Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

In the river fireflies
I seem to see my soul,
suffused with sadness,
gone forth in longing
from my body

 

Izumi Shikibu

Goshūishū, Miscellaneous 6. The prefatory note says that Shikibu composed this poem while watching the fireflies fly over Mitarashi River during a retreat at Kibune Shrine in Kurama, after her lover had forsaken her. It was believed that the body and the soul were originally separate, and that the soul split off at times of great sadness, as here, akugare, “in longing.” Sunk in grief, even the flickering light of the fireflies in the darkness looks like her own soul strayed from her body. The poem's inspiration may have been fear, but the tone is wonderfully strong, almost voluptuous. The god of the shrine is said to have replied: “Do not grieve so long/ that your soul becomes like/ the spray flying off from / the foaming rapids/ as they cascade through remote moutains.” (okuyama ni/ tagirite otsuru / takitsuse no/ tama chiru bakari/ mono na omohi so).

もの(Mono)思へば(omoeba)(sawa)(no)(hotaru)(mo)わが身(wagami)より(yori)あくがれ出づる(akugareizuru)(tama)(ka)(to)(zo)見る(miru)

和泉式部(いずみ しきぶ)

『後拾遺集』雑六。愛人に見捨てられていたころ、鞍馬の貴船神社に参籠して、御手洗(みたらし)川に飛ぶ蛍を見て詠んだと前書きする。体と魂は本来別物で、深い嘆きに沈んだりすると魂が遊離すると信じられていた。それが「あくがれ」。嘆きに沈んでいると、夕闇に明滅する蛍火も、体からさまよい出たわが魂かと見えると。怖れをもって歌っているが調べの張りと艶はみごとである。明神は「奥山にたぎりて落つる滝つ瀬の玉ちるばかりものな思ひそ」と答えたという。