A Senryu Tale of Genji

A senryu poem
About Prince Minamoto,
The renown Genji.

His life and journey
In Japan’s Heian period
In Old Kyoto.

A Golden Era.
The eleventh century;
Imperial life.

Life at the palace.
Of royal dalliances.
Genji’s romances.

The renown Genji.
With colored perfumed paper
To charm mistresses.

About his journey;
His vainglorious journey
To find happiness.

This story begins
With his princely demotion.
As merely Genji.

A royal fiat
By the emperor…
Made by his loving father.

All this to save him
From threat of court rivalries;
Perceived as court knave.

Son of Emperor,
And Empress Kiritsubo,
Genji lacks favor.

A half-courtly Prince,
And a half-pedestrian;
He has low status.

Sobriquet Genji.
So ironic in meaning:
“Of Two Beginnings.”

His darling mother
Of the Paulownia Court;
Is a concubine.

He is criticized.
His court background is not strong.
Of low beginnings.

From this demotion
Still a courtly gentleman;
Made a nobleman.

No longer a Prince.
But Minamoto.
A mere commoner.

As a reminder
Of the rising and falling,
That all of us face.

He will still remain
As a ‘Shining’ star;
To both men and most women.

Who find him charming.
Including his stepmother;
Dame Fujitsubo.

Gifted with beauty,
And with a gift of the gab,
He will court women.

He will charm women.
He will woo them with passion…
With vain poetry.

Cloistered in palace,
He’ll find such lovely maidens;
In art of kodo.

“The Way of Fragrance.”
Steeped in arts of refinement;
Kado and chado.

Genji peeps at them…
Gleefully — through bamboo brine.
With lust of the eyes.

These courtly women
In twelve-layered kimono…
Genji peeps at them.

Genji, as court knave,
A masterbaiting  women;
With craft of fragrance.

Driven by ego
That suffices for Self-knowledge,
Genji becomes prey.

No ethics, Genji.
When resisted by women,
He molests small boys.

A quite lovely court maiden,
He so desires.

By turning him down.
He becomes viciously piqued;
Turns to her brother.

Not having the one,
He seeks after the other;
To satisfy lust.

His search is empty…
Empty of Self-fulfillment.
To realize Self.

A shining beauty,
His ego is what matters…
His self-infatuation.

Themes of the story:
Jealousy, power…
These will lead to destruction.

Characters all flawed.
All with some imperfections.
No one is perfect.

Their hidden selves found:
“Ladies of Evening Faces”
Behind silk screening.

In painted faces
And multilayered clothing;
Hidden; yet revealed.

[Strange humor of life.
Which dares us with irony;
To unmask ourselves.]

Beware ye readers:
Knowledge of conscious ego
Is not Self-Knowledge.

In our search of Self,
The search that leads inwardly…
The search for psyche.

We must have virtue
To delve deep within ourselves
And confront our souls.

Search without ‘peeping.’
Search thus with integrity.
A royal searching.

Something Genji lacks.
He is, despite his good looks,
Just a Peeping  Tom.

Read now this poem.
Read now this senryu poem.
A human story.

Of why we suffer…
While searching for happiness…
Both men — and women.

Read with integrity.
What stories have to reveal.
About all our lives.

May this, dear readers,
A tale of human frailty;
Be transformative.

In the human search
For honor and dignity;
Provide you guidance.

Grant you direction
To put you on the right path
To discover Self.

This, then, is our task:
The mystery of existence…
What it is about.

In reading all tales,
To discover Self,
In archetypal stories.

The Indwelling Self;
Not the self of ego;
But the Divine Self.

Now begins the tale,
About our human nature;
That needs correction.

Once upon a time
In ancient Heian Kingdom;
There lived Prince Charming.

More charming than all.
Envied by all who knew him;
So lovely was he.

Made many jealous.
Wanted to see him suffer;
And to fall from Grace.

