THE play is written round a story and a poem. A man came to the capital and was the lover of a woman there. Suddenly he vanished and she, in great distress, set out to look for him in the country he came from. She found his house, and asked his servants where he was. They told her he had just married and was with his wife. When she heard this she ran out of the house and leapt into the Hōjō River.
GHOST OF THE LOVER.
When this was told him,
Startled, perturbed, he went to the place;
But when he looked,
Pitiful she lay,
Limp-limbed on the ground.
Then weeping, weeping--
GHOST OF GIRL
He took up the body in his arms,
And at the foot of this mountain
Laid it to rest in earth.
GHOST OF LOVER.
And from that earth sprang up
A lady-flower 1 and blossomed
Alone upon her grave.
"This flower is her soul."
And still he lingered, tenderly
Touched with his hand the petals' hem,
Till in the flower's dress and on his own
The same dew fell.
But the flower, he thought, p. 225
Was angry with him, for often when he touched it
It drooped and turned aside.
Such is the story upon which the play is founded. The poem is one by Bishop Henjō (816-890):
That preen yourselves upon the autumn hill,
Even you that make so brave a show,
Last but "one while."
Hito toki, "one while," is the refrain of the play. It was for "one while" that they lived together in the Capital; it is for "one while" that men are young, that flowers blossom, that love lasts. In the first part of the play an aged man hovering round a clump of lady-flowers begs the priest not to pluck them. In the second part this aged man turns into the soul of the lover. The soul of the girl also appears, and both are saved by the priest's prayers from that limbo (half death, half life) where all must linger who die in the coils of shūshin, "heart-attachment."
224:1 Ominabeshi (or ominameshi, ominayeshi), "Ladies' Meal," but written with Chinese characters meaning "ladies' flower," a kind of patrinia.