Ono no Komachi

(c. 825—c. 900) / Japan)

Comments about Ono no Komachi

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (6/24/2016 4:43:00 AM)

    In his preface to the Kokinshu [the abbreviated term for the Imperial anthology Kokin Wakashū - conceived of by Emperor Uda (r.887–897) it was published by order of his son, Emperor Daigo (r.897–930) , in about 905. Its finished form dates to c.920], Ki no Tsurayuki listed the ''Six Best Waka Poets'' in history: Kisen Hōshi, Ono no Komachi, Sōjō Henjō, Ariwara no Narihira, Fun'ya no Yasuhide and Ōtomo no Kuronushi.

    Strangely, he then ridicules them in the same preface* (maybe for Japanese modesty?) .

    * Ki no Tsurayuki (872–945) , in the preface, had a unique critique for each of the 6 poets:
    - Kisen Hōshi (death 909?) : The priest of Mt. Uji, Kisen, is obscure, and his beginnings and endings do not chime; he is like an autumnal moon, bright in the evening, dim at dawn.
    - Ono no Komachi (c.825—c.900) : As to Ono no Komachi, she has pathos but lacks power, like a fair but feeble woman.
    - Sōjō Henjō or Archbishop Henjo (816–890; born Yoshi-mine Munesada) : Sojo Henjo, whose manner is successful, but his work is deficient in truth, like the picture of a beautiful woman that excites emotion, but to no avail.
    - Ariwara no Narihira (825–880) : Arihara Narihira, very full of feeling but poor in diction; his poetry reminds one of a faded flower that yet preserves some of its perfume.
    - Fun'ya no Yasuhide (death 885?) : Funya no Yasuhide, on the other hand, is an artist in words; with him form is better than substance. He is like a peddler dressed up in fine silks.
    - Ōtomo no Kuronushi (born between 824-835, died 923?) : Ōtomo no Kuronushi, lastly, has a pretty turn for verse, but his form is poor; he is like a faggot-bearing boor resting under a blossom-filled cherry-tree.

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  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (6/18/2016 3:51:00 PM)

    Ono no Komachi, aside from Murasaki Shikibu (*) , was the most famous poetess, in Japanese history.

    (*) : Murasaki Shikibu, who lived c.100 years later (978? -1015?) , was the author of ''The Tale of Genji'' (''the Shining Prince'') , the first great novel in world literature.

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (6/18/2016 2:45:00 PM)

    夢路には足もやすめずかよくどもうつつに一目見しごとはあらず

    - 小野小町 -

    I never cease
    To follow you in my dreams,
    In my fantasies...
    Yet, we haven’t met
    Not even acquainted.

    - Ono no Komachi -

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (6/18/2016 2:44:00 PM)

    Ono no Komachi wrote emotionally charged poems while also using complex poetic language - she also used a lot of kakekotoba (pivot word) which make her poetry difficult to translate..

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (6/7/2016 10:32:00 AM)

    Ono no Komachi was among the 36 Poetry Immortals, and also described as a real beauty.. beautiful woman with a beautiful poetry-mind.. a 'Musa', we'd say.. :)

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (6/2/2016 1:52:00 PM)

    Many of the 1111 poems in the Kokinshu were anonymous, but, among those where the authors were identified, eighteen were attributed to Ono no Komachi. This is all of her work that we know for sure, a handful of poems that have been remembered for eleven centuries..

Best Poem of Ono no Komachi

I Long For Him Most

I long for him most
during these long moonless nights.
I lie awake, hot,
the growing fires of passion
bursting in my heart.

Another translation by Kenneth Rexroth:

You do not come
On this moonless night.
I wake wanting you.
My breasts heave and blaze.
My heart burns up.

Another translation:

I would meet him
But there's no way, so on this moonless night
From my yearning the embers of my love
Send sparks leaping in my breast,
Setting my heart aflame.

Read the full of I Long For Him Most

As I Dozed

As I dozed
The man I love
Appeared, so
It is dreams that
Have begun to comfort me

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