With this misfortune,
His father, to protect him,
Made him commoner.

Prince Minamoto.
Imperial officer.
Made a commoner.

While yet a mere lad,
He lost his loving mother;
The love of his life.

Yearning for her love,
He looks for it in others;
As consolation.

At tender age twelve
Genji becomes a husband.
His wife, Lady Aoi.

His Principal Wife.
Lady Aoi no Ue.
His very First Lady.

So much more mature,
At sixteen years old,
A mind of her own.

Not too fond of her;
Someone with self-confidence
Beyond his own reach.

His eyes are roving;
Admiring his mother;
His father’s new wife.

How lovely she is.
So caring and protective;
And so attentive.

His father’s new wife
Reminds him of his mother;
In so many ways.

Her scent and beauty
Are magnets to his senses;
And his desires.

His mother since dead,
He courts his father’s new wife.
Dame Fujitsubo.

‘Though she rebuffs him,
He lays for her in waiting.
Oh, what a complex.

In time he conquers.
Desire has no limits;
To unite with her.

With rapacious ploy,
And malicious escapades,
He gets her pregnant.

Oh, what a scandal.
Wooing his father’s new wife;
Dame Fujitsubo.

Being now disgraced,
Genji keeps a low profile;
But not for too long.

In desolation,
He yearns to be with someone;
A prey that’s ‘easy.’

Genji, in earnest,
Solicits Murasaki.
Ten-year-old maiden.

He will bide his time.
He will seize the right moment
To pluck this “young grass.”

This knave as a Prince…
He will stoop low to conquer
Her as a trophy.

She is related
To Empress Fujitsubo;
And resembles her.

These two women
Will be so tied to Genji.
Our protagonist.

Dame Fujitsubo,
In Imperial disgrace,
Will bear him a son.

Reizei is his name.
Destined by circumstances
To become Crown Prince.

The palace wonders.
Who really is his father?
That is mystery.

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 has no shame…
Busy courting concubines.
A disgrace to all.

He must show honor
To reconcile with his wife.
Lady Aoi.

He must seal his lips.
He must also bind his loins,
For his wife’s honor.

Within the palace
No single one must lose face;
Persona preserved.

Lady Aoi
Must maintain her dignity;
And Prince Genji, too.

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

Born prematurely,
From a difficult childbirth;
And bitter mother.

Yuigiri no Taisho,
The couple’s beloved son,
Is their “memento.”

A ‘memorial’
Noting a troubled marriage.
That the couple shared.

Lady Aoi
Dies days after giving birth.
Short-lived happiness.

Such is the message…
The karmic course of all lives.
Mother’s life taken.

An unforeseen death.
Genji is so heartbroken.
Finds Murasaki.

He is love-smitten
By this ten year-old maiden;
Niece of the Empress.

The spitting image
Of Empress  Fujitsubo.
Whom he has bedded.

A one-track mind,
He conjures up schemes
As her guardian angel.

An innocent child,
He kidnaps her at nighttime;
Just to possess her.

This beautiful child,
Forced to become his child-bride,
Without her consent.

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

In the meantime,
Palace intrigues continue.
They show no limits.

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.
Noting 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 self-exiles…
To the distant town of Suma.
Rural Harima.

A part of Kobe.
At a retreat by the sea.
Hyogo Province.

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

A wealthy comrade.
Points to him a young maiden.
Genji’s new lover.

He will seduce her…
Impose himself upon her…
Assert his manhood.

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

Poor Murasaki
She will become so distressed.
It will ruin her.

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 abating.
Middle age creeps up.

And yet he marries.
Bride, Onna Sanno-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 wonder…
Becoming a nun.

A place of comfort…
Removed from carnal worship;
To worship Buddha.

Away from Genji;
Who came with his pretenses,
And took her by force.

Although once captured,
Taken by false pretenses,
She comes to love him.

Such is her nature.
Bounded by pure affection;
So yoked to Genji.

