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 76
Hoshoji no Nyudo Saki no Kampaku Dajo-Daijin (Fujiwara no Tadamichi) 1097-1164, prime minister, a ruthless politisian. Later priest.

The original poem:
O'er the wide sea plain,
As I row and look around,
It appears to me
That the white waves, far away,
Are the ever shining sky.

A situational poem by HK:
In the distance, the waves and the shining sky are one and the same. Here we must row very hard to prevent that the wind and the waves are smashing us onto the rocks.

Comment by HK:
The picture describes imminent danger of the ship crashing into the rocks on the left, if the sailors are not strong enough to succeed against the power of the storm. The passengers on the ship are helpless. The poems reference to far distance, where the sky and the waves are meeting is not relevant in the picture.
The picture is a very powerful description of the forces of nature. Hokusai had again a big problem with perspective. The ship looks totally distorted as if it were seen through some sort of a reverse fish-eye lens. I find it tragic that the very stubborn Hokusai must have rebuked his friends who certainly had seen the problem and had tried to help.

The picture is related to the famous "The big wave at Kanagawa" of Hokusais series "36 views of the Fuji" made about 15 years earlier.

Poem number 77
Sutoku-In 1119-1164, Emperor

The original poem:
Though a swift stream be
By a rock met and restrained
In impetuous flow,
Yet, divided, it speeds on,
And at last unites again.

A situational poem by HK:
A rock can divide one river into two, but they join again. Life is also separating parts which can finally be united again. Can I hope that I will be united with my lover?

Comment by HK:
Hokusai was a Buddhist. The core of this faith is the final unity of things. This picture is a very powerful statement for this. The stream and the bridge, the water and the rocks belong together. The two women on the bridge are socially divided but above that, both share the feelings and basic experiences of all women. The noble women with her entourage is probably on the way to be reunited with her lover of the poem.

Poem number 78
Minamoto no Kanemasa died 1112, poet and writer

The original poem:
Guard of Suma's Gate,
From your sleep, how many nights
Have you waked at cries
Of the plaintive sanderlings,
Migrant from Awaji's isle?

A situational poem by HK:
These are the women making sake. Does the power of sake make love easier or more difficult, lessen its intensity or enhancing it, make it sweet or bitter? Does it dim the cries of the birds or make them louder? Let us sleep or wake us up? Do the barrels signal *too much" or "not enough"?

Comment by HK:
The poem is about noises from animals in the night and an allusion to separated lovers. Hokusai decided that we got enough of those and concentrated on something that some people might want. His picture shows ladies employed in the manufacturing of sake. That is more solid and raises also some intellectually fascinating problems. He also shows us a woman who seems to wash an island ten miles away with her brush. Its all a question of perspective.

Poem number 79
Sakyo no Dayu Akisuke (Fujiwara no Akisuke) 1090-1155, conservative politician

The original poem:
See, how clear and bright
Is the moon-light finding ways
'Mong the riven clouds
That, with drifting autumn-wind,
Gracefully float o'er the sky!

A situational poem by HK:
We are intensely doing our work and search our way, sometimes with the aid of a flaming torch. Occasionally the full moon finds its way through the clouds.

Comment by HK:
The poem and the picture play with the difficulties of finding the right path at night. The wind is chasing clouds and this can look as if the moon would sometimes have difficulties to get where he belongs. The monk on the dyke has is easier. When the moon is behind the clouds, the boy with the torch saves the situation. There are men beating rice to make mochi paste. I fail to see this as a moonlight job.

In Hokusais time discussing impressions if the moon is moving or the clouds and the search for the right ways has political significance. The "godgiven" imperial order is no longer what it had been. Hokusai himself defines his position as an artist and does not accept subordination. His handling of the poems is an important landmark.

Poem number 80
Lady Taiken Monin Horikawa 12th century, noble family, famous poet

The original poem:
If it be for aye
That he wills our love should last?
Ah! I do not know!
And this morn my anxious thoughts,
Like my black hair, are confused.

A situational poem by HK:
I must arrange my robe and my hair. Also my heart is troubled. My lover has not said when he will return. Can I trust my expectations?

Comment by HK:
The lady had expected a word about marriage and children but her lover did not deliver. She is anxious and - like millions of women in history - thinks over her strategies, first counting her troups, I mean: she is estimating how much she might stress the point versus the risk of losing everything.

>> Poems (81 - 85)