The Tales of Ise

The Tales of Ise

is a Japanese collection of tanka poems, accompanied by short, prose narratives about the poet, Ariwara no Narihira, which provide a context for the poems. The collection dates from the 10th century, during the Heian period.

Interestingly, Ariwara no Narihira is never named in the text itself, but is known to be the protagonist through tradition, and because a number of the poems appearing in "The Tales of Ise" are independently identified in separate poetry anthologies as his work.

A well-known section of the "Tales of Ise" describes a trip taken by a minor official and his guests to Nunobiki Falls, near Kobe. They begin a poetry-writing contest, to which one of the guests, a commander of the guards, contributes:

:Which, I wonder, is higher-:This waterfall or the fall of my tears:As I wait in vain,:Hoping today or tomorrow:To rise in the world.

The minor official offers his own composition:

:It looks as though someone:Must be unstringing:Those clear cascading gems.:Alas! My sleeves are too narrow:To hold them all. [Translation by Helen McCullough, quoted in Morse, 42.]

ee also




* "Art & Artifice: Japanese Photographs of the Meiji Era – Selections from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston", with essays by Sebastian Dobson, Anne Nishimura Morse, and Frederic A. Sharf (Boston: MFA Publications, 2004), 42.
* [ Asia Society] . Accessed 11 April 2006.
* Morse, Anne Nishimura. 'Souvenirs of "Old Japan": Meiji-Era Photography and the Meisho Tradition'. In "Art & Artifice: Japanese Photographs of the Meiji Era – Selections from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" (Boston: MFA Publications, 2004).
* [ The New York Public Library, s.v. "Ise monogatari"] . Accessed 11 April 2006.

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