Category Archives: Mori Tetsuzan

The Gentian weaves her fringes

Deer and Maples, early 19th century, Mori Tetsuzan
Background Image: Deer and Maples, early 19th century, Mori Tetsuzan

The very first poem of her fascicles shows how adept she is at wordplay, her interest in nature, the complex method in which she weaves a poem, her obsession with death, and even her playfulness.

The first line is remarkable in how she presents the slow movement of time. The “gentian weaves” is a very slow process as the blue flower slowly builds it’s “fringes”, perhaps over the course of many early autumn days before the winter cold comes. This image could also be seen as the image of a blue dress she wears and so she combines this natural imagery with that of her own self image. She might be demonstrating how she has slowly become a woman and that this first poem of her fascicles is the beginning of her weaving her poetry.

The second line introduces a new color, “red” and this giant “Maple” not only looms overhead, it is also the loom which creates the red blanket of leaves above under which the delicate gentian grows peacefully. Yet this tree seems somewhat oppressive (hence the double meaning of the word “loom”) and it fills the sky with the red of the leaves, as if a storm were coming over the horizon.

The third line is a lot of fun in that it could be read as her “blossoms” (in the “gentian” and in the “elm”) are “leaving”, but also that her “leaving” is blossoming. It is in this second sense in which the ominous red and looming of the oak hints at this “leaving” as perhaps dying, but not death itself because, in the final line, her “parade” is “obviate” in that her procession is being circumvented and avoided. Perhaps she means that the death which comes for us all is forestalled by our “parade” of life, but always overhead are the “blossoms” of our departing.