Yoshisaburo Okakura

The Japanese Spirit

    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    comic nature found a special place in the earliest imperial collection of Japanese odes named Kokinshifu,' which was compiled in the year A.D. 908. This species has flourished ever since under the name of Kyôka, and also gave rise to a shortened form in seventeen syllables, called haikai-no-hokku. When in the hand of Bashô this latter form developed itself into something higher and more serious, the witty and satirical Senryû, also in seventeen syllables, came to take its place.
    One thing to be specially noted in this connection is the
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    introduction from China of the idea of poetic tournaments, the beauty of which consisted in the offhand and quick composition of one long series of odes by several persons sitting together, each supplying in turn either the upper half or the lower half as the case might be, the two in combination giving a poetical sense. This usage of capping verses known as renga came to be very popular, from the Court downward, as early as the thirteenth century. After a while the same practice was applied to comic poetry, thus producing the so-called haikai-no-renga, or comic linked vers
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    In all these phases of the development of our poetry, we notice, as one of its peculiarities, a strong inclination to the exercise of the witty side of our nature. Even if we leave out of consideration the so-called 'pillow word' (makura-kotoba), so profusely resorted to in our ancient poems, part of which were nothing but a naïve sort of jeu de mots, and the abundant use of other plays on words of later development, known as kakekotoba, jo, shûku, etc. (haikai-no-uta), it is noteworthy that poems of a
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    a popular and still shorter form of ode called Hokku, with much less strict regulations about syntax and phraseology. This ultra-short variety of Japanese poetry, consisting only of seventeen syllables, is in form the upper half of the regular poem. Here is an example:—
    Asagaho ni
    Tsurube torarete
    Sketchy as it is, this tells us that the composer Chiyo, 'having gone to her well one morning to draw water, found that some tendrils of the con
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    almost everybody. To all of us without distinction of class and sex has been accorded the sacred pleasure of satisfying and thus developing our poetical nature, so long as we had a subject to sing and could count syllables up to thirty-one. The language resorted to in such a composition was at first the same as that in use in everyday life. But afterwards as succeeding forms of the vernacular gradually deviated from the classical type, a special grammar along with a special vocabulary had to be studied by the would-be poet. This was avoided, however, by the develop
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    ordinary type of the Japanese odes.
    This form subdivides itself into two parts, viz., the upper half containing three lines of five, seven, and again five syllables, and the lower half consisting of two lines of seven syllables each. This simplicity has made it impossible to express in it anything more than a pithy appeal to our lyrical nature; epic poetry in the strict sense of the word has never been developed by us.
    But it must be noticed that it is this simplicity of form of our poetical expression that has put it within the reach of
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    The mention of a Japanese poem gives me an opportunity to say something about Japanese poetry. Like other early people, our forefathers in archaic time liked to express their thoughts in a measured
    davidprashkerhas quoted6 years ago
    form of language. The whole structure of the tongue being naturally melodious, on account of its consisting of open syllables with clear and sonorous vowels and little of the harsh consonantal elements in them, the number of syllables in a line has been almost the only feature that distinguished our poetry from ordinary prose composition. The taste for a lengthened form of poems had lost ground early, and already at the end of the ninth century after Christ the epigrammatic form exemplified above, consisting of thirty-one syllables, established itself as
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