In "In Spring It Is the Dawn"Sei Shonagon describes her favorite time of the day in each season. In spring it is the dawn. In summer the nights. In autumn the evenings. In winter the early mornings. Another zuihitsu is on Elegant Things, a list which includes the surprising item of duck eggs. Of all the Things that Give a Hot Feeling, the Captain in attendance at the Imperial Games is, to me, the hottest. Sei Shonagon, a young children-hating aristocrat herself, bitches about the common people, the elderly, and pregnant women in Unsuitable Things. Here is a slice of her scorn:
A woman with ugly hair wearing a robe of white damask.
Hollyhock worn in frizzled hair.
Ugly handwriting on red paper.
Snow on the houses of common people. This is especially regrettable when the moonlight shines down on it.
A plain wagon on a moonlit night; or a light auburn ox harnessed to such a wagon.
A woman who, thought well past her youth, is pregnant and walks along panting. It is unpleasant to see a woman of a certain age with a young husband; and it is most unsuitable when she becomes jealous of him because he has gone to visit someone else.
An elderly man who has overslept and who wakes up with a start; or a greybeard munching some acorns that he has picked. An old woman who eats a plum, and, finding it sour, puckers her toothless mouth.
A woman of the lower classes dressed in a scarlet trouser-skirt. The sight is all too common these days.
A handsome man with an ugly wife.
An elderly man with a black beard and a disagreeable expression playing with a little child who has just learnt to talk. . . .