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The Kojiki, translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain, [1919], at


Again when the Heavenly Sovereign made a copious feast under a hundred-branching tsuki-tree 1b at Hatsuse, a female attendant from Mihe 2b in the land of Ise lifted

p. 402

up the great august cup, and presented it to him. Then from the hundred-branching tsuki-tree there fell a leaf and floated in the great august cup. The female attendant, not knowing that the fallen leaf was floating in the cup, did not desist from presenting 3 the great august liquor to the Heavenly Sovereign, who, perceiving the leaf floating in the cup, knocked the female attendant down, put his sword to her neck, and was about to cut off her head, when the female attendant spoke to the Heavenly Sovereign, saying: "Slay me not! There is something that I must say to thee:" and forthwith she sang, saying:

"The palace of Hishiro at Makimuku is a palace where shines the morning sun, a palace where glistens the evening sun, a palace plentifully rooted as the root of the bamboo, a palace with spreading roots like the roots of the trees, a palace pestled with oh! eight hundred [loads of] earth, As for the branches of the hundred-fold flourishing tsuki-tree growing by the house of new licking at the august gate [made of] [322] chamæcyparis [wood], the uppermost branch has the sky above it, the middle branch has the east above it, the lowest branch has the country above it. A leaf from the tip of the uppermost branch falls against the middle branch; a leaf from the tip of the middle branch falls against the lowest branch; a leaf from the tip of the lowest branch, falling into the oil floating in the fresh jewelled goblet which the maid p. 403 of Mihe is lifting up, all [goes] curdle-curdle. Ah! this is very awful, August Child of the High-Shining Sun! The tradition of the thing, too this!" 4

So on her presenting this Song, her crime was [323] pardoned. Then the Empress sang. Her Song said:

"Present the luxuriant august liquor to the august child of the high-shining sun, who is broad like the leaves, who is brilliant like the blossoms of the broad-foliaged five hundred[-fold branching] true camellia-tree that stands growing by the house of new licking in this high metropolis of Yamato, on this high-timbered mound of the metropolis The tradition of this thing, too this!" 5

Forthwith the Heavenly Sovereign sang, saying: [324]

"The people of the great palace, having put on scarfs like the quail-birds having put their tails together like wagtails' and congregated together like the yard-sparrows, may perhaps to-day be truly steeped in liquor,—the people of the palace of the high-shining sun. The tradition of the thing, too, this." 6

These three Songs are Songs of Heavenly Words. 7 [325] So at this copious feast this female attendant from Mihe was praised and plentifully endowed.

p. 404 p. 405 p. 406


401:1b p. 403 Said to be scarcely distinguishable from the keyaki (Zelkowa keaki)

401:2b See Sect. LXXXIX, Note 7.

402:3 Literally "still presented."

403:4 p. 404 To understand the allusion at the beginning of this Song to the palace of Hishiro at Makimuku, which had been the residence of the Emperor Kei-kō (See Sect. LXXVI, Note 1), it must be known that in the account of the reign of that monarch as given in the "Chronicles" there is a story which, like that in the text, turns on carelessness in dealing with a goblet,—carelessness which Kei-kō graciously pardoned. Moreover the scene of the incident here related was in the immediate neighbourhood of the old palace of Hishiro. There was therefore a double reason for referring to that place; and the under-current of insinuation is, that as Kei-kō in the olden time forgave the courtiers who forgot his goblet, will not the present Sovereign forgive the maid of Mihe for letting a leaf fall into his? The poetess, after describing the splendour and solidity of the Imperial abode, passes on to a mention of the luxuriant and many-branching tsuki-tree growing near "the house of new licking," i.e., the sacred hall where the Sovereign performed each year the ceremony of tasting the first-fruits of the harvest. The "gate" may either be taken in its literal acceptation, or else regarded as used by metonymy for the palace itself. The description of that which the middle and lowest branches "have above them" is somewhat obscure, and perhaps the words should not be too strictly pressed for a perfectly rational meaning, their chief use being as metrical parallelisms. The supposition of the commentators is however that the poetess, in speaking of this immense tree, meant to say that the middle branch (or branches) spread eastward, and the lowest branches westward. Next we are told of the fall of the fatal leaf into the oil, i.e., into the liquor, contained in the Imperial goblet; and the poetess, before acknowledging the awfulness of her misdemeanour, skilfully brings in an allusion to the Japanese account of the creation, when the drops that fell from the spear used by the creator and creatrix Izanagi and Izanami to make the brine "go curdle-curdle" did very good work indeed; for they were piled up and became the first-formed island for the Japanese archipelago (see Sect. III): for drops to fall down, or for leaves to fall into drops (of wine), must therefore surely be a good omen rather than a crime. Conformably with the hesitating nature of her allusion, the maiden leaves it quite uncertain what is conceived of as "going curdle-curdle" in the present instance. In fact, neither must the thought be pressed too far, nor the sentence searched too rigorously from a grammatical point of view. Such intentional vagueness is one of the specific characteristics of a great deal of the poetry of Japan. The words "the tradition of the thing, p. 405 too, this!", which conclude the poem, are obscure in another and more usual sense; but, having been already treated of in Note 4 to Sect. XXIV, they need not detain us here. They do not affect the sense of the rest of the poem. Two points more remain to be noticed: one is that the word Mihe and hi no mi hado ("august gate of chamæcyparis") are respectively preceded by the Pillow-Words ariginu no, whose signification is disputed, and makisaku, which signifies "splitting true trees;" the other, that the original of the word "glistens" near the commencement of the poem only has that sense if, following Moribe, we identify hi-gakeru with hi-kagayakeru. As it stands, the word kakeru lends itself more naturally to the interpretation of "sets." But the logical difficulty of accepting the phrase "where the sun sets" in such a context, where on the contrary some phrase of good omen is alone appropriate, seems greater than the philological difficulty of deriving hi-gakeru by a process of contraction from hi-kagayakeru. The designation of the Emperor or Heir Apparent by the title of "august child of the high-shining sun" has been met with before, and needs no explanation when the solar ancestry claimed by the Japanese monarchs is called to mind.

