Chaos of Manyoshu! Learn about its characteristics (poetry style) and true charm through examples

The other day, I summarized the characteristics of the Manyoshu by saying "mixed stones." It's really chaotic.
→Related article “Get to know the representative songs, style, selectors, and history of Manyoshu!

Let me introduce this with an example.
After reading it, I'm sure you'll fall into the depths of chaos and fall in love with Manyoshu.

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Kishin (Emperor and beggar)

The Manyoshu contains poems from all kinds of people, regardless of their status. The highest rank is the emperor, and the reverse is the beggar.

``There is a basket, a basket, a digging skewer, a digging skewer, On this hill, there is a child who picks vegetables. I am the one who will be seated, and I will be the one who condemns my family and my name.'' (Emperor Yuryaku)

This song is the memorable opening song of the Manyoshu, but it is also a song that truly symbolizes the collection of poems called Manyoshu. The poet was Emperor Yuryaku, the 21st emperor. You might think it's a precious song, but it's an incredible song.
"O maiden with a beautiful basket and picking greens, hey, hey, where do you live? What's your name? That's fine, that's fine, tell me~. What about me, who I don't know? Should I say my name? What should I do? .For now, I'll just say that I rule the entire country!"
It was a pick-up song by the Emperor. Those who think that the Manyoshu is old and magnificent should change their mind. By the way, was there any woman who could refuse this pick-up?

3886 ``As soon as the light shines down, I eat the reed crab that is hiding in the brook of Namba, and it dawns on me, ``Why don't you call me?'' I will know that the poet and I Call me, the piper, call me, the koto player, call me.Even if you accept the command, today and today, you will reach Asuka, and even if you do not set it, you will not reach Okinawa, Tsukuno. When he came to the east, he came to the gate of Naka no Mikado, and accepted his orders, and it was only for the horses that he would be bound, and for the cows, he would put his nose rope, and he would give five hundred elms on this Katayama in the foothills. As soon as the sun shines on the branches, the first drops of the first drops of Namba's estuary drip down, and the potter ( I'll go today to get a bottle that I can make, and tomorrow I'll bring it back, and you'll rub salt in my eyes. Mochi is easy, mochi is easy." (Beggar)

This is one of the ``Beggar's Two Poems'' included in Volume 16.
It's a rather long song, so to summarize it simply: ``The Emperor said he would call for a crab (himself).'' What should I do? Sing a song? Do you play a whistle? No matter what you do, you'll tie it up with a rope, dry it in the sun, put it in a jar made by a potter, sprinkle it with salt, and eat it, right? You're going to eat it! ! ”
The song expresses how he despises himself as a "crab" and fears that he will be killed. A beggar (or hohihito) is like a comedian today, and when he is summoned by the emperor, he is quite frightened. However, if you compare it with Emperor Yuryaku's pick-up song, there is a wall so high that it is hard to believe that they are the same person.

oldest songs and new songs

85: ``You are going, the days are getting longer, the mountain tazune is going to greet you, I will be waiting for you'' (Empress Iwahime)
``It's been a few days since you left... Oh, I miss you! Should I take you to the mountain or should I wait forever?''
The oldest poem that remains in the Manyoshu is said to have been composed by Empress Iwahime. Empress Iwahime is the empress of Emperor Nintoku, but the exact length of Emperor Nintoku's reign is unknown. However, the oldest theory is that it dates back to the first half of the fourth century.
By the way, Empress Iwahime is legendary as a demon of jealousy, and this song also feels like she's one step away from being stalked.

4,516 “The snow falling today at the beginning of a new year, early spring, is a healing auspicious event” (Otomo Ieyamochi)
This is the latest song remaining in the Manyoshu. The text says, ``The first day of Spring and New Year, 3rd year of Tenpyoji,'' which is 759 years according to the Western calendar.
There is a maximum gap of about 450 years from the time of Empress Iwahime. Well, it is not certain whether Empress Iwahime actually wrote the poem herself. Above all, even if you compare their songs, it's hard to believe that there is a difference of 450 years. By the way, there is a gap of about 150 years between Manyoshu and Kokinshu, but there is a sense of separation between them.
Now, this poem by Iemochi is not only the final song of the Manyoshu, but also his last work.

Song style 1: Masuara man and weak woman

Japanese scholars of the Edo period described him as ``Masurao Buri'' (Manyo Ko), referring to the style of poetry from the Manyoshu. So you decided on something masculine and easy-going. On the other hand, there were some who called the Kokinshu ``tao yameburi'' and viewed it as something inferior. However, in reality, both of these exist in the Manyoshu.

18: ``When a sailor sails to Nikitatsu, the tide will not come if he waits for the moon.'' (Nukata King)
This is a scene from Mukutazu on the ship route to Kyushu. ``The tide has turned nice, now's the time to start rowing! ! ” is the song.
At the time, Japan was at war with Silla, known as the ``Battle of Hakuson River.'' This ship was part of that expeditionary force. What's more, although the poem was written by Nukata O (a woman), she is very brave, just like Masuarao.

