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The range of feelings in the age of the kokinsh was

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Unformatted text preview: taste in versification. In the opening lines to the preface, Tsurayuki expressed the deep psychological, social, and aesthetic significance that he, as a representative of the Heian courtier class of the early tenth century, attached to poetry: The poetry of Japan has its roots in the human heart and flourishes in the countless leaves of words. Because human beings possess interests of so many kinds, it is in poetry that they give expression to the meditations of their hearts in terms of the sights appearing before their eyes and the sounds coming to their ears. Hearing the warbler sing among the blossoms and the frog in his fresh waters—is there any living being not given to song? It is poetry which, without exertion, moves heaven and earth, stirs the feelings of gods and spirits invisible to the eye, softens the relations between men and women, calms the hearts of fierce warriors.7 60 The Court at Its Zenith Tsurayuki speaks of poetry in terms of “words” and “heart.” The words are the Yamato language—free from the tainting of Chinese—that was established as the classical medium of expression for native poetry by the Man’yòshû. But the heart or feelings seen as the proper subject matter for poetry by Tsurayuki and his fellow Kokinshû poets are quite different from those of the Man’yòshû, some of whose most memorable verses deal with such harsh topics as death, poverty, and hunger. The range of feelings in the age of the Kokinshû was greatly narrowed and refined to a high degree. As Tsurayuki puts it, poets should be inspired to verse when they looked at the scattered blossoms of a spring morning; when they listened of an autumn evening to the falling of the leaves; when they sighed over the snow and waves reflected each passing year by their looking glasses; when they were startled into thoughts on the brevity of life by seeing the dew on the grass or the foam on the water; when, yesterday all proud and splendid, they have fallen from fortune...
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