Ono No Komachi

po_Komachi-Ono1Ono no Komachi (c. 825 – c. 900) was a Japanese waka poet, one of the Rokkasen—the Six best Waka poets of the early Heian period. She was renowned for her unusual beauty, and Komachi is today a synonym for feminine beauty in Japan. She also counts among the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals.

As a poet, Komachi specialized in erotic love themes, expressed in complex poems. Most of her waka are about anxiety, solitude or passionate love. She is the only female poet referred to in the preface of the Kokin Wakashū, which describes her style as “containing naivety in old style but also delicacy”.

Legends abound of Komachi in love. The most well known is a story about her relationship with Fukakusa no Shosho, a high-ranking courtier. Komachi promised that if he visited her continuously for a hundred nights, then she would become his lover. Fukakusa no Shosho visited her every night, but failed once towards the end. Despairing, he fell ill and subsequently died. When Komachi learned of his death she was overcome with grief.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Doesn’t he realize
that I am not
like the swaying kelp
in the surf,
where the seaweed gatherer
can come as often as he wants.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I fell asleep thinking of him,
and he came to me.
If I had known it was only a dream
I would have awakened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I thought to pick
the flower of forgetting
for myself,
but I found it
already growing in his heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The autumn night
is long only in name—
We’ve done no more
than gaze at each other
and it’s already dawn