Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
The Emperor has at last abdicated his throne, as he has long intended, in favor of the Heir-apparent, and the only child of the Princess Wistaria is made Heir-apparent to the new Emperor.
The ex-Emperor now lived in a private palace with this Princess in a less royal style; and the Niogo of Kokiden, to whom was given the honorary title of ex-Empress, resided in the Imperial Palace with the Emperor, her son, and took up a conspicuous position. The ex-Emperor still felt some anxiety about the Heir-apparent, and appointed Genji as his guardian, as he had not yet a suitable person for that office.
This change in the reigning Emperor, and the gradual advancement of Genji's position, gave the latter greater responsibility, and he had to restrain his wandering.
Now, according to usage, the Saigû 1 and Saiin 2 were selected; for the latter the second sister of the Emperor was chosen, and for the former the only daughter of the Lady of Rokjiô, whose husband had been a Royal Prince.
The day of the departure of the Saigû for Ise was not yet fixed; and the mind of her mother, who had some reasons for dissatisfaction with Genji, was still wavering in her indecision, whether or not she should go to Ise with her daughter.
The case of the Saiin, however, was different, and the day of her installation was soon fixed. She was the favorite child of her mother as well as of her father, and the ceremonies for the day of consecration were arranged with especial splendor. The number of persons who take a share in the procession on this occasion is defined by regulations; yet the selection of this number was most carefully made from the most fashionable
of the nobles of the time, and their dresses and saddles were all chosen of beautiful appearance. Genji was also directed by special order to take part in the ceremony.
As the occasion was expected to be magnificent, every class of the people showed great eagerness to witness the scene, and a great number of stands were erected all along the road. The day thus looked forward to at last arrived.
Lady Aoi seldom showed herself on such occasions; besides, she was now in a delicate state of health, near her confinement, and had, therefore, no inclination to go out. Her attendants, however, suggested to her that she ought to go. "It is a great pity," they said, "not to see it; people come from a long distance to see it." Her mother also said, "You seem better today. I think you had better go. Take these girls with you."
Being pressed in this way, she hastily made up her mind, and went with a train of carriages. All the road was thronged by multitudes of people, many dressed in a style which is called Tsubo-Shôzok. Many of great age prostrated themselves in an attitude of adoration, and many others, notwithstanding their natural plainness, looked almost blooming, from the joy expressed in their countenances—nay, even nuns and aged women, from their retreats, were to be seen amongst them. Numerous carriages were also squeezed closely together, so that the broad thoroughfare of the Ichijiô road was made almost spaceless. When, however, the carriages of the Lady Aoi's party appeared, her attendants ordered several others to make way, and forced a passage to the spot where the best view could be obtained, and where the common people were not allowed. Among these happened to be two ajiro 3 carriages, and their inmates were plainly incognito and persons of rank.
These belonged to the party of the Lady of Rokjiö. When these carriages were forced to give place, their attendants cried out, "These carriages do not belong to people who ought to be so abruptly forced away." But the attendants of the Lady Aoi, who were slightly under the influence of drink, would not listen to their expostulations, and they at last made their way and took up their position, pushing the other two back where nothing could be seen, even breaking their poles.
The lady so maltreated was of course extremely indignant, and she would fain have gone home without seeing the spectacle, but there was no passage for retiring. Meanwhile the approach of the procession was announced, and only this calmed her a little.
Genji was as usual conspicuous in the procession. There were several carriages along the roads on whose occupants his glance was cast; that of Lady Aoi, however, was the most striking, and as he passed by the attendants saluted him courteously, which act Genji acknowledged. What were the feelings of the Lady of Rokjiô, who had been driven back, at this moment!
In due course the procession passed, and the exciting scene of the day was over. The quarrels about the carriage naturally came to the ears of Genji. He thought that Lady Aoi was too modest to be the instigator of such a dispute; but her house was one of great and powerful families famous for overweening pride, a tendency shared by its domestics; and they, for other motives, also of rivalry, were glad to have an opportunity of mortifying the Lady of Rokjiô.
He felt for the wounded lady, and hastened to see her; but she, under some pretext, refused to see him.
The day of the hollyhock fête of the same temple came. It was especially grand, as it was the first one after the installation of the new Saiin, but neither Lady Aoi or the Lady of Rokjiô was present, while Genji privately took Violet with him in a close carriage to see the festival, and saw the horse-races.
