Verse from the Diary of Lady Murasaki

A couple of verses from the Diary of Lady Murasaki, which I have just finished reading, and a review to follow.  I’ve included a footnote from the book.

“I was in the midst of composing a reply to a note sent by Lady Koshosho, when all of a sudden it became dark and started to rain.  As the messenger was in a hurry, I finished it off with: ‘and the sky too seems unsettled.’ I must have included a rather lame verse, for that evening the messenger returned with a poem written on dark purple cloud-patterned paper:

The skies at which I gaze and gaze are overcast;
How is it that they too rain down tears of longing?

Unable to remember what I had written, I replied:

It is the season for such rainy skies;
Clouds may break, but these watching sleeves will never dry.”

“In particular I missed Lady Dainagon, who would often talk to me as we lay close by Her Majesty in the evenings.  Had I then succumbed to life at court?
I sent her the following:

How I long for those waters on which we lay,
A longing keener than the frost on a duck’s wing, 

To which she replied:

Awakening to find no friend to brush away the frost,
The Mandarin duck longs for her mate at night.*”

*Mandarin ducks were supposed to always go around in inseparable pairs


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