Japanese Text Initiative
Cornell University East Asia Papers, number 17
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
Spacing in print source has been preserved. Natural line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a verse has been joined to the preceding line.
Takasago, by Zeami, is perhaps the best loved of all the god plays. Its clear tone will endure, all but forgotten, until it is reaffirmed in a burst of energy at the close of the demon play -- here The Watchmen's Mirror.
Takasago actually means "dune." The area is now an industrial city on the Inland Sea, but the Takasago Shrine is still there. Takasago has been famous in poetry since ancient times, and famous especially for the Takasago Pine. This pine is said to be paired with the Suminoe Pine, but Sumiyoshi (Suminoe is simply an older form of the same name) is far to the east, in the neighboring province, and one wonders how the two pines really can be paired. The answer is that their perfect attunement frees them from space. Moreover, the Paired Pines are free of time as well, since one is the distant past and the other the present.
No plays often hint that past and present can be one. In Takasago, the past is called the time of the Man'yoshu, a great anthology of the earliest Japanese poetry compiled in the eighth century; and the present is called the time of the Kokinshu, another basic anthology compiled during the Engi era, in the early tenth century. It is tactful convention that makes the Engi era the present in Takasago; no never treats the historical present.
There is much talk of poetry in Takasago, but in a very wide sense. The principal Japanese word for 'poem' is uta, which more generally means song. Thus we are told that "each sound of beings
The true function of poetry in the Japanese tradition is communication. When all sound is heard as song, that is, as communication of essence, there are no barriers anywhere to understanding. (It is often specifically mentioned in god plays that all barriers, gates, and checkpoints stand open: the roads are free, communications are unimpeded.) When speech is coherent, as light can be coherent, truth is conveyed. The unfailing leaves of speech spoken of in Takasago are an everlasting flow of song that conveys the essence of man, and, in a wider sense, the endless hymn sung by all beings to that other singer, the one source of all being. In this antiphon, both beings and source are at one.
Leaves of speech: one can hardly fail to think of leaves of grass. "Words" is all the term means, and "leaves of speech" (ha is a pine needle as well as a leaf) is an overtranslation. But the metaphor is so often followed up in no that one must translate it, or mutilate whole passages.
The fool tells the Sideman in Takasago that the Paired Pines hold divine converse through these pine boughs: each needle is, or sings, a word of their song. And since the pine is always green, the song is indeed endless. This endless vigor and life (the pine was said to flower ten times, once every thousand years) are actually seen
The climax of Takasago is the appearance and dance of the god pine himself, in the guise of the God of Sumiyoshi. The Sumiyoshi Shrine, near what is now the city of Osaka, is one of the greatest shrines in Japan, and the god there is the god of the sea. Perhaps sea and pine are one because the sea, too, is endlessly and murmurously alive. At any rate, the young and handsome god might well be nicknamed, like Henri IV of France, Le Vert Galant.
[ Sideman faces front ]
Now do we first our travel wear now do we first our travel wear day by day it's bound afar we go!
[ They face each other again. ]
I here present before you am Tomonari, a priest from the Aso Shrine in Kyushu. As I have not yet seen Miyako, I am starting on up there now; and I mean to take a look at famous spots all along the way.
Travel wear, unfolding long Miyako Way unfolding long Miyako Way's cut out for us now waves touch shore and ship lanes lie calm the spring breeze how many days stretch on, ahead, behind, all's vague white clouds trail away,[ Sideman takes a few steps to show travel, then by the end of the passage returns to his place and faces front. ]
why yes, Harima coast and Takasago shore is where we are Takasago shore is where we are.
[ Sideman and Sideman's Second retire to Sideman's spot. Second enters, followed by Doer. ]
Hurrying along that way, we have come to Takasago shore in the land of Harima. Perhaps someone from nearby will be kind enough to show us the sights.
[ Second faces front. ]
Takasago, through the High Dune pine spring breezes blow till sundown, Onoe the Hilltop bell gently tolls.
[ They face each other. ]
Waves with light mists veiled from shore
[ They come onstage. Second stands at center, Doer at main spot, both facing front. ]
sound us the salt tides' ebb and flow.
[ They face each other. ]
'Who then, who shall be friend to me? Takasago's very pine of old I never knew';
as ages come, ages gone, bank snow on what snows we hoary cranes roost where lingers breaking dawn by spring nights of rime, work or rest, it's pining wind alone the ear takes in, while the heart's the friend I choose to open to.
For callers, why, courting the pines come shore winds and fallen needles cloak now sleeve by sleeve, come, clear litter from beneath the tree come, clear litter from beneath the tree!
The place here, Takasago the place here, Takasago, and Hilltop Pine has grown old, ripples of age come wrinkling in, and all around under the tree fallen needles lie deep-piled, so enduring does life thrive, and how much longer yet? The Iki Pine,
why, there's another place of lasting fame why, there's another place of lasting fame.
