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THE SPIRIT 

OF 

JAPANESE POETRY 




THE CANADIAN 




The George A. Warburton 
Memorial Collection 

Presented to 

The Canadian School of Missions 
by A. A. Hyde, Esq., Wichita, Kansas. 



Bax 



Wisfcom of tbe East Series 

EDITED BY 

L. CRANMER-BYNG 

Dr. S. A. KAPADIA 



THE SPIRIT OF JAPANESE POETRY 



WISDOM yOF THE EAST 

THE SPIRIT OF 
JAPANESE POETRY 

BY YONE NOGUCHI 




LONDON 

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 

1914 



NOTE. The cover design of this book repre- 
sents the Cuckoo in connection with the 
Japanese Uta poem which will be found on 
page 30. 




ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



CONTENTS 



rie* 



INTRODUCTION 9 



JAPANESE POETEY 15 

II 

THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY . . 33 

III 

No : THE JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE . 54 

IV 

THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY . . 71 

V 

THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN . . 90 

VI 

SOME SPECIMENS 112 



TO 

ARTHUR SYMONS 



THE POET 

Out of the deep and the dark, 

A sparkling mystery, a shape, 

Something perfect, 

Comes like the stir of the day ; 

One whose breath is an odour, 

Whose eyes show the road to stars, 

The breeze on his face, 

The glory of Heaven on his back. 

He steps like a vision hung in air 

Diffusing the passion of eternity ; 

His abode is the sunlight of morn, 

The musio of eve hia speech ; 

In his sight 

One shall turn from the dust of the grave 

And move upward to the woodland. 

YONB NOQUCHI. 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

THE object of the Editors of this series is a very 
definite one. They desire above all things that, 
in their humble way, these books shall be the 
ambassadors of good-will and understanding 
between East and West the old world of Thought 
and the new of Action. In this endeavour, and 
in their own sphere, they are but followers of the 
highest example in the land. They are confident 
that a deeper knowledge of the great ideals and 
lofty philosophy of Oriental thought may help to 
a revival of that true spirit of Charity which 
neither despises nor fears the nations of another 
creed and colour. 

L. CRANMER-BYNG. 

S. A. KAPADIA. 

NORTHBROOK SOCIETY, 
21 CROMWELL ROAD, 
S. KENSINGTON, S.W. 



INTRODUCTION 

THERE are beauties and characteristics of poetry 
of any country which > cannot be plainly seen by 
those who are born with them ; it is often a 
foreigner's privilege to see them and use them, 
without a moment's hesitation, to his best advan- 
tage as he conceives it. I have seen examples 
of it in the work of Western artists in adopting 
our Japanese traits of art, the traits which turned 
meaningless for us a long time ago, and whose 
beauties were lost in time's dust ; but what a 
force and peculiarity of art Utamaro or Hiroshige, 
to believe the general supposition, inspired in 
Monet, Whistler and others ! It may seem 
strange to think how the Japanese art of the 
Ukiyoye school, nearly dead, commonplace at 
its best, could work such a wonder when it was 
adopted by the Western hand ; but after all 
that is not strange at all. And is it not the 
same case with poetry ? Not only the English 
poetry, but any poetry of any country, is bound 
to become stale and stupid if it shuts itself up 
for too long a time ; it must sooner or later be 

9 



10 INTRODUCTION 

rejuvenated and enlivened with some new force. 
To shake off classicism, or to put it more abruptly, 
to forget everything of history or usage, often 
means to make a fresh start ; such a start often 
begins being suggested by the poetry of some 
foreign country, and gains a strength and 
beauty. That is why even we Japanese, I dare 
say, can make some contribution to English 
poetry. The English poem, as it seems to me, 
is governed too greatly by old history and too- 
respectable prosody ; just compare it with the 
English prose, which has made such a stride in 
the recent age, to see and be amazed at its un- 
changing gait. Perhaps it is my destitution of 
musical sense (a Western critic declared that 
Japanese are for the most part unmusical) to 
find myself more often unmoved by the English 
rhymes and metres ; let me confess that, before 
perceiving the silver sound of a poet like Tennyson 
or Swinburne, born under the golden clime, my 
own Japanese mind already revolts and rebels 
against something in English poems or verses 
which, for lack of a proper expression, we might 
call physical or external. As my attention is 
never held by the harmony of language, I go 
straightforward to the writer's inner soul to 
speculate on it, and talk with it ; briefly, I am 
sound-blind or tone-deaf that is my honest 
confession. It is not only my own confession, 
but the general confession of nearly all Japanese ; 



INTRODUCTION 11 

our Japanese minds always turn, let me dare say, 
to something imaginative. 

It is my own opinion that the appearance of 
Basho, our beloved Hokku master, was the 
greatest happening of our Japanese annals ; the 
Japanese poetry, which had been degenerating 
for centuries, received a sudden salvation through 
his own pain and imagination. His greatest 
hope, to become a poet without words, was finally 
realised ; he was, as I once wrote on the Buddha 
priest in meditation : 

" He feels a touch beyond word, 
He reads the silence's sigh, 
And prays before his own soul and destiny : 
He is a pseudonym of the universal Consciousness, 
A person lonesome from concentration." 

When the Japanese poetry joined its hand 
with the stage, we have the No drama, in which 
the characters sway in music, soft but vivid, 
as if a web in the air of perfume ; we Japanese 
find our own joy and sorrow in it. Oh, what a 
tragedy and beauty in the No stage ! I always 
think that it would be certainly a great thing if 
the No drama could be properly introduced into 
the West ; the result would be no small protest 
against the Western stage, it would mean a real 
revelation for those people who are well tired of 
their own plays with a certain pantomimic spirit 
underneath. 



12 INTRODUCTION 

We started our country as the land of poetry ; 
our forefathers were poets themselves. They 
were free as the winds are free. When our 
modern young poets cry to go back to the age 
of their forefathers, they think that it is only the 
way to escape from the so-called literature 
and gain this poetical strength and beauty ; 
it is their opinion that they find all the Western 
literary ideals in our Japanese ancient life and 
poetry. But I often quarrelled with them on the 
point that the real poetry of any country should 
be an expression of beauty and truth ; we must 
build, I always insist, our poetry on our own true 
culture, which we formed through the pain and 
patience of centuries. It is my own opinion 
that the true Japanese poetry should be, as I 
once wrote, a potted tree of a thousand years' 
growth ; our song should be a Japanese tea- 
house four mats and a half in all where we 
burn the rarest incense which rises to the sky ; 
again our song should be an opal with six colours 
that shine within. 

People who are already familiar with the 
Japanese poetry would ask me why I did not 
dwell on our Uta poetry at some length ; I confess 
that my poetical taste desires far more intensity 
than the Uta poems, whose artificial execution 
often proves, in my opinion, to be their weak- 
ness rather than strength. Besides, they should 
be treated independently in a separate volume ; 



INTRODUCTION 13 

they have their own poetical history of more 
than two thousand years. 

" The Japanese HoTcku Poetry " is the lecture 
delivered in the Hall of Magdalen College at the 
invitation of Mr. Robert Bridges, the Poet 
Laureate, and Dr. T. H. Warren, President of 
the College and Professor of Poetry in the Uni- 
versity ; and my lectures at the Japan Society, 
the Royal Asiatic Society, and the Quest Society 
have been based more or less on the other chapters 
in the book. 

Y. N. 

LONDON, 

March 10th, 1914. 



THE SPIRIT OF 
JAPANESE POETRY 



JAPANESE POETRY 

I COME always to the conclusion that the English 
poets waste too much energy in " words, words, 
words," and make, doubtless with all good in- 
tentions, their inner meaning frustrate, at least 
less distinguished, simply from the reason that 
its full liberty to appear naked is denied. It is 
the poets more than the novelists who not only 
misinterpret their own meaning, but often deceive 
their own souls. When I say it seems that they 
take a so-called poetical licence, I mean that what 
they write about, to speak slangily, by the yard, is 
not Life or Voice itself. ; from such a view-point I 
do not hesitate to declare that the English poets, 
particularly the American poets, are far behind 
the novelists. I can prove with many instances 

15 



16 JAPANESE POETRY 

that there are books and books of " poems " in 
which one cannot find any particular design of 
their authors ; it is never too much to say that 
they have a good intention, though not wise at 
best ; but, after all, to have only that good inten- 
tion is not the way to make art or literature 
advance. 

I always insist that the written poems, even 
when they are said to be good, are only the 
second best, as the very best poems are left 
unwritten or sung in silence. It is my opinion 
that the real test for poets is how far they resist 
their impulse to utterance, or, in another word, 
to the publication of their own work not how 
much they have written, but how much they 
have destroyed. To live poetry is the main thing, 
and the question of the poems written or pub- 
lished is indeed secondary ; from such a reason I 
regard our Basho Matsuwo, the seventeen-sy liable 
Hokku poet of three hundred and fifty years ago, 
as great, while the work credited to his wonderful 
name could be printed in less than one hundred 
pages of any ordinary size. And it is from the 
same reason that I pay an equal reverence to 
Stephane Mallarme, the so-called French symbo- 
list, though I do not know the exact meaning of 
that term. While they are poets different in 
nature, true to say, as different as a Japanese 
from a Frenchman (or it might be said, as same 
as the French and the Japanese), it seems to 




THE POETICAL REALISTS 17 

me that they join hands unconditionally in the 
point of denying their hearts too free play, with 
the result of making poetry living and divine, 
not making merely " words, words, and words," 
and further in the point that both of them, 
the Japanese and the Frenchman, are poetical 
realists whose true realism is heightened or 
" enigmatised " by the strength of their own 
self-denial, to the very point that they have often 
been mistaken for mere idealists. Putting aside 
the question whether they are great or not, the 
fact that they have left little work behind is the 
point that I should like to emphasise ; blessed be 
they who can sing in silence to the content of 
their hearts in love of perfection. The real 
prayer should be told in silence. 

For a poet to have few lines in these prosaic 
days would be at least an achievement truly 
heroic ; I think that the crusade of the Western 
poetry, if it is necessary, as I believe it is most 
momentous, should begin with the first act of 
leaving the " words " behind, or making them 
return to their original proper places. We have 
a little homely proverb " The true heart will be 
protected by a god, even though it offer no 
prayer at all." I should like to apply it to 
poetry and say that poetry will take care of 
itself all by itself without any assistance from 
words, rhymes, and metres. I flatter myself that 
even Japan can do something towards the reforma- 

2 



18 JAPANESE POETRY 

tion or advancement of the Western poetry, not 
only spiritually, but also physically. 

Japanese poetry, at least the old Japanese 
poetry, is different from Western poetry in the 
same way as silence is different from a voice, 
night from day ; while avoiding the too close 
discussion of their relative merits, I can say that 
the latter always fails, naturally enough through 
being too active to properly value inaction, 
restfulness, or death ; to speak shortly, the 
passive phase of Life and the World. It is 
fantastic to say that night and day, silence and 
voice, are all the same ; let me admit that they 
are vastly different ; it is their difference that 
makes them so interesting. The sensitiveness of 
our human nature makes us to be influenced by 
the night and silence, as well as by the day and 
voice ; let me confess, however, that my suspicion 
of the Western poetic feeling dates from quite far 
back in the days of my old California life, when I 
was quite often laughed at for my aimless loitering 
under the moonbeams, and for my patient atten- 
tion to the voice of the falling snow. One who 
lives, for instance, in Chicago or New York, can 
hardly know the real beauty of night and silence ; 
it is my opinion that the Western character, 
particularly of Americans, would be sweetened, 
or at least toned down, if that part of the beauty 
of Nature might be emphasised. Oh, our Japanese 
life of dream and silence ! The Japanese poetry 



THE REAL VALUE 19 

is that of the moon, stars, and flowers, that of a 
bird and waterfall for the noisiest. If we do not 
sing so much of Life and the World it is not from 
the reason that we think their value negative, 
but from our thought that it would be better, in 
most cases, to leave them alone, and not to sing 
of them is the proof of our reverence toward them. 
Besides, to sing the stars and the flowers in Japan 
means to sing Life, since we human beings are 
not merely a part of Nature, but Nature itself. 
When our Japanese poetry is best, it is, let me 
say, a searchlight or flash of thought or passion 
cast on a moment of Life and Nature, which, by 
virtue of its intensity, leads us to the conception 
of the whole ; it is swift, discontinuous, an 
isolated piece. So it is the best of our seventeen- 
syllable Hokku and thirty-one syllable Ufa poems 
that by their art, as Tsurayuki remarks in his 
Kokinshiu preface " without an effort, heaven 
and earth are moved, and gods and demons 
invisible to our eyes are touched with sympathy " ; 
the real value of the Japanese poems may be 
measured by what mood or illusion they inspire 
in the reader's mind. 

It is not too much to say that an appreciative 
reader of poetry in Japan is not made, but born, 
just like a poet ; as the Japanese poetry is never 
explanatory, one has everything before him on 
which to let his imagination freely play ; as a 
result he will come to have an almost personal 



20 JAPANESE POETRY 

attachment to it as much as the author himself. 
When you realise that the expression or words 
always mislead you, often making themselves an 
obstacle to a mood or an illusion, it will be seen 
what a literary achievement it is when one can 
say a thing which passes well as real poetry in 
such a small compass mentioned before ; to say 
" suggestive " is simple enough, the important 
question is how ? Although I know it sounds 
rather arbitrary, I may say that such a result 
may be gained partly (remember, only partly) 
through determination in the rejection of in- 
essentials from the phrase and the insistence upon 
economy of the inner thought ; just at this 
moment, while I write this article, my mind is 
suddenly recalled to the word which my old 
California poet-friend used to exclaim : " Cut 
short, cut short, and again cut short ! " 

The other day I happened to read the work of 
Miss Lizette Wordworth Reese, whose sensitive- 
ness, the sweetest of all femininity for any age 
or race, expressed in language of pearl-like 
simplicity, whether studied or not, makes me 
think of her as a Japanese poet among Americans. 
When I read " A White Lilac " from A Quiet 
Road (what a title with the sixteenth-century 
dreaminess) I was at once struck by her sensi- 
tiveness to odour ; as a better specimen let me 
give you the following : 



EXPLANATION IS FORBIDDEN 21 

" Oh, gray and tender is the rain, 
That drips, drips on the pane ; 
A hundred things come in at the door, 
The scent of herbs, the thought of yore. 

" I see the pool out in the grass, 
A bit of broken glass ; 
The red flags running wet and straight, 
Down to the little flapping gate. 

" Lombardy poplars tall and three, 
Across the road I see. 
There is no loveliness so plain, 
As a tall poplar in the rain. 

" But oh, the hundred things and more 
That come in at the door ; 
The smack of mint, old joy, old pain, 
Caught in the gray and tender rain." 

With all due respect, I thought afterwards 
what a pity to become an American poetess if 
she has to begin her poem with " Oh, gray and 
tender is the ram " such a commonplace be- 
ginning. I declared bluntly that I, "as a 
Japanese poet," would sacrifice the first three 
stanzas to make the last sparkle fully and unique 
like a perfect diamond. Explanation is forbidden 
in the House of Poesy for Japanese, where, as in 
the Japanese tea-house of four mats and a half, 
the Abode of Imagination, only the hints tender 
and gray, like a ghost or Miss Reese's rain, are 
suffered to be dwelling. Although of this Ameri- 
can poetess it is said that her rejection of in- 
essentials is tho secret of her personality and style, 
it seems that that rejection is not sufficient for 



22 JAPANESE POETRY 

my Japanese mind. If I be blamed as unin- 
telligible from too much rejection, I have only 
to say that the true poetry should be written only 
to one's own heart to record the pain or joy, like 
a soul's diary whose sweetness can be kept when 
it is hidden secretly, or like a real prayer for which 
only a few words uttered are enough. Here I am 
reminded of a particular Hokku, a rain-poem like 
Miss Reese's, by Buson Yosano of the eighteenth 
century : 

" Of the samidare rain 

List to the Utsubo Bashira pipe ! 
These ears of my old age ! " 

Is it unbelievable to you when I tell you that 
such is a complete Japanese poem, even a good 
poem ? The poem, as you see, in such a Lilli- 
putian form of seventeen syllables in the original, 
carries my mind at once to the season's rain 
and the Utsubo Bashira, or Pipe of Emptying, 
that descends from the eaves (how like a 
Japanese poem with a singular distinction of 
inability to sing !), to which the poet Buson's 
world-wearied old ears awakened ; you will see 
that the " hundred things and more that come 
in at the door " of his mind should be understood, 
although he does not say it. Indeed, you are 
the outsider of our Japanese poems if you cannot 
read immediately what they do not describe to 
you. 



