Saigyo

Saigyo Poems

Even in a person
most times indifferent
to things around him
they waken feelings
...

Thought I was free
of passion, so this melancholy
comes as surprise:
a woodcock shoots up from the marsh
...

Should I blame the moon
For bringing forth this sadness,
As if it pictured grief?
Lifting up my troubled face,
...

Not stopping to mark the trail,
let me push even deeper
into the mountain!
Perhaps there's a place
...

How wonderful, that
Her heart
Should show me kindness;
And of all the numberless folk,
...

Having seen them long,
I hold the flowers so dear
That when they scatter
I find it all the more sad
...

limitations gone
since my mind fixed on the moon
clarity and serenity
make something for which
...

In a mountain village
at autumn’s end—
that’s where you learn
what sadness means
...

He made no promise, yet
Wondering if he'll come, I wait,
In the early evening;
If only it would stay this way,
...

As banked clouds
are swept apart by the wind,
at dawn the sudden cry
of the first wild geese
...

Now I understand!
When to remember me
She vowed,
She said she would forget me,
...

Why should I be bitter
About someone who was
A complete stranger
Until a certain moment
...

There's not a trace of cloud
Now-and she
Is in my thoughts;
The moon and my heart
...

Having drifted apart,
Why should folk
Despise each other? For
Not known and unknowing
...

Sunk in melancholy, and
Gazing
Upon the moon: its hue:
Why is it so deeply
...

Should I blame the moon
For bringing forth this sadness,
As if it pictured grief?
Lifting up my troubled face,
...

times when unbroken
gloom is over all our world
over which still
sits the ever brilliant moon
...

O, how sad!
Why of visitors
Should there be not one?
In melancholy, where I dwell
...

Well do I know myself, so
Your coldness
I did not think to blame, yet
My bitterness has
...

Saigyo Biography

23 year old Norikiyo Satoh, an elite warrior who served the retired emperor, became a Buddhist monk and called himself Saigyo. His reasons for becoming a monk are not known. However, it is said that the actual person was quite different from the rustic image one might have of a wandering Buddhist monk and hermit. He had connections with the highest authorities of his time, such as the retired emperor Suitoku, worked with Taira no Kiyomori as a warrior, met with the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and left us with many episodes from his time as a political coordinator, at which he worked even after becoming a monk. He was, of course, also a famous poet. Since his death, his life has become legend in Japan. But where can we find the true Saigyo? Perhaps in the "suffering spiritual flower" of his poems.)

The Best Poem Of Saigyo

Winds Of Autumn

Even in a person
most times indifferent
to things around him
they waken feelings
the first winds of autumn

Saigyo Comments

Fabrizio Frosini 01 June 2016

Saigyo’s best poetry was written while quietly observing nature from his mountain home. In a spring poem entitled 'The Bush Warbler Idling', he compares himself to that reclusive bird. Saigyo is alone in his hut, like the bird: Seeping through the haze, the voice of the bush warbler— few people passing, mountain village in spring. This poem evokes the sound of gentle spring rains, and gives us a glimpse of the poet’s frame of mind: Curtained by spring showers pouring down from the eaves, a place where someone lives, idle, idle, unknown to others. He identifies his lonely hermit hut with his physical body, expressing the spirituality of his beliefs: If I can find no place fit to live, let me live no place— in this hut of sticks flimsy as the world itself.

132 0 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 01 June 2016

Sato Norikiyo (????) was born in 1118 in Kyoto to a noble and a fairly wealthy family, and grew up studying martial arts and training to serve the emperor. During his teens, he became a private guard for the emperor Toba, who had abdicated his throne. Sato Norikiyo witnessed the traumatic transition of power from the old court nobles to the new samurai warriors. After the start of the Age of Mappo (1052) , Buddhism was considered to be in decline and no longer effective as a means of salvation. These cultural shifts contributed to the sense of melancholy or sabishisa in his poetry.

135 0 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 01 June 2016

In 1140 at the age of twenty-two, for reasons now unknown, Sato quit worldly life to become a monk. He later took the pen name, Saigyo meaning Western Journey, a reference to Amida Buddha and the Western paradise, and spent the rest of his life traveling throughout Japan, returning to the capital periodically to participate in imperial ceremonies. He lived alone for long periods of his life in Saga, Mt. Koya, Mt. Yoshino, Ise, and many other places, but he is best known for his many long, poetic journeys to Northern Honshu, which later inspired Basho in his Oku no Hosomichi” (“Narrow Road to the Deep Interior) .

135 0 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 01 June 2016

Sankashu (Mountain Hut Anthology) , his major work, contains poems on love and other seasonal and miscellaneous topics. The Mimosusogawa utaawase (“Poetry Contest at Mimosusu River”) is a poetic masterpiece in which he pitted his own poems against each other. Many of his poems are included in the imperial anthology Shin kokin-shu. He wrote about solitude and loneliness, often using images from nature to portray his emotions.

141 0 Reply

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