July 4, 2006

the dewdrop of her life...

Our mad infatuation with LibraryThing has led to one happy result, the rediscovery of many fine books on our many many shelves. This is a piece from Tale of the Heike, which I haven't read these twenty or thirty years...

..."You are coldhearted. Even so I cannot stop loving you..." began the letter, [to lady-in-waiting Kozaishô, which princess Shôsaimon-In has picked up off the floor] and the princess read until she came to the following poem, which concluded it:
As a single log
Over a small mountain stream
Endures being trodden upon,
I feel like that log and weep,
Having no reply from you.
"This is a letter protesting that you never responded to him," said the princess, turning to Kozaishô. "If you remain too hard-hearted, you will be liable to ill-fortune.

"Long ago there lived a woman named Ono no Komachi, renowned for her beauty, and her talent at composing poems. Many men approached her and wooed her, but they were all rejected, and finally everyone began to despise her. Her heart of stone brought inevitable retribution to her. She was then obliged to live alone in a desolate hut, hardly protected from the wind and rain. Her eyes, dimmed with tears, reflected the light of the moon and stars filtering through the chinks of the hut. She managed to sustain the dewdrop of her life by eating young grass in the field and plucking watercress. This letter should be answered by all means.

So saying, she called for an ink stone and wrote as a reply in her own distinguished hand the following poem:

Simply trust the log,
Be it ever so slender,
As strong is the core.
Although trampled and splashed,
It will stay over the stream.
The poem kindled the fire of passion that had been smoldering in the depths of Kozaishô's heart. Now it rose like smoke from the crater of Mount Fuji. Her tears of joy rushed down her sleeves like the lapping waves at the Kiyomi Checkpoint. Thus her flower-like beauty brought her happiness and led her to be the wife of Lord Michimori of the third court rank. The affection between them was so profound that they journeyed together even among the clouds of the western sea and even to the dark path in the world beyond.

The Vice-Councillor by the Main Gate, Norimori, outlived his eldest son Michimori, and his youngest son Norimori. Only two of his sons—the governor of Noto Province, Noritsune, and the priest and vice-councilor, Chukai—survived the battle. He had eagerly wished to see Michimori's child, but this hope was carried away with his daughter-in-law Kozaishô to the regions beyond the grave. He now fell into deep sorrow...
Posted by John Weidner at July 4, 2006 3:30 PM
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