THE MAN WITH A HOE 23 

My Japanese opinion, shaped by hereditary 
impulse and education, was terribly shattered 
quite many years ago when Edwin Markham's 
The Man with a Hoe made a furore in the American 
Press. I exclaimed : " What ! You say it is 
poetry ? How is it possible ? " It appeared to 
me to be a cry from the Socialist platform rather 
than a poem ; I hope I do not offend the author 
if I say that it was the American journalist whose 
mind of curiosity always turns, to use a Japanese 
expression, to making billows rise from the 
ground. Putting aside many things, I think I 
can say that Mr. Markham's poem has an in- 
excusable error to the Japanese mind ; that is 
its exaggeration, which, above all, we cannot 
stand in poetry, and even despise as very bad 
taste. Before Edwin Markham there was Whit- 
tier, who sent out editorial volleys under the 
guise of poetry ; it is not too much to say, I dare 
think, that An American Anthology by Mr. 
Stedman, would look certainly better if it were 
reduced to one hundred pages from its eight 
hundred ; we are bewildered to see so many 
poet- journalists perfectly jammed in the pages. 
One cannot act contrary to education ; we are 
more or less the creation of tradition and circum- 
stance. It was the strength of the old Western 
poets, particularly Americans, that they preached, 
theorised, and moralised, besides singing in their 
own days ; but when I see that our Japanese 



24 JAPANESE POETRY 

poetry was never troubled by Buddhism or 
Confucianism, I am glad here to venture that 
the Western poet would be better off by parting 
from Christianity, social reform, and what not. I 
think it is time for them to live more of the 
passive side of Life and Nature, so as to make 
the meaning of the whole of them perfect and 
clear, to value the beauty of inaction so as to 
emphasise action, to think of Death so as to make 
Life more attractive, although I do not insist 
upon their conforming themselves, as we Japanese 
poets, with the stars, flowers, and winds. 

We treafc poetry, though it may sound too 
ambitious to the Western mind, from the point 
of its use of uselessness ; it rises, through a 
mysterious way, to the height of its peculiar 
worth, where its uselessness turns, lo, to useful- 
ness. When one knows that the things useless 
are the things most useful under different cir- 
cumstances (to give one example, a little stone 
lazy by a stream, which becomes important when 
you happen to hear its sermon), he will see that 
the aspect of uselessness in poetry is to be doubly 
valued since its usefulness is always born from 
it like the day out of the bosom of night ; you 
cannot call it, I trust, merely a Japanese freakish- 
ness or vagary if we appear to you in the matter 
of poetry to make much ado about nothing. I 
dare say we have our own attitude toward poetry. 
I have no quarrel with one who emphasises the 



NOT TORMENTED BY CRITICISM 25 

immediate necessity of joining the hand of poetry 
and life ; however, I wish to ask him the question 
what he means by the word life. It is my opinion 
that the larger part is builded upon the unreality 
by the strength of which the reality becomes 
intensified ; when we sing of the beauty of night, 
that is to glorify, through the attitude of reverse, 
in the way of silence, the vigour and wonder of the 
day. Poetry should be meaningful ; but there 
is no world like that of poetry, in which the word 
" meaning " so often baffles, bewilders, disap- 
points us. I have seen enough examples of 
poems which appealed to me as meaningful and 
impressed another as hopelessly meaningless. 

I deem it one of the literary fortunes, a happy 
happening, but not an achievement, that till 
quite recently our Japanese poetry was never 
annoyed, fatigued, tormented by criticism ; it 
was left perfectly at liberty to pursue its own 
free course and satisfy its old sweet will. The 
phenomenon that the literary part of criticism 
could find a congenial ground in Japan might 
make one venture to explain it from the point of 
our being whimsical, not philosophical ; emo- 
tional, not intellectual. I have often thought 
that this mental lack might be attributed to the 
inconsistency of climate and sceneries, the general 
frailty and contradictions in our way of living. 
What I am thankful for is that it has never de- 
generated into mere literature ; when the Western 



26 JAPANESE POETRY 

poetry is in the hand, so to say, of men of letters, 
the greatest danger will be found in the fact that 
they are often the prey of publication ; it is true 
that the Western poets, minor or major, or what 
not, have had always the thought of pr hi ting 
from early date till to-day. I know that at least 
in Japan the best poetry was produced in the age 
when publication was most difficult ; I dare say 
that the modern opening of the pages for poets 
in the press, and the easy publication of their 
work in independent books, both in the West and 
the East, would never be the right way for the 
real encouragement of poetry. I read somewhere 
that a certain distinguished European actress 
declared that the true salvation of the stage 
should start with the destruction of all the 
theatres in existence ; I should like to say well- 
nigh the same thing in regard to the real revival 
of poetry. Let the poets forget for once and all 
about publication, and let them live in poetry as 
the true poets of old days used to live. Indeed, 
to live in poetry is first and last. When one 
talks on the union of poetry and life, I am sure 
that so it should be in action and practice, not 
only in print. I have seen so many poets who 
only live between the covers and die when the 
ink fades away. 

I often open the pages of Hokku poems by 
Basho Matsuo and his life of fifty years. He 
gained moral strength from his complete rejection 






SEISHIN OR PURE POVERTY 27 

of worldly luxuries. He lived with and in 
poverty, to use the Japanese phrase, aeishin or 
pure poverty, by whose blessing his single- 
minded devotion was well rewarded ; of course 
it was the age when material poverty was not a 
particular inconvenience, as to-day. I read some- 
where in his life that he declined in the course of 
his pilgrimage to accept three ryo (equivalent to 
seven or eight pounds in the present reckoning), 
the parting gift by his students, as he was afraid 
his mind would be disturbed by the thought that 
his sudden wealth might become an attraction 
for a thief ; oh, what a difference from the modern 
poets who call for a better payment ! He had 
one of his poetical students at Kaga, by the name 
of Hokushi, who sent him the following Hokku 
poem when his house was burned down 5 

" It has burned down : 
How serene the flowers in their falling ! " 

The master Basho wrote to Hokushi, after 
speaking the words of condolence, that Kyorai 
and Joshi (his disciples), too, had been struck 
with admiration by the poem beginning " It 
has burned down," and he continued " There 
was in ancient time a poet who paid his own life 
as the price of a poem. I do not think that you 
will take your loss too much to heart when you 
get such a poem." When Basho said the above, 
I believe that his admiration for Hokushi was 



28 JAPANESE POETRY 

more on account of his attitude toward life's 
calamity than for the Hokku poem itself. Hokushi 
did not study poetry in vain, I should say, when 
his own mind could keep serene like the falling 
flowers, while seeing his house burn to ashes. 
That is the real poetry in action. With that 
action as a background, his poem, although it is 
slight in fact, bursts into a sudden light and 
dignity. 

Indeed the main question is : what is the real 
poetry of action for which silence is the language ? 
To say the real poet is a part of Nature does no 
justice, because he is able more often to under- 
stand Nature better through the very reason of 
his not being a part of Nature itself. It is his 
greatness to soar out of Nature and still not ever 
to forget her in one word, to make himself art 
itself. And how does he attain his own aim ? 
Is it by the true conception of Taoism, the 
doctrine of Cosmic change or Mood of the Uni- 
verse, of the Great Infinite or Transition ? Or 
is it through the Zennism, of whose founder, 
Dharuma, I wrote once as follows ? 

"Thou lures t one into the presence of tree and hill ; 
Thou blondest with the body of Nature old ; 
List, Nature with the human shadow and song, 
With thee she seems so near and sure to me, 
I love and understand her more truly through thee ; 
Oh magic of meditation, witchery of silence, 
Language for which secret has no power ! 
Oh vastness of the soul of night and death, 
Where time and pains cease to exist." 



OUR OLD TEA-MASTERS 29 

The main concern is how to regulate and arrange 
Nature ; before arranging and regulating Nature, 
you have to regulate and arrange your own life. 
The thoughts of life and death, let me say, do 
not approach me ; let me live in the mighty 
serenity of the Eternal ! By the virtue of death 
itself, life grows really meaningful ; let us wel- 
come death like great Rikiu who, being forced to 
harakiri by his master's suspicion, drank the 
" last tea of Rikiu " with his beloved disciples, 
and passed into the sweet Unknown with a smile 
and song on his face for the very turn of the page. 

When I think on my ideal poet, I always think 
about our old Japanese tea-masters who were the 
true poets, as I said before, of the true action ; 
it was their special art to select and simplify 
Nature, again to make her concentrate and 
emphasise herself according to their own thought 
and fancy. Let me tell you one story which 
impresses me still as quite a poetical revelation 
as when I heard it first. 

Three or four tea-masters, the aestheticists of 
all aestheticists, headed by famous Rikiu, were 
once invited by Kwanpaku Hidetsugu, a feudal 
lord of the sixteenth century, to his early morning 
tea ; the month was April, the day the twentieth, 
whose yearning mind was yet struggling to shake 
off the gray-haired winter's despotism. The 
dark breezes, like evil spirits who feared the 
approach of sunlight, were huddling around under 



30 JAPANESE POETRY 

the eaves of Hidetsugu's tea-house ; within, 
there was no light. And the silence was com- 
plete ; then it was found that its old rhythm 
(" Oh, what a melody ! ") was now and then 
broken, no, emphasised, by the silver voice of the 
boiling tea-kettle. No one among the guests 
ever spoke, as the human tongue was thought to 
be out of place. The host, Kwanpaku Hidetsugu, 
was slow to appear on the scene ; what stepped 
in most informally, with no heralding, was the 
Ariake no Tsuki, the faint shadow of the falling 
moon at early dawn, who came a thousand miles, 
through the perplexity of a thousand leaves, just 
enough to light a little hanging by the tokonoma, 
the shikishi paper tablet on which the following 
Uta poem was written : 

" Where a cuckoo a-singing swayed, 
I raised my face, alas, to see 
The Ariake no Tsuki only remaining." 

All the guests were taken at once with admiration 
of the poem and the art of the calligrapher, 
famous Teika, who wrote it, and then of the art 
of the host, this feudal lord, whose aesthetic mind 
was minute and most fastidious in creating a 
particular atmosphere ; and they soon agreed, 
but in silence, that the tea-party was especially 
held to introduce the poem or the calligrapher's 
art to them. And I should like to know where 
is a sweeter, more beautiful way than that to 
introduce the poem or picture to others ; again, 



THE GARDEN PATH 31 

I should like to know where is a more beautiful, 
sweeter way than that to see or read the picture 
or poem. Great is the art of those old tea-masters 
who were the real poets of action. 

There is the garden path called roji, so to say, the 
passage into self-illumination, leading from the 
without to the within, that is to say, the tea-house 
under the world- wearied grayness of age-unknown 
trees, by the solitary granite lanterns, solitary like 
a saint or a philosopher with the beacon light in 
heart ; it is here that you have i^o forget the 
tumultuous seas of the world on which you must 
ride and play at moral equilibrium, and slowly 
enter into the teaism or the joy of aestheticism. 
Now I should like to know if our lives are not one 
long roji where, if you are wiser, you will attempt 
to create the effects or atmosphere of serenity or 
poetry by the mystery of silence. There are 
many great tea-masters who have left us words 
of suggestion how to beguile and lead our minds 
from the dusts and ruin of life into the real roji 
mood that is the blessing of shadowy dreams 
and mellow, sweet unconsciousness of soul's 
freedom ; I agree at once with Rikiu who found 
his own secret in the following old song 5 

" I turned my face not to see 
Flowers or leaves ; 
"Tis the autumn eve 
With the falling light : 
How solitary the cottage stand* 
By the sea ! " 



32 JAPANESE POETRY 

Oh, vastness of solitariness, blessing of silence ! 
Let me, like that Rikiu, step into the sanctuary or 
idealism by the twilight of loneliness, the highest 
of all poetry ! 

This same Rikiu left us another story which 
pleases my mind greatly. Shoan, his son, was 
once told by his father to sweep or clean the 
garden path as Rikiu, the greatest aestheticist 
with the tea-bowl, doubtless expected some guest 
on that day ; Shoan finished in due course his 
work of sweeping and washing the stepping- 
stones with water. "Try again," Rikiu com- 
manded when he had seen what he had done. 
Shoan again swept the ground and again washed 
the stones with water. Rikiu exclaimed again : 
" Try once more." His son, though he did not 
really understand what his father meant, obeyed, 
and once more swept the ground and once more 
washed the stepping-stones with water. " You 
stupid fool," Rikiu cried almost mad ; " sweeping 
and watering are not true cleaning. I will show 
you what is to be done with the garden path." 
He shook the maple-trees to make the leaves fall, 
and decorate the ground with the gold brocade. 
" This is the real way of cleaning," Rikiu ex- 
claimed in satisfaction. This little story always 
makes me pause and think. Indeed, the approach 
to the subject through the reverse side is more 
interesting, often the truest. Let me learn of 
death to truly live ; let me be silent to truly sing. 



n 

THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

WALTER PATER, in one of his much-admired 
studies, The School of Oiorgione, represents art 
as continually struggling after the law or prin- 
ciple of music, toward a condition which music 
alone completely realises; "lyrical poetry," he 
thinks, " approaches nearest to that condition, 
hence is the highest and most complete form of 
poetry ; and," he adds, " the very perfection 
of such poetry often appears to depend, in part, 
on a certain suppression or vagueness of mere 
subjects, so that the meaning reaches us through 
ways not distinctly traceable by the under- 
standing. ..." 

I should like to develop Pater's literary ideal 
a little further through Lao Tze's canon of 
spiritual anarchism (it's nothing so strange to 
speak sometimes the names of this ancient 
Chinese sage and the modern English critic side 
by side) ; is it not that to mean nothing means 
all things ; again, not to sing at all means to sing 
everything ? Lao Tze says j " Assert non-asser- 
3 33 



34 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

tion. Practise non-practice. Taste non-taste " ; 
let me here add one more line : " Express in 
non-expression." To attach too closely to the 
subject matter in literary expression is never a 
way to complete the real saturation ; the real 
infinite significance will only be accomplished 
at such a consummate moment when the end 
and means are least noticeable, and the subject 
and expression never fluctuate from each other, 
being in perfect collocation ; it is the partial 
loss of the birthright of each that gains an artistic 
triumph. I have a word which is much used 
carelessly in the West, but whose true meaning 
is only seldom understood, that is the word of 
suggestion. I have an art ; that is the art of 
suggestion. What suggestion ? you might ask. 
I will point the way, if you are given a right sort 
of artistic susceptibility, where the sunlight falls 
on the laughter of woods and waters, where the 
birds sing by the flowers ; again I will point, if 
you are able to read the space between the lines, 
to the pages of the Japanese seventeen-syllable 
Hokku poems, the tiniest poems of the world. 

I do never mean that the Hokku poems are 
lyrical poetry in the general Western under- 
standing ; but the Japanese mind gets the effect 
before perceiving the fact of their brevity, its 
sensibility resounding to their single note, as if 
the calm bosom of river water to the song of a 
bird. One of the English critics exclaims from 



THE EVOCATION OF MOOD 35 

his enthusiasm over Hokku ; " That is valuable 
as a talisman rather than as a picture. It is a 
pearl to be dissolved in the wine of a mood. 
Pearls are not wine, nor in themselves to be 
thought of as a drink, but there is a kind of 
magic in the wine in which they are dissolved." 
That magic of the Hokku poems is the real 
essence of lyrical poetry even of the highest order. 
I do not see why we cannot call them musical 
when we call the single note of a bird musical ; 
indeed, they attain to a condition, as Pater 
remarked, which music alone completely realises, 
because what they aim at and practise is the 
evocation of mood or psychological intensity, not 
the physical explanation, and they are, as I once 
wrote : 

" A creation of surprise (let me say ao) 
Dancing gold on the wire of impulse." 

And even from the narrow scientific under- 
standing of the term they are musical, as they 
are the first seventeen syllables out of the euphonic 
thirty-one-syllable Uta poem, whose birth, accord- 
ing to the mythological assumption, was in the 
same time when heaven and earth were created ; 
a reader who knows no Japanese will find his ears 
softened, to take one at random, on hearing the 
following Hokku poem : 

" Osoki hi no 
Tsumorite toki 
kana," 



36 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

Or again in the following by the same author, 
Buson Yosano (1716-1783) : 

" Kindachi ni 
Kitsune bake tari 
Yoi no Haru." 1 

Such brevity of poetical form might be well 
compared with an eight-coloured butterfly or a 
white dew upon summer grasses ; again, with a 
tiny star carrying the whole large sky at its back. 
When I say that the HoJcku poet's chief aim is 
to impress the readers with the high atmosphere 
in which he is living, I mean that the readers 
also should be those living in an equally high 
poetical atmosphere ; such readers' minds will 
certainly respond to the wistfulness and delicacy 
of the Hokku, a wistfulness and delicacy not to 
be met with in the general run of English poetry. 

