistake to believe that a poem with masculine strength is crude. One should always read Man’yōshū poetry to comprehend what it means to be masculine and strong. If you produce poetry that you feel resembles that of Man’yōshū, after many years surely this masculine melody will become etched in your heart. The student should want...


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