Deceived in return,
By vainglorious Genji;
Again and again.

Scripture informs us;
How evil vain glory is;
Sinful desire.

It is so written.
Galatians Five, Twenty Six.
Let Truth be spoken!

Her plight considered,
Murasaki turns within;
Searching to find Self.

Suffers in silence.
Now turning deep inwardly
To console herself.

Silent suffering.
Gestures, postures, poetry…
Must therefore suffice.

[Readers, regard this.
In ancient Heian world,
Silence is golden.]

Genji counters her.
He is her lord and master.
She must obey him.

He worships her looks.
More precious her long dark hair,
Than bald as novice.

His being so carnal,
He worships what is outer;
The inner unsought.

Where Truth is hidden;
Where fear keeps us from knowledge;
Of knowing ourselves.

The world they live in…
It is a feudal ruling.
She remains loyal.

Born in a system
Compelled by feudal ethics,
And bound to Genji.

Her pain is endless.
The tears are always flowing.
Genji has no shame.

She will be haunted.
She will be plagued and tortured.
It will cause her death.

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

In ways he loved her.
In ways he cared much for her;
A father image.

But fate informs us,
We must all reap what we sow.
As karmic justice.

The dead must find peace.
Their souls must be laid to rest.
Murasaki’s too.

Just as it was, too,
For Onna Sanno-Miya;
Whom Genji wedded.

Who had an affair
With wealthy Kashiwagi;
And bore him a son.

Made Genji quite mad;
Reminding him what he did
With Fujitsubo.

Kashiwagi’s crimes
Will lead to his suffering;
Pricked by his conscience.

He will so suffer.
He will become so stricken.
It will cause his death.

His dalliances
With Onna Sanno-Miya
Disturb him badly.

The price of karma.
As payment for sinfulness,
Is fee of justice.

She, too, quite guilty,
Chooses now the life of nun.
O, what tragedy.

And as for Genji,
His legacy as a stain,
Is indelible.

He will die in pain
By a self-afflicted pain;
Pain of loneliness.

[All our misfortunes
Are results of negligence;
Those of our own deeds.]

Murasaki gone,
Genji will die from heartache…
Life in seclusion.

Service to Buddha…
Freedom from entanglement;
In search of insight.

He will discover
His love of outer image
Is not enduring.

Known for his fragrance;
Essence attracting women;
Will not always last.

He enticed women:
Amber floral essence
Of wisteria.

Even such fragrance
Can turn to perspiration;
For he is human.

The Buddha’s fragrance
Defies fragrance of Genji’s.
And is more subtle.

Without desire.
Freedom from physical pain.
Pure enlightenment.

Free of desire
Is source of liberation;
End of suffering.

Genji strives for that.
But karma will still haunt him
In his seclusion.

Having retired,
Now living in loneliness;
In a priestly life.

Entering a door
In pursuit of finding Self;
A Sanctuary.

For him, a portal.
A holy place of safety;
An inner sanctum.

There, he will reside,
In desolate solitude;
His life as a monk.

In contemplation.
In quiet meditation;
In peaceful silence.

And in this silence,
He’ll vanish into the clouds;
To join ancestors.

Having passed away,
At Saga, in Kyoto;
Love letters are burned.

Ashes to ashes…
Those from his former lovers;
Now turned dust to dust.  

All impermanent.
O mono no aware.
All is transient.

His love of nature
As artisan and artist,
Bestowed him greatness.

In palace circles
He seemed invulnerable.
Fate knew otherwise.

Fate is decider
Of the warp and woof of life;
How life is threaded.

How ephemeral,
Ever so transitory;
The nature of life.

All impermanent.
O mono no aware.
All is transient.

How fragile is life.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
Life is but a dream.

A dream of feelings.
Dreams of human emotions;
The sweet and bitter.

Pain of memory.
That will be his legacy.
His true suffering.

