Waley, Arthur

About the electronic version
Waley, Arthur
Creation of machine-readable version: Winnie Chan
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University of Virginia Library.
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   Japanese Text Initiative

Note: Footnotes in the print source have been moved to the end of the electronic document and numbered consecutively. For descriptive purposes, words and phrases preceding footnote markers in the print source have been added to the notes at the end of the electronic document.
About the print version
The No Plays of Japan
Arthur Waley

   1st Edition

Alfred A. Knopf
New York

   Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.

Published: 1922

Revisions to the electronic version
September 1997 corrector Catherine Tousignant, Electronic Text Center
  • Added milestones to correspond with TylHago.

  • January 1997 corrector Winnie Chan
  • Added TEI header and tags

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    Page 177


        The story of the mortal who stole an angel's cloak and so prevented her return to heaven is very widely spread. It exists, with variations and complications, in India, China, Japan, the Liu Chiu Islands and Sweden. The story of Hasan in the Arabian Nights is an elaboration of the same theme.

        The No play is said to have been written by Seami, but a version of it existed long before. The last half consists merely of chants sung to the dancing. Some of these (e. g. the words to the Suruga Dance) have no relevance to the play, which is chiefly a framework or excuse for the dances. It is thus a No of the primitive type, and perhaps belongs, at any rate in its conception, to an earlier period than such unified dramas as Atsumori or Kagekiyo. The words of the dances in Maiguruma are just as irrelevant to the play as those of the Suruga Dance in Hagoromo, but there the plot explains and even demands their intrusion.

        The libretto of the second part lends itself very ill to translation, but I have thought it best to give the play in full.

    Page 178

    By SEAMI


    Hakuryo (a Fisherman).
    Another Fisherman.


    Loud the rowers' cry
    Who through the storm-swept paths of Mio Bay
    Ride to the rising sea.


        I am Hakuryo, a fisherman whose home is by the pine-woods of Mio.


    "On a thousand leagues of lovely hill clouds suddenly close;
    But by one tower the bright moon shines in a clear sky."
    A pleasant season, truly: on the pine-wood shore
    The countenance of Spring;
    Early mist close-clasped to the swell of the sea;
    In the plains of the sky a dim, loitering moon.
    Sweet sight, to gaze enticing
    Eyes even of us earth-cumbered
    Low souls, least for attaining
    Of high beauty nurtured.
    Oh unforgettable! By mountain paths
    Down to the sea of Kiyomi I come
    And on far woodlands look,
    Pine-woods of Mio, thither
    Come, thither guide we our course.
    Fishers, why put you back your boats to shore,
    No fishing done?

    Page 179

    Thought you them rising waves, those billowy clouds
    Wind-blown across sea?
    Wait, for the time is Spring and in the trees
    The early wind his everlasting song
    Sings low; and in the bay
    Silent in morning calm the little ships,
    Ships of a thousand fishers, ride the sea.

    [ The second Fisherman retires to a position near the leader of the Chorus and takes no further part in the action. ]


        Now I have landed at the pine-wood of Mio and am viewing the beauty of the shore. Suddenly there is music in the sky, a rain of flowers, unearthly fragrance wafted on all sides. These are no common things; nor is this beautiful cloak that hangs upon the pine-tree. I come near to it. It is marvellous in form and fragrance. This surely is no common dress. I will take it back with me and show it to the people of my home. It shall be a treasure in my house.

    [ He walks four steps towards the Waki's pillar carrying the feather robe. ]

    [ entering through the curtain at the end of the gallery. ]

        Stop! That cloak is mine. Where are you going with it?


        This is a cloak I found here. I am taking it home.


        It is an angel's robe of feathers, a cloak no mortal man may wear. Put it back where you found it.


        How? Is the owner of this cloak an angel of the sky? Why, then, I will put it in safe keeping. It shall be a treasure in the land, a marvel to men unborn. 2 I will not give back your cloak.


