F. (Frank) Brinkley.

Japan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) online

. (page 3 of 16)
Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) → online text (page 3 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

dramas exhibitions of what may be called the
vulgar acts of life were banished : actors did not
die in public, or eat, or sleep, or make love.
Displays of that kind were relegated to the region
of the theatre proper in Japan, and were not
sanctioned at all on the Indian stage. It may,
perhaps, be a little forced to draw an analogy
between the dramatic languages of the two coun-
tries, yet note may at least be taken of the fact
that the classical phraseology invariably adopted
by the Indian dramatists was as far beyond the un-
derstanding of the majority of a Hindu audience
as the language of the No was beyond the com-
prehension of ordinary Japanese spectators. Of
course there were many differences, especially
in the matter of construction. For whereas the
Indian drama opened with a kind of prologue
and closed with a prayer or benediction, and was
of necessity divided into a minimum number of
acts, the Japanese No had neither prologue nor
apologue, and its division, in the rare cases when
division was resorted to, obeyed no rule but the
convenience of the action. Within the space of
even a one-act No, the unity of time was often con-

VOL. in. 3 3 3


spicuously neglected, but it need scarcely be said
that the unities of time and place have lost, in
modern days, the importance they once possessed
in the eyes of dramatic critics.

Considering the close relations that existed be-
tween the civilisations and literatures of Japan
and China, the student naturally expects to find
an easily traced connection between the histrionic
arts of the two countries. But comparison re-
veals differences rather than affinities. When it
has been said that both arose from the union of
dance and song, their points of resemblance have
been virtually exhausted. The singing actor, the
principal figure of the Chinese drama, found no
counterpart in Japan ; the religious element in
the former country's art is often mere buffoonery,
whereas in the latter's it is always reverent ; there
was no chorus in China nor any open-air stage,
and the Chinese never made between tragedy and
comedy the sharp distinction which the Japanese
drew. Perhaps these comparisons possess little
value. It may be urged, for example, that what-
ever similarities seem to exist between the dra-
matic art of India and that of Japan, they are at
once conclusively differentiated by the fact that,
whereas the latter dealt mainly with the tragic
aspects of life and appealed principally to the
sentiments of pathos and pity, all fatal or tear-
ful conclusions were prohibited in the former.
Nevertheless the analogies certainly possess pass-
ing interest.



Some of the most celebrated of these semi-
metrical dramas, the Afo, have been skilfully
translated into English of purity and grace. But
the learned sinologues, their translators, by sub-
stituting the smoothly moving, majestic Iambic
metre for the short, crisp pulsations of the Jap-
anese line, and by obeying exigencies of rhyme
whereas the original demands rhythm only, have
obtained elegance at the partial expense of fidel-
ity. An example less elaborated is given here :


circ. 1485

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE. One of the saddest episodes of
Japanese history is the fate of the brilliant and chivalrous
general, Yoshitsune. Yoritomo, the Minamoto Chieftain, when
(1185) he raised the white flag of his clan against the rival
house of Taira, and succeeded in overwhelming his enemies
and establishing a military government in Kamakura, owed his
successes in the field mainly to the military genius of his younger
brother, Yoshitsune. But Yoritomo's jealous temperament be-
coming inflamed against his brother, he readily listened to slan-
derous charges against Yoshitsune's loyalty, and having failed to
compass the latter's death secretly, issued orders for his arrest.
Yoshitsune, beloved by all that had served under him, favoured
by the Imperial Court in Kyoto, and capable of raising an army
which his strategic genius must have rendered formidable if not
invincible, would have obeyed the precedents of his era had he
drawn the sword against his brother. But his noble nature for-
bade such a course. Taking with him only eleven men, who
had followed his fortunes with unswerving fidelity and were
without exception soldiers of proved prowess, he disguised him-



