Love as a mark of their status. Therefore,

Love has been a common theme in poetry and literature even before human discovering handwriting and letters. The lovers’ communication is explicitly tied to the practice of poetic creation. Additionally, in a conservative society like Japan, where women are unable to express their feeling and fight for their love, poetry has become a language and the key to love. During the Heian period, Japanese society witnessed the peak of the imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature. Poetry, in particular, was a staple of the elite’s lifestyle. Nobles and ladies-in-waiting were expected to be well versed in the art of writing poetry as a mark of their status. Therefore, it is undoubtedly that love poetry played an important role in people’s spiritual life and social interaction in this historical period. This essay is going to analyze four notables love poetry from two of the most famous works of Heian literature: Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and Tale of Genji. To summarize briefly, Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is the story of an old bamboo cutter who finds a beautiful growing child inside of a stalk of bamboo. He then takes her home to raise with his wife and within three months she grew into women of marriageable age and is given the name Kaguya-hime. Soon, men from across the land hear of her beauty and come try to catch a glimpse of her, but no one succeeds. The one that can be considered as the man closest to her love is the Emperor. He manages a meeting with her, and, although she refuses to enter his court, Kaguya-hime does begin an intimate correspondence with him, and the two exchange poems on the subject of their attachment to each other. However, there comes the day that she must return to the moon, which is her true home. The emperor sends an army to defend her from the Moon People who come to take her away, but it is to no avail. Before leaving, she writes two letters, one to her parents and one to the emperor, on the bitterness of parting, and then ascends in a heavenly chariot to the moon. After receiving her letter, the Emperor composes a poem expressing his sorrow when losing the love of his life:            Afu koto mo                                    What use is it     Namida ni ukabu                the elixir of immortality      Waga mi ni ha                    to one who floats in tears         Shinanu kusuri mo                because he cannot meet her again?It can be seen clearly that the fact that Kaguya-hime has left and would never come back hurts the Emperor deeply and leaves an unfillable void in his life. To him, a life without her is an empty life and the immortality is meaningless when he cannot meet Kaguya-hime again.  An Emperor seems to have everything he wants except the most natural but priceless human emotion: love. Readers can find in his words the sign of bitterness and sorrow of the man whose heart is floating in tears.         The similar feeling can also be found in Tale of Genji, another outstanding work in Heian period. When Aoi – Genji’s wife – dies after delivering his son, Genji realizes that he had died inside. In the early chapters, Aoi is depicted as an emotionally detached and distant lady. But when she falls mortally ill, is attacked by an evil spirit, bears a child and dies in “Aoi”, she becomes a person whose loss is regretted by all.  And then, during an autumn rainstorm, he composed a poem:Mi shi hito no Ame to nari ni shiKumoi sae Itido shigure niKakikurasu koro In the poem, Genji’s emotion is depicted by the natural images – sky, rain, drizzle, and darkness which are traditionally associated with the sorrow. Genji’s world seemed full of tragic and gloomy, a place where light has gone out with Aoi’s death. Genji bemoans because he regrets his apathy toward her when she was still alive. Expressions of passion and heartbreak, written by Japanese court lady Murasaki Shikibu a thousand years ago, without question, Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) is one of the greatest Japanese romance novels ever written. However, in the successfulness of Tale of Genji, it will be a mistake to not mention the contribution of hundreds of tanka poems describe the intricate lovely and wordplay between men and women of noble breeding, consumed by sexual desire and aesthetic longing. In the novel, Genji is a man who violates the social and moral order for the sake of love, he eagerly seeks to cross the more dangerous barriers to love. Throughout the first chapters, Genji has affairs with many women, especially a forbidden relationship with Lady Fujitsubo who is his father – the Emperor’s concubine due to her resemblance to his deceased mother – Lady Kiritsubo. Genji loves her first as a stepmother, but later as a woman, and they fall in love with each other. However, feeling ill from the several disappointments he has suffered in his love life, Genji travels to Kyoto and glimpses a beautiful young girl who reminds him very strongly of Lady Fujitsubo and finds out that she is her niece – Murasaki. Genji also thinks of his attraction to Lady Fujitsubo which is now bringing him so much sadness because he has been banned from her side. As he wonders if having Murasaki in his home will truly bring him the happiness he seeks, he writes a poem these thoughts: Te ni tsumi te                WhIstushikamo minMurasaki noNe ni kayoikeruNobe no wakakusa    (“Wakamurasaki” I:314, S:102) This poem, according to Norma Field, achieves the “transubstantiation of niece into aunt, of copy into original, or metonymy into metaphor”. Unable to grasp the solitary stalk of the gromwell (Fujitsubo), Genji now wants to possess the young grass that resembles the roots of that beautiful plant. Lavender is the color of affinity and erotic linkage, joins Murasaki to Lady Fujitsubo just as it earlier associates her predecessor, Lady Kiritsubo. Therefore, the desire of Genji toward Lady Fujitsubo has been transferred to his erotic love for Murasaki. Ne wa mi ne do            Her root is unseen,Aware tozo omou            and yet I do love her so,Musashino mo                the kin to that planTsuyu wake waburu            the dews of Musashi Plant putKusa no yukari wo            so far beyond my reach!The word “ne” here can be understood as “root” or “sleep” (neru). Therefore, the poem can be interpreted as although Genji has not yet slept with Murasaki, she reminds him of that other Musashino Plant (Lady Fujitsubo) –  the women that look just like you, whom he has slept with in the past but now too far to reach.  Of course, Murasaki was too young to know about Genji’s illicit affairs. After all, this was her first serious attempt at poetry. Genji is well aware that he has embarked upon a series of questionable relationships, first with his step-mother and then with a 10-year-old child. Through rereading and analyzing the literary works of the time, it is apparent that poetry is an extremely important component of courtship. As exemplified in various examples of Heian period literature including Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, both men and women’s attractiveness lay in their poetic talent and ability to move others with words. In fact, it was through poetry that intersex connections were made, the stages of love and courting were advanced, how men and women conveyed their character, and how they maintained a relationship.


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