Japanese Text Initiative
Cornell University East Asia Papers, number 18
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
Spacing in print text has been preserved. Natural line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a verse has been joined to the preceding line.
The Well Cradle is a most delicate play, like a fresh-water version of Pining Wind. Quite naturally the last lines speak of 'the plaintain leaf dream': a plantain (basho) leaf is enormously long and graceful, but it tears into tatters in the wind.
It is the play's mood of childlike innocence that encourages the translation of the title. The railing around the mouth of a well is not normally a 'well cradle' in English, but however izutsu is translated, it must sound pleasing. The key poem of the play makes of this word almost a chant as it begins, Tsutsu izutsu izutsu no. . . ('Cradle well cradle well cradle that. . .'). In context, the music of these sounds is wonderfully fresh and lovely.
The poem itself is by Ariwara no Narihira (825-880), and the story of Narihira and of a lady known only as Ki no Aritsune's daughter is told in a chapter of the Ise monogatari. Each chapter of the Ise monogatari starts with the words Mukashi otoko. . . ('A man of old. . .'). Hence Narihira, who is thought to be the hero of the whole romance, acquired these words as a nickname. Narihira, like Komachi, was one of the Six Immortals of Poetry of his time, and the preface to the Kokinshu appraises him as follows: 'Ariwara no Narihira has too much heart and too few words. He is like a withered flower whose color is gone but whose fragrance lingers.'
There are several places in The Well Cradle where 'long ago' and 'now' are suggestively juxtaposed, as they are, for example, in Mouth-of-Sound. The Sideman, too, speaks of turning his sleeves back, or inside out: this is a device to bring on a dream vision, especially one of the past. But The Well Cradle stops carefully short of the climax of Pining Wind. The Lady of the Well Cradle does not mistake the face she sees in the well for flesh, even though the vision is deeply moving, Phantom she is, but her appearing and her disappearing are subtle indeed.
The Buddha the Lady prays to at the beginning of The Well Cradle is Amida, whose vow is to save all weak and sinful beings from suffering. His Pure Land Paradise is in the West. To one who has faith in his all-saving grace, Amida, the Lord of Infinite Light, offers a five-colored cord by which the soul can be drawn into the Pure Land. A dying believer would often be given such a cord to hold; the other end would be attached to Amida's hand in an icon representing Amida's welcome to the soul. He would be shown rising like the full moon over mountains, attended by a pair of Bodhisattvas; or again, he might be seen coming straight toward the believer, attended as before and riding on a cloud.
I'm a brother who's taking a look at all lands. These few days past I've been in the Southern Capital. Now, though, I mean to visit Hatsuse. When I inquired about the temple before me here, I was told it's called Ariwara Temple. So I think I'll go up to it and have a look.
[ moving to center ]
I do believe this Ariwara Temple must be at Isonokami, where in the old days Narihira and Ki no Aritsune's daughter lived their wedded life. And surely the verse, 'Let winds blow, and offshore white waves mount Tatsuta. . .' refers to what happened here.
Now I've reached this storied spot where Narihara and his chosen love, Ki no Aritsune's daughter tarried so short a while I'll comfort those lovers two I'll comfort those lovers two.[ He retires to Sideman's spot. ]
Morn by morn blessed holy water morn by morn blessed holy water shall clear both heart and moon!
And all the while, these forsaken autumn nights, seldom comes another's face, the old temple's pining wind blows through the small hours, moon drops low past low eaves' grasses; long forgot, the past, abashed, I recall, oh, how long with all hope gone must I live on? For in this world all things linger in memory of him.
But ceaselessly, with single mind I trust the Buddha's offered cord; guide me, I beg, voice of the Dharma!
'Delusion itself shall I illumine,' such is his vow 'shall I illumine,' such is his vow, and he truly will, for dawns do move toward the western hills while all around is autumn sky; the song of pines alone is heard while gale winds blow all ways changing life goes on and lived in dream --[ She advances two steps, kneels, lays her twig down as an offering, then joins palms over rosary and bows. ]
at what sound then shall we waken at what sound then shall we waken?[ She stands and returns to main spot. ]
sp Just as I'm resting and clearing my heart at the temple here, a very lovely lady draws water from the well in the yard and gives it as an offering. It seems she's bringing comfort to this grave mound. Who are you, pray?
I live nearby. Ariwara no Narihira, whose vow founded this temple, left to the world his name; and the mark of his shade, they say, lies under this mound. I myself know little about him, but I do look after him so, by offering flowers and water.