self as a_pilgrim friar and escaped northward to Hidehira, chief-
tain of Oshu, his uncle, who had sheltered him in his early days.
There he ultimately died by his own hand, when the last of his
comrades had fallen under the swords of Yoritomo's emissaries.
The drama here translated is based on a celebrated episode of
the flight to Oshu. Yoritomo established barrier-guards on all
the roads leading northward, giving them orders to forbid the
passage of any pilgrim band that answered to the description of
the fugitives, and, if possible, to apprehend them. One of these
guard-houses, at Ataka, is the scene of the drama. The giant
halberdier, Benkei, almost as celebrated in Japanese history as
Yoshitsune himself, devises a plan to pass the barrier. He dis-
guises Yoshitsune as the baggage-bearer of the party, and, at a
critical moment, disarms suspicion by beating him as though he
were a common coolie. To the barrier-guards it seems in-
credible that the brilliant young nobleman, with whose exploits
the whole empire is ringing, should be submitted to such a ter-
rible indignity, and they allow the pilgrims to pass. The pro-
found pathos of the notion that Benkei, who had again and
again risked his life in Yoshitsune' s cause, should have been
obliged to raise his hand against the man he loved, and the
shockingly sacrilegious nature of such conduct on the part of a
vassal towards his lord, appeal with intense force to the mind
of every Japanese ; force not to be estimated unless it is re-
membered that to have thrown himself upon the barrier-guards
and fallen fighting, would have been an incomparably less pain-
ful and more orthodox alternative to the loyal halberdier than
the course he adopted. It was necessary, however, to furnish
to the captain of the guard some pretext for granting passage
to the party, and Benkei chose a method for which he afterwards
offered to apologise by suicide. A particularly dramatic inci-
dent of the scene at the barrier is Benkei's pretence of reading
from a sacred record, which, had the party been veritable pilgrim-
priests, they must have possessed. The captain of the barrier
calls for the record, and the big soldier, producing an itinerary
scroll, reads some extemporised passages from it in a thunderous
voice, his coolness and presence of mind carrying him through
an ordeal where the smallest hesitation or confusion would have
involved death.



SCENE. 'The barrier guard-house at Ataka.

TOGASHI (lyenawo, whose title is I'ogashi-no-suke).
I am Togashi. Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, having
become foes, and Yoritomo having learned that Lord
Hangwan (Toshitsunt, commonly called Hangwan) and
his eleven followers, adopting the guise of pilgrim-
priests, are making their way to Mutsu, has caused
barriers to be set up in all the provinces, and has
ordered that all pilgrim-priests shall be rigorously
examined. I am thus charged with the duty of
arresting the passage of pilgrims at this place, and I
have to give strict injunctions in that sense. Ho
there !

MAN-AT-ARMS. At your service, Sir.

TOGASHI. If any pilgrim-priests seek to pass to-
day, report to me.

MAN-AT-ARMS. It shall be done, Sir.

(Enter a party of pilgrim-priests.)

Chorus. From traveller's vestment
Pendent bells ring notes
Of pilgrim's foot-falls ;
And from road-stained sleeves
Pendent dew-drops presage
Tears of last meetings.

Chorus. Hankai * with tattered shield
Of stole and surplice,
From Miyako wends
His many-morned way,
To northern limits.
Oh weary distance !
Even thought grows tired.

See Appendix, note 6.



BENKEI. His lordship's followers !
PILGRIMS. Ise no Samuro, Suruga no Jiro, Kataoka,
Masuwo, Hitachibo.

BENKEI. Benkei, the pilgrim pioneer. 1
PILGRIMS. We twelve our lord leads,

Robed in unwonted

Vestment of travel ;

Pilgrim-bells dangling.

Facing the far north,

Through dew and hoar-frost

Fare we, if haply

There, mid the white snows,

Some ray of spring's sun

We may find shining.

Chorus. The second month's midnights
Are counted by ten when
They wend from Myako.
Coming or going,
Each alike parting,
Witting or ignorant,
Equally reaching 2
The hills of Osaka,
Shrouded in spring's haze,
Fairest at farewell.

