**context/information to be included in the final paper**[the section of reading that i’ve chosen to talk about in my paper is an excerpt from “Kagero Nikki,” or “The Mayfly Diary,” or, “The Gossamer Years,” written by a woman known only as “Michitsuna’s Mother” during the Heian period of japanese history. The author was an aristocratic woman who found herself married to a member of the japanese royal court, who happened to have multiple wives. the majority of the diary explains the emotional impact of the relationship and her woes about how the romance fell far short of her expectations.
Polygamy in Japanese society, especially in the royal court, was so common in this time period that it was almost expected of men. Of course, women got the short end of the stick in that bargain, with the man traveling around to sleep with various wives while they had little room to complain. The strain of having to deal with her life revolving around him while his life didn’t revolve around her was draining at best, and at the worst almost made this woman abandon her whole life and family to become a nun, just to escape the stress of it.
This passage here shows us her feelings during a time where her husband began to slowly spend less and less time with her at her home, indicting he was spending more and more nights with someone else. she decided to write a poem to her husband’s main wife, to both inquire about his whereabouts, and to let her know that he’s not with her.
My goal with this passage and analysis is to figure out what the feelings behind both poems might be, although it’s proving really difficult since 1) this is only from one woman’s point of view, and 2) it’s been translated from Japanese to English, and the original Japanese text is proving impossible to get a hold of.]**
[Draft] The two poems are written as correspondence between two women, both wives and rivals, who have talked before and are familiar with one another even if at least one is upset by the other’s existence. Their conversation is straightforward, but appears subtle veiled as per the social protocol of the time. The wild rice is obviously the man in question, and the marshes they mention are the homes that belong to the women (since in this culture, the women owned the property while the man moved into the house of his wife after marriage).
In the first few lines of the author’s poem, she writes:
Even from your pond’s depths,
they say it has been reaped,
the wild rice,
Here she acknowledges to the other wife that she knows her husband is married to/sleeps with/lives with that woman. Taking for granted that the mood is conveyed the same in this translation as in the original text, there seems to be a layer of disdain in Michitsuna’s mother’s words, as she says, “Wild rice can be found in your pond,” or more plainly, “I know he’s with you.” She finishes with:
in what marsh now does it put
down its roots and stay to sleep?
"Who is he with now?" In the passage, the author mentions that she heard a rumor that their husband is not seeing the first wife during this time, so these two lines serve two purposes: the main purpose is to let the first wife know that he’s now with her either; the secondary is to ask if per chance she knows where he actually is.
It’s tough to say if Michitsuna’s mother was expecting an answer like the one she got or not, especially since she doesn’t comment on her feelings over it in the passages included in this anthology. The lack of a reaction may in itself indicate that this reply was meaningless to her.
In the first wife’s reply, it’s unclear whether the poem is sincere or bitter, but it’s very likely the latter. In the first three lines of the reply, the wife writes:
The wild rice,
whence it is reaped, is of course,
this Yodo marsh, its home,
This part of the poem claims dominance on the first wife’s part, saying, “Yes, of course the wild rice grows here. Yes, this man lives here with me, in my home.” ((footnote 1)). However, the poem itself contains no new information, and ends with:
but i thought the marsh where it
took root and slept was your place.
It’s unclear whether the other wife was withholding the information out of spite or some other sentiment, or whether she genuinely didn’t know where their husband was. It’s possible that the poem she received was an unexpected message, and she couldn’t find the motive of it, and didn’t know how to react. Regardless, for the reply to be completely devoid of information, even gossip or speculation, simply saying, “Isn’t he was with you?” seems to suggest that the first wife was unwilling to discuss the issue with the author of this diary, and simply replied out of obligation.
The whole exchange might be translated into plain English as saying, “I know my husband is married to you, so do you know who he’s with now?” And the reply, “Yes he’s married to me, but I thought he was with you.” Even though it’s just a few lines of poetry apiece, the correspondence is cold and seems to be entirely fueled by reluctant obligation. As wives of a polygamous marriage, these women compete with one another for the attention and affection of one man, and even though there might be a new competitor in the game, the first wife at least seems to think that that’s no excuse to get chummy. Instead, they remain detached in their interactions.
((footnote 1: Yodo Marsh was also referenced in a poem by Ki no Tsurayuki, and it is explained in the collection where the poem can be found, “Kokinshu: A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern,” that Yodo was an area in Fushimi district of Kyoto, the then-capital of Japan where both of these women lived; though the poem is of unknown subject matter, the comparison of the area to a marsh is the common point.))
Michitsuna’s Mother. “The Kagero Diary.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature 2nd Edition: Volume B: The Medieval Era. Eds. David Damrosch, David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Education, Inc, 2009. np. Print.
Ki no Tsurayuki. “578 - Topic Unknown. “Kokinshu: a Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern. Eds: Laurel Rasplica Rodd, and Mary Catherine Henkenius. Boston: Cheng & Tsui Company, 2004. 217. PDF (Print).