Death Poem Part 2: ``The Hamamatsu tree in Iwashiro will tie its branches, and I will see you again when I return.'' (Prince Arima)

``The Hamamatsu of Iwashiro will tie its branches and I will return to see you once again.'' (Prince Arima)

Prince Arima is a person whose existence is certain. His father was Emperor Kotoku, the 36th emperor, his aunt was Emperor Kogyoku, and his cousin was Prince Naka no Oe (Emperor Tenchi). Although his lineage is outstanding, his life turned out to be a tragic one.

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Although his father was in the position of Emperor, the real power rested with Naka no Oe, who was the driving force behind the Itsumi Incident. When Emperor Kotoku died, his son, Prince Arima, was probably seen as dangerous or a nuisance. He was instigated by Soga Aka-e to rebel, and was eventually betrayed and made into a criminal. It is a popular theory that Naka no Oe was in touch with this.)

Prince Arima was captured and brought to the Emperor. The poem was composed on the way in Iwashiro (Hidaka District, Wakayama Prefecture).
``A pine tree draws its branches into a knot'' is a spell to pray for safe travels. Nowadays, roads are well-developed and transportation facilities are well-developed, but in the ancient times, traveling would have been life-threatening. In addition to ``tying the branches of the pine tree,'' people prayed for a safe journey by ``giving money *1'' and ``tying grass on the road *2'' to the deities of the ancestors along the way.

There is another poem in the Manyoshu that was composed in Iwashiro.

``If you are at home, you would put rice in a bowl, but if you were traveling in Kusamakura, you would put it in shiiba.'' (Prince Arima)

This ``meal'' is often thought of as one's own meal, but it is actually an offering to the local deity, and here we can see that prayers for safe travels are being sung here as well.

However, Prince Arima must have known that this was a journey from which he would never return. Still, they earnestly pray for their safety and hope that they will return again. The sadness of this song is aroused even more because we know the end of the story. Prince Arima was cruelly hanged. He was 19 years old when he died, and was a young man who didn't know anything about politics, but he was killed by adults who were obsessed with this.

The story of Prince Arima must have aroused so much compassion that the Manyoshu includes poems of remembrance*3 written by Nokira Yamagami and others.

*1 “This time, I won’t even take a note, but I’ll be watching the Nishikigami of Mt. Temukai’s autumn leaves” (Michizane Sugawara)
*2 “The summer grass is so thick that even passersby are tied together.” (Fujiwara Motomasa)
*3 “The sky is soaring and I know it, but I don’t know what it’s like to see it, but the pine tree knows it.” (Kora Yamagami)

(Written by Uchida Engaku, a poet)

Go to the list of “Death Songs”

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季刊誌「和歌文芸」
令和六年冬号(Amazonにて販売中)

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