To Kaizu-no-ura
Their wave-way the boats wend.
Softly the dawning day
Glints on the newly greened
Reeds of Arachi.
Now Kehi's sacred pines,
Ringing the red fane
On Konome's summit,
Rise from the lake's breast.
And yet more distant,

1 See Appendix, note 7. 2 See Appendix, note 8.



Mount Itatori

Trodden by woodmen. 1

Shallow-streamed Asasuzu;*

Mikuni's haven ;

And Shinowara, where

Lapping the reeds' feet,

Salt wavelets ripple.

Till at Ataka

Spring's early blossoms

Lower meek heads to

Their foe, the wind's onset.*

YosHiTsuNE. 4 Benkei !

BENKEI. At your service, my lord.

YOSHITSUNE. Did you hear what those travellers
said just now?

BENKEI. No, my lord, I did not hear anything.

YOSHITSUNE. They said that a new barrier-guard
has been set at Ataka, and that pilgrims attempting
to pass are subjected to rigorous examination.

BENKEI. What incredible ill-fortune ! They must
have set a guard because they heard of your lordship's
journey. This is of the gravest import. Let us take
counsel here.

THE OTHER PILGRIMS. It does not seem to us that
the case is so serious. We have only to cut a way for
our lord's passage.

BENKEI. A moment ! It is true, as you say, that
we might easily force this one barrier. But we have to
consider our lord's subsequent movements. Every
effort must be made, in my opinion, to avoid dis-

YOSHITSUNE. I trust the matter to your manage-
ment, Benkei.

1 See Appendix, note 9. * See Appendix, note 10.

8 See Appendix, note n. * See Appendix, "note 12.



BENKEI. I accept the trust, my lord. An idea
occurs to me. We others have all the semblance
of poor pilgrims, but unless you are further disguised,
we cannot hope to escape notice. With your pardon
I would suggest that you doff your pilgrim's robe,
take that baggage-bearer's pack on your back, pull your
hat far over your face, and follow us at a little dis-
tance, simulating extreme weariness. You will scarcely
be recognised if you take these precautions.

YOSHITSUNE. It is wisely said. Remove this robe then.

BENKEI. At your service, my lord. Here, baggage-
bearer !

BAGGAGE-BEARER. At your service, Sir.

BENKEI. Bring your pack here.

BAGGAGE-BEARER. It is here, Sir.

BENKEI. A sacrilege, in truth, that your pack should
be placed on my lord's shoulders. Now go forward,
and see how things fare at the barrier. Bring a true
report whether they are really subjecting pilgrims to
close scrutiny.


BENKEI. My lord, we may now go forward. Aye !
It is well said that the purple flower, wherever it be
planted, cannot be hidden.

Chorus. Surely his robe changed
For coarsest of raiment,
His lordly gait altered
To lowly churl's slouching,
No heed will be paid to
This humble-miened toiler.

BENKEI. Aye, and the baggage-pack
YOSHITSUNE. Yoshitsune has shouldered.

Chorus. Shelter to give to

The borne not the bearer,
A common churl's rain-cape !


YOSHITSUNE. His face he conceals with
A hat of wreathed rushes ;

Chorus. Leans on an iron staff;
YOSHITSUNE. Wears drudge's pattens ;

Chorus. And with a halting gait
Tramps slowly onward,
A spectacle pitiful.

BENKEI. Follow in our rear, my lord. Now, are
all ready ?

PILGRIMS. We are ready.

MAN-AT-ARMS (at the barrier). Sir, a number of pil-
grims seek passage.

TOGASHI. What say you ? Pilgrims seeking pas-
sage ? Aye, so it is. Pilgrims, this is a barrier.

BENKEI. Sir, we are pilgrims who have been sent to
travel through the country seeking aid for the re-build-
ing of Todaiji 1 in Nara. We are instructed to visit the
northern circuit, and have thus reached this place. We
pray your contribution.

TOGASHI. You do well. I will contribute. But
this barrier all save pilgrims may pass.

BENKEI. Sir, the reason ?

