Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849

Pictures of 100 poems by 100 poets, explained by a Wet Nurse
Visipix.com proudly presents Hokusais last great series as complete as possible
(89 pictures) in facsimile quality in the original Oban-size 15 x 10 inch.


Poem number 17
Ariwara no Narihira Ason 825-880, famous as a poet and a lover, probably exiled because of an affair with the Empress

The original poem:
I have never heard
That, e'en when the gods held sway
In the ancient days,
E'er was water bound with red
Such as here in Tatta's stream

A situational poem by HK:
Before winter is coming, the gods render some days in an abundance of colors, even bespeckling the blue river with the red dots of maple leaves.

Comment by HK:
Nature made a work of art by spreading red maple leaves on the blue river. Hokusai adds several layers of art on top of this. First he adds persons enjoying the work of art of nature, second he assembles you and me to enjoy his result.

It has been told that the Shogun wanted a painting from Hokusai. He came to the palace with an blank scroll, some blue and some red paint and a live chicken. First, he painted blue river waves to the scroll. Then he dipped the chickens feet into the red paint and chased the chicken onto the scroll. "See the maple leaves of autumn in the river" he said. This 150 years old story is putting old hats onto the hair of some dealers, curators and artists of contemporary art.

A 500 year old story describes a Zen painter. He got three big payments for a picture of a rooster. A general sent by the Emperor came back empty handed and told that the master was certainly crazy. He was sitting in the middle of 100 chicken and roosters eating grain, little worms and crying like a rooster. The Emperor wanted his money back. The general came back with the master who carried with him a blank scroll, some ink and a brush but no money. He sat down, opened the scroll, cried triumphantly like a rooster and applied three fast strokes of ink to the paper. It took him three seconds. Then he handed the scroll to the Emperor, adjusted his robe, bowed respectfully and explained that he was glad to finally terminate his life as a rooster without being butchered and eaten up.

Poem number 18
Fujiwara no Toshiyuki Ason 880-907, prominent member of the Imperial Guard

The original poem:
Lo! the gathered waves
On the shore of Sumi's bay!
E'en in gathered night,
When in dreams I go to thee,
I must shun the eyes of men.

A situational poem by HK:
My love, in the night on the ship we are together, hidden from the eyes of the others. While we sail through Sumi Bay, the waves gently sway us, you and me.

Comment by HK:
My only hope is that this picture was not made and never authorised by Hokusai San. The lovers are ugly, the perspective onto the ship is wrong, the waves are no good, also the shore, the mountains etc. However maybe my brain does not observe properly.

Poem number 19
Lady Ise 870-935, influental daughter of a province governor

The original poem:
Even for a space
Short as joint of tiny reed
From Naniwa's marsh,
We must never meet again
In this life? This, do you ask?

A situational poem by HK:
Step by step, a house is built starting with nothing and growing up to a solid roof. Love could come from a single tiny moment of time, as minute as the joint of a small piece of reed from the marshes. You cannot even give me that, is this what you are trying to say to me?

Comment by HK:
The girls are hoping for the solid roof on top of a solid love story, based on a solid romance which could grow out of a sweet little romance. The beginning could be tiny, the blinking of eyes, a smile. But how sad it is if life just passes by. If all people are busy and move away, mostly on the other side of the river?

I do not think it is impossible that Hokusai made girls in fairy Kimonos thinking "What good are men if they are all on the roof and on the other side of the river?" Hokusai might express that not all female thoughts inside impeccable Kimonos are as pure as the water of the river. I was once in a Cinema Theatre in Tokyo. I had no idea what happened on the screen. Suddenly a beauty in a heavenly Kimono came in and settled her heavenly body down 3 seats away. I was breathless. Then she opened her wonderful bag, took out her wonderful BIG MAC and was "eating" it like two crocodiles tearing a big gnu into pieces. Women! They are so different and behave in unexpected ways!
Since then nothing can frighten me any more in any Cinema Theatre.

Poem number 20
Motoyoshi Shinno 890-943, eldest son of Emperor Yozei (poet 13)

The original poem:
Now, in dire distress,
It is all the same to me!
So, then, let us meet
Even though it costs my life
In the Bay of Naniwa.

A situational poem by HK:
I can only hope that you will meet me secretly in the Bay of Naniwa. For this hope - my love - I am ready to risk my life.

Comment by HK:
Prince Motoyoshi was the eldest son of Emperor Yozei. He was known as a notorious womaniser. In this poem he told a lady that when he meets her for secret sex he risks his life. I assume that Hokusai thinks that this was the princes standard dramatising yarn for quick seduction. The lady is ahead, hiding behind her umbrella. She is accompanied by her maid and a carrier with her toothbrush etc. Motoyoshi rides an ox and hides in a huge bushel of rice. Nothing could be a more obvious advertising for the princes newest success as playboy of the month. Hokusai shows idle ships in the harbour in the background. Nothing happens on sea. There are stakes to measure the height of the tides. Many Japanese poems compare the lovers unfathomable tears with high tides. Here the tide is at record low. The ox refuses to do another step. If the ox was chosen to symbolise macho capabilities, the adventure will end here and now with the final dot of the poem. Then everybody can go home in peace.

>> Poems (21 - 25)