    Oh pitiful! How shall I cloakless tread
    The wing-ways of the air, how climb

    Page 180

    The sky, my home?
    Oh, give it back, in charity give it back.


    No charity is in me, and your moan
    Makes my heart resolute.
    Look, I take your robe, hide it, and will not give it back.

    [ Describing his own actions. Then he walks away. ]


    Like a bird without wings,
    I would rise, but robeless


    To the low earth you sink, an angel dwelling
    In the dingy world.


    This way, that way.
    Despair only.


    But when she saw he was resolved to keep it . . .


    Strength failing.


    Help none. . .


    Then on her coronet,
    Jewelled as with the dew of tears,
    The bright flowers drooped and faded.
    O piteous to see before the eyes,
    Fivefold the signs of sickness
    Corrupt an angel's form.


    I look into the plains of heaven,

    Page 181

    The cloud-ways are hid in mist,
    The path is lost.


    Oh, enviable clouds,
    At your will wandering
    For ever idle in the empty sky
    That was my home!
    Now fades and fades upon my ear
    The voice of Kalavink,
    Daily accustomed song.
    And you, oh you I envy,
    Wild-geese clamorous
    Down the sky-paths returning;
    And you, O seaward circling, shoreward sweeping
    Swift seagulls of the bay:
    Even the wind, because in heaven it blows,
    The wind of Spring I envy.


        Listen. Now that I have seen you in your sorrow, I yield and would give you back your mantle.


        Oh, I am happy! Give it me then!


        Wait. I have heard tell of the dances that are danced in heaven. Dance for me now, and I will give back your robe.


    I am happy, happy. Now I shall have wings and mount the sky again.
    And for thanksgiving I bequeath
    A dance of remembrance to the world,
    Fit for the princes of men:
    The dance tune that makes to turn
    The towers of the moon,
    I will dance it here and as an heirloom leave it
    To the sorrowful men of the world.

    Page 182

    Give back my mantle, I cannot dance without it.
    Say what you will, I must first have back the robe.


        Not yet, for if I give back your robe, not a step would you dance, but fly with it straight to the sky.


    No, no. Doubt is for mortals;
    In heaven is no deceit.


    I am ashamed. Look, I give back the robe.

    [ He gives it to her and she takes it in both hands. ]


    The heavenly lady puts on her garment,
    She dances the dance of the Rainbow Skirt, of the Robe of Feathers.

    The sky-robe flutters, it yields to the wind.


    Sleeve like a flower wet with rain. . .


    The first dance is over.


    Shall I dance?


    The dance of Suruga, with music of the East?
    Thus was it first danced.

    [ The Angel dances, while the Chorus sings the words of the dance, an ancient Shinto chant. ]

    "Why name we
    Wide-stretched and everlasting.
    The sky of heaven?
    Two gods
    5 there came of old

    Page 183

    And built, upon ten sides shut in,
    A measured world for men;
    But without limit arched they
    The sky above, and named it
    Wide-stretched and everlasting."


    Thus is the Moon-God's palace:
    Its walls are fashioned
    With an axe of jade.


    In white dress, black dress,
    Thrice ten angels
    In two ranks divided,
    Thrice five for the waning,
    Thrice five for nights of the waxing moon,
    One heavenly lady on each night of the moon
    Does service and fulfils
    Her ritual task assigned.


    I too am of their number,
    A moon-lady of heaven.


    "Mine is the fruit of the moon-tree,
    6 yet came I to the East incarnate 7
    Dwelt with the people of Earth, and gave them
    A gift of music, song-dance of Suruga.