TOGASHI. The reason! Yoritomo and Yoshitsune
have become enemies, and it has been reported to my
lord Yoritomo that Lord Hangwan (Yoshitsune), with
eleven followers disguised as pilgrims, is on his way
northward to seek the assistance of Hidehira of Mutsu.
Orders have therefore been issued that barriers shall be
set up in all the provinces and pilgrim-friars rigorously
scrutinised. This barrier is in my charge : pilgrims
cannot pass. Above all, a band so numerous as yours.
Not one of you can have passage.
1 See Appendix, note 13.



BENKEI. I have heard, Sir. But your instructions
are to stop pretended pilgrims. You surely do not
mean that you will stop genuine pilgrims?

MAN-AT-ARMS. In sooth ! Seeing that already three
pilgrims were put to the sword . here yesterday.

BENKEI. Say you so ! And were those slaughtered
pilgrims Yoshitsune and his followers ?

TOG ASH i. Poh ! arguments ! I will have no con-
troversy. Not one shall pass. I have said it.

BENKEI. It is then your purpose to slay us also
here ?

TOGASHI. Undoubtedly.

BENKEI. Incredible ! We have come indeed to an
ill-fated place ! There is no help. We must then per-
form our last rites and submit quietly to our fate. Ap-
proach all and prepare. I begin our last rite.

BENKEI. Servant of the great anchorite Yen is the

PILGRIMS. Fashioned after the sacred shape of the
divine Fudo.

BENKEI. His coif is the crown of the five talents.

PILGRIMS. Its plaits are the twelve lusts of the flesh.

BENKEI. His bells the nine rites that make perfection.

PILGRIMS. His hose the emblem of dark chaos.

BENKEI. His eight-looped sandals.

PILGRIMS. The eight-petalled lotus-flower under his

BENKEI. Each breath he breathes forms the quintes-
sential sounds. 1

PILGRIMS. The body of the Buddha, the pilgrim-
friar's !

BENKEI. Here to be struck down and laid low.

PILGRIMS. How shall the divine Fudo be appeased?

BENKEI. Kumano Gongen will mete out punish-
1 See Appendix, note 14.

4 2


PILGRIMS. Here without interval.

BENKEI. Be it not doubted. (411 together rapidly rub-
bing their rosaries. Om mani padme hum!)

TOGASHI. It is well done ! I gather then that you
exhort men to contribute to the re-building of Todaiji
in Nara. Presumably you carry with you the pro-
spectus of the temple. I desire to hear it read.

BENKEI. Is it your wish to hear the prospectus read ?

TOGASHI. Assuredly.

BENKEI. I obey. Naturally we have the prospectus.
(He takes from the valise a scroll in which correspondence
is inscribed, and pretending it to be the prospectus, reads in
a stentorian voice:) "After the autumnal moon of the
Great Teacher (Shaka) set in the clouds of Nirvana,
there remained no man capable of rousing the living
and the dead from the long dream in which they were
sunk. Then, in mid antiquity, the Mikado, whose
name was reverentially called the Emperor Shomu, being
separated from his best beloved and powerless to subdue
his yearnings, the 'round tears, welling, fell like strings
of pearls from his eyes, and turning into the three paths,
he erected a statue of Birushana. Now Shunjobo
Chogen, grieving that the image should not have a
fane, travelled throughout the land seeking alms, and
promising that if any gave even a single sheet of paper
or so much as half a coin, he should enjoy limitless
happiness here, and sit hereafter upon the thousand
petalled lotus." (As BENKEI concludes his reading in a
voice that rises reverberating to the sky y the guards at the
barrier all bow their heads in awe.)

TOGASHI. Pass speedily.

BENKEI. We obey. (They pass the barrier.)

MAN-AT-ARMS. Sir, Sir, Lord Hangwan is passing.

TOGASHI. How? Halt there, baggage-bearer !

PILGRIMS. How now ! They suspect our lord.
The crisis ! The crisis ! (They all turn back.)