1 " Kindachi ni 

Kitsune bake tari 
Yoi no Haru." 

(Prince young, gallant, a masquerading fox goea 
this spring eve.) 

You must have seen somewhere a humorous Japanese 
sketch in which a fantastic young prince wearing a hunting 
dress of potato leaves (why, he is a masquerading fox ; see 
his tail, which assumes the place of a back-sword), and having 
his hair dressed with two or three wheat-straws after an old 
fashion, is lightly drawn under the new moon of a spring eve ; 
the evening in Japan's April or May, rich, misty, perhaps at 
Kyoto, has such charm to make the mind of a fox beautifully 
unbalanced. Buson's love of an irresistibly pretty gesticula- 
tion of life and nature lets him excel in such a subject as a 
spring night, whose soul is that of poetry. 




FRIENDS OF WINDS AND MOON 37 

I admit that they will appear first, at once, to 
you to be the vagrant utterances of a primitive 
man who, uneducated, sings of whatever his 
fancy or whim finds fair and striking. But I 
should like to ask what poet is not primitive in 
heart when he is true. The real poet in the 
Japanese understanding is primitive, as primitive 
are the moon and flowers ; the voice of a wind 
we hear to-day is the same voice which echoed, 
let me say, to the ears of Adam and Eve through 
the valley and trees. I think it is quite a happy 
epithet to call the poets the friends of winds and 
moon. You may think it a pantheism if you will, 
when our Japanese poets go to Nature to make 
life more meaningful, sing of flowers and birds 
to make humanity more intensive ; it was from 
the sense of mystical affinity between the life 
of Nature and the life of man, between the beauty 
of flowers and the beauty of love, that I wrote as 
follows : 

" It's accident to exist as a flower or a poet ; 
A mere twist of evolution but from the same force : 
I see no form in them but only beauty in evidence ; 
It's the single touch of their imagination to get the 

embodiment of a poet or a flower : 
To be a poet is to be a flower, 
To be the dancer is to make the singer sing." 

Basho, the most famous Hokku poet of the 
seventeenth century, in fact, the real creator of 
the seventeen-syllable form of poetry, spent the 



38 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

best part of his life of fifty years in travelling ; 
travelling, or to use a better word, pilgrimage, 
for this Basho (" Basho " is his nom de plume, 
meaning banana-leaves whose flexibility against 
winds and autumn, he imagined, was that of his 
ephemeral life) was never searching after life's 
selfish joy ; it was a holy service itself, as if a 
prayer-making under the silence of a temple ; 
is there a more holy temple than the bosom of 
Nature ? He travelled East and West, again 
South and North, for the true realisation of the 
affinity of life and Nature, the sacred identifica- 
tion of himself with the trees and flowers ; he 
could not forget Nature even at the final death 
moment when he wrote a Hokku poem saying : 

" Lying ill on journey, 
Ah, my dreams 
Run about the ruin of fields." 

The thought of Basho makes me think of Walt 
Whitman ; the above poem of Basho 's recalls 
to my mind Whitman's pathos of his last years : 
" I am an open-air man : winged. I am an open- 
water man : aquatic. I want to get out, fly, 
swim I am eager for feet again. But my feet 
are eternally gone." I read somewhere of Whit- 
man denying the so-called " literature " (ac- 
cidentally laughing, scorning, jeering at his 
contemporaries). " I feel about literature what 
Grant did about war. He hated war. I hate 



literature. I am not a literary West Pointer j 
I do not love a literary man as a literary man, 
as a minister of a pulpit loves other ministers 
because they are ministers : it is a means to an 
end, that is all there is to it : I never attribute 
any other significance to it." Basho always 
spoke from the same reason that there was no 
other poetry except the poetry of the heart ; he 
never thought literature or so-called literature 
to be connected with his own poetry, because it 
was a single noted adoration or exclamation 
offhand at the almost dangerous moment when 
his love of Nature suddenly turned to hatred 
from the too great excess of his love. It is the 
word of exclamation ; its brevity is strength of 
his love. Hokku means literally a single utter- 
ance or the utterance of a single verse ; that 
utterance should be like a " moth light playing 
on reality's dusk," or " an art hung, as a web, in 
the air of perfume," swinging soft in music of a 
moment. Now again to return to Whitman. 
He remarks somewhere j " New York gives the 
literary man a touch of sorrow ; he is never 
quite the same human being after New York has 
really set in ; the best fellows have few chances 
of escape." Although Basho never expressed 
his hatred of city life in such a bold emphasis of 
words as Whitman, as his were the days when 
politeness of language was inculcated, the fact 
of his spending the greater part of his life, now 



on the sleepy back of a horse by a whispering 
stream, then seeing the fallen petals in deep sigh 
with country rustics, is proof enough that he 
regarded a city life as fatal to his poetry ; he was, 
with Whitman, a good exemplar to teach us how 
to escape the burden of life ; and again the 
Hokku poems, if intelligently translated into 
English (indeed that is an almost impossible 
literary feat to accomplish), will give the most 
interesting example to encourage the modern 
literary ideal of the West which seeks its salva- 
tion in escape from the so-called literary. 

My literary mind of Hokku love often finds 
itself highly pleased, as if when a somewhat 
familiar face is disclosed out of the crowd under 
a strange flash of light, to discover a Hokku 
touch in English poetry in my casual reading 
of my beloved poet's pages ; I will call Landor 
a Hokku poet when he wrote the following ; 

" I -warmed both hands before the fire of life ; 
It sinks, and I am ready to depart." 

This poetical atmosphere is the atmosphere in 
which Buson wrote, as I mentioned before, 

" Osoki hi no 
Tsumorite toki 
Mukashi kana," 

which might be translated as follows : 

" Slow-passing days 
Gathered, gathering, 
Alas, past far-away, distant ! " 



PATMORE AND CHIYO 41 

Although the poet simply appears to recollect 
the past (making objectivity in poetical ex- 
pression reveal his subjectivity clearer through 
the virtue of the poem's being a good Hokku}, 
the meaning that he is ready to depart when fate 
calls upon him will be well understood by those 
whose spiritual endowment is rich enough to read 
the part of silence. I can point out sometimes a 
Hokku effect of poetry even from the works of 
Tennyson and Browning ; it is not too much to 
say that many of Wordsworth's poems could be 
successfully turned as series of Hokku poems. 
My humanity always thrills, trembles in reading 
"The Toys," from Coventry Patmore's The 
Unknown Eros, as if, when I read Chiyo's lamenta- 
tion over her dead boy, a little thing really worthy 
of a place in any Greek Anthology 

" The hunter of dragonflies, 
To-day, how far away 
May he have gone I " 

Now let me contrast one of the well-known 
poems by Rossetti, " The Woodspurge," with a 
Hokku poem by Basho. " In moments of intense 
sorrow or grief," Lafcadio Hearn was wont to 
repeat in his class-room, " when all the energies 
are paralysed, all the mental faculties being 
stricken into inaction, any new or strange thing, 
however small, seen accidentally, will be re- 



42 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

membered for all the rest of one's life." Rossetti 
has the following : 

" From perfect grief there need not be 
Wisdom or even memory : 
One thing then learnt remains to me, 
The woodspurge has a cup of three." 

And Basho's poem to which I invite your atten- 
tion has the following : 

" Being tired, 

Ah, the time I fall into the inn, 
The wistaria flowers." 

Our Japanese HoTcku master, the lone poet on 
a certain forgotten highway, found the beauty of 
the wistaria flowers most strikingly appealing to 
his poetic mind now simplified, therefore in- 
tensified, through the physical lassitude resulting 
from the whole day's walk ; if Basho had been a 
man of more specialised mind, in the modern 
sense, he might have taken notice of some for- 
gotten flower with its peculiarity by his feet, 
when he rested himself on the bamboo porch of 
a country inn, perhaps facing the open garden 
where the evening silence already had begun to 
steal. 

When I say the best Hokku poems do never 
know their own limitations, (remember, they are 
only seventeen syllables), that is because they 
are of the most essential of all the essential 
languages, which is inwardly extensive and out- 



THE VOICE OF SPONTANEITY 43 

wardly vague ; a severe restraint imposed on one 
side will be well balanced by the large freedom 
on the other. As in any poem of any other 
country, the Japanese poet's work also rests on 
the belief that poetry should express truth in its 
own way ; by that truth we Japanese mean 
Nature ; again by that Nature the order of 
spontaneity. Lao Tze says : " Man takes his 
law from the earth ; the Earth its law from 
Heaven ; Heaven its law from Tao ; but the law 
of Tao in its own spontaneity." It was the 
Chinese sage's greatness to interpret, you might 
say, psychologically God by the single word of 
spontaneity. When I measure our Japanese 
poetical truth by the said spontaneity, my mind 
dwells on the best Hokku poems as the songs 
" with no word, not tyrannised by form," on 
which I wrote as follows : 

" A birth of genius, 
Ascension of creative life, 
Passion indefinable, 
Accident inevitable : 
A song, thou art phenomenon but not achievement." 

They are the voice of spontaneity which makes 
an unexpected assault upon Poetry's summit ; 
the best expression for it would be, of course, 
suggestion or hint of its eccentricity or emphasis. 
As the so-called literary expression is a secondary 
matter in the realm of poetry, there is no strict 
boundary between the domains generally called 



44 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

subjective and objective ; while some Hokku 
poems appear to be objective, those poems are 
again by turns quite subjective through the great 
virtue of the writers having the fullest identifica- 
tion with the matter written on. You might 
call such collation poetical trespassing ; but it 
is the very point whence the Japanese poetry 
gains unusual freedom ; that freedom makes us 
join at once with the soul of Nature. I admit 
that when such poetical method is carried to the 
extreme, there will result unintelligibility ; but 
poetical unintelligibility is certainly better than 
the imbecility or vulgarity of which examples 
abound, permit me to say, in English poetry. 
It is the aim of this Japanese poetry that each 
line of the poem should appeal to the reader's 
consciousness, perhaps with the unconnected 
words, touching and again kindling on the 
particular association ; there is ample reason to 
say that our poetry is really searching for a far 
more elusive effect than the general English 
poetry. 

As I said before, the Hokku poems are, unlike 
the majority of English poems, the expression of 
the moods or forces of the writer's poetical 
exertion, and their aim, if aim they have, is hardly 
connected with the thing or matter actually 
stated, but it casts a light on the poetical position 
in which the writer stands ; although the phrase 
might be taken wrongly hi the West, our Japanese 



THE POETS OF ATTITUDE 46 

poets at their best, as in the case of some work of 
William Blake, are the poets of attitude who 
depend so much on the intelligent sympathy of 
their readers. Their work is like a silent bell of a 
Buddhist temple ; it may not mean anything for 
some people, like that bell which has no voice at 
all. But the bell rings out, list, in golden voice, 
when there is a person who strikes it ; and what 
voice the bell should have will depend on the 
other. And again the Hokku poem is a bell 
helpless, silent, when v with no reader to co- 
operate ; when I say that the readers of Japanese 
poetry, particularly this Hokku poem, should be 
born like a poet, I count, I should say, their 
personal interest almost as much as that of the 
writers themselves. Therefore in our poetry the 
readers assume an equally responsible place ; 
and they can become, if they like, creators of 
poems which in fact are not their own work, just 
as if one with a bell-hammer did create the bell 
hi the real sense. We have one very famous 
Hokku in the following ; 

" Furu ike ya 
Kawazu tobikorau 
Mizu no oto." 

(" The old pond 1 
A frog leapt into 
Liat, the water sound ! ") 

I should like, to begin with, to ask the Western 
readers what impression they would ever have 



46 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

from their reading of the above ; I will never be 
surprised if it may sound to them to be merely a 
musician's alphabet ; besides, the thought of a 
frog is even absurd for a poetical subject. But 
when the Japanese mind turns it into high poetry 
(it is said that Basho the author instantly awoke 
to a knowledge of the true road his own poetry 
should tread with this frog poem ; it has been 
regarded in some quarters as a thing almost 
sacred although its dignity is a little fallen of 
late), it is because it draws at once a picture of 
an autumnal desolation reigning on an ancient 
temple pond whose world-old silence is now broken 
by a leaping frog. But a mind of philosophical 
turn, not merely a lover of description, would 
please to interpret it through the so-called 
mysticism of the Zen sect Buddhism. Basho is 
supposed to awaken into enlightenment now 
when he heard the voice bursting out of voiceless- 
ness, and the conception that life and death were 
mere change of condition was deepened into faith. 
It is true to say that nobody but the author 
himself will ever know the real meaning of the 
poem ; which is the reason I say that each reader 
can become a creator of the poem by his own 
understanding as if he had written it himself. 
Take the following poem by Buson : 

" Katamari ni 
Muchiutsu 

no aruji kaixa." 



BUSON AND BROWNING 47 

(" The lump of clay 

He beats with a stick, 

He, the master of the plum-orchard.") 

There might be many people, I believe, who will 
wonder where in the world poetry will come in 
from a piece of clay beaten by a stick. But be 
patient, my friends. This is quite an excellent 
Hokku poem ; here we have a scene of some old 
retired master of a plum-orchard now in a stroll 
(" And day's at the morn ; morning's at seven," 
perhaps as in Robert Browning's song in Pippa 
Passes), who beats a lump of clay playfully while 
walking lazily. And go again to the lines of great 
Browning : 

" God's in His Heaven 
All's right with the world." 

Do you still call the above Hokku nonsense ? 
Take one more poem by Buson in the following : 

" Suzushisa ya 
Kanewo hanaruru 
Kaneno koyo." 

(" Oh, how cool 
The sound of the bell 
That leaves the bell itself.") 

Some little amplification would perhaps help 
in understanding the beauty of the above poem ; 
but if your sensitive ears can differentiate the 
sounds of a bell in the daytime and during the 



48 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

night it is certainly futile to dwell on it. Although 
the author never tells when he heard the bell, I 
would understand it to be the bell of very early 
Summer morning, when the whole world and life 
are in perfect silence ; if you awake at such an 
hour, your bodily composure making your ears 
doubly susceptible to any sound, I am sure your 
mind will become at once cooler with the sound 
of a bell which, with the finest feeling, leaves the 
wooden bell-hammer, and bids good-bye. And 
take still one more poem by the same author in 
the following 3 

" Haru no voya 
Yoi akebono no 
Sono Nakani." 

(" The night of the Spring, 
Oh, between the eve 
And the dawn.") 

The old Chinese poets sang on the Spring eve, 
prizing it above many thousand pounds in gold, 
while the Japanese Uta poets of ancient days 
admired the purple-coloured dawn of Spring ; in 
the opening passages of Sei Shonagon's Mdkura 
Zoshi or Pillow Sketches we have the follow- 
ing g "In Spring," to use Aston's translation, 
" I love to watch the dawn grow gradually white 
and whiter, till a faint rosy tinge crowns the 
mountain's crest, while slender streaks of purple 
cloud extend themselves above," Such is the 



THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION 49 

beauty of a Spring dawn. Now Buson is pleased 
to introduce the night of the Spring which should 
be beautiful without questioning, since it lies 
between those two beautiful things, the eve and 
the dawn ; and we are thrice glad with this 
Buson's Hokku. 

I have quite an interest in the pages of English 
translation or free rendering of our Japanese 
poetry, because I learn from them the point of 
the Western choice of the subjects, and where 
the strength or weakness of the English mind lies 
in poetical writing ; take the following Hokku 
poem with the translation by Edwin Arnold and 
Miss Walsh : 

" Asagawo ni 
Tsurube torarete 
Moral mizu." 

(" The morning-glory 

Her leaves and bells has bound 

My bucket handle round. 

I could not break the bands 

Of these soft hands. 

The bucket and the well to her left, 

' Let me some water, for I come bereft.' ") 

(" All round the rope a morning glory clings ; 
How can I break its beauty's dainty spell T 
I beg for water from a neighbour's well.") 

