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

p. 392


Again once when the Heavenly Sovereign going out for amusement, reached the River Miwa, 1 there was a girl, whose aspect was very beautiful, washing clothes by the river-side. The Heavenly Sovereign asked the girl, [saying]: "Whose child art thou?" She replied, saying: "My name is Akawi-ko of the Hiketa Tribe." 2 Then he caused her to be told, saying: "Do not thou [314] marry a husband. I will send for thee, "—and [with these words] he returned to the palace. So eighty years had already passed while she reverently awaited the Heavenly Sovereign's commands. Thereupon Akawi-ko thought: "As, while looking for the [Imperial] commands, I have already passed many years, and as my face and form are lean and withered, there is no longer any hope. Nevertheless, if I do not show [the Heavenly Sovereign] how truly I have waited, my disappointment will be unbearable;"—and [so saying] she caused merchandise

p. 393

to be carried on tables holding an hundred, 3 and came forth and presented [these gifts as] tribute. Thereat the Heavenly Sovereign, who had quite forgotten what he had formerly commanded, asked Akawi-ko, saying: "What old woman art thou, and why art thou come hither?" Then Akawiko replied, saying: "Having in such and such a month of such and such a year received the Heavenly Sovereign's commands, I have been reverently awaiting the great command until this day, and eighty years have past by. Now my appearance is quite decrepit, and there is no longer any hope. Nevertheless I have come forth in order to show and declare my faithfulness." Thereupon the Heavenly Sovereign was greatly startled [and exclaimed]: "I had quite forgotten the former circumstance; and thou meanwhile, ever faithfully awaiting my commands, hast vainly let pass by the years of thy prime. This is very pitiful." In his heart he wished to marry her, but shrank from her extreme age, and could not make the marriage; but he conferred on her an august Song. That Song said:

"How awful is the sacred oak-tree, the oak-tree of the august dwelling! Maiden of the oak-plain!" 4

Again he sang, saying: [315]

"The younger chestnut orchard plain of Hiketa:—o si dormivissem cum iliâ in juventâ! Oh! how old she has become!" 5

Then the tears that Akawi-ko wept quite drenched the red-dyed sleeve that she had on. 6 In reply to the great august Song, she sang, saying:

"Left over from the piling up of the jewel-wall piled up round the august dwelling,p. 394—to whom shall the person of the Deity's temple go?" 7

[316] Again she sang, saying:

"Oh! how enviable is she who is in her bloom like the flowering lotus,—the lotus of the inlet, of the inlet of Kusaka!" 8

Then the old woman was sent back plentifully endowed. So these four Songs are Quiet Songs. 9


392:1 Miwa gawa. It is the stream which flows past Hatsuse. For Miwa see Sect. LXV, Note 8.

392:2 Hiketa-bo no Akawi-ko. Hiketa is in Yamato. The etymology of the word is obscure. Akawi-ko signifies "red boar child;" but the appropriateness of the name to the woman in the story is not made to appear.

393:3 See Sect. XXXVII, Note 7.

393:4 Moribe says that, in this Song, the forgetful Monarch calls to mind the majestic and awful appearance of the sacred tree in the temple-grounds, and is moved by this religious thought to repent of his neglectful treatment as her who had so patiently waited for him through so many years. Motowori, on the contrary, sees in the words nothing more than a comparison of the old woman to some sacred tree of immemorial age, and the aversion felt by the monarch to an union with her.—The oak mentioned (the Kashi, Quercus myrsinæfolia) is an evergreen species. Both Motowori and Moribe consider that mimoro in the original Japanese of this Song should be taken, not as a proper name (see Sect. XXVIII, Notes 3 and 5), but simply as signifying "a sacred dwelling." As Miwa is mentioned in the earlier part of the story, it might seem more natural to regard mimoro as likewise being a Proper Name. But the word mimoro itself signifying "sacred spot," the difference between the two views does not amount to much, and it is best to follow native authority. "Oak-plain" (kashi-hara) means "a place planted with oak-trees." The first sentence of the Song must be looked on as a sort of preface to the second.

393:5 The first words of this Song down to the colon and dash are a Preface to the Song proper, whose meaning stands in need of no explanation,—Moribe surmises that the word kuri, "chestnut," was formerly p. 395 a general name for all sorts of fruits, somewhat like our English word "berry."

393:6 The drenching of the sleeve with tears is a common figure in Japanese poetry.

394:7 Or we might (following Moribe) render thus: "Left over from the guarding of the jewel-grove guard at the august dwelling," etc. The wording of his Song is far from clear. While Motowori sees in it a reference to the construction of a wall round the ground of a temple, the overplus of the materials for which sacred wall could not, it may be presumed, be applied to any profane purpose, Moribe disputes the propriety of such an interpretation of the word kaki which, according to him, denotes the grove planted in temple-grounds, temples never having been surrounded by walls such as Motowori assumes the existence of, nor even by "hedges" or "fences," which is the more usual acceptation of the term. He thinks, therefore, that the superficial signification of the actual words of the Song is that the priest, who has all his life been in the service of one particular shrine, cannot desert it for the adoration of some other deity. The underlying deeper significance of the little poem is in either case the same: Akawi-ko had, during her long waiting of eighty years, remained true to her first love, the Emperor. For every reason it had been impossible for her ever to give her affections to another, and she had now come up to the capital to demonstrate to him who had forgotten her the unchangeable nature of her feelings.

394:8 This pretty little poem is too clear to need any comment. Moribe supposes that some lotuses brought from Kusaka may have been among the presents made by Akawi-ko to the Emperor. In the original Japanese the reference to the lotuses comes first, as a sort of preface to the rest of the poem. The laws of English construction necessitate its being put last in the translation.

394:9 See Sect. CXXIV, Note 19.

Next: Section CLV.—Emperor Yū-riyaku (Part VI.—He Makes a Progress to Yeshinu)