Japanese Text Initiative
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
The Noh, especially the Noh of spirits, abounds in dramatic situations, perhaps too subtle and fragile for our western stage, but none the less intensely dramatic. Kumasaka is martial despite the touch of Buddhism in the opening scene, where the spirit is atoning for his past violence.
Tsunemasa is gentle and melancholy. It is all at high tension, but it is a psychological tension, the tension of the séance. The excitement and triumph are the nervous excitement and triumph of a successful ritual. The spirit is invoked and appears.
The parallels with Western spiritist doctrines are more than interesting. Note the spirit's uncertainty as to his own success in appearing. The priest wonders if he really saw anything. The spirit affirms that "The body was there if you saw it."
As to the quality of poetry in this work: there is the favoured youth, soon slain; the
"Era gia l'ora che volge il disio."
[ They perform a service to the spirit of Tsunemasa. ]
I am Sodzu Giokei, keeper of the temple of Ninnaji. Tajima no Kami Tsunemasa, of the house of Taira, was loved by the Emperor when he was a boy, but he was killed in the old days at the battle of the West Seas. And this is the Seizan lute that the Emperor gave him before that fighting. I offer this lute to his spirit in place of libation; I do the right service before him.
Although it is midnight I see the form of a man, a faint form, in the light there. If you are spirit, who are you?
I am the ghost of Tsunemasa. Your service has brought me.
Is it the ghost of Tsunemasa? I perceive no form, but a voice.
It is the faint sound alone that remains.
O! But I saw the form, really.
It is there if you see it.
I can see.
Are you sure that you see it, really?
O, do I, or do I not see you?
Changeful Tsunemasa, full of the universal unstillness, looked back upon the world. His voice was heard there, a voice without form. None might see him, but he looked out from his phantom, a dream that gazed on our world.
It is strange! Tsunemasa! The figure was there and is gone, only the thin sound remains. The film of a dream, perhaps! It was a reward for this service.
When I was young I went into the court. I had a look at life then. I had high favour. I was given the Emperor's biwa. 1 That is the very lute you have there. It is the lute called "Seizan." I had it when I walked through the world.
It is the lute that he had in this world, but now he will play Buddha's music.
Bring out what stringed lutes you possess, and follow his music.
[ He plays. ]
And I will lead you unseen.
Midnight is come; we will play the "midnight-play," Yabanraku.
The clear sky is become overclouded; the rain walks with heavier feet.
They shake the grass and the trees.
It was not the rain's feet. Look yonder.
A moon hangs clear on the pine-bough. The wind rustles as if flurried with rain. It is an hour of magic. The bass strings are something like rain; the small strings talk like a whisper. The deep string is a wind voice of autumn; the third and the fourth strings are like the crying stork in her cage, when she thinks of her young birds toward nightfall. Let the cocks leave off their crowing. Let no one announce the dawn.
A flute's voice has moved the clouds of Shushinrei. And the phoenix come out from the cloud; they descend with their playing. Pitiful, marvellous music! I have come down to the world. I have resumed my old playing. And I was happy here. All that is soon over.
Now I can see him again, the figure I saw here; can it be Tsunemasa?
It's a sorry face that I make here. Put down the lights if you see me.
The sorrow of the heart is a spreading around of quick fires. The flames are turned to thick rain. He slew by the sword and was slain. The red wave of blood rose in fire, and now he burns with that flame. He bade us put out the lights; he flew as a summer moth.
His brushing wings were a storm.
His spirit is gone in the darkness.