With due respect to these translators, I ask 
myself why the English mind must spend so 
much ink while we Japanese are well satisfied 
with the following ; 

4 



50 THE JAPANESE HOKKU POETRY 

" The well-bucket takon away 
By the morning-glory 
Alas, water to beg ! " 

Is it not the exact case as when the Western 
fountain-pen attempts to copy a Japanese picture 
drawn with bamboo brush and incensed Indian ink 
on a rice paper, in which formlessness, like that of 
a summer cloud, is often a passport into the sky 
of the higher art of Japan ? When the English 
poet must cling to such an exactitude, let me 
dare say, as if a tired swimmer with a life-belt, 
I have only to wonder at the general difference 
between East and West in the matter of poetry. 
Take another example to show in what direction 
the English poetical mind pleases to turn i 

" I thought I saw the fallen leavea 
Returning to their branches : 
Alas, butterflies were they." 

What real poetry is in the above, I wonder, 
except a pretty, certainly not high ordered, fancy 
of a vignettist ; it might pass as fitting specimen 
if we understand HoTcku poems, as some Western 
students delight to understand HoJcku poems, 
by the word "epigram." Although my under- 
standing of that word is not necessarily limited 
to the thought of pointed saying, I may not be 
much mistaken to compare the word with a still 
almost dead pond where thought or fancy, nay 
the water, hardly changes or procreates itself ; the 



MAGIC OP POTENTIAL SPEECH 51 

real Hokkus, at least in my mind, are a running 
living water of poetry where you can reflect 
yourself to find your own identification. (There- 
fore the best Hokku poem is least translatable in 
English or perhaps in any language.) It is, as I 
wrote already somewhere, " like a dew upon lotus- 
leaves of green, or under maple-leaves of red, 
which, though it is nothing but a trifling drop of 
water, shines, glitters, and sparkles now pearl- 
white, then amethyst-blue, again ruby-red, 
according to the time of day and situation ; 
better still to say this Hokku is like a spider- 
thread laden with the white summer dews, sway- 
ing among the branches of a tree like an often 
invisible ghost in the ah 1 , on the perfect balance ; 
that sway indeed, not the thread itself, is the 
beauty of our seventeen-syllable poem." 

But you must know that such language can 
only apply to the very best Hokkus, which, when 
introduced with sympathy rather than mere 
intelligence, will serve, through their magic of 
potential speech, using Arthur Ransome's phrase, 
or, let me say, potential effect, the modern 
Western writers or poets, as I said before, in 
search of an escape from the so-called literature ; 
and these very best Hokku poems cannot be, in 
my opinion, more than half a thousand, nay, 
perhaps not more than two hundred and fifty in 
number from all works written in the last three 
hundred years. As there are indeed a, most 



prodigious number of productions, my estimate 
will show, I believe, that even a dozen good 
Hokkus in one's whole life would not be regarded 
as a bad crop. In fact, the Hokku poems pro- 
duced in the time before great Basho's appearance 
(1644-1694), when, under the influence of Teitoku, 
Teishitsu, and Soin Nishiyama, the school of art 
for art's sake, from the point of intricacy, manner- 
ism, and affectation, was finally formed under the 
name of Danrin or " Forest of Consultation," are 
certainly not better than the butterfly poem 
quoted above ; although Basho and his disciples 
(it is said that this Basho had three thousand 
disciples or followers hi his life's days) rescued 
poetry from the hands of such a school of artistic 
vulgarity, the Shofu or " The School of Righteous 
Wind " which he established, we might say, 
with the power of faith and prayer, became soon 
again sadly degenerated ; and it was Buson 
Yosano, who, now putting aside the brush for 
the picture, as he was an eminent artist of his 
own days, cried out for the so-called poetical 
revival of the Tenmei period. There was no 
more popular poetry once than this Hokku form, 
and still popular it is even to-day, when our 
insularity, poetical or otherwise, has been irre- 
vocably broken. It goes without saying that 
where was a great master was a great Hokku 
poem which never makes us notice its limitation 
of form, but rather impresses us by the freedom 



HOKKU POEMS AT THEIR BEST 53 

through mystery of its chosen language as if a 
sea-crossing wind blown in from a little window. 
There have been, since the Grand Restoration, a 
few bold attempts at a Hokku revival, notably 
that of the late Shiki Masaoka ; but it is not my 
present aim to follow after their historical record. 
What I hope to do at this moment is to point out 
to you the very value of the Japanese poetry of 
this peculiar form. 

Arthur Ransome says somewhere in his paper 
called " Kinetic and Potential Speech " : " It is 
like a butterfly that has visited flowers and 
scatters their scent in its flight. The scent and 
the fluttering of its bloom-laden wings are more 
important than the direction or speed of its flying." 
Such language applies to the Hokku poems at 
their best. I agree with Ransome in saying : 
" Poetry is made by a combination of kinetic 
with potential speech. Eliminate either, and the 
result is no longer poetry." But you must know 
that the part of kinetic speech is left quite un- 
written in the Hokku poems, and that kinetic 
language in your mind should combine its force 
with the potential speech of the poem itself, and 
make the whole thing at once complete. Indeed, 
it is the readers who make the Hokku's imper- 
fection a perfection of art. 



Ill 

NO: THE JAPANESE PLAY OF 
SILENCE 



THE word dignity, applied to the dramatic art, 
may mystify you, though it may not necessarily 
mislead you, because it is often mistaken for the 
pessimism which is apology at best. In em- 
phasising the independence of the Japanese No 
drama, I have in mind the special audience it 
created with the patience of centuries. When 
I say that it has no need to wait on its audience, 
I have in my mind the fact that it was that very 
audience which originated and perfected it as 
we see it to-day on the stage of Kanze, or Hosho, 
or Umewaka, or Yamashina, or Kudan, of 
Tokyo. It is not too much to say that the 
audience, not more than three hundred in number 
for each performance is that not a large enough 
audience ? are all of them No actors themselves. 
It is beautiful to see them, like fully flowed water 
blessed by sunlight, in the appreciation which 

54 



DEDICATED TO POETRY AND SONG 55 

is realised through silence, its highest reach seen 
in their motionlessness of posture. It is true, 
though it may sound arbitrary to say it, that the 
real actors on the stage not more than three in 
one play, as it is the simplest affair, this No 
(is that not enough characters, again I ask, to 
make poetry move ?) find their secret of fire or 
passion where the audience lose themselves. 
This No house is a sacred hall dedicated to 
poetry and song, where the actors and audience 
go straight into the heart of prayer in creating 
the most intense atmosphere of grayness, the 
most suggestive colour in all Japanese art, which 
is the twilight soared out of time and place ; it 
is a divine sanctuary where the vexation of the 
outer world and the realism of modern life leave 
to follow, when on the stage, the eight persons of 
the chorus in two rows, with profile to the audience, 
and the musicians, a flute and two tambourines, 
with their backs to the wooden end wall at the 
back of the stage, take their own proper places, 
and the flute sends out, as the beginning of the 
performance, the thrill of invocation ages old, as 
if a cicada whose ghost-voice curses the present 
Japanese " civilisation." It is an oasis in the 
human desert of modern life, this little hall of the 
No play, where I often spend the whole day, as 
the performance begins usually as early as nine 
o'clock in the morning, and gain the thought that 
artistic Japan is not wholly lost ; and I feel there 



56 NO : JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

happiness and sorrow rhythmically commingled, 
a human feeling already joined with deathlessness, 
seeing right before me the great ghost of the Past 
and Eternity, because the Present slips away like 
a mouse chased by sunlight. 

You know well enough there is a great deal of 
cant in the term " appreciative audience " of 
modern usage in theatrical reviews or papers. 
When we must spend two or three years in 
realising how many others fail in becoming No 
appreciators, it means that those elected in this 
particular art, where appreciation is not less, 
perhaps is greater, than the acting itself, will find 
their own lives vitalised with the sense of power 
in Japanese weariness. When we feel the beauty 
of the monotony of the No drama that is gained 
by the sacrifice of variety, I think that our work 
of appreciation is just started. I cannot forget 
the impression carved on my mind, which was 
then roughened, stiffened, by the toss of Western 
life of quite many years, when I first entered 
Hosho's No house some ten years ago. It was 
the month of October, with maple-leaves and 
passion-flowers fallen, with birds and love flung 
away, whose gray heart was in perfect accord 
with this No performance. I smiled to my 
friend, who was a great appreciator, playfully but 
none the less delightedly, when I noticed the 
" honourable names " of those occupants, lords 
or barons or what not, written on the wooden 



THE NON-EXISTENCE OF SPACE 57 

tablets stuck on each box. I think I must have 
felt even uncomfortable on seeing myself among 
the select few. My plebeian mind, which was 
familiar with the general theatre-goers of other 
common houses created by advertisements, was 
struck by the sight of the dresses in quieter shade 
of the lady audience, even those of the younger 
ladies who put aside their wild whims to satisfy 
and not to break the quiet atmosphere of the 
No house ; and I was surprised at the general 
quietude that overflowed from the hearts of 
artistic sensibility. The audience make me think 
of the people in the tea-room or Sukiya for a 
ceremonial sip of tea, wrapped in silence and 
grayness ; what difference is there between the 
three hundred people in the hall, and the five 
persons that are the usual number to be put in 
the tea-room, since the theory of the non-ex- 
istence of space to the enlightened has much 
meaning ? When I saw the people here in the 
hall move in and out of the boxes, without spoken 
words, like silent birds from twig to twig, with 
a slight bow that was beautiful, the web-like 
passways again reminded me of a roji or garden 
path connecting the portico where the guests 
wait, with the tea-room where, you have to break 
away from the dust and din of the world, to 
prepare yourself for the aesthetic enjoyment of 
the tea. Such a comparison, I admit, may 
sound too elaborate or even improbable. But 



58 NO : JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

the point I wish to make is that the passways 
of the No hall mean more than the pathways 
of the pits of common theatres. If you cannot 
connect them with the " garden path " I would 
be glad to suggest to you, as a tea-master might 
when you step through the twilight by the moss- 
covered granite lantern in the roji, to think for 
a while of the shadow of summer foliage, or the 
stretch of a sea, or the slow fall of the evening 
moon, even after you have entered your own 
box, and be ready to enter the artistic world 
created by your heart gray and cold, and then 
you have to open the book of the libretto on your 
knees as the others do, with the sight of the 
chorus taking their own seats on the stage. 

There is no other stage like this No stage, so 
small, being twenty-five feet square at the largest, 
all opened except the wall facing to the audience, 
where the painted old pine-tree, as old as the 
world, as gray as poetry, looms as if a symbol 
of eternity out of the mist (think of the play of 
Takasago, the hosts of pine-trees in the shapes 
of an old man and woman singing deathlessness 
and peace) the long gallery or bridge on the 
same level connected with the stage on the right, 
along which the No actors move as spectres and 
make the performance complete, the passage of 
a beginning and ending, I might say Life and 
Death. When you see the roof, you will be im- 
pressed by the dignity of existence itself which 




IMAGINATION IS EVERYTHING 59 

the Western stage has not ; but, as you can 
create the portion called Kakoi or enclosure for 
the temporary purpose of a tea-gathering by the 
device of screens, so you can build the No stage 
at any time in your Japanese house, three or four 
rooms being combined when the most obedient 
screens slip away. And it is your poetical 
imagination thank Heaven, imagination is every- 
thing for this No to perfectly fill in the utter 
lack of stage scenery an<i furniture ; though there 
are many occasions, to be sure, when you might 
be doubtful of your power of imagination as to 
imagine the deep valley of Arashiyama of cherry- 
tree fame with a few paper-made cherry-blossom 
twigs, the big bell-tower with the paper-made 
bell hung from a shaking wooden frame, and, too 
extraordinary still, to fancy the ship, water, 
oars, of course, from a bamboo pole. I dare say, 
however, it will delight minds tired from the 
burden of the spectacular show in the West ; 
indeed, the time may be already at hand, or at 
any rate quite near, when the Western stage will 
heed the lesson of Japanese simplicity, particularly 
of this No drama, whose archaism might give a 
divine hint how to sift the confusion and to 
rhyme beauty and life with emphasis. I believe 
you will be moved, as I have been moved, and 
again will be on future occasions, now to smile 
and then to cry with the actors wearing the self- 
same mask of painted wood (you know that No 



60 NO s JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

is the mask play to speak directly, although that 
is not an exact translation) which, marvellously 
enough, seems to differentiate the most delicate 
shades of human sensibility ; we should thank 
our own imagination which turns the wood to a 
spirit more alive than you or I, when neither the 
actors nor the mask-carvers can satisfactorily 
express their secret. I know that the mask is 
made to reserve its feeling, and the actors wonder- 
fully well protect themselves from falling into 
the bathos of the so-called realism through the 
virtue of poetry and prayer ; and when I realise 
it is from the same old humanity that tears and 
smiles, brothers or sisters by blood relation, 
spring forth, their difference being only a little 
shade of colour, the mystery that the No hall 
performs on our human minds will be explained 
to a great measure. This is the house of fancy 
where those who can only find strength from the 
crudity of their five senses have no right to step 
in, but the silent worshippers of the Imperfect 
will congregate for the holy exercise of ritual of 
their imagination ; it is not the whole truth to 
say that it is the No's dignity to command you 
to believe in its representation, though you may 
incline to think otherwise, as for instance in the 
case where a No character of a lady, whose voice 
and posture are not different from a man's, is 
resented on the stage, but it is for your poetical 
mind flatly to object to seeing the superficial 



THE ASHIKAGA LORDS 61 

reality, and to surrender all criticisms for the sake 
of appreciation. Indeed, the actual expression of 
the No stage is ever so slight and ephemeral, like 
many other artistic expressions, the sighs of 
crickets or shivers of flowers ; we have gained, as 
we behold it, great brevity at an almost astonish- 
ing cost of human energy. It goes without 
saying that the plays themselves are brief ; and 
I have many reasons to be thankful that the 
stage has never been troubled with the dropping 
curtain from the beginning till to-day, because 
the curtain only serves, in my opinion, to bar 
the stage, to remind us always that we have to 
restrain ourselves and not come into too close 
communication with the actors. And what use 
is the No hall if you cannot drop the curtain in 
your imagination ? although it may not be so 
often as in other theatres even at this No hall, 
you have sometimes to drop the curtain yourself 
before the play is finished. 

I have had occasion before to associate the 
No hall with the tea-room where, through the 
fragrance of tea, the melody of the boiling kettle, 
and the curl of incense, you will slowly but surely 
enter the twilight land of the Unknowable ; 
when you are told that both of them were prac- 
tically formed, encouraged, and developed under 
the rule of the Ashikaga lords from the early 
fourteenth century down to the close of the 
sixteenth century, who attempted, and even 



62 #0 : JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

succeeded in their attempt, to invigorate human 
lives with that simple lesson of simplicity, the 
comparison, I think, will not seem a mere spiritual 
speculation. And was there ever a time like 
to-day when the complex is replacing the homo- 
geneous, when we need such a lesson in all the 
aspects of life ? What variety and richness 
have we earned, I ask, from making the entire 
sacrifice of that simplicity ? I am glad to say 
that the No drama has fully revived from the 
temporary oblivion of fifty years ago, and has 
two or three hundred appreciators at each 
performance ; if we treat it as a case of protest, 
I would say that protest is the thing we need 
most to-day. Whenever we think of the No 
plays, our thanks are first turned to Yoshimitsu, 
the third great lord of the Ashikaga government, 
the mighty propagandist of the tea-ceremonies 
and the No drama ; and we must not forget 
Yoshimasa, the eighth lord who almost completed 
the drama as we have it to-day. It was the 
greatness of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the wonderful 
fighter of Japan, to leave his name associated 
with Soyeki or Rikyu, the greatest of all tea- 
masters, and also with the No actors. When 
we remember that the simplicity and archaism 
of the so-called tea-ceremony grew out of the 
purism of the Zen monastery or priest hall of 
meditation, it will be clear enough that the No 
drama must have an equal connection with 



BORN LIKE A MYSTERY 63 

Buddhism ; in fact, there is no play among those 
three hundred plays in existence which has no 
appearance of a priest whose divine power of 
meditation or prayer invariably leads the ghost 
of a warrior or a lady, or a flower, or a tree into 
the blessing of Nirvana. To call the No the 
ghost play has no real meaning, any more than 
to call it a priest play ; the main point is to tell 
the human tragedy rather than comedy of the 
old stories and legends seen through the Bud- 
dhistic flash of understanding, as most of the 
plays were written by priests or by those people 
most influenced by Buddhism, as was quite natural 
in those days. The names of the authors, alas, 
are forgotten, or they hid their own names by 
choice. Even when some of their names, Seami 
and Otoami for instance, are given, it is said 
by an authority that they are, in fact, only 
responsible for the music, the dance, and the 
general stage management. It was the time when 
nobody asked who wrote them, if the plays 
themselves were worthy. What a difference 
from this day of advertisement and personal 
ambition ! When I say that these plays were 
born like a mystery from the national impulse 
and love of literature, I mean that they are not 
the creation of one time or one age ; it is not far 
wrong to say that they wrote themselves, as if 
flowers or trees rising from the rich soil of tradition 
and Buddhistic faith, As literature, they are 



64 #0 : JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

things apart from the aristocratic writing en- 
couraged by the Kyoto court in the former age, 
being democratic in sentiment, though not in the 
style of the lines and phrases, which are in truth 
the noblest expression of poetry, and might be 
compared with the magnificent dresses of stiff 
brocade the actors wear as they move along to 
the deep cadence of music ; there are no better 
examples of epic poetry in our Japanese literature 
than the No plays ; it is not too much to say 
that there is not a phrase, an image, an incident 
too much or too little, not a false note of at- 
mosphere or feeling ; they are exquisite and 
deathless, these most proud, most living, most 
un wasted rhythms of human song and heart-cries. 



