Izumi Shikibu

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Izumi Shikibu, shown here in a c. 1765 Kusazōshi by Komatsuken, was a poet at Empress Teishi's court.

Izumi Shikibu (和泉式部?, b. 976?) was a mid Heian period Japanese poet. She is a member of the Thirty-six Medieval Poetry Immortals (中古三十六歌仙 chūko sanjurokkasen?). She was the contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, and Akazome Emon at the court of empress Joto Mon'in.

Early life[edit]

Izumi Shikibu was the daughter of Oe no Masamune, governor of Echizen. Her mother was the daughter of Taira no Yasuhira, governor of Etchu. At the age of 20 Izumi was married to Tachibana no Michisada, who soon became governor of Izumi. As is standard for Heian period women, her name is a composite of "Izumi" from her husband's charge (任国 ningoku?) and her father's official designation of master of ceremony (式部 shikibu?). Izumi Shikibu accompanied Michisada to the provinces for a time, but found life there disagreeable and returned to the capital. Their daughter Koshikibu no Naishi was also a poet.

Affairs, marriages[edit]

She had a sequence of affairs at the Imperial court in Kyoto. In the beginning, before her marriage to Michisada, she is believed to have been the companion (some accounts say wife) of a man named Omotomaru at dowager Queen Shoko's court. While still married to Michisada, she fell in love with Emperor Reizei's third son, Prince Tametaka (977–1002) and had a public affair. As a result of the scandal her husband divorced her and her father disinherited her. One legend records that Tametaka died soon after visiting her during a plague outbreak in Kyoto.

After Tametaka's death, she was courted by Prince Atsumichi (981–1007), Tametaka's half-brother, born to another mother. The first year of this affair is described in her semi-autobiographical Diary of Izumi Shikibu (和泉式部日記 Izumi Shikibu Nikki?). As is customary for a diary of the period,[citation needed] Izumi wrote in the third person her Izumi Shikibu Nikki and sections may have been fictionalized. It is believed that her motive in writing the diary was partly to explain her affair to her fellow courtiers. When her affair with Atsumichi became public, his wife left him in anger. Izumi then moved into Atsumichi's residence, and the two had a very public courtship until Atsumichi's death in 1007 at the age of 27. The following year, she joined the court of Fujiwara no Shōshi, who was the daughter of Fujiwara no Michinaga, as well as a chūgū consort of Emperor Ichijō.

Further testimony of the scandal caused by her successive affairs with the Princes Tametaka and Atsumichi can be found in two historical tales (rekishi monogatari) about the period, A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (or Eiga Monogatari), c. mid-eleventh century, and The Great Mirror (or Ōkagami), c. late eleventh century.

Diary[edit]

Izumi Shikibu Nikki was actually written around this time, along with most of her important work that is present in the Izumi Shikibu Collection (和泉式部集 Izumi Shikibu-shū?) and the Imperial anthologies. Her life of love and passion earned her the nickname of The Floating Lady (浮かれ女 ukareme?) from Michinaga. Her poetry is characterized by passion and sentimental appeal. Her style was the direct opposite of that of Akazome Emon, even though both served in the same court and were close friends. At the court she also nursed a growing rivalry with Murasaki Shikibu, who had a similar poetic style, though this rivalry pales in comparison with Murasaki Shikibu's spirited competition with Sei Shōnagon. Izumi Shikibu's emotional poetry won her the praise of many at the court, including Fujiwara no Kinto.

Later years[edit]

While at the court, she married Fujiwara no Yasumasa, a military commander under Michinaga famous for his bravery, and left the court to accompany him to his charge in Tango Province. She is said to have lived long, outliving her daughter Koshikibu no Naishi, but the year of her death is unknown. The last Imperial correspondence from her was in 1033.

Legacy[edit]

In contemporary arts, the National Opera of Paris and the Grand Theater of Geneva jointly commissioned an opera based on her poems. Titled “Da Gelo a Gelo” by Salvatore Sciarrino and sung in Italian, the work draws on 65 poems from Izumi Shikibu Nikki that features her passion for Prince Atsumichi. It was performed in early 2008 by the Grand Theater of Geneva with the Chamber Orchestra of Geneva.[citation needed]

Poetry[edit]

A page 2nd collected works of Izumi Shikibu 12th century
  • 刈藻かき臥猪の床のゐを安み
         さこそねざらめ斯らずもがな

    karu mo kaki fusu wi no toko no wi wo yasumi sa koso nezarame kakarazu mo gana
    loosely: Trampling the dry grass the wild boar makes his bed, and sleeps. I would not sleep so soundly even were I without these feelings.
    (Goshūi Wakashū 14:821)

    黒髪のみだれも知らず打臥せば
         まづかきやりし人ぞ戀しき

    kurokami no midaremo shirazu uchifuseba madzu kakiyarishi hito zo kohishiki
    loosely: My black hair is unkempt; unconcerned, he lies down and first gently smooths it, my darling!
    (Goshūi Wakashū 13:755)

    長閑なる折こそなけれ花を思ふ心の
         うちに風はふかねど

    nodoka naru ori koso nakere hana wo omou kokoro no uchi ni kaze wa fukanedo
    loosely: "There is not even a moment of calmness. In the heart that loves the blossoms, the wind is already blowing."
    ([1])

    (Heian noblewoman had very long hair.)
  • A large number of her poems are poems of lamentation (哀傷歌 aishō no uta?). A few examples, first to Tametaka:

    亡人のくる夜ときけど君もなし
         我が住む宿や魂無きの里

    naki hito no kuru yo to kikedo kimi mo nashi wa ga sumu yado ya tamanaki no sato
    loosely: They say the dead return tonight, but you are not here. Is my dwelling truly a house without spirit?
    (Goshūi Wakashū 10:575)

    Upon seeing her daughter Koshikibu no Naishi's name on her Imperial robes she received after her death:

    諸共に苔のしたには朽ちずして
         埋もれぬ名をみるぞ悲しき

    morotomo ni koke no shita ni ha kuchizu shite udzumorenu na wo miru zo kanashiki
    loosely: Beneath the moss, imperishable, her name of high renown: seeing it is a great sadness.
    (Kin'yō Wakashū 10:620)

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