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The Master-Singers of Japan, by Clara A. Walsh, [1914], at

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Ohotomo no Sukune Yakamochi was a noble of the Ohotomo clan. He held high rank at Court, being made Daishi—great teacher—an honour conferred upon learned and virtuous persons. To him probably is due the collection of poems of the " Manyôshiu "—to which his own poems form a considerable an valuable contribution. He died September 785 A.D. Professor Dickins says, "His poetical correspondence with Ikenushi is a most interesting example of the literary life of the court and official world of the eighth century."


May 19th, 750 A.D.

See the fair maid expectant stand,
All in the golden morning light.
Mirror-case held in tiny hand,
Whose lids have veiled its surface bright.
Peach-tinted cheeks and smile-curved brows,
Graceful as arching willow boughs.

On the high twin peaks of the hill,
Through the mist-scattered deep green vales,
Loud rings the cuckoo's note and clear,
Or near the moonlit moorland wails.
Darts he through rippling fuji-blooms,
Through the wing-shaken perfumed showers
Of scattered petals. Thence I cull
A fragrant spray of well-loved flowers.

p. 37

The purple wavelets in my sleeve
I place—and if, all fair to see
Yet they should stain its surface bright,
What care I? Purple let it be!



By YakamochiJune 5th, A.D. 749

In the great Sea-god Susu's realm
The divers brave the awful deep,
There the awabi's gleaming pearls
Pluck from the shadows where they sleep.

Would that a hundred pearls were mine,
Hundreds of gleaming orbs to twine
And send to thee, where thou dost pine
In Royal City desolate!
Where the nights pass in dreary round,
And thou, with tresses all unbound,
The days of parting countest!
Lonely our alcove—still apart
Our sleeves—and thou with weary heart—
The creeping days, thou countest?

p. 38

Pearls I would send, that thou shouldst find
Solace in twining them to hind
Garlands of orange-blossom white,
Dark leaves with golden fruit alight,
   And sweet-flag flowers,
In this fifth moon-month when by day
And night the cuckoo sings his lay.


(Last Lay of the "Manyôshiu")

By Yakamochi—New Year's Day, Feb. 2nd, A.D. 759

             ’Tis the New Year.
Already dawneth Spring, with promise bright.
On our dear Land may countless blessings light,
As countless as the snowflakes that are falling!


(Part of Lay 232, "Manyôshiu")

By Yakamochi—July 16th, A.D. 749

To soothe my heart, afar from thee,
A wild pink from the green hillside
I planted in my garden court.
Then, for its flower-spouse I brought
A lily from the moorland wide.
So should their hues and fragrance be
    Together mingled.

p. 39

As side by side, I watch them grow,
    It calms my sorrow,
Else, heaven-far from thee, I know
    I could not, could not stay
      One more brief day,
But fain must seek thee on the morrow!


By Yakamochi—June 2nd, A.D. 750

Within thy garden lies
A sheltered dell where alders grow,
From thence to morning skies
The cuckoo's notes unceasing flow,
And every eve, far, far away
Among the Fuji trails
Purple with bloom, his roundelay
Of joyance never fails.
But in my garden here,
Though orange-flowers unwithered blow,
No cuckoo ventures near,
Nor song doth he bestow!
Why tells he to thine ear?
The tale I may not know

p. 40


Part of Lay Sent to his Wife in the Capital

From friends and kin apart,
In lonely wilds I pined,
And solace to my heart,
A-hawking sought to find.
Ihasé's moor towards
Where the bush-clover grows,
Over the Autumn sward
Gaily my party goes.
Men through the wooded dells
Beating for wild-fowl press,
While my hawk's silver bells
Tinkle with eagerness.
With that sweet music near,
Gazing on wide-spread view,
Gone are my musings drear,
Gladness is born anew!
Now in our chamber here,
Where our twin-pillows lie,
My dappled falcon dear
Perches his master nigh.
Here dainty hits I bring,
Here smooth his mottled wing!

