Poem Scroll of Thirty-six Immortal Poets


English translation

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro

Faintly with the dawn
That glimmers on Akashi Bay
In the morning mist
A boat goes hidden by the isle -
And my thoughts go after it.

Oshikochi no Mitsune

The warm light of spring
Floods the country all around -
The land is bright;
But far on fair Yoshino's mountains
The snow still is coming down.

Chunagon Yakamochi

When I see the white
Of hoarfrost along the bridge
The magpies spread
Wing to wing in the night sky.
I know how late the hour.

Ariwara no Narihira

Is there no moon?
And is this springtime not the spring
Of times gone by?
Myself alone remaining
Still the self it was before?

Sarumaru Dayu

Lost in the mountains,
Not a hint on any side
Whither I should turn,
How uncertain sounds the call
Of the calling bird to me.

Sosei Hoshi

Brief was your message;
"I shall come anon." You said;
And for those few words
I've waited through this long October night
The late rising of the waning moon.

Chunagon Kanesuke

Across Mika fields
Flows the river Izumi,
Cutting through the plain;
Plain would it be had I seen her,
The reason for this yearning.

Chunagon Atsutada

The love that stained me
All the years of my dyeing
Bursts forth at last
In a flowering of the heart
That flaunts its colors freely.

Minamoto no Kintada no Ason

I could not go on,
I spent all day in the mountains,
Hoping against hope
To hear at least once more
The cuckoo calling.

Princess Kishi

Dreams that come in sleep
Bring a time for forgetting
Ills that are real -
But how brief is this moment
When our longing can find peace.

Fujiwara no Toshiyuki no Ason

That autumn has come
Appears nowhere with clarity
To the observing eye;
It is a new sound in the wind
By which we are somehow made aware.

Minamoto no Muneyuki no Ason

Even the enduring
Verdure of the pine trees,
Now that spring has come,
Takes on a green one shade beyond
The color that was before.

Fujiwara no Kiyotada

We roped off the fields
To go out on the Day of the Rat
For the pine seedlings;
Should I spare them, let them grow
To shed shade for a thousand years?

Fujiwara no Okikaze

Who now remains
For me to claim as one I know?
For the ancient pine
Of Takasago was not, alas,
Among my childhood friends.

Sakanoue no Korenori

In fair Yoshino
The white snow on the mountains
Must be piling deep,
For in the ancient capital
The cold grows ever worse.

Sanjoin no Nyokurodo

The stone bridge contract -
Things promised to be done at night -
Will soon be broken,
And the dawning will be bleak
For the god of Kazuraki.

Onakatomi no Yoshinobu

Watchful at the walls,
Palace guardsmen kindle fires:
To burn by night,
To dwindle and go out by day -
Bound to this round of longing.

Taira no Kanemori

Sombering away,
Autumn goes; and my keepsake
Shall be but this -
The frost now clinging to the cord
That binds these aged locks.

Ki no Tsurayuki

Where white dew spills down
And the seasonal cold rain
On Moru Mountain
The underleaves of all the trees
Have taken color from the fall


How shall I wait
Long enough to see him come
To Miwa Mountain?
I know well the years will pass
And there will be no visitor.

Yamabe no Akahito

Starting tomorrow,
I was off to pick young herbs,
And I marked by fields;
But yesterday and now today
Those fields have filled with falling snow.

Sojo Henjo

Dew on the treetops,
Drippings on the forest floor -
In the midst of life
These are emblems of the span
Between the first and last to go.

Ki no Tomonori

Down to Azuma
Through Saya and by Middlemount -
What was I about,
To start off on a middle path
Neither in nor out of love?

Ono no Komachi

Whose bloom will fade,
And yet the color does not show,
Is this alone:
In the world of love the flower
That opens in the human heart.

Chunagon Asatada

Of ten thousand years
May today be the beginning -
Such is my prayer;
The deity alone can count
From now to where we go.

Fujiwara no Takamitsu

In the world below
Where it seems a hard day's work
To get through our lives,
How one envies the cool moon
Dwelling so pure in the sky!

Mibu no Tadamine

That spring has risen
Is no sooner said, it seems,
Than fair Yoshino
Stands this morning to the view
With a mist on its mountains.

Onakatomi no Yorimoto

Here you have a cane
With a thousand years stored up
Between each node;
Tap it as you will, the tap
Pours out endless life for you.

Minamoto no Shigeyuki

Tsukuba Mountain,
Outer mountain, wooded mountain -
Thick the woods may be,
But would a thousand peering eyes
Keep off my love from you?

Minamoto no Saneakira no Ason

On this precious night
How I wish that I could show,
If I'm to view them,
To someone who knows what it is to feel,
These blossoms and this moon!

Minamoto no Shitagau

Waves on the water,
Ripples of the shining moon,
Wrinkles of time:
Count them up and we arrive
Today at a midmost autumn.

Kiyohara no Motosuke

Such an oath we swore
(Even as we wrung our sleeves
Before each other);
That for us no waves would spill
Across Pine Mountain in Sue...

Fujiwara no Motozane

Now we say farewell
To another gem-bright year,
But in falling snow
There seems not a touch of spring
To be glimpsed in the sky today.

Fujiwara no Nakafumi

While I've been waiting
For the moon to rise toward dawn
And shed its light,
The night wherein I pass my days
Has reached an hour sorely late.

Mibu no Tadami

They need not burn it -
Grass will smolder by itself
Into new growth;
Kasuga's burgeoning fields
May be left to the spring day's fire.


The autumnal wind
Blows but brings me no message -
Yet that listless breeze,
Where I a beckoning reed, would whisper
In the rustling of my leaves.

Translations by Edwin A. Cranston (Harvard University)