Wild bears in Japanese poetry

There is a poem in the Manyōshū that goes a little something like this:

荒熊之 住云山之 師齒迫山 責而雖問 汝名者不告

araguma no / sumu to ihu yama / sihaseyama / semete tohu to mo / na ga na ha norazi

Translated literally, it means: "Mt Iwase, the mountain on which wild bears are said to live. Even if [someone] asks me insistently, [I] won't give up your name."

You might be thinking that the two halves of that have nothing to do with each other, meaning-wise, and you'd be right. So why are they together in one poem? KITAMURA Kigin's commentary 万葉拾穂抄 (Manyōshūsuishō) says of the first half:


That is, it's just a little prelude which sets the scene for the semete (insistently, forcibly) by its use of the place-name sihase, the se of which is written with the character 迫, which is used in the word semaru (draw near, narrow, become sticky [metaphorically, of a situation]), which is obviously related to the semete with which the second half begins.

Wild bears in Japanese poetry: used mainly to sex up multi-layered grapho-verbal puns.

(Okay, I admit, the wild bear mountain business is probably also intended to evoke the depth and passion of the speaker's feelings etc.)

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