Sunday Poetry – Lady Murasaki

This picture of Lady Murasaki (picture from here) hints at a winter reading project I’m contemplating at the moment.
Lady Murasaki was an early 11th century writer & poet, a lady of the Japanese Court.  Very little is known about her, even her real name is unknown. This is one of her poems.

lost in a sky
of strange and far places
a hint of a house
and treetops in the mist
guide my way to you

she gazes
into the same skies
as you do
may your thoughts also
come to be one of accord

if you answered
the tapping of every
water bird
even a wandering
moon could enter

if the haze had not
come out to go in between
the moon and flowers
otherwise even the birds nests
might have burst into blossom

boat upon high seas
if you are drifting without
a harbor or course
give me a call and I’ll row
out to teach you about ports

not even knowing
the meaning which the color
of lavender has
but watching it carefully
this one’s heart is deeply touched

4 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – Lady Murasaki

  1. There's a coincidence – I am halfway through her diary. I read Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book, because I kept coming across references to it. I thought it was fascinating, so I bought Lady Murusaki's diary and the Tale of Genji,but I don't have any of her poetry (that's next on the list, with an exploration of Japanese poetry in general, and haikus in particular). At the time Marusaki and Shonagon were writing the aristocratic court ladies and gentlemen penned poems to each other all the time, as letters – very witty, very refined, reflecting their own feelings and life with things in the natural world. Their lives, especially the women, seem to have been terribly circumscribed by rules and societal conventions, with all kinds of strange rituals, and an obsessive interest in clothes and beautiful objects. It's a very structured, ordered society, with a way of life that seems almost alien – then you read what these two women write about their feelings, and their comments on other people, and suddenly they reach out across the years and seem quite modern.


  2. I have Genji & the Diary on the tbr shelves & I'm thinking of making Genji my winter read. I read Judith Gautier's The Usurper a couple of years ago & was fascinated by the picture of Japanese Court life so I'm keen to learn more.


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