Rebuff Unwanted Advances Delicately

As we’ve previously seen, Heian-era aristocrats used poetry to communicate in most areas of life.  One major advantage of poetic communication is that one could be indirect and discreet while still conveying a strong message.  Murasaki Shikibu, author of “The Tale of Genji”, was a lady-in-waiting to Emperor Ichijo’s young consort, Akiko, daughter of Michinaga Fujiwara.

Michinaga had initially selected Murasaki for his young daughter’s entourage. She was known for her cleverness, as the court of Heian Kyo found “Genji” to be fascinating, and she appears to have been a sort of tutor for Akiko as well. Michinaga was interested in having such a refined, imaginative woman influence his young daughter, who would hopefully be the mother of a future emperor.

He was interested in other aspects of Murasaki as well. Known as a lecherous man, Michinaga certainly attempted to enter Murasaki’s room on at least one occasion. Murasaki heard him knocking on the door outside of her room, and lay quietly, ignoring him. The next day, as was custom, Michinaga sent a poem:

How sad for him who stands the whole night long

kuina
A flightless Kuina bird.

Knocking on your cedar door

Tap-tap-tap like the cry of the Kuina bird

As was also the custom, Murasaki sent a poem in reply that used the same poetic allusions as the initial poem:

Sadder for her who had answered the Kuina’s tap,

For it was no innocent bird who stood there knocking on the door.

Could one rebuff unwanted advances in such a refined manner today?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Michinaga, Murasaki Shikibu, poetry, romance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s