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 56
Lady Izumi Shikibu 976-1020, governor family

The original poem:
Soon I cease to be;--
One fond memory I would keep
When beyond this world.
Is there, then, no way for me
Just once more to meet with thee?

A situational poem by HK:
My dear lover, I am on my deathbed now, and dawn tomorrow might reach me in the world beyond. Could we meet just once more so I might take this with me in my memory?
Oh my destiny! My letter did not reach my lover, the man at the door was just a fortune teller - Maybe a letter will come and I might read his message later.

Comment by HK:
The last wish of the lady on her deathbed is a little bit of time with her lover which she could try to embed in her memory and carry into her death and hopefully even into her next rebirth. Buddhists do not exclude this possibility. Instead of a piece of past she gets an offer for the exact opposite. Something a fortune teller says about something which might happen in a non-existing future. In face of death life can produce offending jokes. I think that Hokusai is attacking empty religious promises.

Poem number 57
Lady Murasaki Shikibu 974-1031, author of the world famous "Tale of Gemji"

The original poem:
Meeting in the way--,
While I can not clearly know
If 'tis friend or not;--
Lo! the midnight moon, ah me!
In a cloud has disappeared.

A situational poem by HK:
The moon keeps so many secrets for himself. For one tiny moment he lightened the scene with a sedan, a samurai, a lady and the porters. Of course one could not see the master himself. But the samurai might have recognised me. Is his master a friend of mine, was he once my guest? The moon is hiding behind the clouds and is hiding his little secrets so well. Maybe especially before us ladies who would like so much to know them all.

Comment by HK:
Two worlds are separated by a two-fold waterway. A noble person is on one side, two geishas plus cherry blossoms on the other. The construction of the little bridge is not defined on the noble side and well defined on the not-so-noble side. The noble mans samurai guardian has stopped in his track and seems to recognise the geisha. She points at the noble group. There is a child. It is not impossible that he just missed to meet his father.

Poem number 59
Lady Akazome Emon 087-1012, famous poet at the court of Emperor Ichijo

The original poem:
Better to have slept
Care-free, than to keep vain watch
Through the passing night,
Till I saw the lonely moon.
Traverse her descending path.

A situational poem by HK:
It is so much better to sleep well than to keep awake all night, hoping to eventually catch a glimpse of the moon while he is crossing the path of the person one has on mind. Do not worry, that person will not be forgotten.

Comment by HK:
This picture is the masterpiece of Hokusais ironical sarcasm. The poem lets us expect a mystical night scene with shadows and doubts and imagination going wild. Hokusai faces us with an almost clinical matter of fact scene, perfectly lighted, totally non romantic. It is a great picture around an unexpected intellectual idea. The idol just walks through and that's all folks, now go home.
Hokusai teaches here that it is wrong to approach fine art with specific expectations of what it should be - e.g. a romantic environment. Hokusai is full of surprises.

Poem number 60
Lady Koshikibu no Naishi 999-1025, maid to the Empress

The original poem:
As, by Oe's mount
And o'er Iku's plain, the way
Is so very far,--
I have not yet even seen

A situational poem by HK:
If you think that one has to have seen the beauty of Ama-no-hashidate to be a poet, then I must say, that I have not seen it and I think it is too far away for me and I would not care to see Ama-no-hashidate but I would now sit on that little rock over there and learn from the ants. Don't you think that ants are quite intelligent?

Comment by HK:
Ama-no-hashidate is considered to be one of the three most beautiful landscapes in Japan. Hokusai says that this image shows it, but he did not care a bit and shows a landscape one finds anywhere.
Hokusai does not show us the described landscape. He shows us a great composition of near horizontal and near vertical lines in extraordinary harmony. He also shows us his gift of drawing figures and constumes.

>> Poems (61 - 65)