With passing of time,
This legacy will continue
To Genji’s male heirs.

Tale’s “Uji Chapters”
Of Kaoru and others;
And their escapades.

Genji’s male scions.
His royal perfumed children;
Like father, like sons.

They will inherit
The legacy he has left.
Sins of the father.

They will court women
With cherry blossoms blooming
At the burst of spring.

They will court women
When summer shows her colors
Brightened by sunshine.

They will court women
Beneath the leaves of autumn
Before frost’s rising.

They will court women
When winter longs for warming.
Trees hibernating.

They will court women
With the art of poetry.
Art of seduction.

Courting will haunt them.
It will be their destiny.
Their haunting pastimes.

Course of destiny.
The haunting of humankind.
Ever repeated.

The mystery of life.
We live and we repeat it.
How so vaporous.

How fickle is man.
How fickle human nature.
Self-centered focus.

A carnal being.
The pleasure of the moment.
With spirit denied.

Nothing else matters,
Except that which gives pleasure.
Itself so passing.

All is illusion.
Irony of ironies.
Lust for the moment.

Angst of loneliness
Provides constant desire
Birthing loneliness.

Oh, what a cycle.
A wheel of pure desire.
The pain of pleasure.

Pain of desire.
It brings suffering to all.
And without ending.

Gone away from him,
Genji’s beloved mother;
From her tender breast.

Searching still for her
In every woman’s visage
Despite passing years.

Yearning for her kiss.
His passion not abated.
Not soon requited.

Torn from her soothing.
Not finding it in others,
His lust continues.

His lust is longing.
Longing for a memory
To return to him.

Perhaps a moment
Will provide satisfaction.
But it never does.

The child is father.
A father to all women.
A poor substitute.

For an infant’s loss
At three years old — his mother…
Gone — and not returned.

Returned in faces.
In faces that will mock him.
Taunt his desires.

We all desire
The milk of human kindness
That will quench our thirst.

The Tale of Genji.
A tale of human history.
About life’s purpose.

About life’s sadness.
Of joy mixed with suffering
Caused by desire.

Life’s aspiration…
Desire for completion;
To find fulfillment.

A search for meaning…
A search to understand Self…
Amid suffering.

What is life’s meaning?
Why must it have an ending?
And why so fleeting…

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

Except for our dreams
Which create expectations
And provide vision.

That give us insight
Of that which is permanent
Unseen — but lasting.

Our outer vision
With focus on the present
Is so deceptive.

There, nothing will last
For all sensed is a mirage.
Not even the past.

As for the present
With no meaningful presence
Can not be contained.

Here just for a while.
And in twinkling of an eye.
All is turned to dust.

All impermanent.
O mono no aware.
All is transient.

Yet from dust comes life.
The cycle is repeated.
For our attention.

Now you consider.
This very tale before you.
For our reflection.

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

We are all dreamers.
Life’s filled with sacrifices…
De la Barca’s thoughts.

His quixotic lines…
Pointing to reality;
As ‘twere only dreams.

The dream of poets.
The dream of all dramatists.
The dream we all share.

The life of our dreams.
Dreams are supernatural signs
For our directions.

Spinners of fortunes.
And also of misfortunes.
Ours must be the choice.

Within our dream world,
We are all tied together;
All eternally.

The world of our dreams
Provides living sceneries;
Ever conjuring.

That unites us all.
So umbilically tied —
The Eternal Wheel.

The cycle of life.
‘Twixt our rising and setting…
We sleep and we dream.

We dream while we sleep.
With dreams of expectations.
The dream of Genji.

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

In the world of dreams
Is the raw material
For human welfare.

It is the source of
Transcendental function;
For our betterment.

The path to wholeness;
Our reservoir of healing;
Suffering removed.

Dear readers, make note.
Read with careful intention…
The Tale of Genji.

A wantonly life
Can lead one to seek wholeness
To find happiness.