21: ``If you hate your little sister who loves purple grass, you will fall in love with Yue, a married woman.'' (Prince Oama)
"If I didn't like you, who is as beautiful as purple grass, I wouldn't fall in love with you just because you're a married woman."
It's hard to understand because there are antonyms, but the song basically says, ``I like you because you're beautiful.'' There are many songs in the Manyoshu that are typical of ancient and modern waka anthologies, about secret love that cannot be revealed openly.
In any case, the singer, Prince Oama (Emperor Tenmu), and his partner, King Nukata, were a former couple, and this poem was composed after they were taken over by their older brother, Emperor Tenji. I wonder if it's a joke or if it's serious, but what were the romantic relationships like among noble people back then?

Poetry style 2: Realism and ideas

This is a very common evaluation, and it is said that the poems in the Manyoshu are ``realistic,'' that is, they are composed as they are seen and imagined. The innovative poets of the Meiji period appreciated this aspect of the Manyoshu and made it their ultimate model. On the other hand, ancient and modern waka collections are considered to be conceptual, and such poems are ignored in modern tanka. However, the Manyoshu has an inclusive power that includes this as well.

11,824 ``When winter comes, spring comes, and the hares sing in the foothills and in the fields.''
``When spring comes, warblers sing in the mountains and in the fields.'' It's exactly as you see it, with no twists or turns. However, whether or not this can be considered a poem is another matter.

Man 1812 ``This evening, mist wafts, and spring rises on Mt. Kagu in the sky under the sun.''
``Spring must have arrived, with a mist hanging over the dusk of Mt. Kakusan in the sky.'' It's also a song about early spring, but it's extremely conceptual to know spring by looking at the haze. It's even doubtful that the haze really spread over Mt. Kagu in the first place. But this is a more beautiful scene, don't you think?
Waka poems from the Kokin Wakashu onward aimed to reach the height of the beauty of these ideas.

Song style 3: Simple and sophisticated

The Manyoshu is also said to be simple and easy-going. Let's compare Hitomaro's songs.

2371 ``I have a thousand thoughts in my heart, but I don't tell anyone, I look at my beloved wife'' (Kakimoto Hitomaro)
``Even if my thoughts grow in my heart, I never tell anyone. But I wish we could meet.''
It's a secret love, but it's certainly a simple song.

2430 ``The Uji River is filled with blisters, and I don't care about the water I go to, I dye it with all my heart'' (Kakimoto Hitomaro)
``I feel so deeply that I can't go back, like water flowing backwards through bubbles.''
What do you think? It's a love song so sophisticated and complex that it's hard to believe that it was sung by the same person. The above verse is a so-called ``prologue,'' and it can be rightly called a love poem from the Kokin Wakashu.
If you're thinking that a 1,300-year-old human brain is just a simple flower garden, then blame Hitomaro! It is a feeling.

Song style 4: Elegant and vulgar

Now, lastly, this is what is classy and vulgar.

822 ``Plum blossoms are falling in my garden, snow may fall from the sky long ago'' (Tabito Otomo)
This is a traveler's song from "Plum Blossom Banquet" which became very famous in the "Reiwa" era.
It is a very graceful and enchanting song, comparing plum blossoms to snow.

3832 ``The sword that cuts the thorns and removes the thorns, stands the storehouse, and is far away, and makes the comb'' (Ibushi)
Even I am afraid to properly translate this song...Okay, let's have the courage to do it.
``We're cutting down thorns and building a storehouse, so go fuck yourself over there!'' The comb-making woman
Volume 16 is chaotic even in the Manyoshu, and this is the best example. Not only is it impressive, but it also gives us an insight into the toilet conditions at the time, and it remains very memorable for me.

Bonus (Kotodama)

The ancient Japanese believed that spiritual power resided in words.
894: ``The land of Yamato is a harsh land of the imperial deity, a saying that has been passed down from the age of the gods.

That's why I rejected easy "saying" (saying things out loud).
Man 3253 "The land of Mizuho in the reed fields is a land where gods cannot say anything, but I will say it..."

I strongly feel the magical power of words in this poem.
27. ``Look carefully at the good people, say Yoshino. Look carefully at Yoshino, and see the good people carefully.'' (Emperor Tenji)

On the other hand, there are some silly songs like this one.
1538 "Hagi flowers, obana kuzuka, dianthus flowers, and wisteria hakama, morning glory flowers" (Yamagami Nokira)
Our precious words and spirits are being wasted on simple "Memorize the Seven Herbs" songs.
Moreover, the singer is Okura, and it's kind of interesting.

Did you feel the chaos of Manyoshu?
In fact, this state of confusion can be said to be a mirror of the times.

The Hakuho period (from the Tenmu and Jito dynasties to the transfer of the capital to Heijokyo), when the poems that form the backbone of the Manyoshu were actively composed, was a time of chaos as large-scale wars broke out both domestically and internationally. It was against this historical background that the Emperor's speeches, the protectors, and the Toka were composed.
The ``Plum Blossom Banquet'' that became the origin of Reiwa is no exception. Dazaifu, where they gathered, was a key point for national defense against the continent. Elegant banquets were a catharsis that relieved the tension of everyday life.

Let's stop praising the appeal of the Manyoshu in one-dimensional terms, such as the "open-mindedness" or "origin of kindness" of the ancient Japanese people.
chaos! ! ! This is its feature and its biggest appeal.

(Written by Uchida Engaku, a poet)

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