Saturday, January 17, 2015

word of the day: enfeoff

context: “There is nowhere to be found in the … present day the kinds of loyalty shown by Tokugawa Hidetada, who on the strength of a firm commitment made in his youth, enfeoffed anew Tamba Nagashige after he was vanquished at the Battle of Sekigahara; or by Naoe Shigetsugi, who remained true to Uesugi Kagekatsu to the very end.”

from a letter by Iwata Jun’ichi, August 20, 1931

definition from (Under the feudal system) give (someone) freehold property or land in exchange for their pledged service.

I’m not so much interested in the definition as in the look. Those three Fs! It feels a little weird in the mouth, too. Oh, according to the list of words with which “enfeoff” rhymes listed at Oxford you don’t pronounce the O. Tsk. Rhymes with beef, belief, brief

So let’s see if I have this right. The lord, Tokugawa Hidetada, reups the contract of military commander Tamba Nagashige despite leadership that resulted in a rout at some big battle. The lord felt committed to the soldier out of a commitment the lord “made in his youth.” As Iwata refers to this connection in the context of a discussion of homosexuality one might suppose there is a close personal component to that youthful commitment. Whether this heart entanglement led the lord to a poor military decision or if it turned out okay in the end (thanks, love, for getting a word in!), I don’t know. I tried a little light Google research and I’m afraid I don’t feel much more illuminated. Hidetada seems to have had a mixed career after the Battle of Sekigahara but keeping on a defeated military commander wasn’t determinative. So far as I could tell.

source: Partings at Dawn: an anthology of Japanese Gay literature edited by Stephen D. Miller

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