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(Lay 238 from the Manyôshiu")

By Yakamochi—April 20th, A.D. 750

Since that far day when Heaven and Earth were new,
Plain to mankind hath been the certainty
That this our world is all impermanence.
Gaze on the heavens, and mark the gleaming moon,
That ever waxes, evermore to wane.
The steep hillsides, tree-clad, flow's-wreathed Spring,
Are fair with blossom; but the Autumn comes,
The cold dew falls, and hoar-frosts’ searing touch
Sets the hillside aflame with ruddy leaves—
The red leaf falls, and leaves the branches bare!
So with mankind. Too soon the youthful cheek
Loses its freshness, and the jetty hair
Changes its shining darkness into grey.
The smiling morn turns to the tearful eve,
As the wind blows, unseen of mortal eye.
As the tide flows, nor for an instant stays;
So all things pass, and all are mutable,
And I—I weep, and cannot stay my tears!

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Together dwelt my Lady-wife and I,
And with the years so grew our mutual love,
While each new Spring, when on the earliest flowers
We gazed together, so in form and soul
She seemed to draw new loveliness herself
From their young beauty—Wife! so far from me!
When, in obedience to my Sov’reign Lord,
I crossed through frowning passes thick with trees,
And o’er wild moors, to frontiers heaven-far.
Since we were parted, months have come and gone,
The cherry-flowers have bloomed and passed away,
And thou, sweet wife! not one short glimpse of thee
My heart has gladdened! Sorrowful and wan
Each night my sleeve I backward turn, if so
Haply in dreams to see thee! Yet I would
Thy very self, and not thy dream-form see.
Would I could seek thee, and the long night through
Make thy white arm my pillow.—But alas!
Long lie the spear-ways, as a barrier
Parting us, till a happier time be ours!
Ay! when the cuckoo blithely singing comes,
In his own month (ah t would that it were here!)

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When all the hills are white with hare-bush blooms,
Then shall I gaze across the shining space
Of Omi's waters, to our distant home;
Nara, the City-Royal, and our home!
Like the sad Nuyé bird, impatient too,
I shall set forth, my eager heart and soul
One great glad longing for the sight of thee!
Sight of thee standing in our doorway dear,
Listening to passing words as oracles,
Searching with earnest gaze the distant road
(Sad, at the evening shadows lengthening)
For me who come apace to meet my love?


By Yakamochi

Written when ill, in answer to Letter and Verses from his Friend Ikenushi, April 8th, A.D. 748

Fair is the land in waning Spring,
The light wind passes like a sigh,
Swift through the blue on sweeping wing
The swallow, clay in beak, goes by.
Gladly he darts through shadowing leaves
To his house-building ’neath the eaves.
To the wide ocean far away
The wild geese, reeds in bill, take flight,
Streaming across the moonlit bay
Through the vast silence of the night.

p. 44

You write, "I sing, where old friends throng,
New songs, and, duly purified, I drink and pass the cup along,
Adrift upon the crystal tide."
Glad would I join your feast. Alas!
Weak from disease I may not pass
To revel by your side!


By Yakamochi

Boldly the white plum-blossoms raise
Their fragrant beauty through the haze
Of winter gloom, where sleet and snow
Contending, round my dwelling blow.


By Yakamochi

A hero's fame should so established stand,
That through the endless ages yet to be
His name should thrill, inspiriting and grand,
Upon the lips of far posterity!

p. 45


In dread obeisance thy way
To distant Marchlands didst thou wend,
O’er craggy hill and barren waste;
A loyal liege-man thou, O friend!
’Tis true thou liest all alone
On bed of sickness close-confined,
Full of sad thoughts, but such the way
Of this poor world, time beyond mind!
What say our neighbours, that may cheer
Thy saddened thoughts, beloved friend!
They say, on all the hillsides bloom
The sprays of cherry, that down-bend
With shining blossom ’mid whose snows
Ceaseless the warblers’ love-lilts ring,
While o’er the moorland wander maids
Plucking the violets of Spring;
Neatly they fold their shining sleeves,
Lift their red skirts above the dew,
And wait with heartfelt sympathy,
For thee to pluck the flowers anew.
Cheer thee, O brother, Spring is young,
And ere it fades, thou yet shalt share
The revels of its blossom-time,
The fragrance of its perfumed air!

Next: V.