The transitory
Can provide its own wisdom;

Attainment of joy.
Gained in life’s precious moments;
What’s known as ‘Yugen.’

Found in that silence,
Which comes from the discernment;
Of life’s transience.

It’s a core message.
A Murasaki message;
In Tale of Genji.

How precious life is.
The Inner matters much more;
Than just the Outer.


Let us as readers of this tale
Consider Genji’s mother-loss;
Torn from her breast — a saddened male;
He views all women as re-toss.

Now courtly women, nurturing;
The love he yearns for — and the care.
Alas, he ends up smothering
The very ones that he finds fair.

Such is the irony to share:
Prince Genji  — courting fate to aid;
A mother’s tender loving care,
Beyond the grave — to never fade.

About this poem

An epic poem is described as a lengthy narrative poem that typically narrates the extraordinary deeds (moral or immoral, ethical or unethical) of extraordinary characters (in this case, emperors and empresses, princes or noblemen, courtesans or courtiers) who, in dealing with the illusive nature of fate and destiny in human affairs, collectively give shape to the architecture of the moral universe for their descendants, as portrayed in Murasaki Shikibu’s tale of the protagonist Genji and his descendants destined to repeat and live out in a Buddhist cultural world, the legacy entrusted to them that they seem bound to fulfill. This epic poem is about Murasaki Shikibu’s fictional Classical eleventh century ‘Tale of Genji’ and of the imperial palace life of Japan during the period of Heian feudal culture. The Heian period of Japan (794-1185 AD) represents the foundation of the city of Heian-kyo (known today as Kyoto). It highlights the beginning of a period of great classical literary brilliance in Japan, particularly in the fields of prose, poetry, music, literature, and the fine arts. The Tale of Genji, is a Heian period classical tale of princely Japanese court life, of incest and intrigue, of sexual wantonness and melancholy, of wealth and materialism, of passing joy and sustaining suffering, of the transitory nature of life, of the desire for fulfillment and the experience of emptiness, of the human pursuit of happiness that, inconsiderate of the indwelling nature of Spirit, focuses on passing matters of ‘the moment’ and is therefore never fully satisfied. The psychological Tale of Genji is attributed to Murasaki Shikibu (her sobriquet), a noblewoman presumably identified by some Asian scholars as Fujiwara no Kaoruko, and a lady-in-waiting of courtly imperial palace life. The tale of Genji Monogatari is a literary work consisting of 54 chapters (in English translations). This work is most highly representative of classical Japanese literature composed at the height of the Heian period of the early eleventh century, in its depiction of the lifestyles of imperial palace courtiers of that period. Murasaki Shikibu’s literary composition of the eleventh century remains today the most famous classical literature in Japan. It is an important component of the Japanese school curriculum for middle schools, secondary schools, and beyond; and is considered by most scholars in the world as a pioneer composition, if not the first of its kind, in the important genre of psychological novel and psychological drama. This poem, “A Senryu Tale of Genji,” is composed by using a 5-7-5 metric scheme throughout the more than two hundred stanzas of the poem. I have chosen to describe these verses as senryu verses since they comprise a three-line 5-7-5 metric scheme required of Senryu poems and since, collectively, they highlight the irony that is inherent in the poem and which embeds it as a whole. The poem closes with a quatrain, an appended three-stanza ABAB rhymed poem in the form of “a cautionary message” to assist readers in the discernment of the protagonist Genji’s motivations as partially explained by his loss of his mother at an age barely passed infancy, and unconsciously seeking psychologically to return to that maternal care that was so suddenly cut off from him, not being provided with sufficient mature resources to form and establish healthy and lasting filial or matrimonial relationships. Murasaki Shikibu’s “Genji Monogatari” (Tale of Genji), as a psychological drama, presents no substantive evidence that the tale’s protagonist received or benefited from grief counseling as a result of childhood trauma, or that he solicited or was provided with therapeutic treatment; reported only in Murasaki Shikibu’s novel to have received medical treatment at age eighteen at the rural district of Kitayama, located north of Tokyo, while ailing from fever. However, it is likely that Genji, in later years, sought long-term medical care when, in deep sorrow, and perhaps fraught with depression after personal losses of loved ones during the adult and more senior years of his life, entered the Buddhist monastery as a monk. One is left to surmise or speculate that that was likely the case; and this poem is composed from that perspective. For the main body of the poem, this composition 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 from a satirical framework that draws attention to psychological aspects of human behavior. We can certainly find in this Heian tale depictions of the passions and desires of human characters that remind us of those depicted in several tales (William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” as an example), and particularly in Sophocles’ Grecian tale of Oedipus Rex (in his relationship with his mother), and of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” (also in particular relationship of the play’s protagonist with his mother). The Tale of Genji is the never-ending existential tale of the foibles and eccentricities of human life, laden with the complexities of human relationships, human history, human culture, human societies, and human civilizations. This