Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
The Royal visit to the Suzak-in was arranged to take place towards the middle of October, and was anticipated to be a grand affair. Ladies were not expected to take part in it, and they all regretted their not being able to be present.
The Emperor, therefore, wished to let his favorite, the Princess Wistaria, above others, have an opportunity of witnessing a rehearsal that would represent the coming fête, and ordered a preliminary concert to be performed at the Court, in which Genji danced the "Blue Main Waves," with Tô-no-Chiûjiô for his partner. They stood and danced together, forming a most pleasing contrast—one, so to speak, like a bright flower; the other, an everlasting verdure beside it. The rays of the setting sun shone over their heads, and the tones of the music rose higher and higher in measure to their steps. The movements both of hand and foot were eminently graceful; as well, also, was the song of Genji, which was sung at the end of his dance, so that some of the people remarked that the sound of the holy bird, Kariôbinga, 1 might be even like this. And so the rehearsal ended.
When the day of the fête came, all the Royal Princes, including the Heir-apparent, and all personages of State, were present at the scene. On the lake, "the music boat," filled with selected musicians, floated about, as usual on such occasions; and in the grounds, the bands, which were divided into two divisions on the right and left, under the direction of two Ministers and two Yemon-no-Kami, played. With this music different dances, including Chinese and Corean, were performed, one after another, by various dancers. As the performance went on, the high winds rustled against the tall fir-trees,
as though Divine strains of music had broken forth on high in harmony with them. The tune of the bands became quick and thrilling, as different colored leaves whirled about overhead.
Then, at length, the hero of the "Blue Main Waves" made his appearance, to the delight of the suddenly startled spectators, from the midst of a knoll in the grounds, covered with maple leaves. The twigs of maple which crowned his head, became thinned as he danced, and a Sadaishiô, plucking a bunch of chrysanthemums from in front of the Royal stand, replaced the lessened maple leaves. The sun was by this time descending, and the sky had become less glaring, while the face of Nature seemed as if it were smiling on the scene. Genji danced with unusual skill and energy. All the pages and attendants, who were severally stationed here under the side of the rock, there under the shade of the foliage, were quite impressed with the effects of the performance.
After Genji, a little prince, the child of the Niogo of Jiôkiôden, danced the "Autumn Gales," with a success next to that of Genji. Then, the principal interest of the day being over, as these dances were finished, the fête ended. This very evening Genji was invested with the title of Shôsammi, and Tô-no-Chiûjiô with that of Shôshii. Many other persons also received promotion in rank according to their merits.
It was after this fête that the young Violet was taken into the mansion of Genji at Nijiô, and she lived with him. The more care he took of her the more amiable she became, while nothing pleased him more than teaching her to read and write.
The full extent of her mourning for her grandmother was three months, as it is for the maternal side; and on the last day of December her dress was changed. As she, however, had been always brought up under the care of her grandmother, her indebtedness to the latter was not to he held lightly; consequently any bright colors were not advisable for her, so she wore plain scarlet, mauve, and light yellow, without trimmings or ornament on them.
The dawn ushered in the New Year's day. Genji was about to leave his mansion to attend the New Year's levée. Just before starting, he came into Violet's room to see her.
"How are you? Are you becoming less childish now?"
said he, with a smile to the girl who was playing with her Hina (toys).
"I am trying to mend this. Inuki damaged it when he was playing what he called "driving out devils," 2 replied the girl.
"What carelessness! I will soon get it mended for you. Don't cry this day, please," said Genji, and he went off, the maidens who attended on Violet accompanying him to the door. This example was also followed by Violet herself.
She went back again to her toys, and presented a toy prince, whom she called Genji, at the Court of her toy house. Shiônagon was beside her. She said
"You might really be a little more womanly, as the Prince told you. How very childish! a girl older than ten always playing with toys!"
Violet said nothing; but she seemed, for the first time, to have become aware that she was expected to be a woman in the course of time.
From the Court, Genji went to the mansion of Sadaijin. Lady Aoi was as cool to him as ever. His persuasive eloquence availed him but little. She was older than Genji by four years, and was as cold and stately in her mien as ever. Her father, however, received him joyfully whenever he called, although he was not always satisfied with the capriciousness of his son-in-law.
The next morning Genji rose early, and was arranging his toilet, with a view of making his New Year's visits, when Sadaijin entered the room, and officiously assisted him in putting on his dress, except, perhaps, his boots. He, moreover, had brought him a belt mounted with rare jewels, and requested him to wear it.
Genji observed: "Such a belt is more suited for some special occasion—such as a Royal banquet, or the like." But Sadaijin insisted on his putting it on, telling him that for that sort of occasion he possessed a much more valuable one.
These New Year's visits were only paid to the Emperor, to the Heir-apparent, and to the Princess Wistaria at her private residence in Sanjiô, where she had retired, but she did not receive him personally. At this time, the Princess was not in her usual state of health, for she was approaching her confinement.
