Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
EXILE AT AKASHI
The storm and thunder still continued for some days, and the same strange dream visited Genji over and over again. This made him miserable. To return to the capital was not yet to be thought of, as to do so before the imperial permission was given, would only be to increase his disgrace. On the other hand, to render himself obscure by seeking further retreat was also not to be thought of, as it might cause another rumor that he had been driven away by mere fear of the disturbed state of the ocean.
In the meantime, a messenger arrived from the capital with a letter from Violet. It was a letter of inquiry about himself. It was written in most affectionate terms, and stated that the weather there was extremely disagreeable, as rain was pouring down continuously, and that this made her especially gloomy in thinking of him. This letter gave Genji great pleasure.
The messenger was of the lowest class. At other times Genji would never have permitted such sort of people to approach him, but under the present circumstances of his life he was only too glad to put up with it. He summoned the man to his presence, and made him talk of all the latest news in the capital.
The messenger told him, in awkward terms, that in the capital these storms were considered to be a kind of heavenly warning, that a Nin-wô-ye 1 was going to be held; and that many nobles who had to go to Court were prevented from doing so by the storms, adding that he never remembered such violent storms before.
From the dawn of the next day the winds blew louder, the tide flowed higher, and the sound of the waves resounded with a
deafening noise. The thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, while everyone was trembling in alarm, and were all, including Genji, offering up prayers and vows to the God of Sumiyoshi, whose temple was at no great distance, and also to other gods. Meanwhile a thunderbolt struck the corridor of Genji's residence and set fire to it. The Prince and his friends retired to a small house behind, which served as a kitchen. The sky was as if blackened with ink, and in that state of darkness the day ended. In the evening the wind gradually abated, the rain diminished to a thin shower, and even the stars began to blink out of the heavens.
This temporary retreat was now irksome, and they thought of returning to their dwelling quarters, but they saw nothing but ruins and confusion from the storm, so they remained where they were. Genji was occupied in prayer. The moon began to smile from above, the flow of the tide could be seen, and the rippling of the waves heard. He opened the rude wooden door, and contemplated the scene before him. He seemed to be alone in the world, having no one to participate in his feelings. He heard several fishermen talking in their peculiar dialect. Feeling much wearied by the events of the day, he soon retired, and resigned himself to slumber, reclining near one side of the room, in which there were none of the comforts of an ordinary bedchamber.
All at once his late father appeared before his eyes in the exact image of life, and said to him, "Why are you in so strange a place?" and taking his hand, continued, "Embark at once in a boat, as the God of Sumiyoshi 2 guides you, and leave this coast."
Genji was delighted at this, and replied, " Since I parted from
you I have undergone many misfortunes, and I thought that I might be buried on this coast."
"It must not be thus," the phantom replied; "your being here is only a punishment for a trifling sin which you have committed. For my own part, when I was on the throne, I did no wrong, but I have somehow been involved in some trifling sin, and before I expiated it I left the world. Hurt, however, at beholding you oppressed with such hardships I came up here, plunging into the waves, and rising on the shore. I am much fatigued; but I have something I wish to tell the Emperor, so
[paragraph continues] I must haste away," and he left Genji, who felt very much affected, and cried out, "Let me accompany you!" With this exclamation he awoke, and looked up, when he saw nothing but the moon's face shining through the windows, with the clouds reposing in the sky.
The image of his father still vividly remained before his eyes, and he could not realize that it was only a dream. He became suddenly sad, and was filled with regret that he did not talk a little more, even though it was only in a dream. He could not sleep any more this night, and dawn broke, when a small boat was seen approaching the coast, with a few persons in it.
A man from the boat came up to the residence of Genji. When he was asked who he was, he replied that the priest of Akashi (the former Governor) had come from Akashi in his boat, and that he wished to see Yoshikiyo, and to tell him the reason of his coming. Yoshikiyo was surprised, and said, "I have known him for years, but there was a slight reason why we were not the best of friends, and some time has now passed without correspondence. What makes him come?"
