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:
罌粟は眉目容すぐれ髪長し。常は西施が鏡を愛して粧台に眠り。後世なんどの事は露ばかりも心にかけぬ身の。一念の恨によりて。ごそと剃こぼして尼になりたるこそ。肝つぶるゝ業なれ……百花譜―許六

“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):
牡丹は。寵愛時を得たる妾の。天下にはゞかれる。心なげに打ほこり。常は嫉妬我執のいかりふかくして。青天にむかつて吐息をつきたる風情に似たり。

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.


杜若は。のぶとき花也。うつくしき女の盗して。恥をしらぬに似たり。

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





桔梗は。其色に目をとられり。野草の中に。おもひかけず咲出たるは。田家の草の戸に。よき娘見たる心地ぞする。

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.

1 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

Brilliant! I really should have checked earlier.

10/11/2006 9:58 AM  

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