By KWANAMI; REVISED BY SEAMI
LORD YUKIHIRA, brother of Narihira, was banished to the lonely shore of Suma. While he lived there he amused himself by helping two fisher-girls to carry salt water from the sea to the salt-kilns on the shore. Their names were Matsukaze and Murasame.
At this time he wrote two famous poems; the first, while he was crossing the mountains on his way to Suma:
"Through the traveller's dress
The autumn wind blows with sudden chill.
It is the shore-wind of Suma
Blowing through the pass."
When he had lived a little while at Suma, he sent to the Capital a poem which said:
"If any should ask news,
Tell him that upon the shore of Suma
I drag the water-pails."
Long afterwards Prince Genji was banished to the same place. The chapter of the Genji Monogatari called "Suma" says:
Although the sea was some way off, yet when the melancholy autumn wind came "blowing through the pass" (the very wind of Yukihira's poem), the beating of the waves on the shore seemed near indeed.
It is round these two poems and the prose passage quoted above that the play is written.
A wandering priest comes to the shore of Suma, and sees a strange pine-tree standing alone. A "person of the place" (in an interlude not printed in the usual texts) tells him that the tree was planted in memory of two fisher-girls, Matsukaze, and Murasame, and asks him to pray for them. While the priest prays it grows p. 227 late and he announces that he intends to ask for shelter "in that salt-kiln." He goes to the "waki's pillar" and waits there as if waiting for the master of the kiln to return.
Meanwhile Matsukaze and Murasame come on to the stage and perform the "water-carrying" dance which culminates in the famous passage known as "The moon in the water-pails."
CHORUS (speaking for MURASAME).
There is a moon in my pail!
Why, into my pail too a moon has crept!
(Looking up at the sky.)
One moon above...
Two imaged moons below,
So through the night each carries
A moon on her water-truck,
Drowned at the bucket's brim.
Forgotten, in toil on this salt sea-road,
The sadness of this world where souls cling!
Their work is over and they approach their huts, i. e., the "waki's pillar," where the priest is sitting waiting. After refusing for a long while to admit him "because their hovel is too mean to receive him," they give him shelter, and after the usual questioning, reveal their identities.
In the final ballet Matsukaze dresses in the "court-hat and hunting cloak given her by Lord Yukihira" and dances, among other dances, the "Broken Dance," which also figures in Hagoromo.
The "motif" of this part of the play is another famous poem by Yukihira, that by which he is represented in the Hyakuninisshu or "Hundred Poems by a Hundred Poets":
"When I am gone away,
If I hear that like the pine-tree on Mount Inaba
You are waiting for me,
Even then I will come back to you."
There is a play of words between matsu, "wait," and matsu, "pine-tree"; Inaba, the name of a mountain, and inaba, "if I go away."
The play ends with the release of the girls' souls from the shūshin, "heart-attachment," which holds them to the earth.