Just as I'm waiting for someone from the village, an old couple has arrived. Old people, I beg your pardon, but I have a question for you.
You're talking to us, sir? What is it?
Which of these trees is the Takasago Pine?
Why, the one this old man is clearing around right now, that's the Takasago Pine.
The Takasago Pine and the Pine of Suminoe are said to be 'paired,' yet Takasago and Sumiyoshi are a whole province apart. How is it they're called the Paired Pines?
The preface to the Kokinshu says, 'The pines of Takasago and Suminoe are themselves reputed to be paired.' But this old man is from Sumiyoshi, in yonder land of Tsu. It's the old lady here who hails from Takasago.[ He turns to Second. ]
If you know anything about this, do please tell it.
Astonishing! I see, old people, that you're together here, man and wife, yet far Suminoe and Takasago, by shore and mountain a whole land apart, you say are your homes. How can this be?
Strange question! Though ten thousand leagues of hill and stream divide them, for lovers' hearts finely attuned, the way is never long.
Just reflect a little.
s The Takasago, Suminoe pines, all insentient, do still bear the name of Paired: how much more we, then, living humans, with all the years we've gladly plied between here and Sumiyoshi -- an old couple, who in the pines' own company have until now[ Doer presses toward Sideman. ]
lived on, paired in age.
I hear you talk with greatest pleasure. Tell me then: the Paired Pines you spoke of now, do people here draw from them no moral?
sp In the old days, people said they mark a happy reign.
sp Takasago means the ancient times of the Man'yoshu;
sp and Sumiyoshi, His Majesty of Engi, who dwells in this present age.
s Pine means unfailing leaves of speech
sp whose vigor endures now, as then,
sp an image of praise to this reign.
Most willingly I've heard you out, and how I thank you! Now in me no doubts spring sunny days
with tempered brightness light the western sea,
and yonder, Suminoe,
[ Doer presses toward Sideman. ]
pines gather hue,
[ Doer faces front, while Second goes to stand before Chorus and Sideman sits at Sideman's spot. At 'rustles,' Doer advances a little and opens; after 'fortune,' he changes mood and goes to mark post, then turns left up to main spot; at 'of our Lord's,' turns to Sideman, then moves to center and sits. Second sits also. ]
the spring is mild,
the Four Seas calm, the Realm at peace; a timely breeze rustles no boughs in this sovereign reign! Well met indeed, the Paired Pines show good fortune! No, no praise is equal to the task, for such a reign brings to us, His subjects, full richness of our Lord's blessing, o the precious gift! of our Lord's blessing, o the precious gift!
But do tell me more about the happy meaning of the Takasago Pine.
Now, plants and trees, they say, have no heart, yet flower and fruit never miss their time; filled with the power of surging spring, the southern boughs it is that blossom first.
Yet this pine looks ever the same; the flowers and fruit distinguish no time.
The four seasons pass, yet deep its millenial hue holds amid the snow; and the pine's very flowers bloom ten times, once in ten lives.
For such tidings one pine's boughs
bear needles, leaves of speech aglow with dewdrop pearls: these in the heart seed polished grace,
till all living things
to the Blessed Isles, they say, draw nigh.
For indeed, in Chono's words, 'Each sound of beings feeling and non-feeling, every last one, is a song.' Plants, trees, soil, sand, voice of the wind, water noises: even there's a heart to harbor all. Springtime woods moving to east wind, fall insects crying in northern dews: are not both song, our poetry? And the pine stands over all trees, in lordly guise, green through a thousand falls, and shows no hue of new or old: a tree worthy of that title, Marquis, the First Emperor gave it, so that in China and this Realm, all men accord it praise.
[ Doer stands, still holding his rake, and comes down front. ]
'Takasago, the High Dunes' Hilltop bell rings;
through to dawn settles freezing rime,' yet pine boughs' needles stay the same deep green. Morning and night[ He mimes sweeping. ]
I come to clean beneath the tree, but fallen needles never fail: for true it is,[ He gazes up as though at pine branches. ]
pine needles do not all fall, their hue only grows and grows the masaki vine, sign of an enduring reign; and among all evergreens the Takasago Pine[ He turns to Sideman, then moves to center and sits. ]
in this late age, paired still, signals blessing.
Yes, justly famed, boughs of this pine, yes, justly famed, boughs of this pine the old tree's past do tell, and now, pray, say your names!
Then, what need we conceal? We, the spirits of the Paired Pines of Takasago and Suminoe, man and wife, stand before you.