As to Genji, however, the arrival of the boat made him think of its coincidence with the subject of his dream, so he hurried Yoshikiyo to go and see the new cormers. Thereupon the latter went to the boat, thinking as he went, "How could he come to this place amidst the storms which have been raging?"
The priest now told Yoshikiyo that in a dream which he had on the first day of the month, a strange being told him a strange thing, and, said he, "I thought it too credulous to believe in a dream, but the object appeared again, and told me that on the thirteenth of this month he will give me a supernatural sign, directing me also to prepare a boat, and as soon as the storm ceased, to sail out to this coast. Therefore, to test its truth I launched a boat, but strange to say, on this day the extraordinarily violent weather of rain, wind, and thunder occurred. I then thought that in China there had been several instances of people benefiting the country by believing in dreams, so though this may not exactly be the case with mine, yet I thought it my duty, at all events, to inform you of the fact. With these thoughts I started in the boat, when a slight miraculous breeze, as it were, blew, and drove me to this coast. I can have no doubt that this was divine direction. Perhaps there might have been some inspiration in this place, too; and I wish to trouble you to transmit this to the Prince."
Yoshikiyo then returned and faithfully told Genji all about his conversation with the priest. When Genji came to reflect, he thought that so many dreams having visited him must have some significance. It might only increase his disgrace if he were to despise such divine warnings merely from worldly considerations, and from fear of consequences. It would be better to resign himself to one more advanced in age, and more experienced than himself. An ancient sage says, that "resigning one's self makes one happier," besides, his father had also enjoined him in the dream to leave the coast of Suma, and there remained no further doubt for taking this step. He, therefore, gave this answer to the priest, that "coming into an unknown locality, plunged in solitude, receiving scarcely any visits from friends in the capital, the only thing I have to regard as friends of old times are the sun and the moon that pass over the boundless heavens. Under these circumstances, I shall be only too delighted to visit your part of the coast, and to find there such a suitable retreat."
This answer gave the priest great joy, and he pressed Genji to set out at once and come to him. The Prince did so with his usual four or five confidential attendants. The same wind which had miraculously blown the vessel of the priest to Suma now changed, and carried them with equal favor and speed back to Akashi. On their landing they entered a carriage waiting for them, and went to the mansion of the priest.
The scenery around the coast was no less novel than that of Suma, the only difference being that there were more people there. The building was grand, and there was also a grand Buddha-hall adjoining for the service of the priest. The plantations of trees, the shrubberies, the rock-work, and the mimic lakes in the garden were so beautifully arranged as to exceed the power of an artist to depict, while the style of the dwelling was so tasteful that it was in no way inferior to any in the capital.
The wife and the daughter of the priest were not residing here, but were at another mansion on the hill-side, where they had removed from fear of the recent high tides.
Genji now took up his quarters with the priest in this seaside mansion. The first thing he did when he felt a little settled was to write to the capital, and tell his friends of his change of residence. The priest was about sixty years old, and was
very sincere in his religious service. The only subject of anxiety which he felt was, as we have already mentioned, the welfare of his daughter. When Genji became thoroughly settled he often joined the priest, and spent hours in conversing with him. The latter, from his age and experience, was full of information and anecdotes, many of which were quite new to Genji, but the narration of them seemed always to turn upon his daughter.
April had now come. The trees began to be clothed with a thick shade of leaves, which had a peculiar novelty of appearance, differing from that of the flowers of spring, or the bright dyes of autumn. The Kuina (a particular bird of summer) commenced their fluttering. The furniture and dresses were changed for those more suitable to the time of year. The comfort of the house was most agreeable. It was on one of these evenings that the surface of the broad ocean spread before the eye was unshadowed by the clouds, and the Isle of Awaji floated like foam on its face, just as it appeared to do at Suma. Genji took out his favorite kin, on which he had not practised for some time, and was playing an air called "Kôriô," when the priest joined him, having left for awhile his devotions, and said that his music recalled to his mind the old days and the capital which he had quitted so long. He sent for a biwa (mandolin) 3 and a soh-koto from the hillside mansion, and, after the fashion of a blind singer of ballads to the biwa, played two or three airs.
