("Japanese poetry"). A genre of verse of various prosodic types that began to take form in the hands of the court aristocracy in the mid 6th century. By the late 8th century the term was used synonymously with tanka ("short poem"), a type of verse that consists of five lines in 31 syllables in the pattern 5-7-5-7-7 and that is still composed today. Early Japanese song, from which waka arose, and the derivative genres renga ("linked verse") and haiku, are distinguished from waka, as is modern free verse. A salient feature of waka verse is its tendency toward lyricism. Many Japanese consider waka's lyricism a manifestation of a native disposition toward the logic of the heart as opposed to the logic of the mind. The primary sources of our knowledge of early Japanese waka are the annals Kojiki (712, Record of Ancient Matters) and Nihon shoki (720, Chronicles of Japan). The following waka is by the 12-century poet Jakuren: Sabishisa wa / Sono iro to shi mo / Nakarikeri / Maki tatsu yama no / Aki no yūgure. To be alone-- / It is of a color that / Cannot be named: / This mountain where cedars rise / Into the autumn dusk. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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