[paragraph continues] Many people, who thought that they might have heard of the event in December, now began to say, "At least we shall receive the intelligence this month," and the Emperor himself became impatient; but the month passed away, and yet it did not happen. In the middle of February, however, she was safely delivered of a Prince. During the following April the child was presented to the Emperor. 3 He was rather big for his age, and had already begun to notice those around him.
In these days much of Genji's time was passed at Nijiô with Violet, and Lady Aoi was still greatly neglected. The circumstances which induced him to stay at home more than ever were these: He would order his carriage to be brought in readiness to take him; but, before it was ready, he would proceed to the western wing, where Violet lived. Perhaps, with eyes drowsy after dozing, and playing on a flute as he went, he would find her moping on one side of the room, like a fair flower moistened with dews. He would then approach her side, and say, "How are you? Are you not well?" She, without being startled, would slowly open her eyes, and murmur: "Sad like the weed in a creek," and then put her hand on her mouth deprecatingly. On this he would remark, "How knowing you are! Where did you learn such things?" He would then call for a koto, and saying "The worst of the soh-koto is that its middle chord should break so easily," would arrange it for a Hiôjiô tune, and when he had struck a few chords on it, would offer it to her, asking her to play, and would presently accompany her with his flute. They would then play some difficult air, perhaps Hosoroguseri, a very ugly name, but a very lively tune, and she would keep very good time, and display her skill. The lamp would be presently brought in, and they would look over some pictures together. In due time, the carriage would be announced. Perhaps it might be added, "It is coming on to rain." Upon hearing this, she would, perhaps, put her pictures aside, and become downcast. He would then smooth her wavy hair, and say, "Are you sorry when I am not here?" To this question she would indicate her feelings by slightly nodding an affirmative, and she would lean on his knee and begin to doze.
He would then say, "I shall not go out to-night." The servant
having brought in supper, would tell her that Genji was not going out that evening. Then she would manifest the greatest delight, and would partake of the supper. And thus it came to pass that he often disappointed one who was expecting him.
The way that Genji neglected his bride gradually became known to the public—nay, to the Emperor himself, who sometimes admonished him, telling him that his father-in-law always took great interest in him and great care from his earliest childhood, and saying that he hoped that he would surely not forget all these benefits, and that it was strange to be unkind to his daughter. But when these remarks were made to Genji, he answered nothing.
Let us now change our subject. The Emperor, though he had already passed the meridian of life, was still fond of the society of the fair sex. And his Court was full of ladies who were well versed in the ways of the world. Some of these would occasionally amuse themselves by paying attentions to Genji. We will here relate the following amusing incident:—
There was at the Court a Naishi-no-Ske, who was already no longer young, and commonly called Gen-Naishi-no-Ske. Both her family and character were good. She was, however, in spite of her age, still coquettish, which was her only fault. Genji often felt amused at her being so young in temperament, and he enjoyed occasionally talking nonsense with her. She used to attend on the Emperor while his hair was being dressed. One day, after he had retired into his dressing-room, she remained in the other room, and was smoothing her own hair. Genji happened to pass by. He stole unperceived into the room, and slyly tugged the skirt of her robe. She started, and instinctively half concealed her face with an old-fashioned fan, and looked back at Genji with an arch glance in her sunken eyes. "What an unsuitable fan for you!" exclaimed Genji, and took it from her hand. It was made of reddish paper, apparently long in use, and upon it an ancient forest had been thickly painted. In a corner was written, in antique style, the following words:—
[paragraph continues] Genji was highly amused. "There are many things one might write on fans," thought he; "what made her think of writing such odd lines as these?"
"Ah!" said Genji, "I see, "its summer shade is still thick though!" 4
While he was joking he felt something like nervousness in thinking what people might say if anyone happened to see him flirting with such an elderly lady. She, on her side, had no such fear. She replied—
"What?" retorted Genji,
[paragraph continues] And quitted the room.
The Emperor, who had been peeping unobserved into it, after he had finished his toilet, laughed heartily to himself at the scene.
Tô-no-Chiûjiô was somehow informed of Genji's fun with this lady, and became anxious to discover how far he meant to carry on the joke. He therefore sought her acquaintance. Genji knew nothing of this. It happened on a cool summer evening that Genji was sauntering round the Ummeiden in the palace yard. He heard the sound of a biwa (mandolin) proceeding from a veranda. It was played by this lady. She performed well upon it, for she was often accustomed to play it before the Emperor along with male musicians. It sounded very charming. She was also singing to it the "Melon grower."
"Ah!" thought Genji, "the singing woman in Gakshoo, whom the poet spoke of, may have been like this one," and he stood still and listened. Slowly he approached near the veranda
humming slowly, as he went, "Adzmaya," which she soon noticed, and took up the song, "Do open and come in! but
Genji at once responded,
[paragraph continues] and was going away, when he suddenly thought, "This is too abrupt!" and coming back, he entered the apartment.
How great was the joy of Tô-no-Chiûjiô, who had followed Genji unperceived by him, when he saw this. He contrived a plan to frighten him, so he reconnoitred in order to find some favorable opportunity.
