Ono no Komachi (834?-?)

Ono no Komachi

Komachi was one of the pillars of Japanese Heian era poetry. She served in the court in the capitol city of Heian-kyo (present day Kyoto).

Komachi’s poetry was extremely passionate, deeply subjective and complex.  She was  of a poetical society that  developed the form with  philosophical and emotional depth.

My study of Komachi is just beginning and it’s  better we allow her words to lead us into her world.

Lady Nyo

Ono No Komachi

Did he appear

because I fell asleep

thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming,

I’d never have wakened.


When my desire

grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

inside out,

dark as the night’s rough husk.


No way to see him

on this moonless night–

I lie awake longing, burning,

breasts racing fire,

heart in flames.


Though I go to him constantly on the paths of dream,

never resting my feet,

in the real world

it doesn’t equal a single glance.


The cicadas sing

in the twilight

of my mountain village–

tonight, no one

will visit save the wind.

—-From “The Ink Dark Moon”, Hirshfield and Aratani

Tags: , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Ono no Komachi (834?-?)”

  1. Berowne Says:

    She is listed as one of the Rokkasen, or Six Great Poets of Japan. I think my favorite poem of hers (and the one I’m most familiar with) is the one that Hokusai illustrated in his One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, the “Hana no iro wa”:
    Color of the flower
    has faded
    while on my path through the world
    I have set my gaze
    on trivia.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    That caught my eye too.

    I don’t think there is one poem of hers that doesn’t evoke something deep in a reader. I know that everything I’ve read of hers makes me stop and think and feel that resonance.

    “How sad that I hope
    to see you even now,
    after my life has emptied itself
    like this stalk of grain
    into the autumn wind.”

    When we get to Izumi Shikibu’s poetry, especially this one of mourning:

    “Why did you vanish
    into empty sky?
    Even the fragile snow,
    when it falls,
    falls into this world.”

    Well, the explanation in translation knocked me off my chair.

    Cremation is inferred with ‘why did you vanish into empty sky?….literally smoke…
    Her daughter has utterly disappeared, yet snow will fall and return to fall again.

    The impermanence of life, but how the natural world (snow)lives on.

    There is so much in these simple words, lines, and so much symbolism we have to reveal…or unravel.

    Well, thank you, Berowne for reading and commenting. These simple little tanka are deep things, indeed.

    All of this poetry is achingly beautiful.


  3. Margie Says:

    I love these, spare words that bring such deep meaning to the whole. The illustration is beautiful as well. Is it an ink drawing?


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Margie!

    Yes, it seems to be an ink drawing…lovely, too.

    I love these tanka, though in translation, they don’t seem to
    ‘fit’ this form, but they do.

    I’ll try to have more history on her as soon as I find any.

    Thanks, Margie for reading and leaving a comment.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: