Waley, Arthur

About the electronic version
Waley, Arthur
Creation of machine-readable version: Winnie Chan
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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 or phrases preceding footnote markers in print source have been added to 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.

Revisions to the electronic version
August 1997 corrector Sachiko Iwabuchi, Electronic Text Center
  • Added milestones to correspond with ZeaTsun.

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

  • etextcenter@virginia.edu. Commercial use prohibited; all usage governed by our Conditions of Use: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/conditions.html
    Final checking: David Seaman

    Page 51

    By SEAMI


    The Priest of Gyokei.
    The Ghost of Taira No Tsunemasa.


        I am Gyokei, priest of the imperial temple Ninnaji. You must know that there was a certain prince of the House of Taira named Tsunemasa, Lord of Tajima, who since his boyhood has enjoyed beyond all precedent the favour of our master the Emperor. But now he has been killed at the Battle of the Western Seas.

        It was to this Tsunemasa in his lifetime that the Emperor had given the lute called Green Hill. And now my master bids me take it and dedicate it to Buddha, performing a liturgy of flutes and strings for the salvation of Tsunemasa's soul. And that was my purpose in gathering these musicians together.

        Truly it is said that strangers who shelter under the same tree or draw water from the same pool will be friends in another life. How much the more must intercourse of many years, kindness and favour so deep. . . 1

    Surely they will be heard,
    The prayers that all night long
    With due performance of rites
    I have reverently repeated in this Palace
    For the salvation of Tsunemasa
    And for the awakening of his soul.


    And, more than all, we dedicate
    The lute Green Hill for this dead man;

    Page 52

    While pipe and flute are joined to sounds of prayer.
    For night and day the Gate of Law
    Stands open and the Universal Road
    Rejects no wayfarer.

    [ speaking off the stage. ]

    "The wind blowing through withered trees: rain from a cloudless sky.
    The moon shining on level sands: frost on a summer's night."
    Frost lying. . . but I, because I could not lie at rest,
    Am come back to the World for a while,
    Like a shadow that steals over the grass.
    I am like dews that in the morning
    Still cling to the grasses. Oh pitiful the longing
    That has beset me!


        How strange! Within the flame of our candle that is burning low because the night is far spent, suddenly I seemed to see a man's shadow dimly appearing. Who can be here?

    [ his shadow disappearing. ]

        I am the ghost of Tsunemasa. The sound of your prayers has brought me in visible shape before you.


        "I am the ghost of Tsunemasa," he said, but when I looked to where the voice had sounded nothing was there, neither substance nor shadow!


    Only a voice,


    A dim voice whispers where the shadow of a man
    Visibly lay, but when I looked


    It had vanished --

    Page 53


    This flickering form. . .


    Like haze over the fields.


    Only as a tricking magic,
    A bodiless vision,
    Can he hover in the world of his lifetime,
    Swift-changing Tsunemasa.
    By this name we call him, yet of the body
    That men named so, what is left but longing?
    What but the longing to look again, through the wall of death,
    On one he loved?
    "Sooner shall the waters in its garden cease to flow
    Than I grow weary of living in the Palace of my Lord."
    Like a dream he has come,
    Like a morning dream.


        How strange! When the form of Tsunemasa had vanished, his voice lingered and spoke to me! Am I dreaming or waking? I cannot tell. But this I know, -- that by the power of my incantations I have had converse with the dead. Oh! marvellous potency of the Law!


        It was long ago that I came to the Palace. I was but a boy then, but all the world knew me; for I was marked with the love of our Lord, with the favour of an Emperor. And, among many gifts, he gave to me once while I was in the World this lute which you have dedicated. My fingers were ever on its strings.


    Plucking them even as now
    This music plucks at your heart;
    The sound of the plectrum, then as now
    Divine music fulfilling

    Page 54

    The vows of Sarasvati.
    But this Tsunemasa,
    Was he not from the days of his childhood pre-eminent
    In faith, wisdom, benevolence,
    Honour and courtesy; yet for his pleasure
    Ever of birds and flowers,
    Of wind and moonlight making
    Ballads and songs to join their harmony
    To pipes and lutes?
    So springs and autumns passed he.
    But in a World that is as dew,
    As dew on the grasses, as foam upon the waters,
    What flower lasteth?


