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)