Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan/2
THE DIARY OF MURASAKI SHIKIBU
As the autumn season approaches the Tsuchimikado becomes inexpressibly smile-giving. The tree-tops near the pond, the bushes near the stream, are dyed in varying tints whose colours grow deeper in the mellow light of evening. The murmuring sound of waters mingles all the night through with the never-ceasing recitation of sutras which appeal more to one's heart as the breezes grow cooler.
The ladies waiting upon her honoured presence are talking idly. The Queen hears them; she must find them annoying, but she conceals it calmly. Her beauty needs no words of mine to praise it, but I cannot help feeling that to be near so beautiful a queen will be the only relief from my sorrow. So in spite of my better desires [for a religious life] I am here. Nothing else dispels my grief—it is wonderful!
It is still the dead of night, the moon is dim and darkness lies under the trees. We hear an officer call, "The outer doors of the Queen's apartment must be opened. The maids-of-honour are not yet come—let the Queen's secretaries come forward!" While this order is being given the three-o'clock bell resounds, startling the air. Immediately the prayers at the five altars begin. The voices of the priests in loud recitation, vying with each other far and near, are solemn indeed. The Abbot of the Kanon-in Temple, accompanied by twenty priests, comes from the eastern side building to pray. Even their footsteps along the gallery which sound to´-do-ro to´-do-ro are sacred. The head priest of the Hoju Temple goes to the mansion near the race-track, the prior of the Henji Temple goes to the library. I follow with my eyes when the holy figures in pure white robes cross the stately Chinese bridge and walk along the broad path. Even Azaliah Saisa bends the body in reverence before the deity Daiitoku. The maids-of-honour arrive at dawn.
I can see the garden from my room beside the entrance to the gallery. The air is misty, the dew is still on the leaves. The Lord Prime Minister is walking there; he orders his men to cleanse the brook. He breaks off a stalk of omenaishi [flower maiden] which is in full bloom by the south end of the bridge. He peeps in over my screen! His noble appearance embarrasses us, and I am ashamed of my morning [not yet painted and powdered] face. He says, "Your poem on this! If you delay so much the fun is gone!"
OLD PRINT OF A NOBLEMAN'S DWELLING IN THE AZUMAYA STYLE
The Tsuchimikado, or Prime Minister's mansion, must have been like this
and I seize the chance to run away to the writing-box, hiding my face—
Flower-maiden in bloom—
Even more beautiful for the bright dew,
Which is partial, and never favors me.
"So prompt!" said he, smiling, and ordered a writing-box to be brought [for himself].
The silver dew is never partial.
From her heart
The flower-maiden's beauty.
One wet and calm evening I was talking with Lady Saisho. The young Lord of the Third Rank sat with the misu partly rolled up. He seemed maturer than his age and was very graceful. Even in light conversation such expressions as "Fair soul is rarer than fair face" come gently to his lips, covering us with confusion. It is a mistake to treat him like a young boy. He keeps his dignity among ladies, and I saw in him a much-sought-after romantic hero when once he walked off reciting to himself:
Linger in the field where flower-maidens are blooming
And your name will be tarnished with tales of gallantry.
Some such trifle as that sometimes lingers in my mind when really interesting things are soon forgotten—why?
Nowadays people are carrying pretty folding fans.
Since the twentieth of the Eighth month, the more favoured court nobles and officers have been on night duty, passing the nights in the corridor, or on the mats of the veranda idly amusing themselves. Young men who are unskilled in koto or fué [harp or flute] amuse themselves with tonearasoi and imayo, and at such a time this is entertaining. Narinobu, the Queen's Grand Chamberlain, Tsunefusa, the Lieutenant-General of the Left Bodyguard and State Councillor, and Narimasa, the Major-General of the Bodyguard and Governor of Mino, passed the night in diversions. The Lord Prime Minister must have been apprehensive, for he has forbidden all public entertainment. Those who have long retired from the court have come in crowds to ask after the Queen's welfare, so we have had no peace.
Twenty-sixth day. We finished the preparation of perfume and distributed it to all. A number of us who had been making it into balls assembled together. On my way from Her Majesty's chamber I peeped into Ben Saisho's room. She was sleeping. She wore garments of hagi and shion over which she had put a strongly perfumed lustrous robe. Her face was hidden behind the cloth; her head rested on a writing-case of gold lacquer. Her forehead was beautiful and fascinating. She seemed like a princess in a picture. I took off the cloth which hid her mouth and said, "You are just like the heroine of a romance!" She blushed, half rising; she was beauty itself. She is always beautiful, but on this occasion her charm was wonderfully heightened.
May that lady live one thousand years who guards the flowers!
My sleeves are wet with thankful tears
As though I had been walking
In a garden of dewy chrysanthemums.
I wanted to send it, but as I heard that she had gone away I kept it.
The evening I went to the Queen's chamber. As the moon was beautiful, skirts overflowed from beneath the misu. By and by there came Lady Koshosho and Lady Dainagon. Her Majesty took out some of the perfume made the other day and put it into an incense burner to try it. The garden was admirable—"When the ivy leaves become red!" they were saying—but our Lady seemed less tranquil than usual. The priests came for prayers, and I went into the inside room but was called away and finally went to my own chamber. I wanted only to rest a few minutes, but fell asleep. By midnight everybody was in great excitement.
Tenth day of the Long-moon month.
When day began to dawn the decorations of the Queen's chamber were changed and she removed to a white bed. The Prime Minister, his sons, and other noblemen made haste to change the curtains of the screens, the bed cover, and other things. All day long she lay ill at ease. Men cried at the top of their voices to scare away evil spirits. There assembled not only the priests who had been summoned here for these months, but also itinerant monks who were brought from every mountain and temple. Their prayers would reach to the Buddhas of the three worlds. All the soothsayers in the world were summoned. Eight million gods seemed to be listening with ears erect for their Shinto prayers. Messengers ran off to order sutra-reciting at various temples; thus the night was passed. On the east side of the screen [placed around the Queen's bed] there assembled the ladies of the Court. On the west side there were lying the Queen's substitutes possessed with [or who were enticing] the evil spirits. Each was lying surrounded by a pair of folding screens. The joints of the screens were curtained and priests were appointed to cry sutras there. On the south side there sat in many rows abbots and other dignitaries of the priesthood, who prayed and swore till their voices grew hoarse, as if they were bringing down the living form of Fudo. The space between the north room and the dais [on which was the Queen's bed] was very narrow, yet when I thought of it afterwards I counted more than forty persons who were standing there. They could not move at all, and grew so dizzy that they could remember nothing. The people [i.e. the ladies-in-waiting and maids-of-honour] now coming from home could not enter the main apartment at all. There was no place for their flowing robes and long sleeves. Certain older women wept secretly.
