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 26
Teishin Ko (Fujiwara no Tadahira) 880-949, prime minister

The original poem:
If the maple leaves
On the ridge of Ogura
Have the gift of mind,
They will longingly await
One more august pilgrimage.

A situational poem by HK:
My dear son you are now the Emperor - succeeding me when I became a monk. On our august pilgrimage we came to the maple leaves at the ridge of Ogura. I have asked the maple trees to show their colours again in a year. I ask you to join me then.

Comment by HK:
In the poem the maple trees are asked to show their beauty again in a year when the entire family of the Emperor can be present. Hokusai shows that scene a year later after the poem. However he does not show everybody in awe at the serene beauty of the trees. The court is busy with imperial etiquette, a lot of bowing and posing respectfully. This scene corresponds to the blue mountain in the background. It signals eternal stability. In addition to the mountain, the scene is surrounded by two buildings and the imperial wagon. All share blue colour, blue like the kimono of the Emperor. All together stability is set in contrast to the colours of the maple leaves which last just a few days - but coming every year, maybe for eternity. Every year - regardless the fact that the Emperor might be too busy to look.

Poem number 27
Chunagon Kanesuke (Fujiwara no Kanesuke) 877-933, important politician

The original poem:
Over Mika's plain,
Gushing forth and flowing free,
Is Izumi's stream.
I know not if we have met:
Why, then, do I long for her?

A situational poem by HK:
My feelings are adrift like my body being on a river floating away to unknown remote shores. I would like to fathom the depth like our sailor is doing it. I have seen a woman but have not met her. Now I am in a deep uncertainty.

Comment by HK:
Hokusais picture does not invite us to identify who is who. We are left with some people on a boat. That's all.
The boat again shows Hokusais problems with perspective view. The back and the middle of the boat is seen from above. The front is seen from a lower eyelevel. The boat looks as if it were twisted. Hokusai was a very independent stubborn character and refused to catch the tricks of perspective in pictures. Maybe his stubbornness was not only his weakness but also his strength. Maybe it would not have been possible to have his advantages without his fallacies. So be it.

Poem number 28
Minamoto no Muneyuki Ason died 939, grandson of Emperor Koko

The original poem:
Winter loneliness
In a mountain hamlet grows
Only deeper, when
Guests are gone, and leaves and grass
Withered are;--so runs my thought.

A situational poem by HK:
To endure wintertime in a remote hamlet weighs heavily on the mind. The guest have gone to other places and life itself has withdrawn from leaves and twigs and grass. Dark thoughts are creeping into the mind. Sometimes it looks as if ghosts are moving in. A fire pushes back the dark. But while it warms and lights whats near it, it also creates weird shadows and makes the distant darkness even darker.

Comment by HK:
Hokusai visualises extreme cold. The trees and the hut and even fire and smoke look brittle as if they were consisting of ice. What a difference to the smoke in picture 3. Hokusai is fantastically expressive with 1000 different styles of contours for garments, arms and legs, trees etc. See his outstanding virtuosity in picture 22.

Poem number 30
Mibu no Tadamine 867-965, famous writer

The original poem:
Like the morning moon,
Cold, unpitying was my love.
Since that parting hour,
Nothing I dislike so much
As the breaking light of day.

A situational poem by HK:
How I dislike it when the daylight breaks, signalling that I must quickly depart from my lover. I dislike this even more, when I am late and face people looking me up and surely gossip will follow the encounter. The moment is even more awkward when people emphasise the situation by a sudden need to bind their shoes. How cruel morning light can be to lovers.

>> Poems (31 - 35)