Narihira is indeed one who left his name to the world. And yet, now removed from the far time of the age-old tale here shadowed, you, a woman, look after him so. . . With that Ariwara no Narihira then s you surely have some link.
sp Have I a link? you are pleased to ask. Even then Narihira was dubbed a Man of Old; and now, far removed in time, one hardly could have with him link or tie.
s What you say is convincing enough, yet here from the past is an ancient relic,
the man being far Narihira's
shadow lingers, yes, for still
his fame's unwithered; should that tale
[ Doer presses toward Sideman, then faces front again. ]
be told, even now
the Man of Old
in name alone lasts: Ariwara Temple, his trace, grows old Ariwara Temple, his trace, grows old and the pine grown from the mound's weeds. . . His grave it is, where the departed left his shade pampas grasses rise in full plume --[ Doer moves toward well cradle, stares at grasses, then sweeps gaze around. ]
to recall when? Wild, wild the weeds, deep, deep the dews on the old mound fall. Oh, it's too true! Out of the past this shadow holds my love still[ She turns left and back to main spot, faces Sideman. ]
this shadow holds my love still!
[ Doer moves before drums, then sits at center facing front. ]
Do please tell me more about Narihira.
Ages ago, Ariwara, the Middle Captain, long years here at Isonokami was pleased to dwell, the ancient village in spring yielding blossoms and moons in fall.
Then courted he Ki no Aritsune's daughter, and the lovers' hearts surely were not shallow;
and yet, in the land of Kawachi, at Takayasu, he had a dear one, so that two roads it was he stole down.
'Let winds blow and offshore white waves mount Tatsuta --
it's midnight my Lord goes forth alone!' sang she, anxious where night might take him, till that worry left her heart free, the other love fading away.
Yes, delicate the song bubbled forth;
froth, she told sorrow quite naturally. Once in
this land some people lived door to door, with at their gates, a well cradle. There the children leaned and chatted, close friends, watched each other water-mirrored, cheek to cheek, sleeve on sleeve; and their hearts' waters knew no soundings. Moons and suns built each on each till they grew up and felt shame now one toward the other. Then later on that staunch man wrote in gemmed tracery words given hue by his heart's flower:
'Cradle well cradle well cradle that told who was the taller,
I've grown up, love, since you saw me last,' and sent them to her. Then the lady: 'The girlish hair I'd hold to yours is past my shoulders; if not you, who'll do it up for me?' So she answered, and this perhaps is why we hear of the Well Cradle Lady, an old name for Ki no Aritsune's daughter.
Yes indeed, an old tale it is you tell, but your strangeness strikes me greatly. Pray, say your name!
If in truth I be, love-wrapped so, Ki no Aritsune's daughter I little no white waves Mount Tatsuta for lost in night I come to you.
Amazing! Then Mount Tatsuta aglow with red
leaves Ki no Aritsune's daughter,
Well Cradle Lady,
[ turning to Sideman ]
disclosed, oh shame, as I!
[ Doer opens, then exits. ]
[ Doer stands, goes to main spot. ]
when we vowed love's long-coiled strand should bind us always, nineteen years was I from the cradle well cradle well cradle, there she's hidden and gone in the well cradle she's hidden and gone.
Deeper yet! o'er Ariwara Temple the night moon o'er Ariwara Temple the night moon drawing the past back turn I my sleeves and, open to dreams, briefly pillowed, lie me down on a bed of moss lie me down on a bed of moss.
'Fickle's the name you've made yourself, cherry blossom; a man too I've longed for, the year round rare. Here too the singer [ turning to Sideman ]
is I, wherefore I'm dubbed as well the Pining Lady. Since the old days of cradle well cradle [ turning front again ]
years have flown by till now that world's lost Narihira's keepsake cloak I don --
Oh shame! to dance the Man of Old,
blossom sleeves swirling snow. . .
Once come hither, back I bring the old days of Ariwara
[ She now advances a little, then turns left up to drums and faces front. ]
Temple well roundly clear brilliant the moon shines brilliant the moon shines.
'Not the moon, no, nor the spring of old. . .' sang he -- when, I wonder?
'Cradle well cradle well cradle that told[ She advances a little toward well cradle, stands with open fan held vertical; at 'grown old,' opens, then moves to mark post, points to headdress with fan; then sweeps left up to drums, comes down beside well cradle, parts pampas grasses and peers within. ]
who was the taller,
I've grown up, love. . .'
I've grown old, yes!
Yet he who courted me, the Man of Old's headdress, his cloak, hide the woman, show me a man! Narihira's face
[ Step by step she backs away from the well, hiding tears. ]
I see; how I miss him!
[ Having opened toward front, she now turns to side and stamps final beat. ]
Oh, in spite of me, I miss him! Dead lover in phantom form, a flower withered,[ She sits dejectedly before drums, then almost immediately stands again; she listens to bell, stamps beat. ]
all hue gone but fragrant yet Ariwara Temple bell gently, gently tolls in dawn;[ Pointing her folded fan in front of her, she comes down to edge of stage near Sideman's spot, then returns to main spot, stamps beat. ]
ah, pining wind at the old shrine! a plantain leaf dream breaks to waking dream breaks into dawn.