Eleventh day. At dawn the north sliding doors were taken away to throw the two rooms together. The Queen was moved towards the veranda. As there was no time to hang misu, she was surrounded by kichō. The Reverend Gyocho and the other priests performed incantations. The Reverend Ingen recited the prayer written by the Lord Prime Minister on the previous day adding some grave vows of his own. His words were infinitely august and hopeful. The Prime Minister joining in the prayer, we felt more assured of a fortunate delivery. Yet there was still lingering anxiety which made us very sad, and many eyes were filled with tears. We said, "Tears are not suitable to this occasion," but we could not help crying. They said that Her Majesty suffered more because the rooms were too crowded, so the people were ordered to the south and east rooms. After this there remained in the Royal Apartment only the more important personages. The Prime Minister, Lady Sanuki, and Lady Saisho were within the [Royal] screen. The honoured priest of Ninna Temple and the court priest of Mii Temple were summoned within. The Prime Minister gave various commands, and his voice overpowered those of the priests. There were also Ladies Dainagon, Koshosho, Miya-no-Naishi, Nakatsukasa-no-Kimi, Tayu-no-Myobu, Daishikibu-no-Omoto, Tono-no-Senji—these last were venerable ladies of experience, but even they were bewildered with good reason. I am yet a novice, and I felt with all my heart that the occasion was serious. Also, in the place a little behind, outside the curtain, there were the nurses of the Princesses Naishi-no-Kami and Nakatsukasa, of the Queen's sister Shōnagon, and of her younger sister Koshikibu. These nurses forced their way into the narrow passage behind the two screens and there walked back and forth, so that none could pass that way. There were many other persons bustling about, but I could not distinguish them. The Prime Minister's son, Lieutenant-General Saisho, Major-General Masamichi of the Fourth Rank, not to speak of Lieutenant-General Tsunefusa, of the Left Bodyguard, and Miya-no-Tayu, who had not known Her Majesty familiarly, all looked over her screen for some time. They showed eyes swollen up with weeping [over her sufferings], forgetting the shame of it. On their heads rice was scattered white as snow. Their rumpled clothes must have been unseemly, but we could only think of those things afterward. A part of the Queen's head was shaved. I was greatly astonished and very sorry to see it, but she was delivered peacefully. The after-birth was delayed, and all priests crowded to the south balcony, under the eaves of the magnificent main building, while those on the bridge recited sutras more passionately, often kneeling.
Among the ladies-in-waiting on the east side were seen some of the courtiers. Lady Kochujo's eye met that of the Lieutenant-General. People afterwards laughed over her astonished expression. She is a very fascinating and elegant person, and is always very careful to adorn her face. This morning she had done so, but her eyes were red, and her rouge was spoiled by tears. She was disfigured, and hardly seemed the same person. The imperfectly made-up face of Lady Saisho was a rare sight, but what about my own? It is lucky for me that people cannot notice such things at such a time.
As the after-birth came, it was fearful to hear the jealously swearing voices of the evil spirits. Shinzo-Azari took charge of Lady Ben-no-Kurodo; Sōyo took charge of Hyoé-no-Kurodo; a priest Hojuji took charge of Ukon-no-Kurodo; Chiso Azari took charge of Lady Miya-no-Naishi. This last priest was overpowered with the evil spirit, and as he was in a too pitiable state Ninkaku Azari went to help him. It was not because his prayer had little virtue, but the [evil] spirit was too strong. Priest Eiko was in charge of Lady Saisho's supplicator of the spirit [i.e. Queen's substitute]. This priest swore all night till his voice became hoarse. Most ladies who were summoned in order that the spirits might enter into them remained safe, and they were much troubled [thinking that it would be to the Queen's advantage were they attacked]. At noon we felt that the sun came out at last. The Queen was at ease!
She is now at peace. Incomparable joy! Moreover, it is a prince, so the joy cannot be oblique. The court ladies who had passed the previous day in anxiety, not knowing what to do, as if they were lost in the mist of the early morning, went one by one to rest in their own rooms, so that before the Queen there remained only some elderly persons proper for such occasions. The Lord Prime Minister and his Lady went away to give offerings to the priest who had read sutras and performed religious austerities during the past months, and to those doctors who were recently summoned. The doctors and soothsayers, who had invented special forms of efficacy, were given pensions. Within the house they were perhaps preparing for the ceremony of bathing the child.
Large packages [of ceremonial clothes] were carried to the apartments of the ladies-in-waiting. Karaginu and embroidered trains were worn. Some wore dazzlingly brilliant trains embroidered and ornamented with mother-of-pearl. Some lamented that the fans which had been ordered had not come. They all painted and powdered. When I looked from the bridge I saw Her Majesty's first officials, and the highest officers of His Highness the Crown Prince [the newborn child] and other court nobles. The Prime Minister went out to have the brook, which had been choked with mud, cleaned out.
All the people seem happy. Even those who have some cause for melancholy are overtaken by the general joy. The First Official of our Queen has naturally seemed happier than anybody, though he does not show special smiles of self-satisfaction and pride.
The Lieutenant-General of the Light Bodyguard has been joking with the King's Adviser of the Middle Rank, sitting on a mat on the balcony of the side building. The sword of His Highness the young Prince has been brought from the Imperial Court. The Lieutenant-General, and First Secretary Yorisada, on his way home from the shrine at Isé where he had gone as Imperial Messenger to offer nusa, stopped at the gate [as he could not enter the house] to inquire for Her Majesty. He was given some present, I did not see it.
The navel cord was cut by the Prime Minister's Lady. Lady Tachibana of the Third Rank gave the breast for the first time [ceremonial]. For the wet-nurse Daisaémon-no-Omoto was chosen, for she has been in the Court a long time and is very familiar with it; the daughter of Munetoki, courtier and Governor of Bitchu, and the nurse of Kurodo-no-Ben were also chosen as nurses.
The ceremony of bathing was performed at six o'clock in the evening. The bath was lighted [by torches]. The Queen's maid in white over green prepared the hot water. The stand for the bathtub was covered with white cloth.
Chikamitsu, Governor of Owari [Province], and Nakanobu, the Head Officer attached to the Queen, presented themselves before the misu.
There were two stands for kettles.