H 

This No, already strongly encouraged by the 
said Hideyoshi (many new pieces were added, in 
his time, to the already large repertory, and 
alterations were made to those already in practice) 
had become the most important factor of the 
nation's life, when the time came down to the 
Tokugawa feudal age. To recite lines from the 
No, and to act on the stage if possible, was 
regarded to be one of a gentleman's accomplish- 
ments ; the No play, in contrast to the common 
theatre, held the most noble, dignified place of 
entertainment. And so it is to-day. It was 



THE ROBE OF FEATHERS 65 

thought even sacred ; it began to assume the 
most necessary role at a wedding ceremony. 
With the singing of a passage from " Takasago," 
it is believed your wedlock will be sealed . ' ' Taka- 
sago," the happy play celebrating constancy, 
endurance, health and longevity, is represented 
by an old man and an old woman busy hi the 
work of raking up the pine-needles under the 
pine-trees. The passage says : " True it is that 
these pine-trees shed not all their leaves ; their 
verdure remains fresh for ages long ; even among 
evergreen trees the emblems of unchangeable- 
ness exalted is their fame to the end of time 
the fame of the two pine-trees that have grown 
old together." What are these two pine-trees ? 
Who are the old man and woman ? The ghosts 
of the trees are nothing, but the old man and 
woman singing the age of golden and happy life. 
Among some three hundred plays now in exis- 
tence, there is no other like " The Robe of 
Feathers " that gracefully carries the delicate, 
statuesque beauty of composition and sentiment. 
It is the play of a fairy whose feather-robe was 
stolen by a fisherman at Mio's pine-clad shore, 
while she was bathing, and was finally given back 
upon her promise to dance. Not to go to ex- 
tremes, even in sadness, is taught in Japan to be 
the height of cultured manners ; here we have 
every Oriental beauty and lamentation in the song 
of this fairy who could not fly back to the sky i 

5 



66 NO i JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

" Vainly my glance doth seek the heavenly plain, 
Where rising vapours all the air enshroud, 
And veil the well-known paths from cloud to cloud." 

She promised that she would dance the dance 
that makes the Palace of the Moon turn round, 
and would leave her dance behind as a token to 
mortal men, if her robe were restored to her. 
However, the fisherman doubted lest she might 
return home to heaven without dancing at all ; 
then the fairy said : 

" Fie on thee ! The pledge of mortals may be doubted, but 
in heavenly beings there is no falsehood." 

As I said, the No is the creation of the age 
when, by virtue of sutra or the Buddha's holy 
name, any straying ghosts or spirits in Hades 
were enabled to enter Nirvana ; it is no wonder 
that most of the plays have to deal with those 
ghosts or Buddhism. That ghost liness appeals 
to the poetical thought and fancy even of the 
modern age, because it has no age. It is the 
essence of the Buddhistic belief, however fantastic, 
to stay poetical for ever. Although the No's 
repertory does not change, our conception and 
understanding will be altered ; it is thus that 
they can keep always fresh themselves. Here we 
have one play called " Yama Uba " or "Moun- 
tain Elf " ; the author, undoubtedly a learned 
priest, attempts to express by the play that we 
are souls much troubled in a maze of transmigra- 



HYAKUMA YAMA UBA 67 

tion, indeed, like the Mountain Elf, who, it is 
said, spends all the dark night circling round the 
mountain. That mountain is a symbol of life 
itself. The plot grows intense at the point 
where enters a famous dancer called Hyakuma 
Yama Uba, a woman who has earned such a 
name from her dancing of the Mountain Elf 
circling round the mountain. She has lost her 
way in Kagero no Yama, or the Hill of Shadow, in 
a pilgrimage toward Zenkoji, the Holy Buddhist 
Temple ; and here she meets the real Elf or 
Yama Uba, with large star-like eyes and fearful 
snow-white hair, who demonstrates to her the 
way how she encircles the mountain, nay the 
mountain of Life. The play ends as may be 
expected of this No play ; after making her 
prayer to the Elf, the dancer disappears over 
mountains and mountains, as her life's cloud of 
perplexity is now cleared away, and the dusts of 
transmigration are well swept. This little play 
would certainly make a splendid subject for a 
modern interpretation. For some long while my 
mind dwelt on it, wishing to write something. 
And also a play called " Morning-Glory " is 
interesting ; the flower, in the play, cannot 
enter Nirvana on account of her short life of only 
one morning, and her jealousies that burn on 
seeing the other flowers who enjoy a longer life. 
However, her ghost will disappear with satis- 
faction when she listens to a sermon from the 



68 NO : JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 

priest. I have written a dramatic fragment 
on the subject after my own fashion as follows : 

THE MORNING-GLORY 

(A DRAMATIC FRAGMENT) 

Priest. 

" Who is the guide in Life's chartless field ? 
See the black robe of the priest for the changeless love of the 

Lord 

(The robe is black, as black night, with mercy's depth) : 
I count my rosary, I count the sins of the world and life ; 
My prayer is the evening bell to turn them to rest. 
My face is ever turned to joy and the West 
To the West, where lies Heaven, the only real place. 
'Tis mine to make the suffering souls obedient to Law and 

Truth, 

And then regain the song of dissolution and rest. 
What is the flower that I see before my eyes ? 
Is it not the Morning-Glory, the flower of Summer's dream 

and dews ? 

It is strange to see it now when Autumn's silence 
Has calmed down the fire and heart of Nature and song ; 
It is like a lyric forgotten and unsung 
Villager, tell me what flower it is." 

Villager. 
" Father, it is none other than the Morning-Glory." 

Priest. 

" Is it the custom here to see it blooming under the pale 
October sky ? " 

Villager. 
"No, father. It is the first time I have seen it." 



THE MORNING-GLORY 69 



Priest. 

" See the tremor of the cup of the flower, as if it fears to 

exist ; 

Oh, bareness of beauty that has soared out of life ; 
Is it a real morning-glory ? 
Is it not only imagination or pain itself ? 
I hear in its tremor a certain human speech, but voiceless. 
What a mystery, what moumfulness, what tragic thrill ! 
I am a priest for whom stones and grasses prepare a nightly 

bed, 

A companion of water, trees, stars, and night ; 
Here will I sleep and solve the mystery with the power of 

prayer. 
Oh, flower, whatever name thou bearest, take me thia night 

as thy guest." 

(The villager goes out. It becomes dark ; the first 
night-bell rings. The priest recites the holy 
words. The lady enters as a waft of autumnal 
wind. ) 

Lady. 

" How my heart burns in madness and pain : 
Oh, misery to be a prey to fire and unrest ! 
I am a wandering spirit of discontent from Hades, 
After the Life that ascends, the Life of whiteness and the 

sun ; 
Oh, my hatred of dissolution and death ! " 



Priest. 

" Who art thou, lady ? Thou seemest to be a soul dead, but 

not dead, 
Cursor of Nirvana, straying soul of unrest." 



Lady. 
" Father, I am the spirit of the Morning-Glory." 



70 NO : JAPANESE PLAY OF SILENCE 



Priest. 

" Dear child of dews and summer's impulse, 
Why wanderest thou as a spirit of malice and evil ? " 

Lady. 

" I crave for the longer life of the many other flowers 
That have only to grow with the sun and the day : 
Oh, shortness of my life that ended before its day began ! 
How I long to feel the joy of life and the sun that was not 
mine ! " 

Priest. 

" Poor child, there is no life where is no death : 
Death is nothing but the turn or change of note. 
The shortest life is the sweetest, as is the shortest song : 
How to die well means how to live well. 
Life is no quest of longevity and days : 
Where are the flowers a hundred years old ? 
Oh, live in death and Nirvana, live in dissolution and rest, 
Make a life out of death and darkness ; 
Lady or flower, be content, be finished as a song that is 
sung ! " 

Lady. 

" Happy am I to hear such words, holy father, 
Pray, pray for my sad soul that it may return to Hades and 
rest ! " 

Priest. 
** Namu, amida butsu ..." 

(The lady disappears at once into the Morning-Qlory. 
The moon rises. The flower withers. The mid 
night bell rings.) 



IV 

THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 



I USED to linger around the spot at Kamakura 
marked by a stone commemorating the street 
preaching of Nichiren, that undaunted spirit of 
a Buddhist priest born to a fisher's family in the 
Awa province in 1222, whose belief in the mysteri- 
ous law of the White Lotus made him proclaim 
himself a prophet. And I would call to my 
imagination the continuous scene of persecutions 
the priest encountered gibes, railings, and even 
stones ; he exclaimed at the beginning of the 
establishment of his own Buddhism, the sect 
of the White Lotus : " Know that all the sects 
in existence are a way to Hell, or the teaching of 
infernal hosts, or a heresy to destroy the nation, 
or an enemy of the land. These are not my words, 
but I found them in the sutra. And I am the 
messenger sent by the Worshipful for the teaching 
of the Real Law." When he attempted with the 
fervent tongue of a propagandist, to destroy at 
one stroke the old formulae and conceptions (or, 
more true to say, superstitions), by emphasising 
the individualistic fire of Buddhistic inspiration 

71 



72 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

through whose activity he himself, as he de- 
clared, was the symbol of the infinite, his mind 
dwelt on the religious freedom born out of the 
idealism whose real manifestation can only 
appear through the highest development of the 
individual life. Nichiren saw clearly that Japan 
or Japanese life had been greatly harmed by the 
pessimistic interpretation of Buddhism, with its 
thought of Nirvana or peaceful haven far beyond 
where your absorption of the infinite can only 
be realised through the virtue of death, a death 
that does not recognise individuality. It was 
Nichiren's Activism (with apology to the German 
professor) to make life more meaningful, or 
again to make death more meaningful by that 
meaningful life, through the true Buddhism 
perfectly delivered from the despotism of ignorance 
or misconception ; it is not far wrong to say that 
he alone found the meeting ground of Buddhism 
and the thoughts of our Japanese ancestors who, 
like sunflowers, most passionately sought after 
life and sunlight ; on the sunflower I wrote once 
in The Pilgrimage, a book of verses, the following 
lines ; 

" Thou burstest from mood : 
Marvel of thy every atom burning in life. 
How fully thou livest ! 
Passionate lover of sunlight, 
Symbol of youth and pride ; 
What absorption of thy life's memory, 
Wonder of thy consciousness, 
Mighty sense of thy existence ! " 



RECORDS OF ANCIENT MATTERS 73 

I am thankful to Nichiren, although his in- 
fluence was not universal, for his hopeful, brighter 
mind (it was almost a Western mind), whose 
theological adventure would certainly please the 
followers of Eucken ; it was the effect of the 
common pessimism of Buddhism or thought of 
Nirvana, combined with the morality and ethics 
of the Confucian literature, that our original 
Japanese mind, indeed quite a Celtic mind, like 
that of the young woman in Yeats' Land of 
Heart's Desire, who ever wearied of four tongues 
and wished to dance upon the mountains like a 
flame, had slowly but steadily lost its imagination 
and passion, and our lives had become hardened 
and disfigured. I leave aside the question of 
religion, because my chief concern for the present 
moment is in poetry whose rejuvenation may 
depend in some measure on a leader (such a 
leader as Nichiren in religion) a leader who, like 
Whitman, will cry for " the splendid silent sun 
with all his beams full-dazzling " from the 
worshipping mind gladdened in Nature's sanctuary 
where our ancestors of three thousand years ago 
loved and lived. They had only the thought of 
life and birth, again the thought of birth and 
eternal life, never the thought of death and 
shadow ; how our Japanese ancestors hated 
shadow and death is recorded in the first page of 
Kojiki or Records of Ancient Matters, the earliest 
book of Japanese literature in existence, as it 



74 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

was actually written or completed in A.D. 712. 
On this book I am going to dwell presently at 
greater length. 

Go back to the age, that is many thousand 
years ago, when our Japanese mind was the 
Japanese mind pure and true, not the Japanese 
mind of later age, sometimes, doubtless, refined 
and polished, but always wounded and tormented 
by the despotic counsel of Chinese literature and 
Buddhism, therefore the Japanese mind like the 
sunflower, as I said before, a seeker of sunlight 
and life, the Japanese mind which is the personi- 
fication of life's activity itself ; you might call 
it the individualism, conscious or unconscious, 
following after the modern fashion. Let me ex- 
claim as I exclaimed on the sunflower : " Marvel 
of thy every atom burning in life, how fully thou 
livest ! " Our later Japanese spiritual history 
in literature or what not is more or less the history 
of quietism or negation in which the great charm 
and attraction is the thought of Cathay called 
death ; I myself am pleased to sing on and of 
death because it makes life more strong, more 
beautiful, and more meaningful through its virtue 
of difference ; and when I put stress upon the 
fusion of death with life, or upon valuing them 
equally, my mind thinks on the real spiritual 
freedom which will soon become a perfect idealism 
like a broader day born from the mixed souls of 
East and West. But when the Japanese mind 



YAMATO-TAKE 75 

of later days began to deal with death as a state 
lifeless, or something hard and final, then the 
thought of death ceased to have a better, greater 
influence on life ; I despise such a death or such 
a thought of death. Go back to the age when 
our ancient Japanese did not know death and 
shadow, or even when they knew them, did not 
think much of them, or scorned them, like 
children laughing with winds and sun. To 
return to the age of Kojiki is indeed a rare treat 
in a time like to-day, when our aspiration or 
ambition, I mean that of the Japanese, only 
wastes its energy under incongruities, contra- 
dictions, and confusions of wild cross-currents of 
East and West. 



ii 

Here in the second volume of Records of Ancient 
Matters we have a story in Yamato-Take (not 
only that one story, but many other stories scat- 
tered in the first and last volumes) which will 
surely please a mind of Meredithian cast, epic- 
loving ; one who fully endorses the so-called 
evolutional philosophy in the Woods of Wester- 
main, or the cultivation of the power of the will, 
can find enough material for building his songs 
of tragic life ; that rude philosophy of Meredith's 
our forefathers practised unconsciously. They 
such a self-strengthening mind and will 



76 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

(indeed the ancient Japanese thought was that 
life's greatest sin was the sin of weakness) as the 
old Norsemen thought ; but our ancestors hailed, 
I believe, from a warmer climate with poetry 
and love ; they were from the beginning poets 
and warriors. To return to Yamato-Take ; he 
was a fierce type like Meredith's King Harold ; 
while the English ballad ends with the following 
lines, 

" Sudden, as it were a monster oak 
Split to yield a limb by stress of heat, 
Strained he, staggered, broke 
Doubled at their feet," 

the story of Yamato-Take does not close with his 
death, because, from the hatred of death and 
shadow, his great dead spirit turned into a white 
bird eight fathoms long, soared up to the skies, 
and flew away over the seas, while the princesses 
and children who had shared equal pains under 
his conquering banner in the Eastern countries, 
pursued after that bird with their sad songs in 
heart, saying : 

" Impeded are our loins in the plain, 
(The plain thick with bamboo-grasaea) : 
Oh ! we are only on foot, 
Not flying through the skies." 

Again saying : 

" Impeded are our loins as we go 
Through the seas, oh ! tottering 
In the seas like herbs 
Grown in a great river-bed." 



