Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Utamaro ... Drawings of Flowers and Insects ... The British Museum have a set of his two slim volumes ...

Traditionally referred to in English as "The Insect Book", this takes the form of fifteen compositions, each containing plants, two types of insect and two kyoka poems.

The compiler Yadoya no Meshimori, imitating the ‘Mushi no uta-awase’ (Poem Competition of Insects) of Kinoshita Choshoshi, has arranged a ‘kyoka’ competition between thirty ‘kyoka’ poets of the day on the topic of insects—in addition all are "comic poems on the feelings of love" (koi no kokoro no zare-uta).

Almost all the prominent members of the Temmei era ‘kyoka’ fraternity are represented, but rather than being led by Meshimori, it is more likely that the whole project was proposed and carried out from start to finish by the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo, himself taking the central role. It goes without saying that Utamaro's designs are superb, but the achievements of the engravers and printer also deserve particular admiration.

As mentioned in Toriyama Sekien's postscript, the carver was Fuji Kazumune, a famous craftsman whose name also appears on the ‘oban’ colour woodblock triptych by Shumman "Inside and outside the fence" (Hei no naigai). The book seems to have been favourably received from the start, as is evidenced by the various later printings and variant editions, but discussion of these is reserved for another occasion. The British Museum copy formerly in the collection of Jack Hillier is an early printing of the first edition.

Volume One, Number 1 picture

As a late intervention, I'm adding chunks of the text from a lovely book ...

SONGS OF THE GARDEN published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1984

text and translations by 


Volume One, Number 2 picture

Volume One, Number 3 picture

Volume One, Number 4 picture

Volume One, Number 5 picture

i had thought this next page was a low grade black and white photograph, but closer study shows it to be Utamaro's rendering of insects that glow in the dark

Volume One, Number 6 picture

Volume One, Number 7 picture

Volume One, Number 8 picture

Volume Two, Number 1 picture

Volume Two, Number 2 picture

Volume Two, Number 3 picture

Volume Two, Number 4 picture

Volume Two, Number 5 picture

Volume Two, Number 6 picture

Volume 2, Number 7 picture

There is an introduction by ? Utamaro's teacher 

To capture life in one's heart and mind and to draw its forms with the brush is the true art of painting. To capture the life of insects as my pupil Utamaro has done here; this is painting from the heart. In the days when Mr. Uta was little, wasn't he always interested in the details of everything. As a game he would tie a string to a dragonfly, or put grasshoppers and crickets on the palm of his hand and become totally absorbed - so much so that I often had to warn him, fearful that in his passion for these living things [he might crush them]. But now his artistic scheme [in this book] has truly burnished the virtue of all his skill. Stealing the iridescence of the jewel beetle he has put old painting to shame. Rashly borrowing the sickle-like claws of the mantis to burrow deep with the worms, he has prevented its resurgence using pictures crawling with mosquito larvae, just like a watchman wielding his stick. For beginners [lost] in darkness he lights the way [of painting] with the glow of fireflies. Ordered to find a way to untangle the threads of the spider's web, and relying on the competing poems of various masters - while the engraver Fuji Kazumune has set to work on the cherry-wood [block] with his knife - I have acceded to the request to fathom its origins.

Inscription translation: Text by Toriyama Sekien Winter, 1787

There is a preface describing a summer night in the fields outside Edo in the company of a bunch of young poets

"On this, the night of the fourteenth of the eighth month, the usual group of comic poets dragged one another along to listen to the voices of the insects that chirp in the fields.

North from Ryogoku and east of Yoshiwara, we spread out our rugs on the embankment of the Sumida River near Iosaki, where they sell carp [and love], and tried to fix a value on the voice of each insect, high or low.

By force of circumstance we forwent wine and women, and so any females in the parties nearby must have said that we were a group of stingy worms. Intoned prayers from a nearby temple mingled faintly with the sounds of the insects, reminding us sadly of that worship hall for the princess built by Kuenshi.

We thought that it would be simply inexcusable for people to accuse us of selling old leftovers at the morning market and so, hot on the heels of the 'Poetry Contest on Various Insects' compiled by [Kinoshita] Choshoshi, we have composed playful poems on the sentiments of love.

 Thus we wiled away the night. Since river and mountain, wind and moon have no habitual master, there was no landlord pressing for the rent. And since there was no reception room on our grassy mat, we decided that the [singing] insects must be the true owners. Turning to face these dew-covered personages, we politely bow down low and can't stand up!" 

