Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

The curved stick might be
a crescent moon flying across the sky
The rushing ball resembles
a comet tumbling to earth

Saga Tennō

Keikokushū Book XI. From a poem in Chinese entitled “Watching dakyū in early spring.” It seems that in the early Heian period envoys from the Chinese state of Bo Hai, with which Japan then had thriving relations, used the fragrant spring gardens of the Imperial palace to show their hosts dakyū, a ball game rather like polo, played on horseback to the accompaniment of music. This unusual poem describes such a scene. The comparison of the stick that drives the ball to a crescent moon came from the stick’s curved shape. Emperor Saga was an enthusiastic advocate of continental culture and good friends with Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi), founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Famed as well for his calligraphy, he is considered, with Kūkai and Tachibana no Hayanari, to be one of the three great masters of that art.

廻る(Meguru)(tsue)(wa)(sora)(wo)飛びて(tobite) 初月(mikazuki)(ka)(to)疑ふ(utagau) 奔る(Hashiru)(mari)(wa)(chi)(wo)転びて(marobite) 流星(rūsei)(ni)似る(niru)

嵯峨天皇(さが てんのう)

『経国集』巻十一。「早春打毬(だきゅう)を観る」と題する七言律詩より。平安前期日本と国交の盛んだった北の国渤海(ぼっかい)の使節が、芳春の宮中の庭で、音楽に合わせ現在のポロに似た騎乗球技を披露してみせたらしい。それを詠んだ珍しい詩。球を打つ杖が三日月のようだとあるのは、形が湾曲しているのを三日月に見立てたのである。嵯峨帝は大陸文明の摂取に積極的で、弘法大師空海とも親交があった。書に秀いで、空海、(たちばなの)逸勢(はやなり)と共に三筆の一人とされる。