The Master-Singers of Japan, by Clara A. Walsh, , at sacred-texts.com
From Prose Version of Buddhist Wasau by Lafcadio Hearn
In the pale grey Land of Meido,
At the foot of Shidé mountain,
From the River of Souls’ dry bed
Rises the murmur of voices,
The prattle of baby-voices,
The accents of early childhood.
Not of this world is their sorrow,
Not as the crying of children
Heard on this earth, but how mournful!
Plaint of their pitiful longing,
Yearning for home and for parents.
"Father I so longed for—O Father!
Mother belovéd, O Mother!
Wail from the River of Souls.
Sad is the task they endeavour,
Gathering stones from the river,
Heaps for the Towers of Prayer.
Building the first Tower, and praying
The Gods to shower blessings on Father;
Piling the second, imploring
The Gods to shower blessings on Mother;
Heaping the third Tower, and pleading
For Brother and Sister, and dear ones.
Such day by day their employment.
Piteous, piercing the marrow
The tale of their sorrowful task.
But when the sunset approaches
Then appear demons, demanding
"What is this work you are doing?
Think you your parents still living
Care for your service or offering?
Hopeless they weep and bewail you,
Mourn for you, morning till evening.
Thus all the sorrows you suffer
Come from the grief of your parents
Resenting the will of the gods!
So blame not us, but your parents?"
Then the fierce demons demolish
The fruits of the little ones’ labour.
Hurling the stones with their bludgeons,
Deaf to the wailing and tears.
Swift to the sorrowing children,
Jizō comes softly, "the Teacher,"
"Shining King"—beaming in pity,
Gently he comes to console them.
"Be not afraid, little dear ones,
You were so little to come here,
All the long journey to Meido!
I will be Father and Mother,
Father and Mother and Playmate
To all little children in Meido!"
Then he caresses them kindly,
Folding his shining robes round them,
Lifting the smallest and frailest
Into his bosom, and holding
His staff for the stumblers to clutch.
To his long sleeves cling the infants,
Smile, in response to his smiling,
Glad in his beauteous compassion.
Jizō the Diamond of Pity!
Jizō the little ones’ God!
Through the wild cherry-blooms that snow
Yamato's hills with petals fair,
The shining morning sun-rays glow:
Will you not come and see them there?
Outside my dwelling crickets sing,
Deep in the grass. And on the lea
The clover-bush is blossoming
In full perfection.—Come and see!
Standing, her beauty holds,
The peony's white loveliness;
Seated, her robe enfolds
Charms that surpass in graciousness
The Botan * in its pride;
And when she walks in silk array,
Abashed the fragile poppies sway
In slender grace outvied.
Pine -branch at the door
On the road to the unknown
A milestone marking,
To some a way of gladness,
To some a path of sorrow.
The current of the stream unceasing flows,
But ever-changing are its waters cool.
The foam that, lingering, floats upon the pool
Now vanishes, now swiftly forms again,
And snow-like drifting on the surface shows.
69:* Tree Peony.