PRINCESS OTO-TACHIBANA 77 

This great valiant spirit, son of Emperor Keiko 
who was already afraid of his wonderful valour 
and ferocity, had been again sent away -to conquer 
the unsubmissive bravoes of the East ; on 
receiving the Imperial command, he said : " The 
Heavenly Sovereign must be thinking that I 
should die quickly, for after sending me to smite 
the wild people of the West, I am no sooner come 
up again to the capital than, without bestowing 
on me an army, he now sends me off afresh to 
subdue the wicked people of the East. So I 
think that he certainly thinks I shall die quickly." 
It was in the almost mythological ancient age 
when even the father, if he be weak, often hap- 
pened to suffer the fate of a dove torn by a hawk ; 
although Yamato-Take clearly knew his father's 
intention, he could not disobey his command, 
and beside, his love of fighting for fighting's 
sake made him start with renewed joy toward 
the East, where he began a series of successes 
with the slaying of the rulers of Sagama. He 
lost his beloved wife, Princess Oto-Tachibana, 
while crossing the sea of Hashiri Midzu, who 
drowned herself in the waves for the purpose 
of calming the storm by the sacrifice of her 
own self ; it is said that the violent waves 
at once went down, and Yamato-Take's ship 
was able to proceed. His wife, this Japanese 
woman of many thousand years ago, already 
understood something of Meredith's following 



78 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

lines, of course with a variation of Japanese 
morality : 

" The lesson writ in red since time first ran : 
A hunter hunting down the beast in man ; 
That till the chasing but of its last vice, 
The flesh was fashioned but for sacrifice." 

Yamato-Take subdued and pacified all the East ; 
now reaching the moor of Yagi on the way home, 
he suddenly felt weak and exclaimed : " Whereas 
my heart always felt like flying through the sky, 
my legs are now unable to walk ; they have 
become rudder-shaped." Again at the village 
of Mike he exclaimed : " My legs are like three- 
fold crooks, and very very weary." 

Then he pulled his tired body to the Moor of 
Nobo, and from his deep love of his native land, 
he exclaimed, singing 

" O Yamato, the most hidden of lands, 
Yamato, snug within green hills, 
The hills encompassing thee with their fences, 
How delightful, O Yamato ! " 

And then he passed away, singing : 

" Thou whose life may be strong, 
Adorn thy hah", thou in health, 
With the bear-oak leaves from Heguri Mount, 
Be happy, my child ! " 

Such was the last song of this great spirit ; 
when you compare it with the Japanese songs 
of a later age, you will see that our ancestors, 



THE EMPEROR CHUAI 79 

even at the moment of death, were never taken, 
to use the modern words, by the thought of 
pessimism or sentimentality ; they were the 
singers of life and joy, not of death and tears. 

They knew the world was never made for weak 
body and mind ; they never exercised pity and 
compassion upon any form of weakness ; they 
believed that the instant that one begins to 
doubt his own strength, whether it be of mind 
or body, all the hopes pf winning life's prizes 
shall be at once overthrown. The fact that the 
sad destruction of life comes most surely through 
indulgence, not through struggle and pain, is 
well illustrated in the story of the Emperor 
Chuai somewhere in the second volume. 

The book reads as follows : "So when the 
Heavenly Sovereign, dwelling at the Palace of 
Kashii in Tsukushi, was about to smite the land 
of Kumaso, the Heavenly Sovereign played on 
his lute ; the Prime Minister, the noble Takeuchi, 
being in the pine court, requested the divine orders. 
Hereupon the Empress, divinely possessed, 
charged him with this instruction and counsel ; 
' There is a land to the Westward ; in that land 
is abundance of treasures dazzling to the eye, 
from gold and silver downward. I will now 
bestow this land upon thee.' Then the Heavenly 
Sovereign replied saying : ' If one ascend to a 
high place and look Westward, no country is to 
be seen. There is only the great sea. What 



80 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

lying deities.' He pushed away his lute, playing 
no more, and sat silent. Then the deities became 
very angry, and said through the mouth of the 
Empress : ' Altogether as for this Empire, it is 
not a land over which thou oughtest to rule. 
Do thou go only the road to Hades ! ' The Prime 
Minister, the noble Takeuchi, said : ' I am filled 
with awe, my Heavenly Sovereign ! Pray, 
continue playing thy great august lute.' The 
Heavenly Sovereign slowly drew his lute to him 
and languidly played on it. But when the 
sound almost immediately became inaudible, the 
Heavenly Sovereign was found, alas, dead." 
What a splendid subject this for a ballad or 
poem for a poet of Meredith's class. 

The first note we encounter in opening the 
pages of this Records of Ancient Matters is our 
ancestors' conception of death as defilement ; 
here we have a story of Izanami or His Augustness 
the Male-Who-Invites, who followed after his 
dead wife, Her Augustness the Female-Who- 
Invites, to the Land of Hades. When the male 
deity entreated her to come back again to the 
world, saying j " The lands that I and thou 
made are not yet finished making ; pray come 
back ! " Her Augustness the Female- Who-In- 
vites was pleased to consent, but begged her 
husband to wait for a little while, as she had to 
discuss the matter with the deities of Hades. 
And she made him promise not to attempt to 



EIGHT THUNDER DEITIES 81 

come to her while retiring within the palace of 
shadow. She tarried there so long, His August- 
ness the Male-Who-Invites would not wait any 
longer ; so having taken and broken off, this 
mythology goes on to say, one of the end-teeth 
of this close-toothed comb stuck in the left bunch 
of his hair, he lit a light and went in and looked. 
Alas, his wife-deity was rotting with swarming 
maggots ; in her head, it is written in the book, 
dwelt the Great Thunder^ in her breast the Fire- 
Thunder, in her belly the Black Thunder, in 
her private parts the Cleaving Thunder, in her 
left hand the Young Thunder, in her right hand 
the Earth Thunder, in her left foot the Rumbling 
Thunder, in her right foot the Couchant Thunder, 
thus altogether eight Thunder Deities dwelt 
there. His Augustness the Male-Who-Invites, 
indeed, overawed at the sight, fell back, while 
his wife, who grew mad, exclaimed : " Thou hast 
put me to shame," and sent the eight Thunder 
Deities with a thousand and five hundred warriors 
of Hades to pursue him ; but when they failed 
to meet him, Her Augustness the Female- Who- 
Invites came out herself in pursuit. She was 
blocked by a huge rock at the Even Pass of 
Hades which the male deity had placed there 
for his own protection ; here these two deities 
stood opposite to one another, and Her August- 
ness the Female-Who-Invites was first to speak, 
and she said : "If thou doest like this, I will 

6 



82 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

in one day strangle to death a thousand of the 
folk of thy land." Then His Augustness the 
Male-Who-Invites replied : "If thou doest this, 
I will in one day set up a thousand and five 
hundred parturition houses, and make the women 
bear children. Suppose a thousand people may 
each day die ; but each day a thousand and five 
hundred people will be born." Thus birth 
conquered over death, the land of light over the 
land of shadow. 

The great deity who defeated death and per- 
suaded the deities of shadow not to pursue any 
more, said ; " How hideous ! I have come to a 
hideous polluted land ; I will perform the purifica- 
tion of my person." Then he went into a plain 
and by a river near Tachibana in the island of 
Tsukushi, and began to purify and cleanse him- 
self ; it is written in the book, that, when he 
threw down his girdle, the Deity Road-Long Space 
was born thence, the Deity Master of Trouble 
from his upper garment he put aside, the Deity 
Master of the Open Mouth from his hat, and so 
on ; thus the twelve deities altogether were born 
from his taking off the things that were on his 
person. And then from the bathing of his 
august person itself the other fourteen deities 
came into existence, among them the three 
illustrious children at whose birth His Augustness 
the Male-Who-Invites was rejoiced, the Heaven 
Shining Great August Deity from his left eye, 



LIFE'S ACTIVE SPIRIT 83 

His Augustness Moon-Night Possessor from his 
right eye, and His Brave Swift Impetuous Male 
Augustness from his nose. When these three 
deities, the first and second representing the sun 
and moon, the last ruling the seas, were born, 
we know that the creation of the world was in 
good shape. Not only from garment or eyes, but 
from anything or anywhere, indeed, even from a 
cough, our ancient deities, it was supposed, had 
such a power or magic to produce anything and 
everything by their free will, and they inspired 
their own personalities into the things they created. 
All the phenomena thus exhibited were, in our 
ancient Japanese mind, nothing but the symbol 
of life's active spirit ; the great reverence of our 
forefathers toward the deities or gods was only 
fierce adoration or praising expression toward 
the power or strength which overflows from the 
bosoms of mighty personalities. I dare say that 
it would do justice to class it with the common 
pantheism or Nature-worship you find in ordinary 
barbarous tribes ; when Japanese scholars like 
Motoori declare that the gods or deities of old 
Japanese mind were human beings, it is from their 
belief that the conception of gods should be based 
on the true realisation of life's fire. 

Therefore, where was the real expression of life 
was a deity ; there are no men who created so 
many gods or deities as the old Japanese ; to 
them most impossible Japanese names were 



84 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

given, names like Ameno-Minaka-Nushi or Takami 
Musubi or Umashi-Ashikabi-Higoji. 



m 

The date of A.D. 712 was given to Kojiki 
(Records of Ancient Matters), in fact, the first 
written book in Japan, in its completion ; it is 
said that Yasumaro, the author, took it all down 
from the lips of a certain Hiyedano Are, a Kata- 
ribe or reciter whose official function, at the 
very early Mikado's government of the Nara 
period, was to retell ancient records from his 
memory ; it will be believed that they must 
have been changed, some parts perhaps omitted, 
or others added, during the process of retelling 
from one reciter to another. It is not my work 
to discuss here their value as legends of history ; 
my important concern with them is their poetry, 
that is to say, the poetry of our Japanese an- 
cestors, which runs through almost every page 
of the book. When I read love-songs diffused 
here and there in these three volumes it makes 
me think of a popular ditty like the following : 

" What does never change, 
Since the days of the gods, 
Is the way how a river runs : 
What does never change 
Since the days of the gods, 
la the way how love flows." 



THE PRINCESS OF NUNA-KAHA 85 

One of the early love-songs is found when the 
Deity-of-Eight-Thousand-Spears went forth to 
woo the Princess of Nuna-Kaha and sang on his 
arrival at her house as follows : 

" His Augustnesa the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand-Speara, 
With no Spouse in the Land of the Eight Isles, 
Now has heard in the far-off Koshi Land there is a maiden 

wise, 

Now has heard there is a maiden beauteous : 
Here he stands to truly woo her. 
Here he goes backward and forward to woo her, 
Having untied even the cdrd of his sword, 
Having untied even hia veil, 

He pushes baok the plank door shut by the maiden ; 
He stands here, forward he pulls it : 
Here he stands, he soon hears the Nuge singing on the green 

hill; 

And the bird of the moor, the pheasant, resounds, 
The bird of the yard, the oock, crows : 
Oh, the pity that the birds should sing, oh, these birds ! 
Oh, how soon the night dawns ! 
Would that I could beat them to siokness and death ! " 

Then the Princess of Nuna-Kaha, without 
opening the door, sang from within : 

" Thine Augustness the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand-Spears, 
Being a maiden like a drooping plant, 
My heart is just a bird on a bank by the shore ; 
My heart is now indeed a dotterel. 
But it will soon become a gentle bird ; 
So as for thy life, do not deign to die." 

Again she sang in the following fashion : 

" The sun may hide behind the green hills. 
The night, the jewel-black night will come forth ; 
I will then welcome thee. 
Smile like the glad morning sun and come ; 



86 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

Thine arms white as rope of paper-mulberry bark, 
Shall softly pat my breast soft as melting snow ; 
Patting each other interlaced, 
Stretching out, pillowing us on each other's arms, on true 

jewel- arms, 

With outstretched legs, oh, will we sleep. 
So speak not too lovingly, 
Thine Augustness the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand-Spears ! " 



The Chief Empress, Her Augustness the For- 
ward-Princess, got very jealous ; His Augustness 
the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand Spears was greatly 
distressed when he was about to go from Izumo 
to the Land of Yamato ; as he stood attired, with 
one hand on the saddle of his horse and one foot 
in his stirrup, he sang, saying : 

" I take and carefully attire myself 
In my garments black as the jewels of the moor ; 
Like the birds of the offing I look at my breast, 
I find these are not good, 
And cast them off on the waves of the beach. 
1 take and carefully attire myself 
In my garments green as a kingfisher ; 
Like the birds of the offing, I look at my breast, 
I find these too are not good, 
And cast them off on the waves of the beach. 
I take and carefully attire myself 
In my raiment dyed in the sap of the dye-tree, 
The pounded madder sought in the mountain fields ; 
Like the birds of the offing, I look at my breast, 
I find they are good. 

My dear Younger sister, Thine Augustness ! 
Though thou say thou wilt not weep, 
If, like the flocking birds, I flock and depart, 
If, like the led birds, I am led away and depart, 
Thou wilt hang down thy head. 



THE FORWARD-PRINCESS 87 

Like a single eulalia upon the mountain 

Thy weeping shall indeed rise 

As the mist of the morning shower, 

Thine Augustnesa, my spouse young like young herbs ! " 



Then the Empress taking a great liquor cup, 
and drawing anear and offering it to her husband 
deity, sang as follows : 

" Thine Augustnesa the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand-Spears ! 
Thou, my Master-of-the Great-Land, being a man, 
Mayest have a wife young like young herbs, 
On all island headlands that thou seest, 
On every beach headland that thou lookest on ; 
But as for me, alas, being a woman, 
I have no man except thee, I have no spouse except thee, 
Beneath the fluttering of the ornamented fence, 
Beneath the rustling cloth coverlet, 
Thine arms white as rope of paper-mulberry bark 
Softly patting my breast soft as melting snow, 
Patting each other interlaced, 
Stretching out, pillowing us on each other's arms, on true 

jewel-arms, 

With outstretched legs, oh, will we sleep. 
Luxuriant liquor, oh, pray, lift up ! " 



The fact that the ancient Japanese patiently 
bore any amount of pain for conquering love is 
illustrated in how His Augustness the Deity-of- 
Eight-Thousand Spears found his Empress, that 
is Her Augustness the Forward-Princess, and 
married her ; he was put in a snake-house by her 
angry father when he discovered their love, and 
again in a house filled with centipedes when he 



88 THE EARLIEST JAPANESE POETRY 

was rescued. And after many happenings His 
Augustness the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand Spears 
grasped the hair of the father of the Princess, 
while he was sleeping, and tied it fast to the 
various rafters of the house, and after blocking up 
the floor of the house with a huge rock, he carried 
off his new wife on his back, and ran away. It 
is written in the book that when he ran away, 
the heavenly-speaking lute which he also carried 
on his back brushed against a tree and the 
beautiful voice of the lute resounded, shaking 
the earth. I think that our old ancestors had 
quite a developed sense of music ; here is a 
story, the most beautiful of all the stories which 
illustrates their delicacy of feeling. 

There was in the reign of the Emperor Nintoku 
a tall tree on the west bank of the river Tsuki ; 
the shadow of this tree, on its being struck by 
the morning sun, it is said, reached to the Island 
of Ahaji, and on being struck by the evening sun, 
it crossed Mount Takayasu. When the tree was 
cut down, it was made into a vessel which proved 
to be a very swift-going one, and it was called 
by the name of Karanu. With this vessel the 
water of the Island of Ahaji was drawn morning 
and evening and presented as the great august 
water. The vessel became ruined and useless in 
time ; some broken pieces of this old vessel were 
used as fuel to dry salt, and other pieces of wood 
that remained over from the burning were turned 



KARANU 89 

into a lute, whose sound beautifully re-echoed 
seven miles away. Some one sang, saying : 

" Karanu was burned for salt ; 
The part that was left was made into a lute ; 
Oh, when, struck, listen, it sounds 
Like the wet trees standing 
Hocked on the reefs in the middle of the wave, 
In the middle of the Yura Sea." 