Lady Kyoiko and Lady Harima poured the cold water. Two ladies, Omoku and Uma, selected sixteen jars from among those into which the hot water was poured [choosing the purest]. These ladies wore gauze outer garments, fine silk trains, karaginu, and saishi. Their hair was tied by white cords which gave the head a very fair look. In the bath Lady Saisho became the partner of bathing [i.e. entered the bath with the royal infant]. Lady Dainagon in her bathing-dress—she was especially beautiful in this rare costume. The Lord Prime Minister took the August Prince in his arms; Lady Koshosho held the sword, and Lady Miya-no-Naishi held up a tiger's head before the Prince. Lady Miya-no-Naishi wore karaginu with a pattern of pine cones. Her train was woven in a marine design of sea-weeds, waves, etc.; on the belt a vine-pattern was embroidered. Lady Koshosho wore an embroidered belt with a pattern of autumn leaves, butterflies, and birds, which was bright with silver thread. Brocade was forbidden except for persons of high rank and they used it only for the belt. Two sons of the Prime Minister and Major-General Minamoto Masamichi were scattering rice in great excitement. "I will make the most noise," each shouted to the other. The priest of Henchi Temple presented himself to protect the August Child. The rice hit him on his eyes and ears so he held out his fan and the young people laughed at him. The Doctor of Literature, Kurodo Ben-no-Hironari, stood at the foot of the high corridor and read the first book of Sikki [historical records]. Twenty bow-string men twanged the bow-string to scare away evil spirits, they were ten men of the fifth, and ten men of the sixth degree [of rank] arranged in two rows. The same ceremonies of bathing were repeated in the evening. Only the Doctor of Literature was changed. Doctor Munetoki, Governor of Isé, read the Kokyo [book on filial piety], and Takachika read a chapter of Buntei [in the Historical Records of Chinese Kings].
For seven nights every ceremony was performed cloudlessly. Before the Queen in white the styles and colours of other people's dresses appeared in sharp contrast. I felt much dazzled and abashed, and did not present myself in the daytime, so I passed my days in tranquillity and watched persons going up from the eastern side building across the bridge. Those who were permitted to wear the honourable colours put on brocaded karaginu, and also brocaded uchigi. This was the conventionally beautiful dress, not showing individual taste. The elderly ladies who could not wear the honourable colours avoided anything dazzling, but took only exquisite uchigi trimmed with three or five folds, and for karaginu brocade either of one colour or of a simple design. For their inner kimonos they used figured stuffs or gauzes. Their fans, though not at first glance brilliant or attractive, had some written phrases or sentiments in good taste, but almost exactly alike, as if they had compared notes beforehand. In point of fact the resemblance came from their similarity of age, and they were individual efforts. Even in those fans were revealed their minds which are in jealous rivalry. The younger ladies wore much-embroidered clothes; even their sleeve openings were embroidered. The pleats of their trains were ornamented with thick silver thread and they put gold foil on the brocaded figures of the silk. Their fans were like a snow-covered mountain in bright moonlight; they sparkled and could not be looked at steadily. They were like hanging mirrors [in those days made of polished metal].
On the third night Her Majesty's major-domo gave an entertainment. He served the Queen himself. The dining-table of aloe wood, the silver dishes, and other things I saw hurriedly. Minamoto Chunagon and Saisho presented the Queen with some baby clothes and diapers, a stand for a clothes chest, and cloth for wrapping up clothes and furniture. They were white in colour, and all of the same shape, yet they were carefully chosen, showing the artist mind. The Governor of Omi Province was busy with the general management of the banquet. On the western balcony of the East building there sat court nobles in two rows, the north being the more honourable place. On the southern balcony were court officials, the west being the most honourable seat. Outside the doors of the principal building [where the Queen was] white figured-silk screens were put.
On the fifth night the Lord Prime Minister celebrated the birth. The full moon on the fifteenth day was clear and beautiful. Torches were lighted under the trees and tables were put there with rice-balls on them. Even the uncouth humble servants who were walking about chattering seemed to enhance the joyful scene. All minor officials were there burning torches, making it as bright as day. Even the attendants of the nobles, who gathered behind the rocks and under the trees, talked of nothing but the new light which had come into the world, and were smiling and seemed happy as if their own private wishes had been fulfilled. Happier still seemed those in the Audience Chamber, from the highest nobles even to men of the fifth rank, who, scarcely to be counted among the nobility, met the joyful time going about idly, and bending their bodies busily [i.e. obsequiously].
To serve at the Queen's dinner eight ladies tied their hair with white cords, and in that dress brought in Her Majesty's dining-table. The chief lady-in-waiting for that night was Miya-no-Naishi. She was brilliantly dressed with great formality, and her hair was made more charming by the white cords which enhanced her beauty. I got a side glance of her when her face was not screened by her fan. She wore a look of extreme purity.
The following are the maids-of-honour who tied their hair; Minamoto Shikibu, daughter of the Governor of Kaga Province; Kozaémon, daughter of the late Michitoki, Governor of Bitchu; Kohyoé, daughter of Akimasa, Governor of the Left Capital; Osuké, daughter of Sukechika, the head priest of the Isé shrine; O Uma, daughter of Yorinobu, an officer of the Right Bodyguard; Ko Uma, daughter of Michinobu, an officer of the Left Bodyguard; Kohyoé, daughter of Naritaka, Recorder of the Capital; Komoku [or Dakumi], daughter of Nobuyoshi. These were all young and pretty. It was a sight worth seeing. This time, as they chose only the best-looking young ladies, the rest who used to tie their hair on ordinary occasions to serve the Queen's dinner wept bitterly; it was shocking to see them.
More than thirty ladies were sitting in the two rooms east of the Queen's canopy, a magnificent sight. The august dinner trays were carried by unemé. Near the entrance of the great chamber folding screens surrounded a pair of tables on which these dining-trays had been placed. As the night advanced the moon shone brightly. There were unemé, mohitori, migusiagé, tonomori, kanmori-no-nyokwan,—some with whose faces I was not familiar. There were also doorkeepers, carelessly dressed and with hairpins falling out, crowded together towards the eastern corridor of the principal building as if it were a public holiday. There were so many people there was no getting through them. After dinner the maids-of-honour came outside the misu and could be plainly seen by the light of the torches. The train and karaginu of Lady Oshikibu was embroidered to represent the dwarf pine-wood at Mount Oshio. As she is the wife of Michinoku, Governor of the eastern extremity of the island, she serves now in the Prime Minister's household. Dayu-no-Miyobu neglected the ornamentation of her karaginu, but she adorned her train with silver dust representing sea-waves. It was pleasing to the eye, though not dazzling. Ben-no-Naishi showed on her train a beach with cranes on it painted in silver. It was something new. She had also embroidered pine branches; she is clever, for all these things are emblematic of a long life. The device of Lady Shosho was inferior to these—many laughed at her silver foil. She was sister to Sukemitsu, the Governor of Shinano, and has lived at the court a long time. People wanted to see this entertainment. A priest was there who used to attend the court to beguile the night with religious and other stories. I said to him, "You cannot see such a lovely thing every day." "Indeed! indeed!" said he, neglecting his Buddha and clapping his hands for joy. The court nobles rose from their seats and went to the steps [descending from the balcony]. His Lordship the Prime Minister and others cast da. It was shocking to see them quarrelling about paper. Some [others] composed poems. A lady said, "What response shall we make if some one offers to drink saké with us?" We tried to think of something.
