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A Hundred Verses from Old Japan (The Hyakunin-isshu), tr. by William N. Porter, [1909], at

p. 9




  Hana no iro wa
Utsuri ni keri na
  Itazura ni
Waga mi yo ni furu
Nagame seshi ma ni.

THE blossom's tint is washed away
  By heavy showers of rain;
My charms, which once I prized so much,
  Are also on the wane,
  Both bloomed, alas! in vain.

The writer was a famous poetess, who lived A.D. 834-880. She is remembered for her talent, her beauty, her pride, her love of luxury, her frailty, and her miserable old age. The magic of her art is said to have overcome a severe drought, from which the country suffered in the year 866, when prayers to the Gods had proved useless.

The first and last couplets may mean either 'the blossom's tint fades away under the continued downpour of rain in the world', or 'the beauty of this flower (i.e. herself) is fading away as I grow older and older in this life'; while the third line dividing the two couplets means, that the flower's tint and her own beauty are alike only vanity. This verse, with its double meaning running throughout, is an excellent example of the characteristic Japanese play upon words.

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