BENKEI. Hold ! Hold ! Let not haste misdirect
you. Why is our baggage-bearer seized?

TOGASHI. I propose to detain him.

BENKEI. For what reason ?

TOGASHI. He is said to resemble a certain man.
Stop him there !

BENKEI. A man resemble a man ! What then ?
That is not strange. Whom does he resemble ?

TOGASHI. He is said to resemble Yoshitsune. I
shall detain him for examination.

BENKEI. Incredible ! Wretched coolie with your
likeness to Yoshitsune ! A life-time's not long enough
to be angry with you. We have to reach Noto before
sunset, and you with your light load lag behind exciting
people's suspicions ! You rascal ! I '11 teach you a les-
son. (Raises his pilgrim' s iron staff and beats YOSHITSUNE
unmercifully.} No one would trouble himself whether
such a fellow passed or did not pass had you not
sneaked along like a thief.

Chorus. Why lay thy hand to sword and sabre
for the sake of a common baggage-bearer ? Whence
this perturbation ? Is it terror ? As the eleven
pilgrims, their trenchant blades half-drawn, stride for-
ward like one man, their aspect might affright even a
demon !

TOGASHI. It was a mistake. Pass then; pass.
(YOSHITSUNE passes rapidly.}

BENKEI. Now that we have left that barrier behind,
let us halt here a moment. Draw near all of you.
What am I to say? In this extremity I have been
guilty of a monstrous act. When my lord's fortune is
at this low ebb that Benkei should have struck him
the thought overwhelms me with shame !

YOSHITSUNE. You imagine that I resent it, Benkei !
I tell you it was an inspiration. It was not the act of
an ordinary mortal. I am persuaded that Heaven is



protecting me. When I fell under the suspicion of
the guards, when my last day was in sight, that you
paused not a moment to ask questions, but beat me
soundly as though I were a veritable servant that,
that was not of Benkei's devising : it was Hachiman's. 1

Chorus. Thinking it an inspiration, he is filled with
gratitude !

Chorus. Though the ages drew to their close,
though sun and moon should fall from the sky, what
excuse could be found for him that raised his hand
against his lord ? How should he escape the punish-
ment of Heaven ? 2

Chorus. Known now the suffering

Fate, in past months and years,
Stored for this sad spring.
Still in their hour of pain
Marvel they most that chance
Led them in safety through
Danger so desperate.
Thus the twelve fugitives,
Waking as from a dream,
See in each other's eyes
Tears of glad gratitude.

Chorus. Born a child of bow and steed,
His life Yoshitsune willing gave
To Yoritomo. 'Neath the crests
Of Western ocean glad to sink
His loyal corpse. On storm-swept moor
Or mountain, or by far sea-shore,
Mailed arm for pillow, night by night,
A warrior keeping watch. Anon
To will of wind and wave resigned;
Anon in snow-storm on the height

Where fast flakes hide the bridle hand ;

1 See Appendix, note 15. 2 See Appendix, note 16.



Or o'er Akashi's dunes where rings

The boom of evening billow there

In three brief years a mighty foe

Broken and crushed. Of these leal deeds

What guerdon now ? Oh ! Fate, what sins

Of previous life are punished thus !

The tide of fortune at its height

Bears fullest freight of broken hopes.

Such is the world's sad lesson ! But

To know makes not to be resigned.

The soldier's spirit, straight and fair,

As stringless bow of Azusa,

Spurns the foul thought that calumny

Its crooked way should win unchecked j 1

As mists born in the far-off south

Make snow clouds in the northern sky,

And in the drifts brave men are choked.

Are there no gods to whom we pray ?

Oh ! World of misery and spite !

Oh ! World of misery and spite !

(The scene here returns to the barrier guard-house.}

TOGASHI. Ho, there !

MAN-AT-ARMS. At your service, Sir.

TOGASHI. The rough usage those pilgrim-friars
received at our hands irks me. I would follow them
and exchange a cup of regret. Go you ahead, and bid
them wait.