We have already mentioned that the mind of the Lady of Rokjiô was still wavering and unsettled whether or not she should go to Ise with her daughter; and this state of mind became more and more augmented and serious after the day of the dispute about the carriages, which made her feel a bitter disdain and jealousy towards the Lady Aoi. Strange to say, that from about the same time, Lady Aoi became ill, and began to suffer from spiritual influences. All sorts of exorcisms were duly performed, and some spirits came forth and gave their names. But among them was a spirit, apparently a "living one," 4 which obstinately refused to be transmitted to the
third party. It caused her great suffering, and seemed not to be of a casual nature, but a permanent hostile influence. Some imagined this to be the effect of fearful jealousy of some one who was intimately known to Genji and who had most influence over him; but the spirit gave no information to this effect. Hence some even surmised that the wandering spirit of some aged nurse, or the like, long since dead, still haunted the mansion, and might have seized the opportunity of the lady's delicate health, and taken possession of her. Meanwhile at the mansion of Rokjiô, the lady, when she was informed of the sufferings of Lady Aoi, felt somewhat for her, and began to experience a sort of compassion.
This became stronger when she was told that the sufferings of the Lady Aoi were owing to some living spirit. She thought that she never wished any evil to her; but, when she reflected, there were several times when she began to think that a wounded spirit, such as her own, might have some influence of the kind. She had sometimes dreams, after weary thinking, between slumber and waking, in which she seemed to fly to some beautiful girl, apparently Lady Aoi, and to engage in bitter contention and struggle with her. She became even terrified at these dreams; but yet they took place very often. "Even in ordinary matters," she thought, "it is too common a practice, to say nothing of the good done by people, but to exaggerate the bad; and so, in such cases, if it should be rumored that mine was that living spirit which tormented
[paragraph continues] Lady Aoi, how trying it would be to me! It is no rare occurrence that one's disembodied spirit, after death, should wander about; but even that is not a very agreeable idea. How much more, then, must it be disagreeable to have the repute that one's living spirit was inflicting pain upon another!"
These thoughts still preyed upon her mind, and made her listless and depressed.
In due course, the confinement of Lady Aoi approached. At the same time, the jealous spirit still vexed her, and now more vigorous exorcising was employed. She became much affected by it, and cried out, "Please release me a little; I have something to tell the Prince."
Hereupon he was ushered into the room. The curtain was dropped, and the mother of the lady left the room, as she thought her daughter might prefer to speak to him in private. The sound of the spells performed in the next chamber ceased, and Hoke-kiô was read in its place. The lady was lying on her couch, dressed in a pure white garment, with her long tresses unfastened. He approached her, and taking her hand, said: "What sad affliction you cause us!" She then lifted her heavy eyelids, and gazed on Genji for some minutes.
He tried to soothe her, and said, "Pray don't trouble yourself too much about matters. Everything will come right. Your illness, I think, will soon pass away. Even supposing you quit this present world, there is another where we shall meet, and where I shall see you once more cheerful, and there will be a time when your mother and father will also join you."
"Ah! no. I only come here to solicit you to give me a little rest. I feel extremely disturbed. I never thought of coming here in such a way; but it seems the spirit of one whose thoughts are much disconcerted wanders away unknown even to itself.
The enunciation of these words was not that of Lady Aoi herself; and when Genji came to reflect, it clearly belonged to the Lady of Rokjiô. Always before, when anyone had talked with him about a living spirit coming to vex Lady Aoi, he felt inclined to suppress such ideas; but now he began to think that
such things might really happen, and he felt disturbed. "You speak thus," said Genji, as if he was addressing the spirit, "but you do not tell me who you are. Do, therefore, tell me clearly." At these words, strange to say, the face of the Lady Aoi seemed momentarily to assume the likeness of that of Rokjiô. On this, Genji was still more perplexed and anxious, and put a stop to the colloquy. Presently she became very calm, and people thought that she was a little relieved. Soon after this, the lady was safely delivered of a child.
Now, to perform due thanksgiving for this happy deliverance, the head of the monastery on Mount Hiye and some other distinguished priests were sent for. They came in all haste, wiping off the perspiration from their faces as they journeyed; and, from the Emperor and Royal princes down to the ordinary nobles, all took an interest in the ceremony of Ubyashinai (first feeding), and the more so as the child was a boy.
To return to the Lady of Rokjiô. When she heard of the safe delivery of Lady Aoi, a slightly jealous feeling once more seemed to vex her; and when she began to move about, she could not understand how it was, but she perceived that her dress was scented with a strange odor. 5 She thought this most surprising, and took baths and changed her dress, in order to get rid of it; but the odor soon returned, and she was disgusted with herself.