Shijo-no-Dainagon is a man of varied accomplishments. No ladies can rival him in repartee, much less compete with him in poetry, so they were all afraid of him, but [this evening] he did not give a cup to any particular lady to make her compose poems. Perhaps that was because he had many things to do and it was getting late. At this ceremony the ladies of high rank are given robes, together with babies' dresses presented by the Queen. The ladies of the fourth rank were each given a lined kimono, and those of the sixth rank were given hakama. So much I saw.
The next night the moon was very beautiful. As it is the delightful season, young people went boating. They were all dressed uniformly in white and their hair showed better than when they wear coloured clothes. Kotaibu, Minamoto Shikibu, Miyaki-no-Jiju, Gosechi-no-Ben, Ukon, Kohyoé, Koeimon, Uma, Yasurahi, Isebito—these were on the veranda when the Lieutenant-General of the Left Bodyguard, and the Lieutenant-General, the Prime Minister's son, came to take them out in the boat punted by Lieutenant-General Kanetaka of the Right Bodyguard. The rest of the ladies were neglected and followed them with their eyes. They seemed to be jealous in spite of themselves. Into the very white garden the moon shone down and added to the beauty of the maids-of-honour in their white dresses. There were many palanquins waiting at the shelter [for
COURT DRESS OF MILITARY OFFICIAL
(For explanation see List of Illustrations)
conveyances] near the north entrance. They were those of the ladies-in-waiting of His Majesty's court, Tosaumi, Koshosho, Uma, Ukon, Chikuzen, Omi—so far I have heard, but as I don't know them well there may be some mistakes. The people in the boat came in in confusion [hearing that visitors from the King's Court had arrived]. The Lord Prime Minister came out to welcome them and put them in good humour. He seemed to be perfectly happy. Gifts were made to them according to their rank.
On the seventh day His Majesty celebrated the birth. His secretary and Major-General, Michimasa, came as King's Messenger with a long list [of the presents] put into a wicker box. A letter was immediately sent from the Queen to the King. The students from the Kangakuin came keeping step. The list of visitors' names was presented to Her Majesty. Some may perhaps receive gifts.
The ceremony of the evening was noisier than ever. I peeped under the Queen's canopy. She who is esteemed by the people as the mother of the nation did not seem to be in good spirits. She appeared a little weary. She had grown thinner, and her appearance in bed was slenderer, younger, and gracefuller. A little lantern was hung under the canopy which chased the darkness away even from the corners. Her fair complexion was pale and transparently pure. I thought her abundant hair would be better tied up. There is great impropriety in writing about her at all, so I will stop here.
The general ceremonies were the same as the other day. The gifts to the courtiers were bestowed from within the misu. The women's dresses and the Queen's dress [perhaps from the Queen's wardrobe] were added to them. The chief of the King's secretaries and court nobles received them, approaching the misu.
His Majesty's gifts were uchigi, and kimonos, and rolls of silk in the usual court fashion. The gifts to Tachibana-no-Sanmi [who offered the breast to the young Prince for the first time] were a set of women's clothes and rolls of brocade, a silver clothes chest, and wrappings for clothes [which perhaps were white]. I have heard that something wrapped up was added also, though I could not see it in detail.
On the eighth day all changed their dress [which had been white, the colour of purification]. On the ninth evening the Vice-Governor of the August Crown Prince's retinue celebrated the birth. The present was put on a white cabinet. The ceremony was quite in the new style. On the silver clothes chest a raised ornament was carved, and the island of Horai was also represented as usual, but in finer and newer fashion. I am sorry I cannot describe it all exactly. This evening the winter screens were used, and the ladies wore richly coloured dresses. They seemed all the more charming as it was the first time after the birth [to see them]. The rich and brilliant colours shone through the karaginu. The women's figures also showed more distinctly and that enhanced their beauty. This was the night that Lady Komano-no-Omoto was put to shame.
It was after the tenth day of the Gods-absent month, but the Queen could not leave her bed. So night and day ladies attended her in her apartment towards the West. The Lord Prime Minister visited her both during the night and at dawn. He examined the breasts of the wet-nurses. Those nurses who were in a sound sleep were much startled and got up while still asleep; it was quite a pity to see them. He very naturally devoted himself with the utmost care, while there was anxiety about the August Child. Sometimes the Honourable Infant did a very unreasonable thing and wet the Lord Prime Minister's clothes. He, loosening his sash, dried his dress behind the screen. He said: "Ah! it is a very happy thing to be wet by the Prince. When I am drying my clothes is my most comfortable moment!" So he said rejoicing. He especially favoured Prince Murakami, and as he thinks I am related to that Prince he talked to me very familiarly. I know many things which may be expected to happen!
The day of the King's visit was approaching, and the Lord's mansion was improved and adorned. Beautiful chrysanthemums were sought for everywhere, to plant in the garden. Some were already fading, others in yellow were especially lovely. When they were planted and I saw them through the shifting morning mists, they seemed indeed to drive away old age.
I wish I could be more adaptable and live more gaily in the present world—had I not an extraordinary sorrow—but whenever I hear delightful or interesting things my yearning for a religious life grows stronger. I become melancholy and lament. I try to forget, for sorrow is vain. Am I too sinful? So I was musing one morning when I saw waterfowl playing heedlessly in the pond.
Waterfowl floating on the water—
They seem so gay,
But in truth
It is not gay to live anxiously seeking means of existence.
I sympathized with them who outwardly have no other thought but amusement, yet in reality are seeking a livelihood in great anxiety.
Lady Koshosho sent me a letter, and when I was writing the answer a brisk shower came pattering down. The sky looked threatening and the messenger was in a hurry, so I think I wrote but a broken-legged poem. After dark the messenger returned with a strongly perfumed and deeply coloured paper on which was written:
The dark sky dulls my dreamy mind,
The down-dripping rain lingers—
O my tears down falling, longing after thee!