403:5 The gist of this Song, which must be supposed to be addressed to the female attendant, is simply: "Present the goblet full of liquor to the Emperor."—In accordance with the rules of Japanese construction the Imperative "present," which is the chief Verb of the sentence, comes last, and is preceded by the comparison of the Monarch to the leaves and flowers of the camellia-tree, while the comparatively unimportant words describing the position of the tree come at the beginning. Thus in a literal English translation the climax is necessarily spoilt through the reversal of the order of the words. The "broad-leafed camellia "has already appeared in Sect. CXXIII, Note 11, the "house of new licking" has been explained in the note immediately preceding the present one, and the incomprehensible concluding exclamation has been discussed in Sect. XXIV, Note 4. The "high metropolis "of Yamato is of course the then capital. There is however some doubt whether the word take-chi, which is here thus rendered, should not rather be considered as a proper name. The expression ko-dakaru, rendered "high-timbered." is also doubtful. Motowori interprets it simply as "slightly high." Moribe seems right in explaining the word tsukasa to mean "a mound."

403:6 This Song is here out of place, and is supposed by Motowori to have been composed, not by the Emperor, but by some court-lady who was absent from the feast. The meaning simply is: "Ah yes," ’tis to-day that the court ladies are "drinking their fill of rice-liquor[.—and p. 406 would that I were with them)!"—The picture here presented of the manners of the court is not attractive; but the comparison of the ladies' appearance with that of various birds is quaint. The commentators tell us that the appropriateness of the use of the word "scarfs" as applied to the quail lies in the peculiar plumage of that bird, which makes it look as if it had a scarf on. "Having put their tails together" means "standing with their trains in a row." The epithet "yard "applied to the sparrows paints the habits of that bird. The words "great palace" are in the original preceded by the Pillow-Word momoshiki no, whose signification is disputed. After lines

Kefu mo ka mo

rendered "may perhaps to day be truly steeped in liquor," Moribe would like to consider the lines

Asu ma koma

i.e., "may perhaps to-morrow be truly steeped in liquor" to have been accidentally omitted. There is no doubt but that their insertion would add to the effect of the poem from the point of view of style.

403:7 , read ama-koto-uta. This expression is altogether obscure, and the commentators differ in their interpretations of it. Mabuchi, following the characters, sees in them an allusion to the words "august child of the high-shining sun" which recurs in each of the three Songs thus bracketed together. Motowori thinks that ama-koto should be regarded as standing for amari-goto ( ) "surplus words," in allusion to the meaningless refrain with which the Songs in question terminate. Other Songs, however, which end in the same manner, are not thus designated. Moribe's exegesis, though founded on Motowori's is preferable to it. Accepting ama-koto as a contraction of amari-goto, he would take the second half of the compound in the sense of "things," not "words" ( not ), and regard the whole as signifying that the Songs were composed or sung after the conclusion of the actual feast. Against this view must be set the fact that the Chinese characters lend it no support. The translator, has, as usual when in doubt, preferred to adhere to the sense given by the characters.

Next: Section CLXI.—Emperor Yū-riyaku (Part XII.—Songs by the Emperor and Princess Wodo)