    Now upon earth trail the long mists of Spring;
    Who knows but in the valleys of the moon
    The heavenly moon-tree puts her blossom on?
    The blossoms of her crown win back their glory:
    It is the sign of Spring.
    Not heaven is here, but beauty of the wind and sky.
    Blow, blow, you wind, and build
    Cloud-walls across the sky, lest the vision leave us
    Of a maid divine!
    This tint of springtime in the woods,

    Page 184

    This colour on the headland,
    Snow on the mountain
    Moonlight on the clear shore, --
    Which fairest? Nay, each peerless
    At the dawn of a Spring day.
    Waves lapping, wind in the pine-trees whispering
    Along the quiet shore.
    Say you, what cause
    Has Heaven to be estranged
    From us Earth-men; are we not children of the Gods,
    Within, without the jewelled temple wall, 8
    Born where no cloud dares dim the waiting moon,
    Land of Sunrise?"


    May our Lord's life
    Last long as a great rock rubbed
    Only by the rare trailing
    Of an angel's feather-skirt.
    Oh, marvellous music!
    The Eastern song joined
    To many instruments;
    Harp, zither, pan-pipes, flute,
    Belly their notes beyond the lonely clouds.
    The sunset stained with crimson light
    From Mount Sumeru's side;
    For green, the islands floating on the sea;
    For whiteness whirled
    A snow of blossom blasted
    By the wild winds, a white cloud
    Of sleeves waving.

    [ Concluding the dance, she folds her hands and prays. ]


    To thee, O Monarch of the Moon,
    Be glory and praise,
    Thou son of Seishi Omnipotent!

    Page 185

    This is a dance of the East.
    [ She dances three of the five parts of the dance called "Yo no Mai," the Prelude Dance. ]

    I am robed in sky, in the empty blue of heaven.

    Now she is robed in a garment of mist, of Spring mist.


        Wonderful in perfume and colour, an angel's skirt, -- left, right, left, left, right.

    [ Springing from side to side. ]

        The skirt swishes, the flowers nod, the feathery sleeves trail out and return, the dancing-sleeves.

    [ She dances "Ha no Mai" the Broken Dance. ]


    She has danced many dances,
    But not yet are they numbered,
    The dances of the East.
    And now she, whose beauty is as the young moon,
    Shines on us in the sky of midnight,
    The fifteenth night,
    With the beam of perfect fulfilment,
    The splendor of Truth.
    The vows
    13 are fulfilled, and the land we live in
    Rich with the Seven Treasures
    By this dance rained down on us,
    The gift of Heaven.
    But, as the hours pass by,
    Sky-cloak of feathers fluttering, fluttering,
    Over the pine-woods of Mio,
    Past the Floating Islands, through the feet of the clouds she flies,
    Over the mountain of Ashitaka, the high peak of Fuji,
    Very faint her form,
    Mingled with the mists of heaven;
    Now lost to sight.


    [1: "On a thousand. . .clear sky."] A Chinese couplet quoted from the Shih Jen Yü Hsieh ("Jade-dust of the Poets"), a Sung Dynasty work on poetry which was popular in Japan.

    [2: men unborn] Masse here means, I think, "future generations," not "this degraded age."

    [3: The bright flowers drooped and faded.] When an angel is about to die, the flowers of his crown wither, his feather robe is stained with dust, sweat pours from under the arm-pits, the eyelids tremble, he is tired of his place in heaven.

    [4: Kalavink] The sacred bird of heaven.

    [5: Two gods] Izanagi and Izanami.

    [6: the moon-tree] The "Katsura" tree, a kind of laurel supposed to grow in the moon.

    [7: the East incarnate] Lit. "dividing my body," an expression used of Buddhist divinities that detach a portion of their godhead and incarnate it in some visible form.

    [8: the mountain] Fuji.

    [9: the jewelled temple wall] The inner and outer temples at Ise.

    [10: May our Lord's life. . . angel's feather-skirt] Quoting an ancient prayer for the Mikado.

    [11: Mount Sumeru's side] Sumeru is the great mountain at the centre of the universe. Its west side is of rubies, its south side of green stones, its east side of white stones, etc.

    [12: son of Seishi Omnipotent] Called in Sanskrit Mahasthama-prapta, third person of the Trinity sitting on Amida's right hand. The Moon-God is an emanation of this deity.

    [12: vows] Of Buddha.