I have forgotten what I wrote to her except the poem:
There are pauses between the showers of the outer world,
But there is no time when my sleeves, wet with tears, are dry.
That day the Queen saw the new boats which were presented for her inspection. The dragon's head and the phoenix at the prow made me think of animated living figures.
The visit of His Majesty was to be made at eight or nine o'clock in the morning. From early dawn ladies adorned themselves with great care. As the seats of the courtiers were placed in the west side building the Queen's apartment was not so much disturbed. I have heard that the ladies serving at the Imperial shrine dressed very elaborately in the rooms of the first maid-of-honour.
In the early morning Lady Koshosho came back from her father's. We dressed our hair together. In spite of the fixed hour His Majesty's coming will be delayed, we thought, and our relaxed minds were still indolent. Some ladies had ordered unornamented silk fans and were on tiptoe with expectancy when the drums were heard [announcing Royalty] and they were in an awkward predicament. We welcomed the Royal equipage. The boatmen's music was very good. When the Royal palanquin drew near, the bearers, though they were rather honourable persons, bent their heads in absolute humility as they ascended the steps. Even in the highest society there are grades of courtesy, but these men were too humble. The Royal dais was prepared at the west side of the Queen's. His honourable chair was placed in the eastern part of the south veranda. A little apart from it on the east side were hung misu, and two of the court ladies in attendance on the King came out from behind that misu. The beautiful shape of their hair, tied with bands, was like that of the beauties in Chinese pictures. Lady Saemon held the King's sword. She wore a blue-green patternless karaginu and shaded train with floating bands and belt of "floating thread" brocade dyed in dull red. Her outer robe was trimmed with five folds and was chrysanthemum-coloured. The glossy silk was of crimson; her figure and movement, when we caught a glimpse of it, was flower-like and dignified. Lady Ben-no-Naishi held the box of the King's seals. Her uchigi was grape-coloured, her brocaded train and karaginu were the same as the former lady. She is a very small and smile-giving person and seemed a little shy and I was sorry for her. Her face and clothes were in better taste than those of the other ladies. Her hair-bands were blue-green. Her appearance suggested one of the ancient dream-maidens descended from heaven.
The officers of the King's Bodyguard managed things connected with the state carriage [perhaps drawn by a bullock] in fine style. They were elegantly dressed. The First Lieutenant-General took His Majesty's sword and gave it to Lady Saemon.
Looking over those who were inside the misu I saw that persons who were permitted to wear honourable colours were in karaginu of blue or red, painted trains, and uchigi which were as a rule brocade of old red and old rose. Only the Right Bodyguard wore clothes of shrimp pink. The beaten stuffs were like the mingling of dark and light maple leaves in autumn. The under garments were in deep and pale jasmine yellow or in green and white. Some wore scarlet and green, and others dresses trimmed with three folds. Among those who were not permitted to wear figured silk the elderly persons wore blue, or dull red and old rose five-fold-bordered uchigi. The colour of the sea painted on their trains was tasteful and quiet. On their belts was a repeated design.
The younger ladies wore five-fold-trimmed karaginu of chrysanthemum colours according to their taste. The first garment was white and those who wore a blue dress covered it with a red one. Those who wore old rose on the outside took more richly coloured garments underneath. Among those whose dress was in combination with white, only those who made skilful combinations seemed well dressed. I saw some fans exquisitely strange and original. We can compare their tastes more easily in their everyday dress, but on such an occasion as this, when they give their whole minds to the costumes, vying with each other, they all seem like so many works of art. They look rather alike, and it is difficult to distinguish ages, or to know whether hair is thick or thin. Their faces and heads were hidden by fans, yet some ladies seemed more dignified and others inferior. Ladies who seem distinguished at such a time must be beautiful indeed. Five ladies who had formerly served both the King and our Queen were assembled here. They were, two ladies-in-waiting, two maids-of-honour, and one cook.
To serve the dinner Ladies-in-Waiting Chikuzen and Sakyo, their hair tied with bands, came out near the square pillar where the court ladies sat. They were like beautiful angels [Japanese word, tennin]. Sakyo wore karaginu of white, and blue under white. Lady Chikuzen wore five-fold-trimmed karaginu of chrysanthemum colours. The ornament of their trains was dyed by rubbing. Lady Tachibana of the Third Rank prepared the dinner. She is an old lady and wore blue karaginu, and yellow chrysanthemum uchigi woven in a "floating thread" pattern. A sudare was rolled up, but a post obscured the view. The Lord Prime Minister, taking the August young Prince in his arms went before the King. His Majesty took the child himself. The Honourable Infant cried a little in a very young voice. Lady Ben-no-Saisho stood holding the Prince's sword. The Prince was taken to the Lord Prime Minister's wife, who sat on the west side of the inner door. After His Majesty had gone, Ben-no-Saisho came out and said to me: "I was exposed to brightness [i.e. the radiance of the King's presence]. I felt discomposed." Her blushing face was beautiful in every feature, and set off her dress delightfully.
When night came we had beautiful dances. The court nobles presented themselves before the King [to dance]. The names of the dances performed were:
- The Pleasures of Ten Thousand Ages.
- The Pleasures of a Peaceful Reign.
- The Happy Palace.
When they danced the "Long-Pleasing Son," the closing one, they went out singing and danced along the road beyond the garden hills. As they went farther away the sound of flute and drum mingled with the sound of wind in the pine-wood towards which they were going. The garden brook, cleansed very carefully, was refreshing to us and the [sound of the] water rippling on the pond gave us a chilly feeling. Lady Sakyo offered the Queen sympathy, not knowing that she had doubled her undergarments, so people laughed secretly. Lady Chikuzen talked of the late King Enyu, who had visited her often. She talked about the events of those days, and I felt that she was about to utter things unfit for this happy occasion, so I did not answer her saying I was too tired. We were sitting with a curtain between us. If there had been some one to ask, "Alas, what things?" she would have spilled the unfit words. The dancing before the King had begun and it was very delightful, when the voice of the young Prince was heard crying beautifully. The Minister of the Right said flatteringly that the August Child's voice was in accord with the music. The Commander of the King's Left Bodyguard recited with others "The Pleasures of Ten Thousand Years" and "The Pleasures of Ten Thousand Autumns." Our honourable host, the Lord Prime Minister, said, "Ah! I held the previous condescending visit as a great honour, but this is the greatest." He wept in intoxication of joy. There's really no need of my saying it, but he is so grateful to the King and so conscious of his happiness it is lovely to see it.
