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Although i am sure that he will not be coming in the

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Unformatted text preview: ion of the kana syllabary. Even at the height of enthusiasm for Chinese poetry at the court of Emperor Saga earlier in the ninth century, this means for writing in the vernacular was being perfected. Kûkai himself, as we have seen, was closely associated with the “invention” of kana. During the time of Saga, three imperially authorized or official anthologies of Chinese poetry were compiled, and in 905 the first official anthology of waka, the Kokinshû (Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems) was produced at court. Although the earlier, unofficial Man’yòshû had The Court at Its Zenith 59 been a superb collection, it was the Kokinshû that truly set the standards for classical Japanese poetry. The Man’yòshû had been written by means of a complex use of Chinese ideographs to represent Japanese phonetics, and the Heian courtiers found it obscure and difficult to read. Moreover, the Man’yòshû set forth the sentiments of a quite different age. In the new world of the Kokinshû, refinement, taste, and decorum took absolute precedence over candor and vigorous emotional expression. The Heian poet, as we can observe in the following poems from the Kokinshû, was expected to versify at the proper time and in the proper mood: This perfectly still Spring day bathed in the soft light From the spread-out sky, Why do the cherry blossoms So restlessly scatter down? Although I am sure That he will not be coming, In the evening light When the locusts shrilly call I go to the door and wait.6 It was eminently proper to respond sensitively to the charm of a spring day and to reflect wistfully upon the brevity of life as called to mind by the scattering of the cherry blossoms; it was also most fitting for the poet to express loneliness and yearning for a lover, so long as he did not carry his feelings to the point of uncontrollable anger or anguish at being neglected. A leading poet of the day was Ki no Tsurayuki (868?–946), one of the compilers of the Kokinshû. Tsurayuki also wrote the preface to this anthology and thereby produced not only the first important piece of literary criticism in Japanese history but also an excellent statement of the standards that guided the courtly...
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