Even when poets once again turned to other forms they

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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...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.

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