The Prime Minister withdrew and His Majesty retired from the chamber. He summoned the Minister of the Right to order him to record that the Queen's officials and Prime Minister's stewards were to be advanced in rank. Tō-no-Ben presented to him all who were to be thus honoured. The nobles of the Fujiwara clans arrived together, but there were only those immediately connected with the Prime Minister's family, the other three families were not among them. Then came the chief officers of the Right Bodyguard, the high officials of the Queen Dowager, the officials of our Queen to whom additional duties were assigned, and other members of the court who had been promoted and who came to thank the King. His Majesty went in beside the Queen, but as the night was far advanced it was not long before the Prime Minister called the Royal carriage and the King returned to his own palace.
The next day Royal messengers came here before the morning mist had cleared up. I arose late and did not see them. Last evening was the first time that His Majesty the King had met the Queen during these months. After the visit the duties of the August Prince's attendants and ladies were made public. Some who had not heard about it before were disappointed and jealous. The decorations of the Queen's apartment, which had been neglected, were improved. Things became more attractive in the Queen's presence. For years the Prime Minister had felt anxious [as the Queen had had no child], but his hopes being realized he and his wife devoted themselves to taking care of the Queen. The August Child seems to have shed brightness around him.
In the evening the moonlight was very beautiful. The Second Official of the August young Prince came, perhaps thinking that his thanks might be offered by a court lady. The bridge opposite the door was wet with vapour from the bath. No one answered, so he went to the room of Lady Miya-no-Naishi which is next the bridge of the eastern building. Lady Saisho was in the inner room. The man, holding back the unlocked door, asked again, "Is some one within?" But she did not come out. Just then the Queen's First Officer appeared and called, "Is some one there?" She felt it impossible not to reply, so made a faint answer. The new official was in a gay humour and said reproachfully, "You did not answer me, but you especially favour the Head Officer! It is natural enough, but not kind; is there so much difference between the nobles in this place? It is too much!" He sung "The August Happiness of the Day." As the night advanced the moon became brighter; "It would be better to take away the obstruction from before the door," said he persuasively. I thought it awkward that a noble of the Court should stand there below me like that, but I did not open the door. If I were younger, I thought, my inexperience would be my excuse were I to talk with him or open the door, but one cannot talk thoughtlessly when one is young no longer, so I did not open the door but held it with my hand.
The first day of the Frost month was the fiftieth day after the birth. The persons who were to present themselves came in full dress. The sight before her presence was like a picture of a poet's assembly. Many kichō were arranged along the east side of the Queen's dais from the inner room to the veranda. The Royal dining-table was placed towards the south front of the house. At the west side was prepared the Queen Dowager's dinner. It was placed on a tray of aloe wood. I don't know what kind of a stand it was on because I did not see it. She wore a grape-coloured kimono trimmed with five folds and red uchigi. Those serving the dinner were Lady Saisho and Lady Sanuki. The maids-of-honour dressed their hair with saishi and bands. Lady Dainagon served the August Prince's dinner at the east side—a little dining-table, plate, stand for chopsticks, with a central decoration representing a bit of seashore—all as small as playthings for dolls. At the east end where the sudaré was a little rolled up, there were in waiting such ladies as Ben-no-Naishi, Lady Nakatsukasa, Lady Koshosho; as I was inside I could not see in great detail. That night Lady Sefu, the nurse, was permitted to wear a dress of honourable colour. She seemed still girlish, as she took the August Prince in her arms and gave him to the Lord Prime Minister who was within the dais. He came out quietly and they were plainly seen in the flickering light of the torches. It was very lovely. The August Prince was dressed in red brocade with shaded skirt—exquisitely pretty. The Mochi was given to him by the Lord Prime Minister. The seats of the courtiers had been prepared at the west side of the east building; there were two ministers present. They came out onto the bridge and were very drunk and boisterous.
As the torches burnt low, the Major-General of the Fourth Rank was called to light lanterns. Boxes and baskets of food, the Prime Minister's gifts, were borne in by the attendants and piled up on the balcony near the railing. Some of the boxes were to be taken to the King's kitchen, and as the next day was to be a day of abstinence for religious devotion they were carried away at once.
The Queen's First Officer came to the misu and asked if the court nobles should be invited there. As
ROYAL DAIS AND KICHŌ, SUDARÉ, ETC.
the answer was "yes," every one came led by the Prime Minister, and approached the east door. Ladies stood in two or three rows; the misu was rolled up by those who were nearest it, Lady Dainagon, Lady Koshosho, and others. The Minister of the Right came dancing wildly and made a hole in the kichō behind which ladies were sitting. They laughed, saying, "He has long passed the age for that." He did not notice, but made a great many unbecoming jokes, taking away ladies' fans. The August Prince's First Officer took a saké cup and stepped out; he sung a song; although it was unaccompanied by dancing it was very delightful. Farther towards the east, leaning against a door-post, the General of the Right was standing, studying the ladies' sleeves and the skirts of their garments showing below the misu. He is different from other men. The ladies, thinking that after all the intoxicated men were only trying to seem young and irresistible, made light of their behavior and said, "It is nothing, nobody else will behave so." Compared with such men the General is far superior. He was afraid of the saké cup, and when it came to him passed it by, singing the song which begins "One Thousand and Ten Thousand Ages." The First Officer of the Light Bodyguard said, "I think Lady Murasaki must be somewhere here!" I listened, thinking, "How can she be here in a place where there is no such graceful person as Prince Genji?" The Minister of the Right said, "Sanmi-no-Suké [officer of the third rank], accept this cup!" When the officer came out from below the Lord Keeper of the seal [an inferior position] the drunken man wept. The King's Adviser, leaning in a corner, was flirting with Lady Hyobu. The Prime Minister did not forbid even unmentionable jokes. It was an awful night of carousal, so after the ceremony I signalled to Lady Saisho and we hid ourselves, but there came noisily the Prime Minister's sons and Lieutenant-General Saisho, so, although we two had remained hidden behind the screen, even this was taken away and we were captives. "Compose a poem each, and you shall be excused," said the Lord Prime Minister. I was frightened and helpless, and made haste to comply:
How can I number the years of the Prince!
One thousand, nay, eight thousand, may he live, and more.
"Well done!" said he, reciting it twice, and he answered immediately:
O would I might live the life of a crane—
Then might I reckon the years of the Prince
Up to one thousand!
