Thursday, April 13, 2006

Empress Eifuku

In the Japanese Court Poetry book I mentioned in the previous post, there is a poem by Empress Eifuku (1271-1242), written in the tradition of Japanese courtly love (p. 402):

In my heart,
Weakened now by your betrayal
To the point of death,
Even misery takes on pathetic beauty
And my bitterness is gone.

I asked before whether something negative could become "sweet" simply because of its constancy, as Saigyo suggests in his poem. Empress Eifuku's poem seems to reiteriate Saigyo's sensibility. The authors state that Eifuku suggests "the whole course of an affair by writing its surprising conclusion--that suffering at its worst point yields to beauty and release, if only in death"(402).

Saigyo, however, sees his sweet loneliness as a companion, a reliable part of his life that will not abandon him. Empress Eifuku feels her suffering as a relief, a freedom from the bondage of passion. In her experience, misery turns sweet ("my bitterness is gone") because she envisions an end to it, even if the end is death.

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