senryu poem maintains in its skeleton format the essence of components of the storyline of Murasaki Shikibu’s classical literary composition, consisting of some 400 characters. However, it is supported by amplifications of the story’s themes in the form of ‘concluding verses’ that are presented to readers as meditative speculation on the human existential condition in effort for each individual to extract the meaning and purpose of life, including the pathos of irony that depict the life of every single person. A Note of Caution: Readers are asked to bear in mind that this poem is merely this writer’s poetic imaginative senryu rendering (and partially so) of Murasaki Shikibu’s eleventh century very lengthy corpus (more than 1200 pages) of a 54-chapter literary masterpiece, that employs the genre of a Heian period novel and which is constructed with an intricate complex plot that is buttressed by a vast array of courtly personalities of the Fujiwara imperial family clan (mainly female protagonists), and with Hikaru (“Shining Beauty”) Genji (otherwise known as the disgraced Prince Minamoto in The Tale of Genji), as the male protagonist, and the tale’s principal character, around whom all events and all occurrences take place. Skillfully crafted throughout Murasaki Shikibu’s eleventh century voluminous work, covering three generations of activities and events in the tale, are rich details of the story’s ever changing sceneries and settings. Some examples follow: the depiction of seasonal changes portraying flora and fauna, rich details of flowering gardens (with the wisteria tree and its flower of particular symbolic interest), with flowing rivers, lakes and ponds, and with fishing pavilions; the passage of time and events over several decades; weather conditions and background sceneries; daytime and nighttime occurrences; the delicate interactions of various story characters and the emotions they display or, better yet, the emotions they mask; details of their various layers of clothing worn, including descriptions of the multi-colored layering of their garments; references of and allusions to cultural myths and fables that are used to amplify an occasion, e.g., the ominous cry of a screech owl that serves as an omen of an impending illness, or even of death (reminding us of the Jungian depth psychological realm of a-causal events of synchronicity that reflect on the past, only to provide insight on what they capture, reveal, and portend in the moment — a strident theme in The Tale of Genji); the writer’s mention of visions, demons, and of apparitions that are employed in the composition to help the reader shed light on the internal machinations of a character’s mindset; contrasts made in lifestyle activities located at mountainous provincial hamlets with those at sea coast regions; reporting of requiem prayers for the sick or the dying; exorcism rituals to ward off evil and various spells that have been conducted by demonic figures; the chanting of sutras. These are strong reminders of the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist settings in which the eleventh century story is written, framed and cast, and where all events unfold from such perspectives. It needs to be emphasized, therefore, that all of the literary devices employed to develop the Murasaki Shikibu classical story, and much more, cannot be depicted in this poem, and are not intended to be made manifest in this senryu poem, composed in our contemporary period of the 21st century. Readers are therefore asked to use their fertile imagination to fill in the ‘gaps’ of those rich details that are present in the literary masterpiece of Murasaki Shikibu’s original composition which, ironically, is no longer extant, and is made available to modern readers of our time only from later reproductions and from translations of translations of what is imagined to have been the original composition. To aid readers in that quest for a deeper understanding and for a deeper engagement of this classical tale of the art of romance and brazen seduction, it is highly recommended that, in this pursuit, they avail themselves of published volumes of Murasaki Shikibu’s classical novel. That work is artfully laced with compositions of 795 courtly waka poetry, delivered in songs, hymns, recitation, and dramatic performances by the characters of the story. These intriguing characters deliver their lines, hidden behind powdered faces, colorful multilayered costumes, and anonymous names; and with all of the 795 personalities of the Murasaki Shikibu novel posturing publicly their “Jekyll” personas, with every intention, however humorously and ironically so, to guard and not unveil the imperial masks of their precious “Hyde,” which the novel’s author, and Lady-in-Waiting of the Court, Murasaki Shikibu, so satirically exposes. A Senryu Ending: “Sobriquet Genji/So ironic in meaning/Of two beginnings.” In character, Genji is indeed a man of twin proportions; of two beginnings; one high and the other low; beautiful yet beastly; a Jekyll and a Hyde; a hero and a villain; of princely and concubine lineage. Genji is a man who is eventually consumed by his own passions, declaring with irony of ironies, that all is illusion, without benefiting from, or without ever comprehending the irony of his own motivations and actions. The Tale of Genji is the archetypal story of mankind, ever eternally in search of Self, confronting the Ego of Other while, in irony, hiding the Anima and Animus of one’s Psyche. On a much larger universal scale, Murasaki Shikibu’s ‘Tale of Genji’ depicts the ever-evolving, non-stationary multifaceted nature of the human Self, appearing intimately to us in physical form as ego, ever illusively masked in irony, only to be gleaned or, better yet, discerned; perhaps perceived, in our silent meditation as pilgrims and disciples of the Indwelling Holy Spirit. 

