Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
The departure of the Saigû, the daughter of the Lady of Rokjiô, for her destination in the Temple of Ise, which was postponed from time to time, owing to different circumstances, was at length arranged to take place in September. This definite arrangement delighted the Saigû, to whom the uncertainty of the event had been somewhat tiresome. Her mother also made up her mind to accompany her to the temple. Although there was no precedent for the mother of the Saigû accompanying her daughter, this lady made up her mind to do so, because she would not allow her young daughter to go alone.
In a suburban field the "field palace" was built. 1 It was of wood, and surrounded by a fence of newly cut branches of trees. In front stood a huge torii 2 of logs, and within the compound were the quarters of the Kandzkasa. 3 Here the Saigû took up her residence, where her mother also accompanied her. When the sixteenth of September, which was fixed for the departure, arrived, the ceremony of her last consecration was duly performed on the banks of the River Katzra, whence the sacred virgin went to the Imperial Palace to have the farewell audience with the Emperor. She was accompanied by her mother. The father of the latter had been a great personage of State, and she had been married to a Royal Prince at sixteen, when there had been every possibility of her coming to the Court in a position far superior to what she now enjoyed. She was, however, bereaved of him at the age of twenty; and now at thirty she comes to take leave at her departure for a far-off province with her only daughter. The Saigû was about fourteen years of age, was extremely delicate and fair to look
upon, and when presented to the Emperor he was struck by the charms of her youthful appearance.
Numerous carriages were ranged at the front of eight State departments to see her off in state, besides many others along the road, full of spectators.
Late in the afternoon her party left the palace, and turned away from Nijiô round to the highway of Tôin, and passed by the mansion of Genji, who witnessed their passing, and sent the following to the lady-mother with a twig of Sakaki (divine tree):—
The answer to this was sent to him from beyond the barrier of Ausaka (meeting-path) in the following form:—
[paragraph continues] And thus the Lady of Rokjiô and her daughter disappear for some time from our scenes in the capital.
It was about this time that the ex-Emperor was indisposed for some time, and in October his state became precarious. The anxiety of the public was general, and the Emperor went to visit him. Notwithstanding his weakness, the former gave him every injunction, first about the Heir-apparent, then about Genji, and said:—
"Regard him as your adviser, both in large and small matters, without reserve, and not otherwise than if I were still alive. He is not incapable of sharing in the administration of public affairs, notwithstanding his youth. He has a physiognomy which argues great qualities, and for this reason, I made him remain in an ordinary position, without creating him a Royal Prince, with the object that he should be able to take part in public affairs. Do not misconstrue these ideas."
There were some more injunctions given of like nature relating to public matters, and the Emperor sorrowfully and repeatedly assured him that he would not neglect them. Such, however,
are not subjects which we women are supposed to understand, and even thus much that I have mentioned is given not without some apprehension.
A few days after the visit of the Emperor the Heir-apparent was brought before his dying father. There had been some idea that he should be brought on the day when the Emperor paid his visit, but it was postponed to avoid any possible confusion. The boy Prince was apparently more pleased at seeing his father than concerned at his illness. To him the ex-Emperor told many things, but he was too young to heed them. Genji was also present, and the ex-Emperor explained to him in what way he should serve the Government, and how he should look after this young Prince. When their interview concluded it was already merging towards the evening, and the young Prince returned to the palace.
The Royal mother of the reigning Emperor (formerly Kokiden-Niogo) would also have visited the ex-Emperor but for her repugnance to encounter the Princess Wistaria, who never left his side.
In the course of a few days the strength of the Emperor began to decline, and at last he quietly and peacefully passed away. And now the Court went into general mourning, and Genji, being one of the principal mourners, put on a dress of Wistaria cloth; 5 so frequently did misfortune fall on him in the course of a few years, and his cares became really great.
The funeral and the weekly requiems were performed with all due pomp and ceremony, and when the forty-ninth day had passed, all the private household of his late Majesty dispersed in the midst of the dreary weather of the latter part of December to their own homes; the Princess Wistaria retiring to her own residence in Sanjiô, accompanied by her brother, Prince Hiôb-kiô.
True, it is that his late Majesty had been for some time off the throne, but his authority had by no means diminished on that account. But his death now altered the state of things, and the ascendancy of the family of Udaijin became assured. The people in general entertained great fear that infelicitous changes would take place in public affairs, and among these Genji and the Princess Wistaria were the most disturbed by such anxieties.
