[The Tale of the Hyakunin Isshu] No. 89: “If the jade cord ceases to exist, the pain of having to endure it will fade” (Prince Shikiko)

No. 89: “If the jade cord is extinct, the pain of having to endure it will fade” (Prince Shikiko)

There are 21 female poets in Hyakunin Isshu, but there are fewer members of the imperial family than expected, with only Emperor Jito, number 2, and Imperial Princess Shikiko, number 89. Emperor Jito was the princess of Emperor Tenchi and lived in an era when the imperial family was just beginning to rise, but on the other hand, Imperial Princess Shikiko, the princess of Emperor Goshirakawa, was born in the Heiji Yasuji and Jijoju eras. He lived during the Ei no War, a period of war that marked the downfall of the imperial family.

It is well known that Shikiko spent her impressionable years working as a sain in Kamo. Saiin refers to the women who serve in the rituals at Kamo Shrine, and was established in the early Heian period following the Saigu of Ise, and has been carried out by the princesses of the imperial family for generations. Because people were required to be pure, it was not a problem for Saiin to get married once their duties were over, but it is said that most of the Saiin's were single throughout their lives. And the same was true for Imperial Princess Shikiko.

When you hear stories like this, you might think that Imperial Princess Shikiko's life was quite dark and lonely. In fact, there are many examples of Shikiko being introduced in this way, and this Hyakunin Isshu poem seems to further solidify that image.

"My life, if you're going to end it all at once, then end it! I'd rather not be able to bear it anymore."

The vortex of uncontrollable emotions and the strong sense of urgency of love determined Shikiko's personality, making her a poet full of sadness and loneliness. The popular song ``Teika Kuzu'' is also based on this context, depicting her as a tragic woman who cannot escape the spell of obsession with love.

But is that really the case? As I have said repeatedly, waka is a fictional literature, and there is no proof that even Shikiko's blasphemous words are true.
In fact, in the New Kokin Wakashu, in which the Hyakunin Isshu poem was taken, there is a text that reads, ``The love hidden within the Hyakunin Isshu poems,'' and it is clear that this is the title poem. In the first place, ``Ninbu Koi'' is a ``man's song'' in the so-called waka poetry of love, and Shikiko perfectly portrayed the tragedy by impersonating the feelings of a man. The parade of related words (``o'') such as ``quench'', ``nagarafu'', and ``weakwaru'' must have been a highlight of her technique.

Even during her term as Saiin, Shikiko actively interacted with the imperial court and honed her waka poetry skills. She looked up to Fujiwara Toshinari as her teacher and recited 100 poems many times. Toshinari's theory of poetry, ``Kokorafu Taisho,'' was also written at Shikiko's request. In other words, Princess Shikiko was also a poet who followed the path of singing.

Her songs don't have the gloom that is commonly associated with them. Rather, it is filled with a dazzling world* full of color and light. Hyakunin Isshu is a very useful best album, but it would be a shame or a waste to define a poet's personality based on just one poem.

*“It’s spring in the mountains, and the raindrops of snow that perish on the silent pine door” (Prince Shikiko)
*“Hototogi Susono's sacred mountain travel pillow Honokatarahis and the sky will never be forgotten” (Prince Shikiko)

(Written by Uchida Engaku, a poet)

List of “Hyakunin Isshu Stories”

Learn the basics of waka poetry and try reciting it!

We are holding a "Utajuku" with the goal of learning from representative classical works and being able to compose traditional "Waka" on an individual basis!

季刊誌「和歌文芸」
令和六年冬号(Amazonにて版販売中)

en_USEnglish