“Fourth Month” after Fujiwara no Teika’s “Poems of Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months,” from Gleanings of Worthless Weeds (Shūigusō)

Ogata Kenzan (Japanese, 1663–1743)

Edo period (1615–1868)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 6 5/16 x 8 15/16 in. (16 x 22.7 cm) Overall with mounting: 43 1/4 x 19 in. (109.9 x 48.3 cm) Overall with knobs: 43 1/4 x 20 5/8 in. (109.9 x 52.4 cm)
Credit Line:
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Kenzan, brother of the painter and designer Ogata Kŏrin (1658–1716), is best known as a potter but was also a gifted painter and calligrapher. This small painting was separated from a group of twelve representing plants and animals symbolic of the twelve months, each inscribed with two poems. The poems were taken from the Shǔigusŏ, a collection of verse by the influential poet and calligrapher Fujiwara Teika (1162–1241). The poems from the fourth month refer to unohana (deutzia flowers) and to the hototogisu, a bird related to the cuckoo. They read:

    Shirotae no
    koromo hosu chō
    natsu no kite
    kakine mo tawa ni
    sakeru u no hana

    Shinobu no sato ni
    sato nare yo
    mada u no hana no
    tsuki matsu goro

    Robes of white cloth
    should be aired out, they say,
    just when summer arrives
    and deutzia flowers in bloom
    cause the hedge to droop.

    In the village of Shinobu
    where the cuckoo dwells,
    its cry is now heard,
    while we await next month
    when deutzia flowers bloom.

    —Trans. John T. Carpenter