Yei Theodora Ozaki.

Warriors of old Japan : and other stories online

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Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiWarriors of old Japan : and other stories → online text (page 14 of 14)
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moment for inspiration, he happened to glance into the garden, where he
saw a nightingale alight on a blossoming plum tree, and begin to warble.
So he made the nightingale and the plum tree the subject of his poem: -

Uguisu no
Nuretaru koe no
Kokoyuru wa
Ume no hanagasa
Moru ya harusame.

The meaning of this little poem of thirty-one syllables is that the
nightingale's voice sounds tearful or moist because the flower-umbrella
of the plum-blossoms lets through the spring rain, which damps the body
of the bird sitting among the branches.

The Emperor was pleasingly impressed with Taro's talent and facility in
expressing his graceful thoughts, and addressed him again, saying: "I
hear you came from Shinano? How do you call plum-blossoms [ume-no-hana]

Then Taro answered the royal question again, saying in verse: -

Shinano ni wa
Baika to iu mo
Ume no hana
Miyako no koto wa
Ikaga aruran.

"In Shinano we call the plum-blossom '_baika_,' but of what they may
call it in the capital I know nothing."

In this way Taro humbly confessed his ignorance of the ways of the

"You are indeed a clever poet," said the Emperor, "and you must be
descended from a good family. Tell me who was your father? Do you know?"

"I have no ancestors that I know of!" said Taro.

"Then I shall command that the Governor of Shinano make inquiries about
you," said the Emperor; and therewith he commanded his courtiers to
despatch a messenger to the far-away province of Shinano, with
instructions to find out all he could about Lazy Taro and his parents.

After some time the Governor of Shinano learned through an old priest
who Monogusa Taro really was, and the discovery was a startling one.

It appeared that many years before, a Prince of the Imperial House had
been banished from Court circles and had come to the Temple of Zenkoji
in Shinano. The Prince was accompanied by his consort. The royal young
couple made this pilgrimage to pray Heaven for a child, for they were
both sorrowful at being childless. Their prayers were answered by the
birth of a son within the year. This son was Taro. When the infant was
but three years old, his parents died and the child was left with no one
but the old priest to take care of him. When Taro was only seven years
old, he strayed away from his guardian and was lost.

The royal couple had kept their secret well, and the old priest had only
discovered who Taro was by finding some letters hidden away behind the
Buddhist altar. Taro was the grandson of the Emperor Kusabuka, the
second son of the Emperor Nimmu, the fifty-third Emperor of Japan.
Taro's father had been banished for some misdemeanour at Court, and had
hidden himself in disgrace in the rustic province of Shinano in the
heart of the country, far from the gay capital and all who knew him.
Thus it was that no one knew where Monogusa Taro had come from, who he
was, or anything about him at all, and he had grown up like a common
peasant, ignorant of his high estate and the exalted circle to which he

You may imagine the surprise of the Emperor when he learned that Taro
was descended from the Royal Family. It was no wonder that he had shown
such noble qualities as faithful service to his lord and love of poetry.
His Majesty now bestowed upon Taro the highest official rank, and made
him Governor of the provinces of Shinano and Kai.

Now Monogusa Taro returned to Shinano, the old province which had
harboured him in his days of poverty - in great state he returned. No
longer as Lazy Taro, the good-for-nothing rascal who lived in a straw
shed, content with living upon the charity of his neighbours and
friends, or whoever chose to take pity upon him, but as the new
Governor, the man who through industry and faithfulness had won the
esteem of Lord Nijo, and who through him was presented at Court. Once at
Court, his talent for writing verses had aroused the interest of the
Emperor, whose inquiries had established his high birth.

And so, greater than all expectations and more wonderful than dreams,
had the transformation of Lazy Taro been. No longer a despised beggar by
the roadside, he was now an honoured man, created new Lord of the
Province by the Emperor. Nor did he now forget in these changed
circumstances the kindness that had been shown to him in former times.
He repaid and rewarded all those who had ministered to his wants in the
days of his vagrancy; he forgot no one - neither those who had given him
rice, nor those who had interested themselves in his going to Kyoto, nor
those who had prepared him for his journey. He paid a visit to his old
friend and benefactor, the ex-Governor, now retired from active
service, and took him many handsome gifts. His visions of a fine house
were now realized, for he lived in just such a palace as he had seen in
his day-dreams by the wayside. The palace had sloping roofs, just as you
see in old Japanese pictures; it stood in the midst of beautiful
gardens, surrounded by high walls and approached by three large gates.
Lord Nijo gave him one of his daughters in marriage, and Monogusa Taro
lived happily to the great age of one hundred and twenty years, and he
left the world beloved, honoured, and lamented by all who knew him. Such
is the wonderful and happy-ending story of Lazy Taro.

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Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiWarriors of old Japan : and other stories → online text (page 14 of 14)