Hyakunin Isshu No. 1: Harvest-time in the field

By: Emperor Tenji (626 – 671)             天智天皇

Harvest-time in the field                      秋の田の
A hut that’s coarsely-thatched          かりほの庵の
An autumn refuge –                              苫をあらみ
My sleeves                                                 わが衣では
Are wet with dew                                    露にぬれつつ


Supposedly, the emperor was inspired to write this poem when he was scaring birds away while harvesters were gathering crop in the fields.  However, sudden rain forced to him to take shelter in a thatched hut that offered zero protection from the rain anyway, and so he and his sleeves became wet.

According to my translation, the vignette is of a hard working harvester wiping away his sweat with his sleeves as he takes a rest in a hut.  Or that the speaker is separated away from his love as he sits alone in a hut, wiping away his tears with his sleeves.

Since the Japanese are all for meaning upon meaning, layer upon layer, I personally like the idea of the forlorn lover in a hut.

And since Autumn is a symbol of loneliness, of drifting away from the warm brightness of Summer, and harvesting is usually a solo activity, who knows? The Emperor could have been travelling on the road, passing by fields full of lone harvesters and something unexpected forced him to take shelter in a road side hut, delaying his return to the side of his beloved person.

HoshiKouken | Youtube

HoshiKouken | Youtube

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