Senzai Wakashu (千載和歌集)

Senzai Wakashu is one of the Chokusen Wakashu (anthology of Japanese poetry compiled by Imperial command). It is the seventh anthology of Hachidaishu (the eight Imperial anthologies of Japanese poetry), and was completed before "Shin Kokin Wakashu" (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry) and after "Shika Wakashu" (Shika Collection of Japanese Poems).

In 1183, Emperor Goshirakawa ordered FUJIWARA no Toshinari to compile the anthology, and on May 27, 1188, he submitted it to the Emperor for inspection. It is said that the anthology was compiled on the basis of Toshinari's personal collection of poetry, "Sangodaishu" (Collection of Fifteen Eras). It consists of twenty volumes, including 1288 poems categorized into Spring (two volumes), Summer, Autumn (two volumes), Winter, Separation, Journey, Elegies, Celebration, Love (five volumes), Miscellaneous (three volumes), Shakyamuni's teachings, and Gods of Heaven and Earth. Most of the poems are tanka (thirty-one syllables' poem).

It contains excellent poems that had not been selected for the successive Chokusenshu (anthologies of poems collected by imperial command) and poems composed by the contemporary poets; the oldest poems were made during 990 to 995 (in fact, the beginning of the period from 987 and 989), the reign of the Emperor Ichijo. Toshinari selected poems putting a high value on a refined style and delineation of feelings, so the anthology is characterized by 'subtle and profound' beauty and poetic devices such as honkadori (adaptation of a famous poem). The poems selected most were composed by MINAMOTO no Toshiyori (52 poems), who was a selector of "Kinyo Wakashu" (Kinyo Collection of Japanese Poems); Toshinari's poems were selected the second most (36 poems). The poems created by political losers such as FUJIWARA no Mototoshi (26 poems) and Emperor Sutoku (23 poems) also ranked high. Other contemporary poets were Shune, the Buddhist priest Eni (also known as Saigyo), Taikenmonin Horikawa and Imperial Princess Shikishi, while the dynastic poets who had composed prominent poems were Izumi Shikibu, Murasaki Shikibu, OE no Masafusa and FUJIWARA no Kinto. In opposition to the preceding anthology titled "Shika," the contemporary poets were considered important again, and the number of selected poems by contemporary poets comprised half the total number offered in the work. In addition, as many as 20 percent of the poets were Buddhist priests.

When TAIRA no Tadanori was driven out of the capital, he stopped at the residence of FUJIWARA no Toshinari and left a scroll of his poems. Toshinari selected one from among those poems and put it in the anthology. This episode became famous through Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike).

There is no great difference among the denpon (extant books of transcription and published books), and the earliest manuscript was made at the end of the Kamakura period.
Among the commentaries on "Senzai Wakashu" that have been published recently, the following ones are easy to obtain: 'New Japanese Classic Literature Systematic Edition' by Iwanami Shoten, Publishers and 'A New Version of Comprehensive National Poems.'

[Original Japanese]