        For the dead man's sake we play upon this lute Green Hill that he loved when he was in the World. We follow the lute-music with a concord of many instruments.

    [ Music. ]


        And while they played the dead man stole up behind them. Though he could not be seen by the light of the candle, they felt him pluck the lute-strings. . . .


        It is midnight. He is playing Yabanraku, the dance of midnight-revel. And now that we have shaken sleep from our eyes. . .


        The sky is clear, yet there is a sound as of sudden rain. . . .


        Rain beating carelessly on trees and grasses. What season's music 5 ought we to play?

    Page 55


    No. It is not rain. Look! At the cloud's fringe


    The moon undimmed
    Hangs over the pine-woods of Narabi
    6 Hills.
    It was the wind you heard;
    The wind blowing through the pine-leaves
    Pattered, like the falling of winter rain.
    O wonderful hour!
    "The big strings crashed and sobbed
    Like the falling of winter rain.
    And the little strings whispered secretly together.
    The first and second string
    Were like a wind sweeping through pine-woods,
    Murmuring disjointedly.
    The third and fourth string
    Were like the voice of a caged stork
    Crying for its little ones at night
    In low, dejected notes."
    The night must not cease.
    The cock shall not crow
    And put an end to his wandering. 8


    "One note of the phoenix-flute


    Shakes the autumn clouds from the mountain-side."
    The phoenix and his mate swoop down
    Charmed by its music, beat their wings
    And dance in rapture, perched upon the swaying boughs
    Of kiri and bamboo.

    [ Dance. ]

    Page 56


       Oh terrible anguish!

        For a little while I was back in the World and my heart set on its music, on revels of midnight. But now the hate is rising in me. . . . 11


    The shadow that we saw before is still visible.
    Can it be Tsunemasa?


    Oh! I am ashamed; I must not let them see me.
    Put out your candle.


    "Let us turn away from the candle and watch together
    The midnight moon."
    Lo, he who holds the moon,
    The god Indra, in battle appeareth
    Warring upon demons.
    Fire leaps from their swords,
    The sparks of their own anger fall upon them like rain.
    To wound another he draws his sword,
    But it is from his own flesh
    That the red waves flow;
    Like flames they cover him.
    "Oh, I am ashamed of the woes that consume me.
    No man must see me. I will put out the candle!" he said;
    For a foolish man is like a summer moth that flies into the flame.
    The wind that blew out the candle
    Carried him away. In the darkness his ghost has vanished.
    The shadow of his ghost has vanished.


    [1: the intercourse of many years] The relation between Tsunemasa and the Emperor is meant.

    [2: "The wind blowing. . . on a summer's night."] I.e. the wind sounds like rain; the sands appear to be covered with frost. A couplet from a poem by Po Chü-i.

    [3: "Sooner shall the waters. . . in the Palace of my Lord."] Part of the poem which Tsunemasa gave to the Emperor before he went to battle.

    [4: Sarasvati] Goddess of Music, who vowed that she would lead all souls to salvation by the music of her lute.

    [5: What season's music. . .] Different tunes were appropriate to different seasons.

    [6: Narabi Hills] A range of hills to the south of the Ninnaji. The name means the "Row of Hills."

    [7: "The big strings. . . low, dejected notes."] Quotation from Po Chü-i's "Lute Girl's Song"; for paraphrase see Giles' Chinese Literature, p. 166.

    [8: The cock shall not crow / And put an end to his wandering.] The ghost must return at dawn.

    [9: the phoenix-flute] The shēng.

    [10: "One note. . . from the mountain-side."] Quotation from Chinese poem in Royei Shu.

    [11: For a little while I was back in the World. . . But now the hate is rising in me] He had died in battle and was therefore condemned to perpetual war with the demons of Hell.

    [12: like a summer moth that flies into the flame] "The wise man is like the autumn deer crying in the mountains; the fool is like the moth which flies into the candle" (Gempei Seisuiki, chap. viii.).