Scattered Orange Blossoms

The Emperor calls
I accompany him to
the Summer Palace
The orange blossoms will scatter
Ere I return, my princess
Sugawara no Tokihira

Liner notes:

This poem was composed in honor of His Royal Highness’s victory at Crown Tourney. In one of the most touching moments I’ve seen at an event, Sir Cellach called Lady Vukasin, who was unable to attend due to work, to let her know he had won Crown. This poem is an attempt to capture the poignancy of that moment: the joy and honor of being called upon for higher service, and the agony of being away from your loved one in that service. Japanese poetry is rife with examples of nobles being called away from their wives and lovers in duty to the Emperor, whether it is as a regional governor (equivalent to a landed baron) or as part of his retinue as he visits his various palaces. Another theme in Nara-era poetry is the despair of finding that birds have scattered the orange blossoms before they could be viewed with one’s lover (the blossom-viewing festival was originally for orange blossoms, but in Heian era shifted to cherry blossoms). Lady Vukasin wasn’t able to be invested as Crown Princess until Baronial Borader Wars, in mid-June, after the orange blossoms would have bloomed.  The orange blossoms (and implicit reference to the birds that scattered them) are also a reference to HRH job as a park ranger.

The following photo was taken by Lady Kimiko, and is the image running through my mind while I was composing this poem.  You can see the emotions I described, especially Her Majesty’s.

Sir Cellach calling Lady Vukasin to inform her he won Crown Tourney.  Photograph by Lady Kimiko, copyright 2013.  Used with permission.

Sir Cellach calling Lady Vukasin to inform her he won Crown Tourney. Photograph by Lady Kimiko, copyright 2013. Used with permission.

The form is waka, Japanese in origin with a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern of syllables.  Event held 16th and 17th day of 4th month, AS XLVIII. This poem was composed for the Pentamere Pilgrimage Challenge, the ninth poem in the series; in addition, Calum has written an amusing take on his experiences at an event.

Posted in Poetry. 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Scattered Orange Blossoms”

  1. Skye Matthews-Savage Says:

    I love this one! And your knowledge of the culture surrounding your persona makes it extra special!

  2. WasteWalker Says:


  3. Sugawara no Tokihira Says:

    Yeah, I recently picked up “1000 Poems from the Manyoshu”, which has translations of about 23% of the earliest collection of Japanese poetry (first compiled in the 8th Century, the latest poem that can be dated is from 759), as well as 80 pages of introductory material about the culture. You can see its influence on my more recent poems, starting with Coronation. I basically just skim through it looking for poems that have subject matter similar to what I want to write about (here, the separation of lovers. The scattered orange blossoms was a fortuitous discovery – I found three or four poems in the space of a dozen pages that used this, so it was obvious that it was either already a poetic convention, or an everyday occurrence. Oh, that reminds me; I forgot to mention in the liner notes about what HRH job was, because that ties in to the use of the orange blossoms in the poem. Must add that when I add Kimiko’s picture.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Very nice! Read it about 10 times to get the meter right. Rather melancholic, but I’m pretty sure that’s what you were aiming for.

  5. Sugawara no Tokihira Says:

    Japanese poetry doesn’t have meter, per se (for one thing, Japanese doesn’t have accented syllables). Strictly speaking, it’s not even counted syllables, but rather phonemes (mora). For example, the last word, ‘princess’, technically is 5 mora long – p-ri-n-ce-ss. I have chosen to use syllables, as they are how English speakers break up the components of words. Also, it allows for more opportunity to layer meaning.

  6. Cellach Says:

    I very much like this poem, but then I am biased on this matter.

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