He was much intoxicated, but the poem had feeling, for it came from his innermost desire. The child cherished in this way will have a very bright future. Even such as I can imagine the thousand prosperous years of His August Highness! He felt satisfied with his own poem and said, "Has Your Majesty heard the poem? I have made a poem!" and then—"I am worthy to be your father and you are worthy to be my daughter—Mother is smiling, she must think she is happy. She may be thinking she has got a good husband!" said he in extreme intoxication. As is usual with drunken persons all were listening. His wife seemed to be embarrassed by this conversation and retired. "Mother will be angry if I do not follow her," said he, and went through the dais hurriedly, muttering, "Excuse me, Your Majesty, but a child is adored because of its father!" and everybody laughed.
The day for the Queen's return to the palace approaches and her ladies have no tranquil hours because of continual ceremonies. Her Majesty had had blank books made, so from early morning I was summoned to attend her to arrange the paper and to write letters which were sent with the books and the romances to be copied. I also spent days in compiling these into books. "What fancy is this? Why do you do such things these chilly days?" the Lord Prime Minister said, but he himself brought out fine papers, brushes and ink, and even writing-boxes. These were given to the ladies by the Queen's own hand. They were bashful, but excuses were in vain, and they went into corners and composed and came back blushing, saying, "I have done this," only to be given more brushes and ink. I had brought my romances from home and hidden them in my own room, but one day the Prime Minister entered it secretly to hunt about and found them and gave them to the first lady-in-waiting. As the books are not at all clearly written, I am ashamed to think what their opinion must be.
The infant Prince begins to babble and crow. His Majesty is naturally impatient to have him. The waterfowl have begun to come more and more to the pond before the house.
I longed for snow while we were staying there, but just then I had to go home to my parents. Two days after retiring from the Court a great snow came. The old familiar trees of my home reminded me of those melancholy years when I used to gaze upon them musing when the colours of flowers, the voices of birds, the skies of Spring and Autumn, moon shadows, frost and snow, told me nothing but that time was revolving, and that I was menaced with a dreary future. Before I went to Court I tried to avoid sadness by writing to those who were in the same state of mind, even to those with whom I was only slightly acquainted, and associating with them I consoled my heart in various ways. Although an unimportant person I had passed my life without feeling any sort of contempt of myself until I went to Court—since then, alas! I have experienced all the bitterness of it. To-day I took out romances, but they no longer interested me. I was ashamed to think what those melancholy persons to whom I used to write had thought of me since I went to Court, so I had no courage to write to them again. Those with whom I am now intimate would have to publish my letters broadcast, so how can I write to them my inmost heart?—thus my letters have inadvertently grown few. I had a feeling that association with some of the younger ladies who used to visit me before I went to Court could not continue. Some of them I had to refuse when they came, and in my home all these trifles have made me feel more deeply that I have gone into a world not intended for me. I write only to those from whom I can never part, to whom my heart prompts me to speak. O worthless heart, that feels love only for those with whom it daily associates! I long for Lady Dainagon with whom I spent every night before the Queen, when we told each other all our heart's secrets—is it also my worldly heart that longs for a companion other than Buddha?
Like two wild ducks
Floating with unrestful slumber,
Yet even those nights I would recall—
Feathers wet and cold—
But colder tears!
Lady Dainagon returned this answer:
Midnight sleep was broken
But no friend to brush away the cold tears!
I envy the Oshidori which has ever its mate by its side.
Her handwriting is very elegant. She is a very true-hearted person.
A lady wrote me, "The Queen has seen the snow, and she regrets deeply that you are not here at Court." The Prime Minister's Lady wrote to me, "When I tried to stop your going away you said you would go at once that you might come back soon. Was not that true?—for many days have passed." She may not have been in earnest, yet as I received such a letter I went back to the Court.
It was on the seventeenth of the Frost month that the Queen went back to the palace. The time had been fixed for eight o'clock in the evening, but the night was far advanced. I could not see more than thirty ladies who tied up their hair. To the east balcony of the Queen's apartments came more than ten ladies-in-waiting from His Majesty's Court [to escort the Queen]. Her Majesty's senji [woman who repeats the Queen's words to outsiders] went in Her Majesty's coach with her. The Lord Prime Minister's wife and Lady Sen, the nurse, holding the August Infant in her arms, went in a coach adorned with silk fringes. Lady Dainagon and Lady Saisho were in a gold-studded coach. In the next one went Lady Koshosho and Lady Miya-no-Naishi. The Lieutenant-General of His Majesty's stud was in the next one. I was to go in that one. His manner expressed dissatisfaction with so mean a companion and I was much discomposed. Lady Jiyu, Ben-no-Naishi, Lady Saemon, the Prime Minister's first attendant, and Lady Shikibu went in their proper order in their palanquins. As it was bright moonlight I was greatly embarrassed, and in the palace I followed the Lieutenant-General not knowing where I trod. If some one had been looking at me from behind [Japanese
A NOBLEMAN'S CARRIAGE
expression signifying "gossiping about or criticizing"], I must have been ashamed indeed.
I passed that night in the third little room on the corridor of the Kokiden. Lady Koshosho came and we talked of the sadness of our lives. We took off our kimonos and put on doubly wadded ones, and making a fire in an incense-burner we were complaining of the cold when the Chamberlain and the State Councillor and Lieutenant-General Kinnobu came to inquire for us. I wished I might have been entirely forgotten this evening. It annoyed more than it pleased us; nevertheless, as they had come to make inquiries, I said: "To-morrow I will return the compliment and go to inquire after you. To-night I am shivering with cold." Saying these words we secretly stole away from that room. Some were now preparing to go back to their homes; we thought them to be some of the lower officials. I do not say this as comparing them with myself. By the way, Lady Koshosho is very noble in character and beautiful, but I notice she is thinking sadly of the World. One reason is her father's rather humble rank which makes good fortune delay to come to her.
This morning Her Majesty saw in detail last evening's presents from the Prime Minister. The hair ornaments in a case were more lovely than words can express. There were a pair of salvers. On one of them were poem papers and bound blank books. On the other were the poetical collections of the Kokinshu, Gosenshu, and Juishu. Each was bound in five volumes. The copyists of these volumes were the King's Adviser and attendant of middle rank and Enkwan. The covers were of thin figured silk; the fastenings of braided silk of the same material. They were fitted into a basket. There were also ancient and modern poetical collections of various families, such as those of Yoshinobu and Motosuké. The copies made by Enkwan and Chikazumi were kept for the Queen's private use. They were made in the new fashion.
