TWO LITTER BEARERS.
I who now stand before you am a woman of the village of Kantan in China. A long while ago I gave lodging to one who practised the arts of wizardry; and as payment be left here a famous pillow, called the Pillow of Kantan. He who sleeps on this pillow sees in a moment's dream the past or future spread out before him, and so awakes illumined. If it should chance that any worshipful travellers arrive today, pray send for me.
(She takes the pillow and lays it on the covered "daïs" which represents at first the bed and afterwards the palace.)
Lost on the journey of life, shall I learn at last
That I trod but a path of dreams?
My name is Rosei, and I have come from the land of Shoku. Though born to man's estate, I have not sought Buddha's way, but have drifted from dusk to dawn and dawn to dusk.
They tell me that on the Hill of the Flying Sheep in the land of So 1 there lives a mighty sage; and now I am hastening to visit him that he may tell by what rule I should conduct my life.
(Song of Travel.)
Deep hid behind the alleys of the sky
Lie the far lands where I was wont to dwell.
Over the hills I trail
A tattered cloak; over the hills again:
Fen-dusk and mountain-dusk and village-dusk p. 157
Closed many times about me, till to-day
At the village of Kantan,
Strange to me save in name, my journey ends.
I have travelled so fast that I am already come to the village of Kantan. Though the sun is still high, I will lodge here to-night. (Knocking.) May I come in?
Who is it?
I am a traveller; pray give me lodging for the night.
Yes, I can give you lodging; pray come this way. You seem to be travelling all alone. Tell me where you have come from and where you are going.
1 come from the land of Shoku. They tell me that on the Hill of the Flying Sheep there lives a sage; and I am visiting him that he may tell me by what rule I should conduct my life.
It is along way to the Hill of the Flying Sheep. Listen! A wizard once lodged here and gave us a marvellous pillow called the Pillow of Kantan: he who sleeps on it sees all his future in a moment's dream.
Where is this pillow?
It is on the bed.
I will go and sleep upon it.
And I meanwhile will heat you some millet at the fire.
ROSEI (going to the bed).
So this is the pillow, the Pillow of Kantan that I have heard such p. 158 strange tales of? Heaven has guided me to it, that I who came out t. learn the secret of life may taste the world in a dream.
As one whose course swift summer-rain has stayed,
Unthrifty of the noon he turned aside
To seek a wayside dream;
Upon the borrowed Pillow of Kantan
He laid his head and slept.
(While ROSEI is still chanting these words, the ENVOY enters, followed by two ATTENDANTS who carry a litter. The ENVOY raps on the post of the bed.)
Rosei, Rosei! I must speak with you.
(ROSEI, who has been lying with his fan over his face, rises when the ENVOY begins to speak.)
But who are you?
I am come as a messenger to tell you that the Emperor of the Land of So 1 resigns his throne and commands that Rosei shall reign in his stead.
Unthinkable! I a king? But for what reason am I assigned this task?
I cannot venture to determine. Doubtless there were found in your Majesty's countenance auspicious tokens, signs that you must rule the land. Let us lose no time; pray deign to enter this palanquin.
ROSEI (looking at the palanquin in astonishment).
What thing is this? A litter spangled with a dew of shining stones? I am not wont to ride. Such splendour! Oh, little thought I p. 159
When first my weary feet trod unfamiliar roads
In kingly state to be borne to my journey's end.
is it to Heaven I ride?
In jewelled palanquin
On the Way of Wisdom you are borne; here shall you learn
That the flower of glory fades like a moment's dream.
See, you are become a cloud-man of the sky. 1
The palaces of ancient kings
Rise up before you, Abō's Hall, the Dragon's Tower; 2
High over the tall clouds their moonlit gables gleam.
The light wells and wells like a rising tide. 3
Oh splendid vision! A courtyard strewn
With golden and silver sand;
And they that at the four sides
Pass through the jewelled door are canopied
With a crown of woven light.
In the Cities of Heaven, in the home of Gods, I had thought,
Shine such still beams on walls of stone;
Never on palace reared by hands of men.
Treasures, a thousand kinds, ten thousand kinds,
Tribute to tribute joined, a myriad vassal-kings
Cast down before the Throne.
Flags of a thousand lords, ten thousand lords
Shine many-coloured in the sky,
And the noise of their wind-flapping
Rolls round the echoing earth.
And in the east
Over a silver hill of thirty cubits height
A golden sun-wheel rose.
And in the west
Over a golden hill of thirty cubits height
A silver moon-wheel rose,
To prove his words who sang
"In the Palace of Long Life 1
The Springs and Autumns cease.
Before the Gate of Endless Youth 2
The days and months pass slow." 3
I would address your Majesty. Your Majesty has reigned for fifty years. Deign but to drink this drink and you shall live a thousand years. See! I bring you the nectar and the grail.