MAN-AT-ARMS. I obey, Sir. (To the pilgrims whom
he has followed?) Ho, Sirs ! I am ordered to express
regret for the rude treatment you received at the
barrier, and to say that the Captain of the Guard
is coming to offer you a cup of sake.

BENKEI. Are we then to meet his honour again ?

1 Sec Appendix, note 17.



MAN-AT-ARMS. 'Tis so, Sir.

BENKEI. Truly, truly ! (aside.) I understand. This
cup of kindness is to wash away our caution ! Let it
but increase our vigilance !

Chorus. Show no surprise ! By Benkei warned,
Under the shadow of the hill
In watchful round each pilgrim sits,
To drink the cup of compliment.

BENKEI. Joy ! In the mountain stream. 1

Chorus. Joy ! In the mountain stream
Floating the wine-cup.
Caught by the current, it
Spins down the eddies.
Waving sleeves, come, come !
Tread we a measure.
Erstwhile at Hiyeizan
Benkei an acolyte, 2
Skilled in the sacred dance.
" Song of the water-fall,
Echoed from rock to rock,
Sweeter no melody." 8

BENKEI. I have well drunk. Let me fill your cup.

TOGASHI. Then I will pledge you. Pray you,
dance a measure.

BENKEI. At your service.

Chorus. " Song of the water-fall "

BENKEI (singing and dancing). " Song of the water-
fall "

Chorus. " Song of the water-fall ;
Plash plash and babble !
Gurgle and drip drop ! "

1 See Appendix, note 18. 2 See Appendix, note 19.

8 See Appendix, note 20.



Slip not the bow-string
Lose not your caution !

(The barrier guards take their leave ; the baggage-bearer
hoists his burden on his shoulders.}

As men who have stepped on
The tail of a tiger,
As men who have fingered
The fangs of a viper,
They pass on their journey
To Mutsu, land of snows.

The tone of pessimism that pervades this
drama is characteristic of all the No composed
during the Military epoch, and has been inter-
preted as proving their priestly authorship. Some
learned critics go so far as to assert that the lay-
men generally credited with having written the
No were really responsible, not for the text, but
only for the music, the dances, and the staging,
the text being furnished by Buddhist priests, who
employed it as a vehicle for inculcating the insta-
bility of life, metempsychosis, the circle of fate,
the chain of existences, and other religious doc-
trines. Certainly the dramas offer internal evi-
dence of the truth of that theory.


.oxara ,83j<iM3T TBHOHAJ anr ^o ano

Chapter II


Kybgen, or farces, with which the
solemnity of the No was relieved, are
often very comical, but their humour
does not always appeal to foreign read-
ers. A great many were composed during the
Military epoch, and it is notable that, like the
No proper, not one of them contains anything
opposed to the canons of propriety. The same
cannot be said of early Japanese prose literature,
for though the diction is graceful and the style
refined, subjects are sometimes introduced that
are distinctly indelicate. It must not be sup-
posed, however, that early and mediasval Japanese
literature was worse in this respect than contem-
porary European writings. On the whole, it was
better. Still freedom from the taint of immorality
cannot be claimed for it ; whereas in the realms of
farce and of the drama a very strict rule seems to
have been prescribed and observed. The experi-
ence of other nations would lead us to expect that
in this branch of literature above all others realism

would sometimes degenerate into immodesty and
VOL. in. 4


humour into obscenity. But such is not the
case in Japanese dramas or farces. The former
deal solely with the higher sentiments, seeking
their subjects among instances of signal bravery,
heroic devotion, loyal piety, and pitiful misfor-
tunes ; the latter take their material from the
every-day life of the people, but avoid all its
erotic and indecorous aspects. This remark
applies only to No and No-Kydgen, not to the
farces and comedies represented on the boards of
the theatre in later times. Concerning these
latter no such favourable verdict can be passed.
But the vulgar theatre and the aristocratic No
and No-Kyogen remained always distinct. The

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) → online text (page 3 of 16)