V 
THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 



THE conservatism of Japanese " poetry " often 
proved to be a cowardice with little claim to 
wisdom ; the poets (here I mean chiefly the 
thirty-one-syllable Uta writers) had been taught 
it was a dignity to rigidly observe the ancient 
form and spirit. Though I admit that changes 
are not always a triumph, and that modernity 
is not an emancipation altogether, their loyalty 
was more or less a literary superstition. They 
had to appear at least under a self-denying guise. 
Uniformity was their special virtue, individuality 
was regarded by them to be little short of vul- 
garity. Their poems turned to be the expression 
of an etiquette whose formality took the place 
of life and beauty ; no sudden change was 
permitted in their old kingdom. And any con- 
scious introduction of foreign elements, any 
advance in diction, imagery, or motive, was 
not readily recognised. The limitation which 
originated as a test of strength now degenerated 
to a confession of weakness. There was a time 

90 



THE NEW FORM OF POETRY 91 

when we thought that nothing could be more 
perfect than our little poems, and they are 
remarkable, in fact, but " for what they are not, 
rather than for what they are," as W. C. Aston 
cleverly put it ; indeed, wonderful in their 
felicity of phrase, melody of versification, and 
true sentiment, within their narrow limits. But 
that was ages ago. The Uta poets had been 
already for a long time a sort of dilettantes who 
did no small harm to the development of our 
Japanese poetry, which, under any circumstances, 
could not be left alone to be ruined. Modern 
Japan is the age of evolution and expansion ; 
our poetry also began to undergo their influence. 
It would be more proper, however, to say that 
the Uta poets were left undisturbed with full 
freedom to stick to the original key if they 
wanted to, while the younger poets for themselves 
started a new form of poem called Shintaishi, 
meaning the new-styled poem, with larger scope 
and greatly increased resources ; it is well-nigh 
reaching already to some achievement. 

It is true that the simplicity of our old Uta 
poets was a source of charm and often surprise, 
and at the same time it was rather tragic for the 
poets to be forced to keep it up. They were 
obliged to make a completely unconditional 
surrender to the ancient form and thought, and 
to spin from the same old subjects. The chang- 
ing seasons, the voice of a running stream, the 



92 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

snow-capped Fuji Yama, waves on the beach, 
the singing of insects or birds, a cherry-blossom, 
maple-leaves, Spring rains, longing for home, 
and the like, were the subjects. The Uta poets 
lamented over the dead, and complained enough 
about the uncertainty of life ; but their voices 
were not from their actual study of real life ; 
they never speculated of Heaven and where they 
should go after death. Repetition is not without 
delight entirely when it is musical ; but we shall 
grow very tired of being suggested the same thing 
all the time ; monotony is often suicidal. But 
our shintai-shijin (the new-styled poem-writers) 
broke off at once from such a prejudice which 
is, at its best, the refuge of an impoverished mind ; 
and they left the old home of restriction and flew 
out into the freedom of nature and life. We may 
say that our Japanese poetry received a baptism ; 
and it seems it has somehow revived. 

Not only the subjects, the form of the poetry 
as well underwent a change. The modern poets 
could not rest satisfied with the hereditary shape, 
which consisted of five phrases of lines of 5, 7, 5, 7, 
and 7 syllables, 31 syllables in all. (And there 
is another shorter form, consisting of 5, 7, and 5, 
which you already know in Hokku.) To-day 
they make their own forms to fit their own songs ; 
some use lines of 5 and 7, repeating them to a 
considerable length as they wish, while some use 
lines of 7 and 6 ; many forms like 5 and 5 ; 7 and 



LIKE THE ENGLISH POETS 93 

7 ; 8 and 6 ; 7 and 8 ; 7 and 4 ; 7 and 6 ; 3, 3, 
and 4 ; 4, 7, and 6 ; 5, 7, and 7 ; 5, 7, and 5 ; and 
others have been invented to advantage. But 
since every syllable of the Japanese language ends 
in a vowel, and there are only five vowels, no 
poet could be successful in the use of rhyme j the 
result would be only intolerably monotonous if 
we used i* . However, there are many who at- 
tempt to overcome the weakness ; and even 
alliteration has been introduced. We have a 
trick of words in Ufa, poetry called makura kotoba 
or " pillow-words," standing at the beginning of 
a verse, and serving, as it were, as the pillow upon 
which it rests ; it might be said to be an adjective 
in many cases ; but always it is unintelligible 
and often absurd. Another bit of word- jugglery 
is the " pivot-words " ; a word or a part of a 
word is used in two senses ; one, with what 
precedes, the other with what follows. The use 
of such artifices is utterly despised by our modern 
poets. The old poets tabooed in their poetry 
the introduction of a monosyllable Chinese word, 
which the shintai-shijin freely use ; and again the 
latter are not shy about using even English. Like 
the English poets, they have begun to use the 
personification of abstract qualities. In one 
word, they are not so very different from them 
in writing lyrics, ballads, allegories, epics, and so 
forth. However, it may be some time yet 
before we see real development of the drama. 



94 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

Some ten or fifteen years ago the poems of 
"storm and stress" overflowed in Japan; in 
this phase our poets were not far behind their 
Western brothers. 

It was in the early fifteenth of Meiji (1882) 
when the Shintaishi were first introduced by the 
professors of the Imperial University, the late 
Masakazu Toyama, Tetsutaro Inouye, and others, 
who published their collections of new poems 
and translations from the Western poets. But 
in fact there was not much to consider till Toson 
Shimazaki appeared some ten years later. 



II 

Shimazaki's Wakanashu enthroned him at 
once as the master of Shintaishi ; in that respect 
he reminds us of Bryant, who suddenly illumined 
the dearth of early American poetry. (How 
undeveloped was this new-style poem before his 
appearance like a comet !) Even Shimazaki's 
actual work of his early days, A Ramble in the 
Forest for instance, with quite an interesting 
interruption in a sort of duet : 

Mountain Spirit. 

" The deer, when they fall to death, 
Return to love of their wives. 

" The fields and hills, when they wither away, 
Return to Spring a thousand years old." 



A JAPANESE THANATOPSIS 95 

Tree Spirit. 

" Let TIB bury the old fallen leaves 
Under the shadow of leaves, tender, green. 

" Awake from winter's dream-road, 
Come to this forest of Spring." 

might be called a Japanese interpretation of 
Thanatopsis. We have more than one reason 
to compare him with Bryant. He began his 
work at the right time when it was easier for 
a poet to sing, and at the same time easier for 
us to listen ; it was in the idyllic years, if we may 
say so (though they passed quickly as anything 
else in Japan) those four or five years we en- 
joyed before the China-Japan war which changed 
abruptly the aspect, atmosphere, and aspiration 
of the country, vivified the sense of life, and 
raised the question of the relation of man with 
man as well as of country with country. It 
was perfectly natural for Shimazaki to start as 
a poet of Nature ; as I understand, the landscape 
school of poetry is always first to appear in any 
country. On reading his poems to-day we 
cannot help showing our dissatisfaction with his 
want of persistence and minute observation ; 
and we need more enthusiasm, and some higher 
poetic dash. But his tone, sentiment, and re- 
sponsive imaginativeness which were brewed in 
the time when criticism was not so keen, and 
the impression of foreign knowledge not so strong 



96 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

as to-day, must be regarded fairly ; they give a 
delightful relief to our minds. In them he has a 
strong claim. He was a poet of sentiment, almost 
inclined to be sentimental ; he was always 
delicate, and often sad. (I should like to know 
where is a Japanese poet who is not sad.) He 
hated, as any other Japanese poet, the song of 
wisdom, faith, and liberty ; he was flexible in his 
mind, extremely facile in ear and voice. His 
voice was that of a youth which has never re- 
ceived any deep scratch from life ; and his love, 
which was passionate enough, but not from real 
experience, was only a speculation of his dream ; 
and then, the shade and colour of his love were 
very young, always fresh. He was a poet of 
Spring, when the flowers commingle with the 
birds to complete a beautiful concert. 

He was not a Tennyson who had a Keats and 
a Shelley for his predecessors ; in one sense, he 
was an originator. We cannot so severely 
criticise his diction, which, in fact, cannot be 
compared with that of a later poet who has 
boundless vocabularies at his command. He is 
a poet of a few words ; with a few words, he wrote 
a far better poem than you could expect. And 
he was not a poet of a few great poems ; we must 
see him as a whole ; it is true that he has no 
wonderful expressions nor separate lines for 
quotation. However, it is delightful to notice 
that he could not pretend to a feeling which he 



TOUCH OF SAIGYO HOSHI 97 

did not enjoy, nor did he hunt emotion and rap- 
ture for writing's sake as do the later poets. His 
cadences and pauses were so pleasing. He was 
meditative, but not slow and also not profound ; 
in one word, he was elementary. And that is 
one reason why even to-day all the beginners of 
Shintaishi should go to him first ; he is the father 
of the " new-style " poem in that sense. (That 
is also like Bryant in America.) 

In those days Rossetti and Swinburne were 
not known in Japan, and Wordsworth, Tennyson , 
and Longfellow were the only names. However, 
I am not sure at which shrine he burned his 
incense, although it is clear enough that he was 
greatly influenced by the Western magic. He 
who sang the nature and beauty of love in his 
first book of verses, began to weave the grief and 
tears of love in his Ichiyoshu ; here I notice a 
certain touch of Saigyo Hoshi, that great sad 
poet of the Kamakura period, whose Oriental 
longing was deepened by Occidental suggestive- 
ness. He associated nature with the ineffable 
yearning of art ; and he entered into the bosom 
of silence to seek his own home of poetry and 
ideal. 

" The light of the moon, 
Shining quiet, 

Why does it make me think 
Incessantly 7 
The shadow of the moon 
Has no voice, 



98 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

But it does steal 

Into one's bosom 

Oh ! I who am going to die 

From the world and love ! 

My thought which I do not tell, 

And this shadow of the moon, 

Which is more silent ? 

Which more sad ? " 

However, from the oppression of life's meaning, 
he could not stay young and dreamy, and suddenly 
stopped singing when he left Tokyo for Shinano, 
where he became a school-teacher. When he 
appeared again in literature, it was as a successful 
novelist. His life as a poet was short, but 
monumental. 

We must come to Bansui Tsuchii to find a 
representative of the culture and knowledge that 
advanced in no small degree with the Imperial 
University as their centre. (By the way, Tsuchii 
is a University man.) His real qualification as 
a poet is rather doubtful, but at the same time 
he is a living proof that a made poet, when he is 
properly made, is not altogether unacceptable. 
It is true that he made his Western learning help 
him to make a better display. It goes without 
saying that he was never moved by sudden in- 
stinct and quickening pulses ; but he was glad 
to scrutinise the phases of Nature, and the 
universal soul and ideal. He observed wisdom 
through Hugo and perhaps Schiller (he did not 
confine his reading to the English poets), and he 



WRESTLING WITH ETERNITY 99 

was pleased to add his own endorsement to them. 
The admirable part is that his poetical attitude 
was always sincere, his conception of life grave 
and just, but without tenderness. He was the 
first to wrestle with Eternity, and he did not 
return without something to his profit. His 
intellectual faculties were very well balanced, 
almost to the discreetest degree ; and under their 
right guidance he expressed his poetical thought, 
but that is not to say fire. So his poem was a 
result, not a first intention, whatever. His 
deliberation and thought were praiseworthy ; 
ethics was always hi his view. 

" An6 (elder sister) and Imo (younger sister), who were fed 
By the same Nature's, the same mother's honourable hands, 
The flower of the sky is called Star, 
The star qf our world ia called Flower. 

" This and that are parted afar, 
But their odour is the same, Star and Flower, 
Laughter and Light they interchange sweet, 
Every Eve, Flower and Star. 

" But when the clouds of the dawn grow white, 
And the flower of the sky fades away, 
Do you not see a drop of dew ? 
The star of our world is crying." 

We notice that many young poets grew nursed 
by wrong poets, and were carried away by the 
wild and fantastic passion and fire of a thoughtless 
youth. But there is no sounder poet than this 
Tsuchii, whose noble attitude of reverence toward 



100 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

the Western knowledge kept him at the proper 
place, and even helped him find the right clue 
of poetical mystery as he wished. Although his 
individual note was not impressive, his poems 
prove his clear truimph over that knowledge 
and culture which did not appear to him as a 
distraction ; and I will say that he was their 
best harvester. He was wise to desert his fellow 
university poets of pseudo-classicism like Take- 
jima or Shioi, and he gained a voice sonorous 
and rhapsodic, though not particularly rich, 
yet always attractive, from his excursion into 
the Chinese diction. Shimazaki was frequently 
effeminate, but Tsuchii was manly. He was 
always correct, and comprehensive, so then he 
lacked a touch of illusion. I am ready to say 
that he was quite commonplace, but he succeeded 
in making his commonplaceness often suggestive. 
I believe that it is no small art. 

Those who wished for a deeper colour and 
variety of diction than Shimazaki's, and showed 
a fatigue at his monotony, open their arms to 
welcome Kyukin Susukida. Susukida enshrined 
Keats in his heart ; like him he is a poet of 
Youth and Beauty, to whom Nature appeared as 
a background. At least so he was in his earlier 
books, Yukuharu and Botekishu. I do not say 
that he did not understand Nature, but he did 
not attempt to see her with his naked eyes, and 
he tried to robe her with his own idealistic robes. 



BEAUTY AND MELODY 101 

He did not incline to solve Nature and Life as 
Tsuchii, but he made them a symbol of love and 
poetry, through which he looked for salvation. 
He was a dreamer, but he never speculated in 
thought. He was simple. He hated the world 
vulgar and material. He is a poet of unerring 
culture who built the house beautiful, which he 
peopled with his choicest images and longing, 
who put beauty and melody of language before 
everything else. He has been verily often criti- 
cised as a classicist. It is true that his taste was 
refined by virtue of his training, and he could be 
quite graceful even when he had nothing to say. 
On the other hand, his mind never rose high, 
he brought no particular message to our life. His 
chief merit must be valued through the channel 
of his language which gives us a delightful change 
from Shimazaki ; indeed, he is the master of art, 
he had no competitor in its beauty. However, 
in his later work, there is plenty of reason to 
believe that he was trying to escape from his 
culture and classicism which benefited him at 
the beginning ; it is almost tragic to see his 
struggle. His hands are too delicate after a long 
habit of wearing gloves ; he is not accustomed 
so well to the open air. His views of life and 
beauty are far more advanced in his Nijugogen and 
Hakuyokyu than in his earlier books ; but it seems 
that he could not leave his classicism entirely. 
If he were smaller or larger than himself, I should 



102 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

say that he would be better off ; his strength is, 
after all, his weakness. 

We have two other interesting poets of modern 
Japan in Ariake Kanbara and Homei Iwano. 

in 

It seems to me that Ariake Kanbara had been 
wandering in the labyrinth of experiment (how 
he loved that wandering), not knowing exactly 
where he would come out ; he has much en- 
thusiasm ; his sensitive mind made his poetical 
ambition quick to flame up over a new thing. 
His travelling guide or companion was Rossetti 
at first, when he strove to hold the vision and 
romance of his own kingdom of music and love, 
his eternal land of imagination and youth : 

" I stand alone, and I hear 
The whisper sad, 

'Tia Heaven's whisper over the far-away sea, 
Which the white sunbeams spoke. 

" The voice is lone but clear, 
Quiet but bright, 

I can never know the whisper of the far-away sea, 
The whisper of the shining sky." 

I have been thinking sometimes that he had a 
false start in his poetical work ; it is true that 
he needed somebody to support him when he 
could not walk by himself ; but even at the time 
when he was perfectly able to manage himself, 
his face still turned instinctively toward his 
original help. We read many reflections and 



AS IN THE CASE OF BROWNING 103 

echoes of Rossetti even in his latest work. (By 
the way, he is the author of some four books of 
poems, the latest being Ariake Shu.) To have a 
support at the start is nothing particularly bad ; 
but at the same time it is enough of a disad- 
vantage. It is a question of genuineness for 
poetry ; realisation is the main thing. 

He has been often charged with vagueness ; I 
should say that he has only to smile over such a 
charge. We are rather glad that he has no aim 
of amusing his readers in fact, there he shows 
a poet's dignity. Vagueness is often a virtue ; a 
god lives in a cloud ; truth cannot be put on one's 
finger-tip. The darkness of night is beauty ; that 
is only another view of the light of day. Still we 
know that when a poet is great, he always goes back 
to the simplicity of nature ; there may come a time 
for him when he will cry for that simplicity as a 
child for his mother's milk. In fact, when he re- 
turned to simplicity he was most delightful, as in 
the case of Browning ; read one of his poems called 
"Shu no Madara" or "The Dark Red Shadow- 
Spots " with the following lines somewhere ; 

" Between the spaces, 
Of acacia branches commingled, 
Spread on 
The shining crown of clouds. 

Two alone in the shadowy lane, 

You and I ; 

Oh how lovely, 

The fragrance of the green ! 



104 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

" The breezes fan, 
The leaves of the acacia trees 
Turn on 
Dreamily. 

