By SEAMI 1
I am a man who lives in the Capital. Maybe because of some great wrong I did in a former life ... I have fallen into trouble and cannot go on living here.
I have a friend in the East country. Perhaps he would help me. I will take my wife and child and go at once to the ends of the East.
(He travels to the East, singing as he goes a song about the places through which he passes.)
We are come to the Inn. (Knocks at the door.) We are travellers. Pray give us shelter.
Lodging, do you say? Come in with me. This way. Tell me, where have you come from?
I come from the Capital, and I am going down to the East to visit my friend.
Listen. I am sorry. There is something I must tell you privately. Whoever passes this night at the Inn must go to-morrow to the drawing p. 197 of lots at the sacrifice. I am sorry for it, but you would do best to leave the Inn before dawn. Tell no one what I have said, and mind you start early.
If we may sleep here now we will gladly start at dawn.
(They lie down and sleep in the open courtyard. After a while they rise and start on their journey.)
Enter the PRIEST.
Hey! where are you?
Enter the ACOLYTE
Here I am.
I hear that three travellers stayed at the Inn last night and have left before dawn. Go after them and stop them.
I listen and obey. Hey, you travellers, go no further!
Is it at us you are shouting?
Yes, indeed it is at you.
And why should we stop? Tell me the reason.
He is right. It is not to be wondered at that he should ask the reason. (To the TRAVELLER.) Listen. Each year at this place there is a sacrifice at the Pool. To-day is the festival of this holy rite, and we ask you to join in it.
I understand you. But it is for those that live here, those that were born children of this Deity, to attend his worship. Must a wanderer go with you because he chances to lodge here for a night?
(He turns to go.)
No, No! For all you say, this will not do.
Stay! Sir, we do not wonder that you should think this strange. But listen to me. From ancient times till now no traveller has ever lodged this night of the year at the Inn of Yoshiwara without attending the sacrifice at the Pool. If you are in a hurry, come quickly to the sacrifice, and then with a blessing set out again on your journey.
I understand you. But, as I have said, for such rites as these you should take men born in the place. . . . No, I still do not understand. Why should a fleeting traveller be summoned to this Pool-Sacrifice?
It is a Great Custom.
That may be. I do not question that that is your rule. But I beg you, consider my case and excuse me.
Would you be the first to break a Great Custom that has been observed since ancient times?
No, that is not what I meant. But if we are to discuss this matter, I must be plain with you. . . . I am a man of the Capital. Perhaps because of some ill deed done in a former life I have suffered many troubles. At last I could no longer build the pathway of my life, so I took my wife and child and set out to seek my friend who lives in the East. Pray let me go on my way.
Indeed, indeed you have cause for distress. But from ancient times till now
Parents have been taken p. 199
And countless beyond all knowing
Wives and husbands parted.
Call this, if you will, the retribution of a former life. But now come with us quickly to the shores of the Holy Pool.
(Describing his own actions.)
So saying, the Priest and acolytes went forward.
WIFE and DAUGHTER.
And the wife and child, crying "Oh what shall we do?" clutched at the father's sleeve.
But the father could find no words to speak. He stood baffled, helpless. . . .
They must not loiter. Divide them and drive them on!
So he drove them before him and they walked like . . .
If true comparison were made . . .
Like guilty souls of the Dead
Driven to Judgment
By fiends reproachful;
Whose hearts unknowing
Like dew in day-time
To nothing dwindle.
Like sheep to shambles
They walk weeping,
No step without a tear
Till to the Pool they come.
Now we are come to the Pool, and by its edge are ranged the Priest, the acolytes, the virgins and dancing-boys.
There is one doom-lot;
Yet those that are thinking
"Will it be mine?"
They are a hundred,
And many times a hundred.
Embracing, clasping hands . . .
Sinking at heart
"On whom will it fall?"
Not knowing, thick as snow,
White snow of winter fall their prayers
To their clan-gods, "Protect us"
Palm pressed to palm.
At last the Priest mounted the daïs, raised the lid of the box and counted the lots to see that there was one for each to take.
Then all the people came forward
To draw their lots.
And each when he unfolded his lot
And found it was not the First,
How glad he was!
But the traveller's daughter,
Knowing her fate,
Fell weeping to the earth.
Are there not three travellers? They have only drawn two lots. The First Lot is still undrawn. Tell them that one of them must draw it.
I listen and obey. Ho, you travellers, it is to you I am speaking. There are three of you, and you have only drawn two lots. The Priest says one of you must draw the First Lot.
We have all drawn.
No, I am sure the young girl has not drawn her lot. Look, here it is. Yes, and it is the Doom-lot!
The First Lot! How terrible!
Hoping to rear you to womanhood, we wandered blindly from the City and came down to the unknown country of the East. For your sake we set our hearts on this sad journey. If you are taken, what will become of us? How hideous!
Do not sob so! If you or my father had drawn this lot, what should I have done? But now it has fallen to me, and it is hard for you to let me go.
What brave words! "If you or my father had drawn this lot . . ." There is great piety in that saying. (To his WIFE.) Come, do not sob so before all these people. We are both parents and must have like feelings. But from the time I set out to this holy lottery something told me that of the three of us one would be taken. Look! I am not crying.
I thought as you did, yet . . .
It is too much! Can it all be real?
The father said "I will not show weakness," yet while he was speaking bravely
Because she was his dear daughter
His secret tears
Could not be checked.
Is this a dream or is it real?
(She clings to the daughter, wailing.)
Because the time had come
The Priest and his men
Stood waiting on the shore
They decked the boat with ribands
And upon a bed of water-herbs
They laid the maiden of the Pool.
The priest pulled the ribands
And spoke the words of prayer.
[In the second part of the play the dragon of the Pool is appeased and the girl restored to life.]
196:1 The play is given in a list of Seami's works composed on the authority of his great-grandson, Kwanze Nagatoshi, in 1524. Owada gives it as anonymous.