The new year came in, but nothing joyful or exciting accompanied its presence—the world was still.
Genji kept himself to his mansion. In those days, when his father was still in power, his courtyard was filled with the carriages of visitors, especially when the days of the appointments were approaching; but now this was changed, and his household secretaries had but little to occupy them.
In January the Princess Momo-zono (peach-gardens) was chosen for the Saiin, of the Temple of Kamo, her predecessor having retired from office, on account of the mourning for her father, the late ex-Emperor.
There were not many precedents for Princesses of the second generation being appointed to this position; but this Princess was so chosen, owing, it seems, to the circumstance that there was no immediate issue of the Imperial blood suitable for this office.
In February the youngest daughter of the Udaijin became the Naishi-no-Kami, 6 in the place of the former one, who had left office and become a nun after the death of the ex-Emperor.
She took up her residence in the Kokiden, which was till lately occupied by her sister, the Empress-mother, who at this period spent most of her time at her father's, and who when she came to the Court made the Ume-Tsubo (the plum-chamber) her apartment.
Meanwhile the Empress-mother, who was by nature sagacious and revengeful, and who during the late Emperor's life had been fain to disguise her spiteful feelings, now conceived designs of vengeance against those who had been adverse to her; and this spirit was directed especially against Genji and his father-in-law, Sadaijin—against the latter because he had married his only daughter to Genji against the wishes of the Emperor when Heir-apparent, and because during the life of the late Emperor his influence eclipsed that of her father, Udaijin, who had long been his political adversary.
The Emperor, it is true, never forgot the dying injunctions of his father, and never failed in sympathy with Genji; but he was still young, with a weak mind, and therefore he was under the influence of his mother and grandfather, Udaijin, and was
often constrained by them in his actions to go contrary to his own wishes.
Such being the state of things, Sadaijin seldom appeared at Court, and his loss of influence became manifest. Genji, too, had become less adventurous and more steady in his life; and in his mansion Violet became the favorite object of attraction, in whose behalf the ceremony of Mogi had been duly performed some time before, and who had been presented to her father. The latter had for a long time regarded her as lost, and even now he never forgave the way in which his daughter had been taken away by Genji.
The summer had passed without any particular events, and autumn arrived. Genji, wishing to have a little change, went to the monastery of Unlinin, 7 and spent some days in the chamber of a rissh (discipline-master), who was a brother of his mother. Maple-trees were changing their tints, and the beautiful scenery around this spot made him almost forget his home. His daily amusement was to gather together several monks, and make them discuss before him.
He himself perused the so-called "sixty volumes," 8 and would get the monks to explain any point which was not clear to his understanding.
When he came to reflect on the various circumstances taking place in the capital, he would have preferred remaining in his present retirement; but he could not forget one whom he had left behind there, and this caused him to return. After he had requested a splendid expiatory service to be performed, he left the monastery. The monks and the neighbors came to see him depart. His carriage was still black, and his sleeves were still of Wistaria, and in this gloomy state he made his return to his mansion in Nijiô.
He brought back some twigs of maple, whose hues, when compared with those in his own garden, he perceived were far more beautiful. He, therefore, sent one of these to the residence of Princess Wistaria, who had it put in a vase, and hung at the side of her veranda.
Next day he went to the Imperial Palace, to see his brother the Emperor, who was passing a quiet and unoccupied leisure,
and soon entered into a pleasant conversation on matters both past and present. This Emperor, it must be remembered, was a person of quiet ways and moderate ambition. He was kind in heart, and affectionate to his relatives. His eyes were shut to the more objectionable actions of Genji. He talked with him on different topics of literature, and asked his opinions on different questions. He also talked on several poetical subjects, and on the news of the day—of the departure of the Saigû.
The conversation then led to the little Prince, the Heir-apparent. The Emperor said, "Our father has enjoined me to adopt him as my son, and to be kind to him in every way; but he was always a favorite of mine, and this injunction was unnecessary, for I could not be any more particularly kind to him. I am very glad that he is very clever for his age in penmanship and the like."
Genji replied, "Yes, I also notice that he is of no ordinary promise; but yet we must admit that his ability may be only partial."
After this conversation Genji left. On his way he came across a nephew of the Empress-mother, who seems to have been a person of rather arrogant and rough character. As he crossed Genji's path he stopped for a minute, and loudly reciting,
passed on. Genji at once understood what it was intended for, but prudently proceeded on his way homeward without taking any notice of it.
