Poetry Screen (Waka Byobu): Six Poems by Women Poets
Konoe Nobutada (Japanese, 1565–1614)
Momoyama period (1573–1615)
early 17th century
Six-panel folding screen; ink on paper
Overall: 55 13/16 x 18 13/16 in. (141.8 x 47.8 cm)
Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., B.A. 1913, Fund and a gift from Peggy and Richard M. Danziger, L.L.B. 1963
Not on view
Nobutada, born into an eminent courtier family, was one of the most celebrated calligraphers of the early seventeenth century, and in his youth mastered traditional court styles of transcribing poems of ancient times. Yet he made his mark by creating a distinctive calligraphic style of “large character” kana (phonetic syllabary), as seen in this impressive transcription of court verse (waka). The poems are inscribed on a scale and with a thickness and forcefulness of strokes previously reserved for Chinese calligraphy. The calligrapher responded with élan to the selection of amorous poems, all by women poets of antiquity, which convey the sadness, frustration, and inescapable angst of unrequited love.
Panel 1 (far right) Utatane ni koishiki hito o miteshi yori yume chōmono o tanomisometeki
Since the time I imagined seeing the man I’m in love with while taking a short nap, I have come to rely more and more on the things called dreams.
[signed] Ono no Komachi (ca. 825–ca. 900)
Panel 2 Naniwa-gata mijikaki ashi no fushi no ma mo awade kono yo o sugushiteyo to ya
Are you saying that we can no longer meet, even for a moment, brief as the space between joints of the reeds of Naniwa Bay?
[signed] Lady Ise (ca. 875–ca. 938)
Panel 3 Wasureji no yukusue made wa katakereba kyōo kagiri no inochi to mogana
If you promise that for as long as I live you’ll never forsake me, I wonder then if that means my life must end this day.
[signed] The Mother of Gidō Sanshi (died 996)
—Trans. John T. Carpenter
Panel 4 Arazan kono yo no hoka no omoide ni ima hitotabi no au kono mogana
[signed] Izumi Shikibu (born ca. 976)
As a fond memory to cherish after I depart this world of ours, more than anything I desire to meet you one last time.
Panel 5 Oto ni kiku Takashi no hama no adanami wa kakejiya sode no nure mo koso sura
I’ve heard from others just how fickle are the waves at the beaches of Takashi, so I’ll keep far away, lest my sleeves get drenched.
[signed] Lady Kii, of Princess Yūshi’s Household (active late 11th century)
Panel 6 (far left) Nagakaran kokoro mo shirazu kurokami no midareta kesa wa mono o koso omoe
How can I be sure your heart will remain forever constant, since my own feelings of love are as tangled as my black hair as the day breaks.
[signed] Lady Horikawa, of the retired Empress Taikenmon’in’s household (active late 12th century)
—Trans. John T. Carpenter
Purchased with the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., B.A. 1913, Fund and a gift from Peggy and Richard M. Danziger, LL.B.1963
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art," May 26, 2012–January 13, 2013.