??? Written by Yadoya no Meshimori shirusu.

looking for clues about the kyoka poems ? ...

last minute discovery ... The Met published SONGS OF THE GARDEN, a lovely book, back in 1984, now out-of-print ... containing the pictures AND THE TRANSLATIONS ... it is free to download in PDF format via this link

Monday, June 6, 2022

james joyce, a great irish soul, had so much fun with everything irish ... especially the nationalists' rose-tinted nostalgia


In Inisfail the fair there lies a land, the land of holy Michan. There rises a watchtower beheld of men afar. There sleep the mighty dead as in life they slept, warriors and princes of high renown. 

A pleasant land it is in sooth of murmuring waters, fishful streams where sport the gurnard, the plaice, the roach, the halibut, the gibbed haddock, the grilse, the dab, the brill, the flounder, the pollock, the mixed coarse fish generally and other denizens of the aqueous kingdom too numerous to be enumerated. 

In the mild breezes of the west and of the east the lofty trees wave in different directions their firstclass foliage, the wafty sycamore, the Lebanonian cedar, the exalted planetree, the eugenic eucalyptus and other ornaments of the arboreal world with which that region is thoroughly well supplied. 

Lovely maidens sit in close proximity to the roots of the lovely trees singing the most lovely songs while they play with all kinds of lovely objects as for example golden ingots, silvery fishes, crans of herrings, drafts of eels, codlings, creels of fingerlings, purple seagems and playful insects.

And heroes voyage from afar to woo them, from Eblana to Slievemargy, the peerless princes of unfettered Munster and of Connacht the just and of smooth sleek Leinster and of Cruachan’s land and of Armagh the splendid and of the noble district of Boyle, princes, the sons of kings. 

And there rises a shining palace whose crystal glittering roof is seen by mariners who traverse the extensive sea in barks built expressly for that purpose, and thither come all herds and fatlings and firstfruits of that land for O’Connell Fitzsimon takes toll of them, a chieftain descended from chieftains. 

Thither the extremely large wains bring foison of the fields, flaskets of cauliflowers, floats of spinach, pineapple chunks, Rangoon beans, strikes of tomatoes, drums of figs, drills of Swedes, spherical potatoes and tallies of iridescent kale, York and Savoy, and trays of onions, pearls of the earth, and punnets of mushrooms and custard marrows and fat vetches and bere and rape and red green yellow brown russet sweet big bitter ripe pomellated apples and chips of strawberries and sieves of gooseberries, pulpy and pelurious, and strawberries fit for princes and raspberries from their canes. 

And by that way wend the herds innumerable of bellwethers and flushed ewes and shearling rams and lambs and stubble geese and medium steers and roaring mares and polled calves and longwools and storesheep and Cuffe’s prime springers and culls and sowpigs and baconhogs and the various different varieties of highly distinguished swine and Angus heifers and polly bulllocks of immaculate pedigree together with prime premiated milchcows and beeves: and there is ever heard a trampling, cackling, roaring, lowing, bleating, bellowing, rumbling, grunting, champing, chewing, of sheep and pigs and heavyhooved kine from pasturelands of Lusk and Rush and Carrickmines and from the streamy vales of Thomond, from the M’Gillicuddy’s reeks the inaccessible and lordly Shannon the unfathomable, and from the gentle declivities of the place of the race of Kiar, their udders distended with superabundance of milk and butts of butter and rennets of cheese and farmer’s firkins and targets of lamb and crannocks of corn and oblong eggs in great hundreds, various in size, the agate with this dun.

The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freelyfreckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero. 

From shoulder to shoulder he measured several ells and his rocklike mountainous knees were covered, as was likewise the rest of his body wherever visible, with a strong growth of tawny prickly hair in hue and toughness similar to the mountain gorse (Ulex Europeus). The widewinged nostrils, from which bristles of the same tawny hue projected, were of such capaciousness that within their cavernous obscurity the fieldlark might easily have lodged her nest. The eyes in which a tear and a smile strove ever for the mastery were of the dimensions of a goodsized cauliflower. A powerful current of warm breath issued at regular intervals from the profound cavity of his mouth while in rhythmic resonance the loud strong hale reverberations of his formidable heart thundered rumblingly causing the ground, the summit of the lofty tower and the still loftier walls of the cave to vibrate and tremble. 

He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which jangled at every movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages, Brian of Kincora, the ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O’Neill, Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O’Donnell, Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O’Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M’Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff, Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan, Marshal MacMahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castile, the Man for Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap, The Woman Who Didn’t, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L. Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez, Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve, Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye, the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O’Sullivan Beare. 

A couched spear of acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time by tranquilising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of paleolithic stone. 

( the gob-smacking new wall painting at drogheda is by ciaran dunlevy, obviously another great irish soul )

william christenberry ... someone at the corrugated iron appreciation society pointed me to him