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Poem by Kiyowara no Fukayabu with Design of Wisteria

Calligraphy by Hon'ami Kōetsu (Japanese, 1558–1637)

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
early 17th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Poem card (shikishi) mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on paper with mica
Dimensions:
Image: 7 13/16 x 6 3/4 in. (19.9 x 17.2 cm) Overall: 50 3/8 x 16 1/4 in. (128 x 41.2 cm)
Classification:
Calligraphy
Credit Line:
Collection of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto
  • Description

    Koishinaba
    ta ga na wa tataji
    yo no naka no
    tsune naki mono to
    ii wa nasu to mo

    If I die of a broken heart,
    no other name than yours
    will be raised in blame,
    but no doubt you’ll just say,
    “That’s life: nothing lasts forever.”

    —Trans. John T. Carpenter

    Note that the poem is inscribed using the “scattered writing” (chirashigaki) technique, so it begins at the middle with the boldly brushed characters making up the phrase koishinaba (literally, “to die from love”). The column to the left is read next, and then the reader must move to the far right to read the final lines.

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