It is the wine that Immortals drink.
It is the cup from which they drink.
The magic wine! A thousand generations shall pass
Or ever the springtime of your glory fade.
I bountiful . . .
Your people prosperous.
For ever and ever
The land secure;
The flower of glory waxing;
The "herb of increase," joy-increasing
Into the cup we pour.
See! from hand to hand it goes.
"I will drink," he cries.
Go circling, magic cup,
Circling from hand to hand; 1
As at the Feast of Floating Cups 2
Hands thrust from damask sleeves detain
The goblet whirling in the eager stream;
Now launched, now landed! 3
Oh merry flashing light, that shall endure
Long as the Silver Chalice 4 circles space.
The white chrysanthem-dew,
"The dew of the flowers dripping day by day
In how many thousand years
Will it have grown into a pool?" 5
It shall not fail, it shall not fail,
The fountain of our Immortality;
He draws, and yet it wells;
He drinks, and to his taste it is as sweet
As the Gods' deathless food.
His heart grows airy; day and night
In unimagined revel, incomparable pride and glory
Eternally shall pass.
(End of the BOY DANCER'S dance. ROSEI, who has been watching this dance, now springs up in ecstasy to dance the Gaku or Court Dance.)
The spring-time of my glory fades not . . .
Many times shall you behold
The pale moon of dawn . . .
This is the moon-men's dance;
Cloud-like the feathery sleeves pile up; the song of joy
From dusk to dawn I sing.
All night we sing.
The sun shines forth again,
Sinks down, and it is night . . .
Nay, dawn has come!
We thought the morning young, and lo! the moon
Again is bright.
Spring scarce has opened her fresh flowers,
When leaves are crimson-dyed.
Summer is with us yet;
Nay, the snow falls.
CHORUS (speaking for ROSEI).
"I watched the seasons pass:
Spring, summer, autumn, winter; a thousand trees,
A thousand flowers were strange and lovely in their pride.
So the time sped, and now
Fifty years of glory have passed by me,
And because they were a dream,
(At this point an ATTENDANT brings back the pillow, and places it in the "palace," which becomes a bed again.)
All, all has vanished and I wake
On the pillow where I laid my head,
The Pillow of Kantan.
(The BOY DANCER and the two COURTIERS slip out by the side-door "kirido"; ROSEI has mounted the bed and is asleep.)
HOSTESS (tapping twice with her fan).
Listen, traveller! Your millet is ready. Come quickly and eat your dinner.
ROSEI (rising slowly from the bed).
Rosei has woken from his dream . . .
Woken from his dream! The springs and autumns of fifty years
Vanished with all their glory; dazed he rises from the bed.
Whither are they gone that were so many . . .
"The queens and waiting-ladies? What I thought their voices"
Were but the whisperings of wind in the trees.
The palaces and towers
Were but the baiting-house of Kantan.
The time of my glory,
Those fifty years,
Were but the space of a dream,
Dreamed while a bowl of millet cooked!
It is the Inscrutable, the Mystery.
Yet when I well consider
Man's life in the world of men . . .
Then shall you find that a hundred years of gladness
Fade as a dream when Death their sequence closes.
Thus too has ended
This monarch's fifty years of state.
Ambition, length of days,
Revels and kingly rule,
All, all has ended thus, all was a dream
Dreamed while the millet cooked.
Glory be to the Trinity, 1
Glory to the Trinity!
Seek you a sage to loose
The bonds that bound you to life's woes?
This pillow is the oracle you sought.
Now shall the wayfarer, content to learn
What here he learnt, that Life is but a dream,
Turn homeward from the village of Kantan.
156:1 Corresponds to the modern province Hupeh.
158:1 So, Chinese "Ch'u" was formerly an independent feudal State. The name means "thorn," as does the Japanese "Ibara." Chamberlain calls it "The Country of Ibara," but in this case the reading "So" is indicated by both Owada and Haga.
159:1 Kings and princes are often called "thou above the clouds."
159:2 Palaces of the First Emperor. An attendant has removed the pillow from the "bed." From this moment the bed becomes a magnificent palace, as described in the verses which follow.
159:3 At this point the Boy Dancer enters.
160:1 Name of a famous Chinese palace.
160:2 Famous Gate in the palace of the T'ang Emperors.
160:3 These lines are from a poem by Yasutane, d. 997 A. n. (Chamberlain attributes them to Po Chü-i)
161:1 Here the Boy Dancer begins to dance the Dream-dance.
161:2 On the third day of the third mouth people floated cups in the stream. Each person as the cup passed in front of him, had to compose a poem and drink the contents of the cup.
161:3 These words also describe the dancer's movements.
161:4 The Moon.
161:5 See Waley, Japanese Poetry, p. 77.
164:1 I. e. Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood. A pious exclamation of astonishment like the Spanish "Jesù, Maria. José!"