Let us now proceed to the Princess Wistaria. Since she had been bereaved of the late Emperor she retired to her private residence. She fully participated in all those inglorious mortifications to which Genji and his father-in-law were subjected. She was convinced she would never suffer such cruel treatment as that which Seki-Foojin 10 did at the hands of her rival, but she was also convinced that some sort of misfortune was; inevitable.
[paragraph continues] These thoughts at last led her to determine to give up the world. The fortune of her child, however, had been long a subject of anxiety to her; and though she had determined to do so, the thought of him had affected her mind still more keenly. She had hitherto rarely visited the Court, where he was residing; for her visits might be unpleasing to the feelings of her rival, the other ex-Empress, and prejudicial to his interests.
However, she now went there unceremoniously, in order to see him before she carried out her intention to retire. In the course of her chatting with him, she said, "Suppose, that while I do not see you for some time, my features become changed, what would you think?"
The little Prince, who watched her face, replied, "Like Shikib? 11—no—that can't be." The Princess smiled a little, and said, "No, that is not so; Shikib's is changed by age, but suppose mine were different from hers, and my hair became shorter than hers, and I wore a black dress like a chaplain-in-waiting, and I could not see you often, any longer." And she became a little sad, which made the Prince also a little downcast.
Serene was his face, and finely pencilled were his eyebrows. He was growing up fast, and his teeth were a little decayed and blackened, 12 which gave a peculiar beauty to his smile, and the prettiness of his appearance only served to increase her regret; and with a profound pensiveness she returned to her residence.
In the middle of December she performed Mihakkô (a grand special service on the anniversary of death), which she was carefully preparing for some days. The rolls of the Kiô (Buddhist Bible) used for this occasion were made most magnificently—the spindle of jade, the covering of rich satin, and its case of woven bamboo ornamented likewise, as well as the flower-table.
The first day's ceremony was for her father, the second for her mother, and the third for the late Emperor. Several nobles were present, and participated, Genji being one of them. Different presents were made by them all. At the end of the third day's performance her vows of retirement were, to the surprise of all, announced by the priest. At the conclusion of the whole ceremony, the chief of the Hiye monastery, whom she had sent
for, arrived, and from whom she received the "commandments." She then had her hair cut off by her uncle, Bishop of Yokogawa.
These proceedings cast a gloom over the minds of all present, but especially on those of Hiôb-Kiô, her brother, and Genji; and soon after every one departed for his home.
Another New Year came in, and the aspect of the Court was brighter. A royal banquet and singing dances were soon expected to take place, but the Princess Wistaria no longer took any heed of them, and most of her time was devoted to prayer in a new private chapel, which she had had built expressly for herself in her grounds.
Genji came to pay his New Year's visit on the seventh day, but he saw no signs of the season. All nobles who used to pay visits of felicitation, now shunned her house and gathered at the mansion of Udaijin, near her own. The only things which caught Genji's attention in her mansion was a white horse, 13 which was being submitted to her inspection as on former occasions. When he entered, he noticed that all the hangings of the room and the dresses of the inmates were of the dark hues of conventual life. The only things that there seemed to herald spring, were the melting of the thin ice on the surface of the lake, and the budding of the willows on its banks. The scene suggested many reflections to his mind; and, after the usual greetings of the season, and a short conversation, he quitted the mansion.
It should be here noticed that none of her household officers received any promotion or appointment to any sinecure office, or honorary title, even where the merit of the individual deserved it, or the Court etiquette required it. Nay, even the proper income for her household expenses was, under different pretexts, neglected. As for the Princess, she must have been prepared for such inevitable consequences of her giving up the world; but it ought not to be taken as implying that the sacrifice should be so great. Hence these facts caused much disappointment to her household, and the mind of the Princess herself was sometimes moved by feelings of mortification. Nevertheless, troubled about herself no longer, she only studied the welfare and prosperity of her child, and persevered in the
most devout prayers for this. She also remembered a secret sin, still unknown to the world, which tormented the recesses of her soul, and she was constantly praying to Buddha to lighten her burden.
