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"Was it that I went to Sleep"

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Sarah Innis

on 10 March 2014

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Transcript of "Was it that I went to Sleep"

Japanese scroll painting of Ono Komachi
-little is known about her; most of what is known is myths
-She is always described as exceptionally beautiful and having a lively personality.
-She often wrote about romance and loneliness.
-It is believed that her poems were written under the Emperor Nimmei during the Heian Dynasty. It is rumored that at one point she was paid to compose poems for him.
-Ono Komachi wrote in waka style. Waka style is a poem written by a Japanese person in Japanese.
Ono Komachi
"Was it that I went to Sleep"
A Heian Dynasty palace
Komachi's Achievements
by Ono Komachi
"Was it that I went to Sleep"
Ono Komachi became one of the Rokkasen-the six best Waka poets of the early Heian period.

Five Noh plays have been written featuring her life. They focused on her poetry talents and her personal life. As a young woman, they show her having many affairs and admirers. When she gets older and uglier, she becomes lonely. She also becomes a beggar and resents how she spent her youth.

These plays are fiction and may or may not give an accurate representation of her life.
A picture of the play Sotoba Komachi that features Ono Komachi's life.
Ono Komachi became one of the thirty-six Japanese poetry Immortals. The Immortals are a group of poets that wrote during the Nara, Asuka and Heian dynasties. They were selected by Fujwara no Kintō to be an example of Japanese poetry
Because much of Ono's life is unknown, there are only 18 poems that are considered to be written by her. There are others that are believed to be written by her but there is no way to prove it. She is very famous even though she only wrote a few poems because she included lots passion and symbolism in each poem.
The Akita Shinkansen is a rail line that connects the cities of Tokyo and Akita. It is nicknamed Komachi after her.
There is a rice in Japan named Akita Komachi after her.
One of Ono Komachi's poems is featured in the famous anthology, Hyakunin Isshu. It was selected to be in the anthology by Fujiwara no Teika.
"Was it that I went to sleep
Thinking of him,
That he came in my dreams?
Had I known it a dream
I should not have wakened."

Literary Analysis: Tanka
Tankas are a form of Japanese poetry with five lines. The first four lines alternate having 5 and 7 syllables. The final line has seven syllables.
The syllable count sometimes changes when the poems are translated into English.
The tanka is the most popular structure used in Japanese poetry.
Most tankas include one or more caesurae (pauses or breaks in a line of poetry).
Tankas are often about love and nature.
To attend court in feudal Japan you had to be able to compose a tanka.
Tankas consist of two units. The first three lines form one unit and the second two lines form the second unit. The third line of the poem is often called a pivot because it links the two units.
"Was it that I went to sleep
Thinking of him,

That he came in my dreams?
Had I known it a dream
I should not have wakened."

Literary Analysis: Caesura
"Was it that I went to sleep
Thinking of him
That he came in my dreams
Had I known it a dream
I should not have wakened

This poem tells a story. The story is about a woman who falls asleep and dreams of her love. At first she wonders why she had this dream. Then she thinks maybe she dreamed of him because she fell asleep thinking about him. Then she regrets waking up because in the dream the two of them were together.
Literary Elements
Mood: The speaker of the poem is curious and disappointed.
Imagery: You can see in your mind someone sleeping, dreaming, and waking up.
Ex. "I should not have waken." -You can picture someone waking up.
Speaker: A woman who has an unrequited love.
Meter: 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count
Enjambment: Meaning of line continues onto the next line
Form: Tanka
This work tells us that dreams do not last forever. If you like what is happening in your dreams, you need to make it happen.
It also tells us that life is not a dream. Reality is tough.
“Was it that I went to sleep
Thinking of him,
That he came in my dreams?
Had I known it a dream
I should not have wakened.”

L1-3 (Unit 1): Did she dream of the man she loves because she fell asleep thinking about him?
L4-5 (Unit 2): If she had known it was a dream she would never have woken up.
Line by Line Analysis





Ono Komachi wrote during the Heian or Kyoto Dynasty. There was a central government under the Fujiwara family during the Heian Dynasty. The geishas were prominent in Japan during this dynasty.
Most of the poems that she wrote were 31 syllables (tankas 5+7+5+7+7)
A caesura is a break or pause in a line of poetry. It is often indicated by punctuation in the English language. Caesurae give poems a natural rythm and flow. Caesurae are often used with enjambment.
Examples of Caesurae in the Poem
Full transcript