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A Senryu Tale of Genji

Prince Minamoto.
Imperial officer.
Made a commoner.

Oh, what a scandal.
Beloved by father’s lover.
Dame Fujitsubo.

Aoi no Ue.
Disgraced by concubine.
The Lady Aoi.

Genji, too disgraced.
Solicits Murasaki.
Ten-year-old maiden.

Dame Fujitsubo.
His disgrace has no limits.
She bears him a son.

Reizei is his name.
Who really is his father?
Becoming Crown Prince.

To spare all of shame.
Some say it’s Kiritsubo.
Emperor of fame.

Sworn to all silence.
Parentage is kept secret.
By the two lovers.

Becoming Empress.
Honor of Fujitsubo.
Has to be preserved.

Genji’s lips are sealed.
Reconciling with his wife.
Lady Aoi.

She bears him a son.
With reconciliation.
His life is short-lived.

A tryst forbidden.
Genji is so heartbroken.
Finds Murasaki.

And so this maiden.
This preadolescent child.
Becomes Genji’s wife.

Time passes slowly.
Emperor Kiritsubo.
Asleep, laid to rest.

His son, Suzaku.
Succeeds him as Emperor.
The plot now thickens.

Suzaku’s mom, Kokiden.
Allied with Court’s enemies.
Forges partnership.

Kiritsubo’s enemies.
With a political coup.
Assume Court power.

Love affairs hidden.
Old secrets are soon revealed.
Genji is exposed.

Meeting in secret.
Genji and a concubine.
Of the Emperor.

In broad daylight seen.
Suzaku in confidence.
Bragging Genji’s “crimes.”

Genji’s dalliance,
With Oborozukiyo.
She of ill repute.

Suzaku is half-brother.
But Genji must be punished.
He has no option.

Genji is exiled.
To the distant town of Suma.
Rural Harima.

A part of Kobe.
Some know it as the Province.
Hyogo Province.

In Settso Province.
There Genji finds some solace.
Akashi Novice.

His wealthy comrade.
Akashi has a daughter.
Genji’s new lover.

Unrestrained this love.
She will bear him a daughter.
With time made Empress.

Meanwhile at the Court.
Suzaku is quite restless.
Disturbed by nightmares.

Though dead and buried.
His father, Kiritsubo.
Comes to him at night.

Suzaku restless.
So troubling are his nightmares.
His vision unclear.

His mother suffers.
Troubles seem to multiply.
Kokiden grows ill.

With this malady.
Her influence is weakened.
The throne jeopardized.

A stain on the throne.
Suzaku seeks solutions.
He pardons Genji.

Genji returns home.
Kyoto grants him honor.
Seeking to find peace.

Reizei, his son.
By Lady Fujitsubo.
Becomes Emperor.

The new Emperor.
Knowing Genji is his dad.
Raises him in rank.

Once so vigorous.
His life is now declining.
Genji is quite old.

At age forty.
His passions are abated.
Middle age creeps up.

And yet he marries.
Bride, Onna san no miya,
Wife, “The Third Princess.”

The Fates are haunting.
Kashiwagi, a nephew.
Rapes “The Third Princess.”

Truth again hidden.
She bears him son, Kaoru.
Legally, son of Genji.

Genji’s new marriage.
Makes Murasaki turn nun.
Now a “bikuni.”

How Fate decides things,
Something Genji did not wish.
Beyond desires.

How fleeting is life.
Prince Genji’s contemplating.
All is illusion.

Now you consider.
This very tale before you.
It has no ending.

For life is a tale.
Full of sound and with fury.
The dreamer dreaming.

We all are dreamers,
For life, alas, is a dream,
Genji’s — and ours too.

About this poem

The Tale of Genji is a classical work of Japanese literature of the early eleventh century depicting the lifestyles of high courtiers during the Heian period of Japanese history. It remains today the most famous classical literature in Japan, and is considered by most scholars in the world as a pioneer composition, if not the first, in the genre of psychological novel. This poem, “A Senryu Tale of Genji,” employs an extended format of senryu, traditionally a three-line unrhymed Japanese poem, structurally similar to haiku, but making observations of human nature, usually from an ironic or satirical framework that draws attention to psychological aspects of human behavior. We can find in this tale depictions that remind us of the tale of Oedipus Rex and of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. 

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Written on January 31, 2022

Submitted by karlcfolkes on January 31, 2022

3:26 min read

Karl Constantine FOLKES

Retired educator of Jamaican ancestry with a lifelong interest in composing poetry dealing particularly with the metaphysics of self-reflection; completed a dissertation in Children’s Literature in 1995 at New York University entitled: An Analysis of Wilhelm Grimm’s “Dear Mili” Employing Von Franzian Methodological Processes. The subject of the dissertation concerned the process of Individuation. more…

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