Cicada shell

/ japanese manuscripts hentaigana kobun tanka / 1 min read /

One of the characteristic rhetoric devices in Japanese poetry is 掛詞 [かけことば] , a pun word. It utilises homonymy to add another layer of meaning.

古今和歌集Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry, the first imperial waka和歌anthology, has a whole section Acrostics [もの] [] where the name of each poem is a kakekotoba that can be heard in that poem.

This is a poem #424 by Ariwara-no Shigeharu‧在原滋春, a son of another famous Heian poet Ariwara-no Narihira‧在原業平.

[なみ] のうつせ [] れば [たま] ぞみだれけるひろはば [そで] にはかなからむや

A translation from Waka Poetry:

Waves strike
The shoals-seeing jewels
Were I to gather them within my sleeves
How swiftly would they vanish?

other posts