" The dark-red shadow-spots of the sun 
Swing ; 

Alas, of a sudden, 
My thought disordered." 

He is a builder of a brick house who sets his 
materials with care ; he is a curio-shop keeper 
who arranges his bric-a-brac with no small taste. 
He is not a free bird who sings to a star ; but he 
is a caged nightingale who sings beautifully. 
His understanding of what it is to be a poet is 
thorough ; and he can be that quite easily. 
However, his poetical atmosphere is rather close 
and shut up ; his mind is too systematic ; he has 
too good a head to be a great poet. What is 
symbolism if not "the affirmation of your own 
temperament in other things, the spinning of a 
strange thread which will bind you and the other 
phenomena together " ? Kanbara is that symbo- 
list ; he looks upon everything with his own 
special personality. We have no symbols in the 
strict literary meaning ; it seems to me that he 
has a great chance before him ; and if he can 
work out his own symbolism, he may create a 
special cult for the future generation to follow. 
But we are rather doubtful of the nature of his 
faith ; I have some reason to think that his 



LOVE, BUT NOT A PURPOSE 105 

symbolism may be only a fancy, that it has no 
root in the ground. It may be his love, but not 
a purpose ; and that is a weak point for him. 
He has elaborate adjectives, phrases, and descrip- 
tion, but we are sure he must find some other 
way to make his poem alive. Truth and beauty 
want no explanation, nor pomp of line. His 
poetical mind is clear like a looking-glass which 
reflects every line and colour. But his enemy is 
himself ; he has too much restraint, a certain 
heaviness, unmistakable difficulty with his lines, 
appeals too much to the reader's eye ; he has 
an excess of exactitude which only makes him 
difficult to follow. He uses too often a sharpened 
pencil to make a landscape of large size ; it makes 
the picture a failure as a whole ; he spoils the 
general effect by paying too diligent attention to 
details. He is a wonder of development ; he 
is a poet of taste. He takes a little seed of a 
strange flower, puts it in the ground, waters it, 
makes it bloom, places it on a tokonoma, and 
gazes at and admires it from every side ; he does 
not require a great subject to sing on. But his 
poetical mood is often sophisticated ; he is too 
careful, too timid, like a shy bird. And if he 
grasps life's meaning, unfortunately he kills it. 
It would be his triumph if he could leave out his 
classicism which he himself created. He has to 
conquer his own soul ; he has to learn the emotion 
of faith which is primal After all, his cleverness 



106 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

would be only his own fault. Some critic said 
that Mallarme (Kanbara's art, which originated 
in Rossetti, was improved later by Mallarme and 
other French poets) was obscure, not so much 
because he wrote differently, but because he 
thought differently, from other people ; now 
I should like to say the same thing of Kanbara. 
He thinks with a strange thought ; how many 
people of Japan could understand Rossetti or 
Mallarme ? There are so many echoes of them in 
Kanbara's poems ; but I do not mean to under- 
estimate his worth ; in that shade he is worthy 
and even wonderful. 



IV 

I have much to say on Homei Iwano. We hear 
of a poet of promise with youthfulness and a 
certain amateurish fire, but never reaching to a 
state of maturity ; such a poet is rarely guilty 
of falsehood or artificiality, but his want of the 
power of self-analysis is often wonderful. Iwano 
is one of that class. 

" 'Tis too sweet ah, the joy of the world, 
Spring joins with the road of dream ; what a vision 
(Light mist afar, sleeping flowers anear) 
Goes round my spirit's eyes. 

" Let me bid my careless love adieu, 
Under the window the slender rains fall on ; 
My yearning of the springing passion 
Would live in the breeze under the cloudy sky." 



A TOO OPEN SINGER 107 

His poem is that of mood, whether of love or 
other emotion ; and we are often sad when we 
are disenchanted, the veil of his muse's shrine 
having fallen. He is a too open singer ; his voice 
sometimes drops even into bathos. Suggestion, 
the spirit of atmosphere should be properly valued ; 
and we do not attempt to hold back the poet when 
he flies into the clouds. Iwano's imagination 
shows great variety in wealth and colour without 
depth, like a summer cloud which haunts the 
mountain peak. Questions in philosophy and 
reflection are not his own field ; but his specula- 
tion in thought and passion makes one of ten wonder 
and gaze. His poems themselves are his person- 
ality. His is the poetry of his transition age ; 
will he ever reach the time of realisation ? Doubt- 
less his spiritual life will evolve and he will gain 
intimacy with Nature in time. I think, however, 
that poetical sureness is more often born than 
made. It is a pity that he is much troubled with 
the richness of his own fire and thought, and, in 
spite of himself, loses his self -consciousness. We 
cannot find the silence and the odour of time 
and association in his free and often undisciplined 
songs. His head never turns back to the twilight, 
but looks forward to the sunrise and the sky. 
He has been accused of being an unthinking 
singer, who scatters his thoughts and wastes his 
passion on any subject ; in fact, he is at home 
on any subject, his sudden fire and thought rising 



108 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

up on the spot. He is the most versatile poet 
of the present day ; and, naturally, he has un- 
consciously degenerated into every excess. And 
it seems to me that he always lacks just one touch 
of distinction. The heart of Nature is sad. Be- 
yond the sounds of the wind and the waves you 
will be impressed by the loneliness and beauty of 
silence, which is the dignity of Nature. The real 
poem should be like it. But it is regrettable in 
Iwano that his voice often stops at being only a 
voice, and lacks something which should lie 
beyond. On the other hand, his buoyancy and 
exaltation of imagination and swing are the out- 
burst of his own nature, frequently reminding us 
of the Celtic. (He is the Irish singer of Japan.) 
The question with him is not how to sing, but 
how not to sing. He was a poet ardently follow- 
ing after a romantic colour in life and passion 
when he published his Homei Shishu. I noticed 
then that his romanticism, too, tottered toward 
a sad confusion. But I begin to observe a great 
change in his later work. He is a born poet, and 
in any circumstances can be trusted as to his 
genuineness. He is not a bric-a-brac poet what- 
ever, but has yet to learn how to control his 
poetic impulse, which is his only guide. His 
mood is so compelling that he is carried on by 
the force of momentum, and troubled with his 
own gift. While I know that the gospel of the 
negative cannot be admiredj some sense of limjta- 



SAD LOVE AND SAD SONG 109 

tion would do him a world of good. He wrote 
" Tankyoku " in the Sad Love and Sad Song, 
the fourteen-line songs which proved successful. 
They are impressive in their own special way, 
one dwelling on a speculation in thought, and 
another carrying a terribly realistic picture of 
passion. What he sings in them is less Japanese 
than universal. " Tankyoku " is not a sonnet 
which should be rigid in form and idea ; it is 
simply written in fourteen lines t 

" Holding a stone which has no voice, 
I cry my world away with tears ; 
"Pis not for love as the other people say, 
'Tis not for the pain which I suffer most, 
'Tis more than my pain and love ; 
My flesh of burning thoughts will burn, 
And my hot tears alone run down, 
When the loneliness in my bosom comes to flow. 
Nor God nor Death is in me ; 
If there is a thing, 'tis this loneliness : 
Now I am a prey of my own life, 
And cry away this endless world with the stone ; 
It bears silence eternally growing, 
And I pour on it my own tears." 

It is acknowledged that in his later work he 
has deserted the golden realm of romanticism 
and entered delightfully into the silver-grey cloud- 
land of symbolism ; and he has made a better 
friendship with Verlaine, and taken him as a 
bosom friend without any proper etiquette, and 
even thinks that he is himself a Japanese Verlaine. 
I am sure that there is no slightest harm in it. 



110 THE POETS OF PRESENT JAPAN 

I do not call his transformation to some sort 
of symbolism from romanticism an advance to 
a higher poetical plane it is simply his line of 
evolution. And I see a delightful change in 
Iwano of to-day. But somehow I suspect that 
in his idea and poetry he is lusting after strange 
gods and kneeling to them in too free adoration. 
I even declare that he offends sometimes, but 
without any bad intention against good taste and 
discretion ; and I espy that he appears quite 
glad hi his own action. It is not a rebellion in 
his case by any means, but a revolution. But 
what is the saddest thing with this Iwano is that 
he has lately stopped singing ; he is squandering 
his own talent and passion on novel-writing and 
criticism. It is not alone myself that wishes his 
return to poetry. 

There are other names who have helped to 
make this new-styled poems or Shintaishi a strong 
literary force and brought it to the presentdevelop- 
ment for instance, Hakusei Hiraki, who grasps a 
large subject and executes with a rigid construc- 
tion and handsome but passionless rhetoric ; 
Tetsukan Yosano, whose life-long training in 
t/to-writing made his poems terse, and whose 
experience of life flashes sharp ; Suimei Kawai, 
whose calm rhythm and tender beauty of feeling 
might suggest a Longfellow ; Kagai Kodama, 
whose Byronic fire and surprise cannot be over- 
looked ; and Gekko Takayasu, who is the singer 



TOKOKU KITAMURA 111 

of Kyoto, the old capital, where he lives, that is 
to say, an appreciator of quieter life and somewhat 
old but pleasing ideality. And lastly, we cannot 
forget the name of Tokoku Kitamura, a singer of 
Byronism, who, some years before Shimazaki, 
already breathed a new poetical spirit into the 
poetry of modern Japan ; in truth, he might be 
termed the father of Shintaishi. The develop- 
ment of the last few years brought to the front 
two names, Hakushu Kitahara and Rofu Miki, to 
whose work special attention should be called. 



SOME VTA SPECIMENS FROM THE HYAKUNIN 
ISHIU ANTHOLOGY COMPILED IN 1235 
BY SADAIYE, A NOBLE OF THE KYOTO 
COURT 

" The flowers and my love 
Passed away under the rain, 
While I idly looked upon them I 
Where is my y ester-love ? " 

ONO NO KOMACHI. 

" Ono no Komachi," Ki no Tsurayuki remarks, 
" belongs to the school of Sotoori Hime of ancient 
times. There is feeling in her poems, but little 
vigour. She is like a lovely woman who is suffering 
from ill health. Want of vigour, however, is only 
natural in a woman's poetry." Although she left 
little work, her poetical capacity as well as her 
beauty, it is said, caused her to be called to the 
Imperial House. She was not from a family of high 
position by any means, as she was a daughter of a 
certain chief officer of a county. There is no other 
woman of old Japan whose life figures so largely in 
fiction ; and her name as a model of beauty more 
than as a poetess is universally known. Komachi is 
regarded as a synonym of " beautiful woman " ; there 
were or are many beautiful women nicknamed 
Komachi. Whether a fiction or not, Fukakusa no 

112 



ABE NO NAKAMARO 113 

Chujo's love-story with her is famous : it is said that 
his love was utterly scorned, and he called her to 
admit him to her house with no success whatever, 
and that he died under the winter snow on his hun- 
dredth journey. 



" Behold the heavenly vastness, 
The sky of the moon ! 
Is it not the same moon I once saw 
Out of Kasuga's Mikasa hill ? " 

ABE NO NAKAMARO. 

Abe no Nakamaro left Japan for China in his 
sixteenth year, and stayed in China for thirty-eight 
long years. The Emperor Benso admired his ability 
and appointed him as his secretary ; and Nakamaro 
changed his name and took the Chinese name of 
Choko, and considered himself as a Chinese. But 
it was the 4th of Tenbio Shoho (729), when the 
Japanese ambassador to China, FujiwaranoKiyokawa, 
was going back, and Nakamaro's thought of home 
stirred. And he decided to return to Japan ; and 
many of his friends, Oi and Rihaku, the two famous 
Chinese poets, among them, held a farewell party 
in Nakamaro's honour. It was a moonlit night when 
the dinner took place, and he wrote this Uta thinking 
about the moon that used to come out of Kasuga's 
Mikasa hill, which he knew well in his boyhood 
days. The Mikasa hill is in the outskirts of Nara. 
It is said that every member of the party wept over 

8 



114 SOME SPECIMENS 

his Uta. However, Nakamaro could not return home 
after all ; the ship in which he sailed met with a 
tempest, and he was shipwrecked. He died in China 
at the age of eighty-one. 



" thou, fisher's boat, 
Tell men that I sailed 
Away into the eighty isles, 
Into the bluest field, the sea ! " 

SANGI TAKAMUBA. 

This Sangi Takamura's Uta was written when he 
was put in a boat to be an exile in the far-away Iki 
island. It happened that he had been appointed 
vice-ambassador to China, the chief being Fujiwara 
no Tsunetsuyu, and the four ships which were to 
take the entire company were announced officially. 
And the first ship which Tsunetsuyu rode in was 
damaged when it had hardly left the shore, and he 
insisted on having Takamura exchange ships for 
his safety. The latter grew angry, and at once 
turned the head of his boat and landed ; and he 
resigned, saying that his old father needed him so 
that he could not go so far off. The Emperor Saga 
(810-842) was obliged to impose on him an official 
punishment since he had disobeyed his august com- 
mand for such a reason. 

He wrote some seventy Uta poems on his exile 
journey, which are said to be beautiful in diction 
and full of meaning. This Uta is one of them. 



MIBU NO TADAMI 115 



" To gaze upon the moon 
Is to be sad in a thousand ways, 
Though all the Autumn 
Is not meant to be my own self's." 

OYE NO CHIZATO. 

" 'Tis the Spring day 
With lovely far-away light. 
Why must the flowers fall 
With hearts unquiet ? " 

Ki NO TOMONORI. 

Some commentator says that this Uta poem is the 
best among all the Uta poems ever written in Japan. 



" Alas, my face betrayed 
The secret of my love. 
All men ask me why 
I am so sad." 

TAIEA NO KANEMOEI. 

" That I love thee 
Is known already. Ah, me ! 
I had been thinking that 
No one would know it." 

MIBU NO TADAMI. 

This Uta was written, it is said, on the 2nd of 
Tentoku (957), when the Emperor Reizei gathered 



116 SOME SPECIMENS 

the court poets and poetesses to hold an Uta contest. 
Among the love poems on this occasion, this is 
one of the best, the other best one being Taira no 
Kanemori's Uta, which precedes this poem. The 
poetical umpire Ononomiya pronounced Kanemori's 
the better. Tadami took the failure too hard to his 
heart ; and it is said that he died after ceasing to 
eat for some days. 



" The moon has nothing to make 
Me think and cry, 
But, alas, my own tears alone 
Do lament and fall." 

SAIGYO HOSHI. 

" Oh, thread of my life, 
Be torn off now if it must ! 
I fear in longer life 
My secret would be hard to keep." 

SHIKISHI NAISHINNO. 

I might show thee 

How the Oshima island fishers' sleeves 
Never change their tints, though wet through. 
But, alas, tearful sleeves of mine ! " 

IMPUKU MONIN NO OSUKE. 



DAJODAIJIN 117 

" List, the crickets sing ! 
Upon the mat of the frost-night, 
I, my raiment not yet unbound, 
Have to sleep alone." 

GOKYOKOKU SESSHO SAKINO 



" 'Tis not the stormy snow 
Luring the garden flower, 
But what is falling fast 
Is nothing but my own self." 

NYUDO SAKINO DAJODAIJIN. 

My sleeves are like 

The wide sea rocks unseen 

Even at the lowest tide. Nobody would know 

That their tears never dry." 

NuoNora SANUKI. 



118 



SOME HOKKU SPECIMENS BY THE 
MASTERS 

" To-day, at last to-day, 
I grew to wish to raise 
The chrysanthemum flowers." 

RANSETSU. 

" Autumn's full moon 5 
Lo, the shadows of a pine tree 
Upon the mats ! " 

KIKAKU. 

"Yellow chrysanthemum, white chrysanthemum : 
Why, the other names for me 
Are of no use." 

RANSETSU. 

" ' Let day pass, 
Let night break.' 

The frogs sing they sing morning and eve." 

BUSON. 

" Ah, how sublime 
The green leaves, the young leaves, 
In the light of the sun ! " 

BASHO. 



Printed by Uazell, Walton M \Viney, Id., London and Aylesbury. 



THE WISDOM OF THE EAST 
SERIES 

Edited by L. CRANMER-BYNQ and Dr. S. A. KAPADIA 




THE SERIES AND ITS PURPOSE 

THIS Series has a definite object. It is, by means of the best 
Oriental literature its wisdom, philosophy, poetry, and ideals 
to bring together West and East in a spirit of mutual sym- 
pathy, goodwill, and understanding. From India, China, Japan, 
Persia, Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt these words of wisdom have 
been gathered. 

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THIS is the drama of April played in Cintra one 
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