Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hyoshaku, "Kiritsubo" introduction part 2

Here's the second part of Hagiwara's introduction, with his 評 (analysis).  It's longer than the rest of the intro put together so you can see how important he thought this aspect of commentary was.  The translation is something of a challenge because Hagiwara has long sentences and a lot of effusive praise for Murasaki Shikibu's ability using the same words over and over.  Hagiwara expands on a lot of these ideas in his intepretive notes to the chapter itself.


It goes without saying that the composition in this tale is excellent, but perhaps because this is the first chapter, there are an unusual amount of excellent places. First the story recounts the depth of the love of the Emperor for the Intimate, and next the resentment and criticism of others, and then how because of that resentment and jealousy the Intimate soon becomes sick and dies. As someone said, Genji becomes an orphan, and those who see him are bound to be filled with a deep pity.


After that, the Emperor feels deep longing and regret for the Intimate's passing, and he sends Yugei no Myobu to the Intimate's mother's house. This section, including the return of Myobu to the palace, is especially well crafted, written with beauty and sadness. Within this section, the depiction of the scenery arising from the season is even more splendid, and the solemn and flawless way this is combined with the sadness of the scene is an example of unequaled compositional skill.


Now previous to this, the tale brings out the example of Yokihi and the section has overtones of Bai Juyi's “Song of Neverending Sorrow.” This is never the least bit rough, and even though borrowing from the other work, the Genji uses the words to write new and splendid material – just like the many examples of poetic allusion in the chapters of the Tale, it is indescribably excellent.

さて、末にいたりて、源氏の君の伝に移り、その容貌(かたち)と才芸とのいみじくめでたきよしをいふ中に、高麗の相人に見せ給へることをいひて、一世のほどにあるべきことをまづいはせたるなど、ぬけ出でたる書きざまといふべし。 これなん一部のおもふきを思ひ構へられたることの初めなりける。

Then later in the chapter the story switches to the story of Genji, and while describing his peerless looks and ability, the visit of the man from Koma describes what will happen in Genji's entire life, which can be seen as writing beyond compare. [This is the beginning of the planning of one part of the work.(?)]


Now after this, Genji has his donning of the trousers, and that night becomes the son-in-law of the Minister of the Left, showing that Genji has become an adult, and with this the storyline of this chapter ends. Within this chapter, there are stories dealing with Fujitsubo, the Ministers of the Left and Right, the Kokiden Consort, the Crown Prince, To no Chujo, Lady Aoi – these are interspersed within the main story to serve as seeds for stories in later chapters.  There is never a wasted moment.


For the most part, the characters in the entire work have to do with the family of Genji, Fujitsubo, the Minister of the Right and To no Chujo, the Minster of the Left, and Kokiden – any other characters are related to these in some way. So having all of them appear in the first chapter as a base for future chapters is well written.


At the end of the chapter, the name “The Shining Genji” appears once again to close the chapter, showing naturally that this chapter is mostly about Genji himself – this shows deep, unparalleled skill. For the most part these things can be found in other previous commentaries, but since they weren't detailed enough, I decided to be presumptuous and put my own analysis here. Readers, please forgive me.


  1. I think that "一部のおもふき" must mean "the theme of the whole work", rather than "... part of the work." (Ignoring the issue of how to translate おもふき for a second...)

    In modern times 一部 normally means "one part" but in ye olden days it usually meant "one (entire) book", sometimes understood as "one volume" but often as "one (entire) work". I just looked it up in the Nihon Kokugo Daijiten; there's an example from Genji (which is a bit ambiguous, alas), but there's also one from Kanagaki Robun's Aguranabe which seems very similar to Hagiwara's usage:


    1. Thanks, that makes a lot more sense. Usually I don't have anyone to look this over who knows classical :)

    2. Putting things online with comment forms is an excellent way to lure us classical-knowing people out of the tall grass. How can we resist a deal where someone else does all the work and we get to look like master philologists just because we happen to know some trivium that illuminates one sentence of it?

  2. (From the ignoramus in initiation) What a beautiful way it is to say "つゆも" for "even a jot"!