Some days passed, and the day of autumn appointments arrived. By this time, Lady Aoi's health seemed progressing favorably, and Genji left her in order to attend the Court.
When he said good-by to her, there was a strange and unusual look in her eyes. Sadaijin also went to Court, as well as his sons, who had some expectation of promotion, and there were few people left in the mansion.
It was in the evening of that day that Lady Aoi was suddenly attacked by a spasm, and before the news of this could be carried to the Court, she died.
These sad tidings soon reached the Court, and created great distress and confusion: even the arrangements for appointments and promotion were disturbed. As it happened late in
the evening there was no time to send for the head of the monastery, or any other distinguished priest. Messengers of inquiry came one after another to the mansion, so numerous that it was almost impossible to return them all answers. We need not add how greatly affected were all her relations.
As the death took place from a malign spiritual influence, she was left untouched during two or three days, in the hope that she might revive; but no change took place, and now all hope was abandoned. In due course the corpse was taken to the cemetery of Toribeno. Numerous mourners and priests of different churches crowded to the spot, while representatives of the ex-Emperor, Princess Wistaria, and the Heir-apparent also were present. The ceremony of burial was performed with all solemnity and pathos.
Thus the modest and virtuous Lady Aoi passed away forever.
Genji forthwith confined himself to his apartment in the grand mansion of Sadaijin, for mourning and consolation. Tô-no-Chiûjiô, who was now elevated to the title of Sammi, constantly bore him company, and conversed with him both on serious and amusing subjects. Their struggle in the apartment of Gen-naishi, and also their rencontre in the garden of the "Saffron Flower," were among the topics of their consoling conversation.
It was on one of these occasions that a soft shower of rain was falling. The evening was rendered cheerless, and Tô-no-Chiûjiô came to see him, walking slowly in his mourning robes of a dull color. Genji was leaning out of a window, his cheek resting on his hand; and, looking out upon the half-fading shrubberies, was humming—
[paragraph continues] Tô-no-Chiûjiô gently approached him. They had, as usual, some pathetic conversation, and then the latter hummed, as if to himself—
This was soon responded to by Genji:—
There was among the faded plants of the garden a solitary Rindô-nadeshko. 6 When Tô-no-Chiûjiô had gone, Genji picked this flower, and sent it to his mother-in-law by the nurse of the infant child, with the following:—
[paragraph continues] Genji still felt lonely. He wrote a letter to the Princess Momo-zono (peach-gardens). He had known her long. He admired her, too. She had been a spectator, with her father, on the day of the consecration of the Saiin, and was one of those to whom the appearance of Genji was most welcome. In his letter he stated that she might have a little sympathy with him in his sorrow, and he also sent with it the following:—
There was, indeed, nothing serious between Genji and this princess; yet, as far as correspondence was concerned, they now and then exchanged letters, so she did not object to receiving this communication. She felt for him much, and an answer was returned, in which she expressed her sympathy at his bereavement.
Now, in the mansion of Sadaijin every performance of requiem was celebrated. The forty-ninth day had passed, and the mementoes of the dead, both trifling and valuable, were distributed in a due and agreeable manner; and Genji at length left the grand mansion with the intention of first going to the ex-Emperor, and then of returning to his mansion at Nijiô. After his departure, Sadaijin went into the apartment occupied till lately by him. The room was the same as before, and
everything was unchanged; but his only daughter, the pride of his old days, was no more, and his son-in-law had gone too.
He looked around him for some moments. He saw some papers lying about. They were those on which Genji had been practising penmanship for amusement—some in Chinese, others in Japanese; some in free style, others in stiff. Among these papers he saw one on which the words "Old pillows and old quilts" were written, and close to these the following:—
[paragraph continues] And on another of these papers, accompanying the words, "The white frost lies upon the tiles," the following:—
As Sadaijin was turning over these papers a withered flower, which seems to have marked some particular occasion, dropped from amongst them.
Return we now to Genji. He went to the ex-Emperor, to whom he still seemed thin and careworn. He had some affectionate conversation with him, remained till evening, and then proceeded to his mansion at Nijiô. He went to the western wing to visit the young Violet. All were habited in new winter apparel, and looked fresh and blooming.
"How long it seems since I saw you!" he exclaimed. Violet turned her glance a little aside. She was apparently shy, which only increased her beauty.
He approached, and after having a little conversation, said, "I have many things to say to you, but now I must have a little rest," and returned to his own quarters.
The next morning, first of all he sent a letter to Sadaijin's, making inquiry after his infant child.
