Thursday, October 5

A Catalogue of Flowers

Ozaki Kōyō’s 尾崎紅葉 breakthrough hit was a novella called “The Erotic Confessions of Two Nuns” (Ninin bikuni iro zange). In my opinion, the work doesn't quite measure up to its title, but it has an excellent epigraph:

“Poppy has magnificent eyes and long hair, and loves her mirror like Xi Shi, often falling asleep at her nightstand. Hers was a life that paid no mind to the world beyond; how horrible that a single betrayal should lead her to chop off her locks and be a nun” – “A Catalogue of Flowers,” Kyoriku
The “Catalogue” is from Fūzoku monzen, a collection of haibun put together by Morikawa Kyoriku 森川許六 (1656-1715), which contains assorted works by Bashō and his disciples divided into formats in imitation of old Chinese anthologies like the Wenxuan. In this piece Kyoriku lists a series a flowers, comparing each to a woman (usually a prostitute of some kind):

Peony is a mistress in favor: the world at her feet, thoughtlessly triumphant. Yet she seems to be always sunk in jealousy, sighing to the heavens in her wrath.


Iris is an impudent flower, like a beautiful woman who steals and feels no shame.


When a Bell Flower catches one’s eye, unexpectedly blooming among the grass, it feels like coming across a beautiful girl at the door of a country hut.


Blogger Matt said...

Brilliant! I really should have checked earlier.

10/11/2006 9:58 AM  

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