There had been a scattering of evangelists from at

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Unformatted text preview: es of suggestion, intimation, and nuance, and have characteristically sought to achieve artistic effect by means of “resonances” (yojò). In the period of the Shinkokinshû, the idea of creating resonances or depth of poetic expression through suggestion was praised to the point of making it virtually the supreme consideration of the poet. The thirty-onesyllable waka form of poetry was thus extolled precisely because its brevity demanded resonances and the quality of depth. This sentiment was beautifully articulated by the priest Shun’e (fl. ca. 1160–80): It is only when many meanings are compressed into a single word, when the depths of feelings are exhausted yet not expressed, when an unseen world hovers in the atmosphere of the poem, when the mean and common are used to express the elegant, when a poetic conception of rare beauty is developed to the fullest extent in a style of surface simplicity—only then, when the conception is exalted to the highest degree and “the words are too few,” will the poem, by expressing one’s feelings in this way, have the power of moving Heaven and Earth within the brief confines of thirty-one syllables and be capable of softening the hearts of gods and demons.6 In addition to his remarks about the power of words that are “too few,” Shun’e makes reference to “an unseen world [that] hovers in the atmosphere of [a] poem.” It is this unseen world or sense of atmosphere that constitutes the second element of yûgen: mystery. The following poem by Fujiwara Teika well illustrates both the mystery and depth of yûgen. When the floating bridge Of the dream of a spring night Was snapped, I woke: In the sky a bank of clouds Was drawing away from the peak.7 The Canons of Medieval Taste 98 In Japanese poetry the dream is often used to create the atmospheric (mysterious) quality of Shun’e’s unseen world; and, in this particular poem, strong resonances are brought into play by the words “floating bridge” and “dream,” which allude to the last chapter of The Tale of Genji, “The Floating Bridge of Dreams,” and thus conjure up the brilliant world of romance...
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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 The University of British Columbia.

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