Pine Tree Scroll, Age 78

ゆく末の さちのとよはひを  二葉にて ちとせをまつぞ  めてたくりけり               
蓮月七十八才    恵(え)も       


yuku sue no/ sachi to yowai o/  futaba ni te/ chitose o matsu zo/ medetakuri keri

Rengetsu nanaju-hassai E mo

One’s coming years
Of maturity
Should be celebrated
As being like the fresh needles
Of an auspicious, evergreen pine.

Rengetsu, age 78
Painting, too

There is a contrast between the ancient pine branch and the new budding needles; we age but every new year the sight of fresh needles on a venerable pine lifts our spirit. We should celebrate old age, not bemoan it. The Japanese word for pine needles is futaba, ” cluster of two.” The phrase gives  a strong sense of a human pair sprouting and staying together for many years. The sense that a new age is dawning, the predominant sentiment of the Meiji period when Rengetsu flourished, is also present in the  poem.  In short, the poem  expresses hope and renewal. Usually the poem appears alone,  brushed on paper or engraved on pottery but here Rengetsu has added a painting of a pine branch, a double treat. The brushwork of the calligraphy and the painting are nicely integrated.*

* This scroll was exhibited in the “Black Robe, White Mist” Rengetsu exhibition (catalog item no. 31). Unfortunately, the reading of the original Japanese is incorrect due to editorial error. The poem here is a variation of the version published in her collected poems ( #303 in Ama no Karumo.)  Such variations in Rengetsu’s poems are frequent, often subtly changing the meaning of the verses.

Ink on silk.  32 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide


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