JAPANESE PRINTS

A MILLION QUESTIONS

TWO MILLION MYSTERIES

 

Ukiyo-e Prints

浮世絵版画

Port Townsend, Washington

 

KEISAI EISEN

渓斎英泉

けいさいえいせん

1790-1848

SERIES: Selection of Six Modern Beauties

Bijin kaichu kagami

美人会中鏡

びじんかいちゅうかがみ

時世六佳撰

 Today's Six Poets

Tosei rokkasen

とせいろっかせん

Signature: Keisai Eisen ga

 署名: 渓斎英泉画

 しょめい: けいさいえいせんが

SIZE: 15" x 9 3/4"

PUBLISHER: Izumiya Ichibei (Kansendō)

和泉屋市兵佳撰

いずみや.いちべ え

DATE: Circa 1820s

Andreas Marks says the publisher's seal used on this page

was used in the 1830s. So, the suggested date for this print

may be a bit early. We shall do more research and correct this

if anything else turn up.

 

ORIGINALLY $720.00

NOW ON SALE FOR

$490.00

SOLD!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PUBLISHER:

Izumiya Ichibei

 

 

 

 

 

MAPLE LEAVES

FLOATING ON THE

TATSUTA RIVER

 

Above is a detail from a print by Hokusai from the "100 Poets" series.

This image is a direct reference to the poem by Ariwara no Narihira.

 

"EXCESSIVE IN HEART,

 DEFICIENT IN WORDS"

KOKORO AMARITE, KOTOBA TARAZU

心あまりて言葉足らず

こころ.あまりて.ことば.たるず

 

The print featured on this page was produced almost a thousand years after Ariwara no Narihira (在原業平 or ありわらのなりひら: 825-880) wrote a poem about maple leaves. That alone speaks volumes about the Japanese sensibilities and their reverence for the past.

 

Ki no Tsurayuki (紀貫之 or きつらゆき: ca. 875-945) wrote in the introduction to the Kokinshū that Narihira was "excessive in heart and deficient in words". This ambiguous, or should I say ambivalent, assessment was not in reality faint praise. Rather it was a straight forward appraisal of one of the giants of poetry of the Heian age - at least as Tsurayuki saw it.

 

Narihira is a fascinating fellow. More is known about him in myth than in fact. True he was a historical figure of royal descent and an accomplished scholar and famous lover, but beyond that mostly what we know of him is the poetry he left behind. Tsurayuki listed him among the six poetic sage, the rokkasen (六歌仙 or ろっかせん) and Fujiwara Kintō included him in his list of thirty-six of the most eminent poets, the sanjūrokkasen (三十六歌仙 or さんじゅうろっかせん). Both lists were frequently portrayed in ukiyo woodblock prints.

 

Another distinction for Narihira is his connection with the Tales of Ise or Ise Monogatari (伊勢物語 or いせものがたり), a tale of lovers and their trysts. For ages - I don't know how long - many people believed that Narihira was the author, but scholars no longer see it that way although many of the poems are by him. There is one poem which is often cited where a lover approaches surreptitiously through a crack in a wall. Centuries later the great haiku poet Bashō wrote a poem about a tom cat on the prowl for love - an obvious allusion to Narihira who must have been some kind of Japanese Casanova. Bashō also wrote a haiku about how the fragrance of chrysanthemums made him think of the handsome man from Nara. Who else could it be?

 

In the section below is the Narihira poem about viewing maple leaves on the Tatsuta River. We are indebted to our great and learned contributor Eikei (英渓 or えいけい) for his translation of this poem. Thanks 英渓!
 

 

千早ぶる
神代もきかず
龍田川
からくれないに
水くくるとは

 

Never, not in the thousand ages
Of the mighty gods,
Was it ever heard
That waters so gleamed with red
As leaf-strewn Tatsuta.

 

Chihayaburu
Kamiyo mo kikazu
Tatsuta-gawa
Kara kurenai ni
Mizu kukuru to wa

 

Above is a detail from the Eisen print featured on this page.

It is a direct reference to the Ariwara no Narihira poem

about viewing maple leaves floating on the waters of

the Tatsuta River in autumn.

 

Ariwara no Narihira shown viewing the maple leaves

floating down the Tatsutagawa

in a detail from a Kuniyoshi print.

 

 

 

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