He then handed the soh-koto to Genji, who also played a few tunes, saying, as he did so, in a casual manner, "This sounds best when played upon by some fair hand." The priest smiled, and rejoined: "What better hand than yours need we wish to hear playing; for my part, my poor skill has been transmitted to me, through three generations, from the royal hand of the Emperor Yenghi, though I now belong to the past; but, occasionally, when my loneliness oppresses me, I indulge in my old amusement, and there is one who, listening to my strains, has learnt to imitate them so well that they resemble those of the Emperor Yenghi himself. I shall be very happy, if you desire, to find an opportunity for you to hear them."
Genji at once laid aside the instrument, saying: "Ah, how
bold! I did not know I was among proficients," and continued, "From olden time the soh-koto was peculiarly adopted by female musicians. The fifth daughter of the Emperor Saga, from whom she had received the secret, was a celebrated performer, but no one of equal skill succeeded her. Of course there are several players, but these merely strike or strum on the instrument; but in this retreat there is a skilful hand. How delightful it will be."
"If you desire to hear, there is no difficulty. I will introduce her to you. She also plays the biwa very well. The biwa has been considered from olden time very difficult to master, and I am proud of her doing so."
In this manner the priest led the conversation to his own daughter, while fruit and saké were brought in for refreshment. He then went on talking of his life since he first came to the coast of Akashi, and of his devotion to religion, for the sake of future happiness, and also out of solicitude for his daughter. He continued: "Although I feel rather awkward in saying it, I am almost inclined to think your coming to this remote vicinity has something providential in it, as an answer, as it were, to our earnest prayers, and it may give you some consolation and pleasure. The reason why I think so is this—it is nearly eighteen years since we began to pray for the blessing of the God Sumiyoshi on our daughter, and we have sent her twice a year, in spring and autumn, to his temple. At the "six-time" service, 4 also, the prayers for my own repose on the lotus flower, 5 are only secondary to those which I put up for the happiness of my daughter. My father, as you may know, held a good office in the capital, but I am now a plain countryman, and if I leave matters in their present state, the status of my family will soon become lower and lower. Fortunately this girl was promising from her childhood, and my desire was to present her to some distinguished personage in the capital, not without disappointment to many suitors, and I have often told her that if my desire is not fulfilled she had better throw herself into the sea."
Such was the tedious discourse which the priest held on the subject of his family affairs; yet it is not surprising that it
awakened an interest in the susceptible mind of Genji for the fair maiden thus described as so promising. The priest at last, in spite of the shyness and reserve of the daughter, and the unwillingness of the mother, conducted Genji to the hill-side mansion, and introduced him to the maiden. In the course of time they gradually became more than mere acquaintances to each other. For some time Genji often found himself at the hill-side mansion, and her society appeared to afford him greater pleasure than anything else, but this did not quite meet with the approval of his conscience, and the girl in the mansion at Nijiô returned to his thoughts. If this flirtation of his should become known to her, he thought, it perhaps would be very annoying to her. True, she was not much given to be jealous, but he well remembered the occasional complaints she had now and then made to him while in the capital. These feelings induced him to write more frequently and more minutely to her, and he soon began to frequent the hill-side mansion less often. His leisure hours were spent in sketching, as he used to do in Suma, and writing short poetic effusions explanatory of the scenery. This was also going on in the mansion at Nijiô, where Violet passed the long hours away in painting different pictures, and also in writing, in the form of a diary, what she saw and did. What will be the issue of all these things?
