Unformatted text preview: zed poetic composition. Some modern scholars believe that
those Man’yòshû poems whose authors appear to have been non-aristocratic were, in reality, composed by courtiers who “went primitive.”
Nevertheless, the poems were at least written from the standpoint of the
non-aristocrat, a fact that distinguishes them from virtually all the other
poetry composed in Japan for many centuries to come.
A third feature of the Man’yòshû is the variety (by Japanese standards) of its poetic forms. Included in it are a number of so-called long
poems (chòka) that possess a considerable grandeur and sweep. Yet,
even at this time the Japanese showed a marked preference for shorter
verse, and the great majority of poems in the Man’yòshû are in the waka4
form of thirty-one syllables—consisting of five lines of 5, 7, 5, 7, and 7
syllables—that was employed almost exclusively by poets for the next
five hundred years or more. Even when poets once again turned to other
forms, they usually selected those that were variants of the waka. For
example, the linked verse that became popular from about the fourteenth century on was composed by three or more poets who divided
the waka into two “links” (one made up of the first three lines of 5, 7,
and 5 syllables and the other of the last two lines of 7 and 7 syllables),
which could be joined together endlessly. And the famous seventeensyllable haiku that came into fashion in the seventeenth century consisted
simply of the first link of the waka.
No complete explanation can be given of the Japanese predilection
for brief poetry, but it is certainly due in large part to the nature of the
Japanese language. Japanese has very few vowel sounds and is constructed
almost solely of independent vowels (a, i, u, e, o) and short, “open”
syllables that consist of a consonant and a vowel (for example, ka, su, mo). 44 The Introduction of Buddhism The language therefore lacks the variety of sound necessary for true
poetic rhyme: indeed, it rhymes too readily. Moreover, it has little stress,
another element often used in prosody. Without recourse to rhyme or
stress, Japanese poets have generally found it difficult to write len...
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13