Chinese and Japanese Poetry

Zuria Butler

Honors English II

Period 3


"Thick Grow the Rush Leaves"

from The Book of Songs

Thick grow the rush leaves;

Their white dew turns to frost.

He whom I love

Must be somewhere along this stream.

I went up the river to look for him,

But the way was difficult and long.

I went down the stream to look for him.

And there in mid-water

Sure enough, it's he!

Close grow the rush leaves

Their white dew not yet dry.

He whom I love

Is at the water's side.

Up stream I sought him;

But the way was difficult and steep.

And away in mid-water

There on a ledge, that's he!

Very fresh are the rush leaves;

The white dew still falls.

He whom I love

Is at the water's edge.

Up stream I followed him;

But the way was hard and long

Down stream I followed him,

And away in the mid-water

There on the shoals is he!

Why I Chose This Poem

  • "Thick Grow the Rush Leaves" is a great example of Chinese poetry influenced by Taoism.
  • The main character represents a pupil that is striving to reach their goal and change their life, but she learns that what she seeks is waiting right before her eyes.

In-Text Messages

  • Over and over she goes up a difficult path to reach her love only to find he was at the bottom of the stream all along.
  • She learns that one must not impede the events to come because they will happen effortlessly.
  • There is no need to struggle through an uphill challenge because many of the things one seeks are in plain sight.

Literary Elements

  • "He whom I love" is repeated in each stanza emphasizing what she is looking for.
  • Each stanza follows patterning which first describes the rush leaves and their dew, then sets where her love is, following the illustration of her climbing up the mountain, and finally coming back down and finding her man.

Art Work

Guilin Landscape Painting

Artist: Lingxue

"Original Chinese Mountain Landscape Painting Scroll Hanging." Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <>."

This painting displays a Chinese landscape of mountains and river valleys. The jagged mountains represent the dangerous uphill challenge and the green calm valley represents simply going with the flow through life.

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"Arlene" by the Handsome Family

This song is from the point of view of a man who is so crazed by "love" that he kidnaps his betrothed. Like the woman from "Thick Grow Rush Leaves" he does everything he must to force this relationship rather than letting love bloom on its own. The characters must learn calm down and let the events unfold in front of them.

The Handsome Family - Arlene

"Ono Komachi"

from the Tanka

translated by Geoffrey Bownas

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.

Why I Chose This Poem

  • I chose this poem because it illustrates the harmony of night and day.
  • Through out the day one may seek things they cannot find, but in their sleep they can dream of anything imaginable.

In-Text Messages

  • When she goes to bed thinking of she wants, she dreams of it.
  • This means if she keeps a goals in her thoughts they may be achieved one day.
  • The night represents opportunity and adventure while the day resembles the ordinary and plain.

Literary Elements


  • After the question there is a pause in the poem.


  • The speaker complains about waking up from a dream with her lover.

Art Work

Ono no Komachi

Artist: Unknown

"Ono No Komachi's Poetry." Ono No Komachi. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <>."

This painting illustrates a woman sleeping and dreaming. This resembles the woman in the poem that dreams of her fantasies.

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"Lover's Lullaby" by Janis Ian

This song tells the story of a boy sore from heartache or pain that sleeps the night away dreaming of love, glory, and forgetting the troubles of the day. This relates to the speaker in "Ono Komachi" who dreams of her romantic interest who may be far from her during the day, but at night she can fantasize being with him.

Lover's Lullaby