Myriad Birds:A Playful Poetry Contest (Momo chidori kyōka-awase), 2 vols.
Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753?–1806)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Woodblock printed books; ink and color on paper
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Not on view
Each of the double-page illustrations of this book depicts two avian species accompanied by a pair of playful love poems written in the “voice” of the respective bird. The poems are kyōka (literally, “mad verse”), or playful light verse written in five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables respectively.Japanese Grosbeak (Mamemawashi, “Bean-turner”) Shinobu no ni irazaru kuchi no mamemawashi tsui saezurite na ya morasuramuMy love affair is secret, but the “bean-turner” bird, with its big mouth, no doubt spilled the beans and squealed her name. —Akera Kankō ; trans. John T. CarpenterWoodpecker (Kitsutsuki)Na ni tachite koi ni ya kuchin kitsutsuki no tsuki-kudakaruru hito no kuchibashiAs rumors spread saying that my romance has rotted away, I'll be a woodpecker pecking to pieces their tittle-tattle. —Shinono Tamawaku; trans. John T. CarpenterDuck (Kamo)Tsukebumi no tsukaimono ni wa chi o hashiru koi no yakko mo kamo no torimochiAs he waits for his love letter to be sped in its delivery across land by a duck, he remains a slave to love, as though trapped in birdlime. —Hōnen no Yukimaru; trans. John T. CarpenterKingfisher (Kawasemi)Kimi to waga nochi no yo kakete hasu no ha ni ii-kawasemi no hane o narabenLet us exchange vows that you and I will be reborn on the same lotus leaf, and we’ll be forever close, as joined wings of kingfishers. —Sandara Hōshi; trans. John T. Carpenter