At this time he confined himself more than usual to his own house, and for companionship he was constantly with Violet, who was now approaching womanhood. He would sometimes talk with her differently from the manner in which he would speak to a mere girl; but on her part she seemed not to notice
the difference, and for their daily amusement either Go or Hentski 8 was resorted to, and sometimes they would play on till late in the evening.
Some weeks thus passed away, and there was one morning when Violet did not appear so early as usual. The inmates of the house, who did not know what was the reason, were anxious about her, thinking she was indisposed. About noon Genji came. He entered the little room, saying, "Are you not quite well? Perhaps you would like to play at Go again, like last night, for a change;" but she was more than ever shy.
"Why are you so shy?" he exclaimed; "be a little more cheerful—people may think it strange," said he, and stayed with her a long time trying to soothe her; but to no effect—she still continued silent and shy.
This was the evening of Wild Boar's day, and some mochi (pounded rice cake) was presented to him, according to custom, on a tray of plain white wood.
He called Koremitz before him and said, "To-day is not a very opportune day; I would rather have them to-morrow evening. Do send in some to-morrow. 9 It need not be of so many colors." So saying, he smiled a little, and sharp Koremitz soon understood what he meant. And this he accordingly did on the morrow, on a beautiful flower-waiter.
Up to this time nothing about Violet had been publicly known, and Genji thought it was time to inform her father about his daughter; but he considered he had better have the ceremony of Mogi first performed, and ordered preparations to be made with that object.
Let us here notice that the young daughter of Udaijin, after she saw Genji, was longing to see him again. This inclination was perceived by her relations. It seems that her father was not quite averse to this liking, and he told his eldest daughter, the reigning Emperor's mother, that Genji was recently bereaved of his good consort, and that he should not feel discontented if his daughter were to take the place of Lady Aoi; but this the royal mother did not approve. "It would be far better for her to be introduced at Court," she said, and began contriving to bring this about.
147:1 The sacred virgin of the temple of Ise.
147:2 The same of Kamo, which is situated in the neighborhood of Kiôto, the then capital.
148:3 "Ajiro" means woven bamboo, and here it signifies a carriage made of woven bamboo.
149:4 Before proceeding with the story, it is necessary for the reader to peruse the following note: In Japan there existed. and still more or less exists, a certain superstition which is entertained, that the spirits of the dead have the power of inflicting injury on mankind; for instance, a woman when slighted or deserted, p. 150 dies, her spirit often works evil on the man who forsook her, or on her rival. This is the spirit of the dead. There is also another belief that the spirits of the living have sometimes the same power, but in this case it only takes place when one is fiercely jealous. When this spirit works upon the rival, the owner of the spirit is not aware of it; but she herself becomes more gloomy, as if she had, as it were, lost her own spirit. These spirits can be exorcised, and the act is performed by a certain sect of priests; but the living one is considered far more difficult to exorcise than the other, because it is imagined that the dead spirit can be easily "laid," or driven back to the tomb, while the living one, being still in its present state, cannot be settled so easily. The method of exorcism is as follows: Certain spells are used on the sufferer, and certain religious addresses are read from the Buddhist bibles, and then the sufferer is made to speak out all his subjects of complaint; but it is supposed not to be the man himself who speaks and tells these causes of complaint, but the spirit of which he is possessed. This process is sometimes performed on a third party; in that case the priest temporarily transmits the spirit from the sufferer to the substitute and makes it speak with his mouth. When he has told all the causes of his complaint and wrongs, the priest sometimes argues with him, sometimes chides, sometimes soothes, and sometimes threatens, and at last says to the spirit, "If you do not go out quietly, I will confine you by my sacred power." By such means the spirit is exorcised; the process resembles mesmerism in some points, but of course has no sensible foundation. In other cases the spirits of those who have either recently, or even years before, met with cruel wrongs or death, may in their wanderings seize upon some person in the vicinity, though totally unconnected with the crime done upon them, and may cause them suffering, or even spirits, who from any cause, are unable to obtain rest, may do the same thing.
152:5 In the ceremony of exorcism a sacred perfume is burnt, and it was this scent which the Lady of Rokjiô perceived in her garment because her spirit was supposed to go to and fro between herself and Lady Aoi, and to bring with it the smell of this perfume.
154:6 A kind of pink; some translate it Gentian.
154:7 Here the flower is compared to the child, and autumn to the mother.
156:8 "Hentski," a children's game. It consists in choosing beforehand a "hen" or half-character, opening a book and seeing which of the players can most quickly pick out the words beginning with this "hen."
156:9 It seemed to have been the ancient custom, that on the third night of a wedding, the same kind of rice cake, but only of one color, was served up.