Now, since the spring of the year there had been several heavenly warnings in the capital, and things in general were somewhat unsettled. On the evening of the thirteenth of March, when the rain and wind had raged, the late Emperor appeared in a dream to his son the Emperor, in front of the palace, looking reproachfully upon him. The Emperor showed every token of submission and respect when the dead Emperor told him of many things, all of which concerned Genji's interests. The Emperor became alarmed, and when he awoke he told his mother all about his dream. She, however, told him that on such occasions, when the storm rages, and the sky is obscured by the disturbance of the elements, all things, especially on which our thoughts have been long occupied, appear to us in a dream in a disturbed sleep; and she continued, "I further counsel you not to be too hastily alarmed by such trifles." From this time he began to suffer from sore eyes, which may have resulted from the angry glances of his father's spirit. About the same time the father of the Empress-mother died.
[paragraph continues] His death was by no means premature; but yet, when such events take place repeatedly, it causes the mind to imagine there is something more than natural going on, and this made the Empress-mother feel a little indisposed.
The Emperor then constantly told her that if Genji were left in his present condition it might induce evil, and, therefore, it would be better to recall him, and restore his titles and honors to him. She obstinately opposed these ideas, saying, "If a person who proved to be guilty, and has retired from the capital, were to be recalled before the expiration of at least three years, it would naturally show the weakness of authority."
She gained her point, and thus the days were spent and the year changed.
The Emperor still continually suffered from indisposition, and the unsettled state of things remained the same as before. A prince had been born to him, who was now about two years old, and he began to think of abdicating the throne in favor of the Heir-apparent, the child of the Princess Wistaria. When he looked around to see who would best minister public affairs, he came to think that the disgrace of Genji was a matter not to be allowed to continue, and at last, contrary to the advice of his mother, he issued a public permission for Genji's return to the capital, which was repeated at the end of July. Genji therefore prepared to come back. Before, however, he started, a month passed away, which time was mostly spent in the society of the lady of the hill-side mansion. The expected journey of Genji was now auspicious, even to him, and ought also to have been so to the family of the priest, but parting has always something painful in its nature. This was more so because the girl had by this time the witness of their love in her bosom, but he told her that he would send for her when his position was assured in the capital.
Towards the middle of August everything was in readiness, and Genji started on his journey homeward. He went to Naniwa, where he had the ceremony of Horai performed. To the temple of Sumiyoshi he sent a messenger to say that the haste of his journey prevented him coming at this time, but that he would fulfil his vows as soon as circumstances would permit. From Naniwa he proceeded to the capital, and returned once more, after an absence of nearly three years, to his mansion at Nijiô. The joy and excitement of the inmates of the mansion
were unbounded, and the development of Violet charmed his eyes. His delight was great and the pleasure of his mind was of the most agreeable nature; still, from time to time, in the midst of this very pleasure, the recollection of the maiden whom he had left at Akashi occurred to his thoughts. But this kind of perturbation was only the result of what had arisen from the very nature of Genji's character.
Before the lapse of many days all his titles and honors were restored to him, and he was soon created an extra Vice-Dainagon.
All those who had lost dignities or office on account of Genji's complications were also restored to them. It seemed to these like a sudden and unexpected return of spring to the leafless tree.
In the course of a few days Genji was invited by the Emperor to come and see him. The latter had scarcely recovered from his indisposition, and was still looking weak and thin. When Genji appeared before him, he manifested great pleasure, and they conversed together in a friendly way till the evening.
187:1 A religious feast in the Imperial Palace, in which Nin-wô-kiô, one of the Buddhist Bibles, was read, an event which rarely took place. Its object was to tranquillize the country.
188:2 The god of the sea.
191:3 The "biwa," more than any other instrument, is played by blind performers, who accompany it with ballads.
192:4 The services performed by rigid priests were six times daily—namely, at early morn, mid-day, sunset, early evening, midnight, and after midnight.
192:5 The Buddhist idea that when we get into Paradise we take our seat upon the lotus flower.