About the same time, tired of the world, both public and private, Sadaijin sent in his resignation. The Emperor had not forgotten how much he was respected by the late ex-Emperor, how the latter had enjoined him always to regard him as a support of the country, and he several times refused to accept his resignation; but Sadaijin persevered in his request, and confined himself to his own mansion. This gave complete ascendancy to the family of Udaijin. All the sons of Sadaijin, who formerly had enjoyed considerable distinction at Court, were now fast sinking into insignificance, and had very little influence. Tô-no-Chiûjiô, the eldest of them, was one of those affected by the change of circumstances. True, he was married to the fourth daughter of Udaijin; but he passed little time with her, she still residing with her father, and he was not among the favorite sons-in-law. His name was also omitted in the appointment list on promotion day, which seems to have been intended by his father-in-law as a warning.
Under such circumstances he was constantly with Genji, and they studied and played together. They both well remembered how they used to compete with each other in such matters as studying and playing, and they still kept their rivalry alive. They would sometimes send for some scholars, and would compose poems together, or play the "Covering Rhymes." 14 They seldom appeared at Court, while in the outer world different scandals about them were increasing day by day.
One day in summer Tô-no-Chiûjiô came to pay his usual visit to Genji. He had brought by his page several interesting books, and Genji also ordered several rare books from his library. Many scholars were sent for, in such a manner as not to appear too particular; and many nobles and University students were also present. They were divided into two parties, the right and the left, and began betting on the game of "Covering Rhymes." Genji headed the right, and Tô-no-Chiûjiô the left. To his credit the former often hit on the most difficult rhymes, with which the scholars were puzzled. At
last the left was beaten by the right, consequently Tô-no-Chiûjiô gave an entertainment to the party, as arranged in their bet.
They also amused themselves by writing prose and verse. Some roses were blossoming in front of the veranda, which possessed a quiet charm different from those of the full season of spring.
The sight of these afforded them a delightful enjoyment while they were partaking of refreshment. A son of Tô-no-Chiûjiô, about eight or nine years old, was present. He was the second boy by his wife, Udaijin's daughter, and a tolerable player on the Sôh-flute. Both his countenance and disposition were amiable. The party was in full enjoyment when the boy rose and sang "Takasago" (high sand). 15 When he proceeded to the last clause of his song,
[paragraph continues] Tô-no-Chiûjiô offered his cup to Genji, saying,
[paragraph continues] Genji, smiling, took the cup as he replied,
[paragraph continues] And added,
[paragraph continues] Genji was pressed by Tô-no-Chiûjiô to take several more cups, and his humor reached its height. Many poems, both in Chinese and Japanese, were composed by those present, most of whom paid high compliment to Genji. He felt proud, and unconsciously exclaimed, "The son of King Yuen, the brother of King Mu;" and would have added, "the King Ching's—" 16 but there he paused.
To describe the scene which followed at a time such as this, when every mind is not in due equilibrium, is against the warning of Tsurayuki, the poet, so I will here pass over the rest.
Naishi-no-Kami, the young daughter of Udaijin, now retired to her home from the Court, having been attacked by ague; and the object of her retirement was to enjoy rest and repose, as well as to have spells performed for her illness.
This change did her great good, and she speedily recovered from the attack.
We had mentioned before that she always had a tender yearning for Genji, and she was the only one of her family who entertained any sympathy or good feeling towards him. She had seen, for some time, the lack of consideration and the indifference with which he was treated by her friends, and used to send messages of kind inquiry. Genji, on his part also, had never forgotten her, and the sympathy which she showed towards him excited in his heart the most lively appreciation.
These mutual feelings led at length to making appointments for meeting during her retirement. Genji ran the risk of visiting her secretly in her own apartments. This was really hazardous, more especially so because her sister, the Empress-mother, was at this time staying in the same mansion. We cannot regard either the lady or Genji as entirely free from the charge of imprudence, which, on his part, was principally the result of his old habits of wandering.
It was on a summer's evening that Genji contrived to see her in her own apartment, and while they were conversing, a thunderstorm suddenly broke forth, and all the inmates got up and ran to and fro in their excitement. Genji had lost the opportunity of escape, and, besides, the dawn had already broken.
When the storm became lighter and the thunder ceased, Udaijin went first to the room of his royal daughter, and then to that of Naishi-no-Kami. The noise of the falling rain made his footsteps inaudible, and all unexpectedly he appeared at the door and said: "What a storm it has been! Were you not frightened?"
This voice startled both Genji and the lady. The former hid himself on one side of the room, and the latter stepped forth to meet her father. Her face was deeply flushed, which he soon noticed. He said, "You seem still excited; is your illness not
yet quite passed?" While he was so saying he caught sight of the sash of a man's cloak, twisted round her skirt.
