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 81
Go Tokudaiji no Sadaijin (Fujiwara no Sanesada) 1139-1191, minister, later priest

The original poem:
When I turned my look
Toward the place whence I had heard
Lo! the only object there
Was the moon of early dawn.

A situational poem by HK:
The hototogisu did wake me up crying his "cuckoo cuckoo". Could it be that all three together, cuckoo, moon and my lover are mocking me?

Comment by HK:
The picture corresponds to that of poem 85. Well, the morning after, one can have an anticlimax, one can fall into a hole. The symptoms usually can be cured with a good breakfast and a hot shower. The person on the picture surely needs both.

Poem number 82
Doin Hoshi (Fujiwara no Atsuyori) died 1183, famous poet

The original poem:
Though in deep distress
Through the cruel blow, my life
Still is left to me:--
But my tears I can not keep;
They can not my grief endure.

A situational poem by HK:
We may be sitting in grief for blows falling upon us. Only wisdom - not the feeling - is assuring us that the circle of life will one day be changing things.

Comment by HK:
The Buddhist wheel of wisdom is the key to the poem in the picture. Hokusai shows the basic concept of his faith. The world is full of grief, pain and tears. The only way to go is the relief of reaching Nirwana. However, sometimes in life, good things happen - e.g.art, dancing (see poem 84) - one can memorize and enjoy these. The first thing the masters teach in Zen-Buddhism is the distinction of the three levels of reality. The best is what one is aware of here and now. Second best is the own experience as memorised. The experience of art belongs here. Lowest is hear-say. The Zen-teacher asks: "How old are you?" - "I am 20 years old my master" - "It is bad that you offer me this answer. You were present at your birth but could not add the date to your memory. Your age has been told to you isnīt it? It is hear-say."

Poem number 83
Kotaikogu no Dayu Toshinari (Fujiwara no Toshinari, Fujiwara no Shunzei) 1114-1204, famous writer

The original poem:
Ah! within the world,
Way of flight I find nowhere.
I had thought to hide
In the mountains' farthest depths;
Yet e'en there the stag's cry sounds.

A situational poem by HK:
You would expect that one finds seclusion, calm and quietness in the remote regions in the mountains. But there is no place where you can hide from life. The cries of the stags cries and the noise of busy people are omnipresent.

Comment by HK:
This poem and the picture are related to the Way of Buddha (see also picture 82). Here the poet seeks solitude for meditation and relief from life. He cannot find it. In our world life is everywhere. People are working, some harvest rock mushrooms under very difficult conditions. A stag and his mate will mate and give birth. The chain of life is everywhere and it is endless. Only nirvana is void of sorrow, disturbance and life.

Poem number 84
Fujiwara no Kiyosuke Ason 1104-1177 conservative poet

The original poem:
If I long should live,
Then, perchance, the present days
May be dear to me;--
Just as past time fraught with grief
Now comes fondly back in thought.

A situational poem by HK:
Actors on a stage remind me of events that I experienced myself in my past. Later I might remind what happens to me now. Bad and good change their significance, and we might never catch the truth about ourselves.

Comment by HK:
Hokusai confronts the present and the past, everyday reality and stage illusion. What is in fact more real? The actor tells an old samurai story. A real samurai is watching. However in the time of Hokusai the samurai had lost their function. They just paraded. Where is then reality? Two ladies are almost perfect duplicates. Where is reality? An old man is observing the scene and is delighted remembering past times. It is certainly Hokusai himself.

Poem number 85
Shuny'e Hoshi born 1113, priest

The original poem:
Now,-- as through the night
Longingly I pass the hours,
And the day's dawn lags,--
E'en my bedroom's crannied doors
Heartless are, indeed, to me.

A situational poem by HK:
Some traces of light shining through cracks in my door have fooled me to wake up much too early. A very thin moon is greeting me in a heartless manner. Where is my lover now?

Comment by HK:
The picture corresponds to that of poem 81. The person wakes up in a gloomy mood, maybe about about the world or maybe something personal. The poem is about a man, a priest. Hokusai shows a woman. Contrary to poem 81, this women is well dressed and elegant. Hokusai picture composition is rich with corresponding curves and lines. The face, the moon, the robe, the banana leaves, the tree. The harmony is wonderful. It contrasts the gloomy mood. I myself have a problem with the combination of this extraordinary artistic harmony and the Buddhist high-level pessimism.

>> Poems (86 - 90)