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Written on January 31, 2022

Submitted by karlcfolkes on January 31, 2022

Modified by karlcfolkes on November 30, 2023

20:01 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic trimeter
Characters 18,474
Words 4,002
Stanzas 267
Stanza Lengths 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 1, 4, 4, 4

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 1991 at New York University entitled: An Analysis of Wilhelm Grimm’s ‘Liebe Mili’ (translated into English as “Dear Mili”), Employing Von Franzian Methodological Processes of Analytical Psychology. The subject of the dissertation concerned the process of Individuation. more…

All Karl Constantine FOLKES poems | Karl Constantine FOLKES Books

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Discuss the poem A Senryu Tale of Genji with the community...

  • karlcfolkes
    Lust for things of this world (of olam ha-zeh) consumed all in The Tale of Genji. So aptly put.
    LikeReply5 months ago
  • Soulwriter
    Lust consumed all
    LikeReply5 months ago
  • karlcfolkes
    Heartfelt thanks and blessings to all of you who read and are comforted by these messages that I am graced to deliver from time to time. To God be the glory.
    LikeReply 11 year ago
  • lana_b
    Wow. I have no words for something so profound and meaningful. This is exceptional and something we could all benefit from reflecting on. Im
    Honored to call you family. Thank you! I hope one day you will have a book with all your poetry for us to enjoy and pass on our our kids. -Lana Baggenstos 
    LikeReply 11 year ago
  • jjohnson55
    WOW! My friend showed me your account because of my love for english and poetry and man, it's hard to impress me with stuff like this but I ASPIRE TO WRITE LIKE YOU!!! Such a great message, Life really is precious, Karl. Keep up the good work, will be sure to read and rate more. 
    LikeReply 11 year ago
  • Ndougherty
    What a beautiful poem written by a very talented poet! Karl, what a relent you are!
    LikeReply 11 year ago


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"A Senryu Tale of Genji" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 19 May 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/118908/a-senryu-tale-of-genji>.

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