"How strange!" thought he. The next moment he noticed some papers lying about, on which something had been scribbled. "This is more strange!" he thought again; and exclaimed, "Whose writings are these?" At this request she looked aside, and all at once noticed the sash round her skirt, and became quite confused. Udaijin was a man of quiet nature; so, without distressing her further, bent down to pick up the papers, when by so doing he perceived a man behind the screen, who was apparently in great confusion and was endeavoring to hide his face. However, Udaijin soon discovered who he was, and without any further remarks quitted the room, taking the papers with him.
The troubled state of Genji and the lady may be easily imagined, and in great anxiety he left the scene.
Now it was the character of Udaijin that he could never keep anything to himself, even his thoughts. He therefore went to the eldest daughter—that is, the Empress-mother, and told her that he had found papers which clearly were in the handwriting of Genji, and that though venturesomeness is the characteristic of men, such conduct as that which Genji had indulged in was against all propriety. "People said," continued Udaijin, "that he was always carrying on a correspondence with the present Saiin. Were this true, it would not only be against public decorum, but his own interest; although I did not entertain any suspicion before."
When the sagacious Empress-mother heard this, her anger was something fearful. "See the Emperor," she said; "though he is Emperor, how little he is respected! When he was Heir-apparent, the ex-Sadaijin, not having presented his daughter to him, gave her to Genji, then a mere boy, on the eve of his Gembuk; and now this Genji boldly dares to carry on such intrigues with a lady who is intended to be the Royal consort! How daring, also, is his correspondence with the sacred Saiin! On the whole, his conduct, in every respect, does not appear to be as loyal as might be expected, and this only seems to arise from his looking forward to the ascent of the young Prince to the throne."
Udaijin somehow felt the undesirability of this anger, and he began to change his tone, and tried to soothe her, saying:
[paragraph continues] "You have some reason for being so affected; yet don't disclose such matters to the public, and pray don't tell it to the Emperor. It is, of course, an impropriety on the part of the Prince, but we must admit that our girl, also, would not escape censure. We had better first warn her privately among ourselves; and if the matter does not even then come all right, I will myself be responsible for that."
The Empress-mother, however, could not calm her angry feelings. It struck her as a great disrespect to her dignity, on Genji's part, to venture to intrude into the very mansion where she was staying. And she began to meditate how to turn this incident into a means of carrying out the design which she had been forming for some time.
157:1 A temporary residence expressly built for the Saigû to undergo purification.
157:2 A peculiar gate erected in front of the sacred places.
157:3 Shinto priests.
158:4 Name of a river of the province of Ise, which the travellers had to cross.
159:5 A dress made of the bark of the Wistaria was worn by those who were in deep mourning for near relatives.
160:6 This was an office held by a Court lady, whose duty it was to act as a medium of communication in the transmitting of messages between the Emperor and State officials
161:7 It is said that the tomb of the authoress of this work is to be found at this spot.
161:8 In the Tendai sect of Buddhists there are sixty volumes of the theological writings which are considered most authoritative for their doctrine.
162:9 A passage of a Chinese history. The story is, that a Prince of a certain Chinese kingdom contrived to have assassinated an Emperor, his enemy. When he sent off the assassin this event took place. The allusion here seems to imply the allegation that Genji intended high treason.
162:10 She was the favorite of the first Emperor of the Hung dynasty in China, and the rival of the Empress. When the Emperor died, the Empress, a clever and disdainful woman, revenged herself by cutting off her feet, and her arms, and making away with her son.
163:11 This seems to have been the name of an aged attendant.
163:12 Among Japanese children it often happens that the milk teeth become black and decayed, which often gives a charm to their expression.
164:13 It was the custom to show a white horse on the seventh day of the new year to the Empress, the superstition being that this was a protestation against evil spirits.
165:14 A game consisting in opening Chinese poetry books and covering the rhymes, making others guess them.
166:15 Name of a ballad.
166:16 In Chinese history it is recorded that in giving an injunction to his son, Duke Choau, a great statesman of the eleventh century B.C., used these words: "I am the son of King Yuen, the brother of King Mu, and the uncle of King Ching; but I am so ready in receiving men in any way distinguished, that I am often interrupted three times at my dinner, or in my bath." It would seem that Genji, in the pride of his feeling, unconsciously made the above quotation in reference to himself.