The evening breeze blew chill, and Genji it appears was becoming very indifferent. Choosing this moment Tô-no-Chiûjiô slyly stepped forth to the spot where Genji was resting.
Genji soon noticed his footsteps, but he never imagined that it was his brother-in-law. He thought it was Suri-no-Kami, a great friend of the lady. He did not wish to be seen by this man. He reproached her for knowing that he was expected, but that she did not give him any hint. Carrying his Naoshi on his arm, he hid himself behind a folding screen. Tô-no-Chiûjiô, suppressing a laugh, advanced to the side of the screen, and began to fold it from one end to the other, making a crashing noise as he did so. The lady was in a dilemma, and stood aloof. Genji would fain have run out, and concealed himself elsewhere, but he could not get on his Naoshi, and his headdress was all awry. The Chiûjiô spoke not a word lest he should betray himself, but making a pretended angry expostulation, he drew his sword. All at once the lady threw herself at his feet, crying, "My lord! my lord!" Tô-no-Chiûjiô could scarcely constrain himself from laughing. She was a woman of about fifty seven, but her excitement was more like that of a girl of twenty.
Genji gradually perceived that the man's rage was only simulated, and soon became aware who it was that was there; so he suddenly rushed out, and catching hold of Tô-no-Chiûjiô's sword-arm, pinched it severely. Tô-no-Chiûjiô no longer maintained his disguise, but burst into loud laughter.
"How are you my friend, were you in earnest?" exclaimed Genji, jestingly—"but first let me put on my Naoshi." But Tô-no-Chiûjiô caught it, and tried to prevent him putting it on.
"Then I will have yours," cried Genji, seizing the end of To-no-Chiûjiô's sash, and beginning to unfasten it, while the latter resisted. Then they both began to struggle, and their Naoshi, soon began to tear.
"Ah," cried Tô-no-Chiûjiô,
"Well," replied Genji,
[paragraph continues] And they both quitted the room without much noticing the state of their garments.
Tô-no-Chiûjiô proceeded to his official chamber, and Genji to his own apartment. The sash and other things which they had left behind them were soon afterwards sent to Genji by the lady.
The sash was that of Tô-no-Chiûjiô. Its color was somewhat deeper than his own, and while he was looking at this, he suddenly noticed that one end of a sleeve of his own Naoshi was wanting. "Tô-no-Chiûjiô, I suppose, has carried it off, but I have him also, for here is his sash!" A page boy from Tô-no-Chiûjiô's office hereupon entered, carrying a packet in which the missing sleeve was wrapped, and a message advising Genji to get it mended before all things. "Fancy if I had not got this sash?" thought Genji, as he made the boy take it back to his master in return.
In the morning they were in attendance at Court. They were both serious and solemn in demeanor, as it happened to be a day when there was more official business than on other days; Tô-no-Chiûjiô (who being chief of the Kurand, which office has to receive and despatch official documents) was especially much occupied. Nevertheless they were amused themselves at seeing each other's solemn gravity.
In an interval, when free from duty, Tô-no-Chiûjiô came up to Genji and said, with envious eyes, "Have you not been a little scared in your private expedition?" when Genji
replied, "No, why so? there was nothing serious in it; but I do sympathize with one who took so much useless trouble."
They then cautioned each other to be discreet about the matter, which became afterwards a subject for laughter between them.
Now even some Royal Princes would give way to Genji, on account of his father's favor towards him, but Tô-no-Chiûjiô, on the contrary, was always prepared to dispute with him on any subject, and did not yield to him in any way. He was the only brother of the Lady Aoi by the same Royal mother, with an influential State personage for their father, and in his eyes there did not seem to be much difference between himself and Genji.
The incidents of the rivalry between them, therefore, were often very amusing, though we cannot relate them all.
In the month of July the Princess Wistaria was proclaimed Empress. This was done because the Emperor had a notion of abdication in favor of the Heir-apparent and of making the son of the Princess Wistaria the Heir-apparent to the new Emperor, but there was no appropriate guardian or supporter, and all relations on the mother's side were of the Royal blood, and thereby disqualified from taking any active part in political affairs.
For this reason the Emperor wished to make the position of the mother firmer.
The mother of the Heir-apparent, whom this arrangement left still a simple Niogo, was naturally hurt and uneasy at another being proclaimed Empress. Indeed she was the mother of the Heir-apparent, and had been so for more than twenty years. And the public remarked that it was a severe trial for her to be thus superseded by another.
134:1 Kalavinka, the beautifully singing holy birds in Paradise, to whose singing the voice of Buddha is compared.
136:2 On New Year's Eve, in Japan, some people fry peas, and throw them about the rooms, saying, "Avaunt, Devil, avaunt! Come in happiness!" This is called driving out devils.
137:3 An infant born to the Emperor is presented to him only when it has attained the age of some months.
139:4 From an old poem, "The shade of Oaraki forest is thick: The summer has come there, the summer has come!" This is a mere metaphorical pun referring to her still being lively in spite of age.