Thursday, December 17, 2015

Carpe Diem #881 following Basho into the deep north: Mount Atsumi; a hot day's sun; Kisagata silk tree

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are still following Basho into the deep north. Until now it was a wonderful journey and it will become even more beautiful as you will see.


Leaving Mount Haguro on the following day, I came to the castle town called Tsuru-ga-oka, where I was received warmly by Nagayama Shigeyuki, a warrior, and composed a book of linked verse with him and Zushi Sakichi who had accompanied me all the way from Mount Haguro. Bidding them farewell, I again descended the River Mogami in a boat and arrived at the port of Sakata, where I was entertained by the physician named En'an Fugyoku.

Mount Atsumi
over to Blowing Beach
to enjoy a cool breeze

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

A hot day’s sun
taken into the sea
by the Mogami River

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

I had seen since my departure innumerable examples of natural beauty which land and water, mountains and rivers, had produced in one accord, and yet in no way could I suppress the great urge I had in my mind to see the miraculous beauty of Kisagata, a lagoon situated to the northeast of Sakata. I followed a narrow trail for about ten miles, climbing steep hills, descending to rocky shores, or pushing through sandy beaches, but just about the time the dim sun was nearing the horizon, a strong wind arose from the sea, blowing up fine grains of sand, and rain, too, began to spread a grey film of cloud across the sky, so that even Mount Chokai was made invisible. I walked in this state of semi-blindness, picturing all sorts of views to myself, till at last I put up at a fisherman's hut, convinced that if there was so much beauty in the dark rain, much more was promised by fair weather.   
Credits: Kisagata
A clear sky and brilliant sun greeted my eyes on the following morning, and I sailed across the lagoon in an open boat. I first stopped at a tiny island named after the Priest Noin to have a look at his retreat where he had stayed for three years, and then landed on the opposite shore where there was the aged cherry tree which Saigyo honored by writing 'sailing over the waves of blossoms. There was also a mausoleum of the Empress Jingu and the temple named Kanmanjuji. I was a bit surprised to hear of her visit here and left in doubt as to its historical truth, but I sat in a spacious room of the temple to command the entire view of the lagoon. When he hanging screens were rolled up, an extraordinary view unfolded itself before my eyes - Mount Chokai supporting the sky like a pillar in the south with its shadowy reflection in the water, the barrier-gate of Muyamuya just visible in the west, an endless causeway leading as far as Akita in the east, and finally in the north, Shiogoshi, the mouth of the lagoon with waves of the outer ocean breaking against it. Although little more than a mile in width, this lagoon is not the least inferior to Matsushima in charm and grace. There is, however, a remarkable difference between the two. Matsushima is a cheerful, laughing beauty, while the charm of Kisagata is in the beauty of its weeping countenance. It is not only lonely but also penitent, as it were, for some unknown evil. Indeed, it has a striking resemblance to the expression of a troubled mind.

Kisagata silk tree
is a Chinese beauty in the rain
a sleeping flower

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Credits: Albizzia julibrissin
Of the "Kisagata" haiku there is also another version, maybe this was the first version:

Here is the variation:

Kisagata ya ami ni Seishi ga nebu no hana

Kisagata rain
with the Chinese beauty asleep
a silk tree in bloom

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

I love to tell you a little bit more about this “Kisagata” haiku-set. In this haiku the reference is to Seishi, Xi Shi, a Chinese beauty of the 5th century B.C., who was given as concubine to King Fu Cha. According to legend, the king loved her so much he neglected his duties and lost his kingdom. The play of words comes with nebu (to sleep), which sounds as nemu (silk, mimosa, or parasol tree; Albizzia julibrissin, which has leaves that fold up, as if asleep, at night or when touched) 

silk tree blossoms
in a soothing summer rain
trembling in silence
so fragile,
in a summer breeze

© Chèvrefeuille
This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until December 20th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, low tide crossing; July, later on.

1 comment:

  1. Tender post - and verse of yours at the end. Very charming. Must try to evoke the same kind of feeling but it will be hard, I know.