Astonishing! So, the renowned pines show a wonder,
and though plants are without heart,
so wise His rule
that plants and trees, both,
[ Doer and Second exit. Now Sideman addresses Sideman's Second, and approximately the following dialogue ensues. ]
land that this is of our great Lord, aspire under His sovereign reign to dwell on and[ Doer turns to Sideman, then points his fan toward back of stage. ]
on we'll go to Sumiyoshi now to wait for you, cry they beside[ He stands, goes to side, and stamps beat as though boarding a boat. ]
the evening waves a fishing craft now board, and sail before the wind far, far away across the sea far, far away across the sea.
I've a question to ask. Please see if anyone is nearby.
[ He goes to main spot. ][ The Fool, who some time ago slipped in to sit at Fool's spot, now stands. ]
Hello! Is anyone around?
Surely. What can I do for you?
Would you mind coming with me? My master has a question he wishes to ask you.
[ Sideman's second goes before Sideman. ]
By all means.
[ He goes to sit before Chorus. Fool sits at center. ]
Sir, here is someone who will answer your question.
The Takasago Pine is famous indeed. But could you tell me about its connection with the Pine of Suminoe?
Well, I hardly know a thing about it, but I'll tell you what I've heard.
They say the pines of Takasago and Suminoe stand for the Man'yoshu and the Kokinshu. One story has it that the God of Takasago and the God of Sumiyoshi were man and wife, and that when they called on each other they held divine converse through these pine boughs. That's why the pines are described as Paired. The glory of our own poetry, the vigor of courtship and marriage: for both of these we have the gods' divine power to thank.[ He goes on to cite various classic texts in support of his theme. ]
By the way, didn't you meet an old man and an old woman cleaning around the base of the pine here?
I did indeed. They spoke of the Paired Pines and of their fame, then suddenly stepped into a boat and set sail, they said, for Sumiyoshi.
Then no doubt that old couple were the spirits of the Takasago and Suminoe pines themselves. You really should go on pilgrimage to Sumiyoshi.
But I have no boat.
In that case, please do this little craft, newly built as it is, the honor of being the first to sail it. It will take you safely to Sumiyoshi. See! A following breeze is blowing!
Thank you very much indeed.
[ Fool retires to Fool's spot. He will slip out after the Doer's entrance. Sideman and Sideman's Second now face each other down front. ]
At your service.
Takasago! Our light craft under all sail our light craft under all sail slips out with the moon rising, the tide surge swells waves' salt foam, Awaji Isle looms and drops far thunders Naruo while skimming on swiftly to Suminoe borne we have put in swiftly to Suminoe borne we have put in.
'Myself I've watched these long, long years on Sumiyoshi coast, the lady-pine -- and she, what eons has she seen?' 'We're lovers: did my Lord not know? Within the Pristine Zone,
[ Doer strikes full excitement pose, then stamps several beats. ]
down long ages has the god endured; music and mime now play, night drums in rhythm beat,[ He sweeps his gaze over orchestra. ]
soothe His heart now, ye of the Shrine![ Now he goes to main spot. At 'rises,' he stamps several beats; at 'spring,' points around with fan, as though at a still snow-mantled landscape; at 'by the beach,' goes before drums, faces front, opens; at 'thousand,' stamps several beats; at 'break off,' comes down front, mimes the action described, then turns left back up to drums, takes left sleeve in right hand, gazes as though at petals clinging there. ]
Up from the western sea, wave furrows of Liveoak Plain,
rises now revealed the god pine, and it's spring!
Lingering snows thin down Asaka strand
and by the beach where sleek seaweed is cut and garnered,
but once draw nigh a pine's stout root, rub your hips there,
and a thousand years' fresh green brims from your hands;
break off blossoming plum, set it in your hair,
and snow of the second moon sprinkles your cloak.'
O precious vision! O precious vision! Clear shines
the moon at Sumiyoshi sports the God: with what new joy we worship His own form divine![ Doer is now facing front at main spot. Below, at 'the pine,' he gazes toward pines on bridgeway; then points with fan at his own image reflected in the sea down front; at 'For God,' goes to mark post, then sweeps left up to center; at 'pure,' glances at his own left sleeve, then turns right and up to flute; then strikes full excitement pose, as though sweeping away demons; then moves to center, mimes embracing something, stamps beat; at 'Thousand Autumns,' moves down front, pointing before him with fan, then rolls up the long, hanging length of his sleeves, then turns right and up to main spot; at first 'inspires,' opens toward front; then faces side and stamps final beat. ]
Yes, the varied dancing maidens' voices ring clear too, the pine of Suminoe mirrored shows in Blue Sea Waves is this, surely!
For God, for Lord, straight lies the way, to Miyako in springtime go,
and the dance is Home to the Palace;
endless fair years they bring,
the pure, festal robes:
a darting hand sweeps demons hence, an arm drawn in clasps length of days and good fortune. A Thousand Autumns brings folk ease; Ten Thousand Years makes life long, so long the paired pining wind's hushed singing sound inspires tranquil joy hushed singing sound inspires tranquil joy.