On the twentieth day of the Frost month the dance of Gosetchi was performed. A costume was given to the young lady whom the King's attendant and State Councillor offered for the dance. The Lieutenant-General asked for a garland for his dancer, which was given. At the same time a box of perfume ornamented with artificial leaves and plum blossoms was given her. As the arrangements had been made a long time beforehand this year, there was great rivalry among the dancers. Torches were lighted in close rows along the outer doors of the eastern veranda so there was day-brightness, and it was really awkward to walk there. I felt for the girls, but it was not they only who were embarrassed. Young nobles looked at the girls face to face, almost bringing the lights down in front of them. They tried to draw a curtain before themselves, but in vain, and the nobles' eyes were still on them. My heart throbs even at the memory of it.
The helpers of courtier Narito's daughter were dressed in brocaded karaginu, which was distinctive and pleasing even at night. She was overwhelmed by her dress and her movements were ungraceful, yet the nobles paid her special attention. The King came to see the dance. The Lord Prime Minister, too, crept in from the side entrance, so we felt constraint.
The helpers of Nakakyo's daughter were all of the same height. They were graceful and charming, and people agreed that they were not inferior to any ladies.
The State Councillor and Lieutenant-General had all his maids as helpers of his daughter. One of them was ungraceful, being fat and countrified, so all were laughing at her. The daughter of Tō [State Councillor] gave a fresh and distinct impression because of her family. She had ten helpers.
The ladies who were proud of their good looks seemed more beautiful in this artificial light.
On the morning of the day of the Tiger the courtiers assembled. Although it is a common custom to have the dance, the younger ones were especially curious to see the dancers. Was it because they had acquired rude country manners during these months of absence from the Court? There the dress dyed by rubbing the leaves of the indigo plant was not to be seen. When night came the second official of the Crown Prince was summoned and perfumes were bestowed upon him. Quantities of it were heaped up in a large box.
That night the dance was performed in the Seiryoden. The King was present to see it. The Prime Minister's wife sent a messenger to the Governor of Owari.
As the August young Prince was to be present, rice was thrown to keep off evil spirits, and people reviled them [the spirits] and called them names. It gave us a queer feeling. I was weary and wanted to rest a little, so I remained in our chamber thinking to present myself when it should be necessary. Lady Kohyoé and Lady Kohyobu sat beside the brazier. We were saying that the hall was crowded and nothing could be seen distinctly, when the Lord Prime Minister came in. "Why do you stay here? Come with us!" so we went reluctantly. I watched the dancers thinking how tired they must be, and what a heavy task they had before them. The daughter of the Governor of Owari became ill and retired. Human fate is like a dream, it seems! After the dance His Majesty retired.
Young noblemen talk of nothing these days but the rooms of those dancers. Even the borders of the curtains hanging over the sudaré were varied according to the taste of the dancer. Their hair-dressing and their style also varied extremely, so the young men talked about that, and more improper things too. Even in ordinary years [when there was no unusual festivity] the dancing girls' hearts are always filled with anxiety, how much more so this year. While I was thinking about it they came out in single file. My heart swelled with sympathy. It may be they have no great patrons to depend on who could protect them. As they are all chosen for their beauty all are attractive, and it would be difficult to say which is superior to the other, although the man of fashion may perhaps perceive differences. In this brilliant light they may not even shade their faces with their fans. They are placed in rivalry with each other in rank, in prudence, and in wit, and must struggle each to excel the other, although at the same time they feel shyness in the presence of the young men. Surrounded by the young nobles, they are forced to hold their own among them worthily. I feel sorry for them.
Governor Tamba's daughter wore a darkish blue gown. The State Councillor Tō's daughter wore red. The maids of the latter wore the blue karaginu of a girl and were so beautiful that they made us women jealous. One girl did not seem at all dignified. The daughter of the State Councillor and Lieutenant-General was tall and had beautiful hair. Her attendants wore deep-coloured clothes trimmed with five folds and their outer garments were varied according to taste. The last girl wore a plain grape-coloured one, and that simple dress was more beautiful, as it showed taste in colour combination.
The secretaries of the sixth rank went towards them to take away their fans. They threw them down themselves. Though they were graceful they did not seem like girls. If we were in their places it would seem like a dream to us. I had never supposed I should mingle with these court ladies! Yet the human heart is an invisible and dreadful being. If I became accustomed to [court life] my bashfulness would be overcome and I could easily stand face to face with men. As if in a vision my future appeared to me, and such a state of things appeared to me undesirable. My mind was greatly troubled and I could observe nothing.
The apartment temporarily given to the dancer who was the daughter of the King's Adviser and State Councillor was just across the way [in the building of another queen, see map of palace] on the corridor opposite to that of our Queen. A part of the sudaré of that room was in sight above the outer shutter, although we could hear voices but faintly. The State Councillor and Lieutenant-General, who knew about it all, said, "There are ladies called Sakyō and Uma who once served that Queen over there." "It was Sakyō who sat in the eastern part of the hall last night as a helper of a certain young lady who danced," said Genshosho, who knew her. Some of our Queen's ladies chanced to overhear these remarks. "How extraordinary! Yet she must remember old times," said they; "how is it possible that a former lady-in-waiting should return to the court as a maid? She may be thinking it will never be known, but we will one day bring it to light!"
Our ladies may have been scheming for this when they chose among the multitude of fans kept by the Queen those representing the Island of Horai—did she feel it, I wonder?
Ground-pine [Lycopodium] was made into a wreath and put into a box-cover [probably of a writing-box, in those days large and elegantly lacquered]. A comb and face-powder were put in also, for the young courtiers had said, "that lady, who is rather advanced in years, wears a curved comb suitable for a young lady." So the comb which was put into the box was curved too much in the vulgar new fashion with perfume balls clumsily covered with paper. A poem was added to it written by Lady Saifu:
Among the many ladies that night of the dance
The belle was the one who wore the lycopodium.
The Queen said: "If you are going to send at all, send something clever, here are many fans for it." But some ladies replied: "That will attract too much attention. It is too unusual. If you send this publicly you will not succeed in puzzling her; perhaps we would better send it anonymously." Therefore a lady who was an entire stranger to her was chosen. She went, and, speaking loudly, said: "Here is a letter from Lady Chunagon. It is sent by her Queen to Lady Sakyō." I thought it would be awkward if the messenger were caught by them, but she ran away as soon as she had put down the things. She reported that she heard some one saying, "Whence do you come?" There is no doubt she really thought it a gift from our Queen.
Days passed without any interesting events. After that evening of dancing the Court became absolutely dull. The preparatory music on the eve of the Omi ceremony was very fine. The young courtiers were still filled with thoughts of the dancers. After the Queen's return to the palace, the little sons of another wife of the Prime Minister were permitted to come in to play with the ladies-in-waiting. They came to us without end, which was a great bother. I did not show myself to them, taking advantage of my advanced age. They were not thinking of the dancers, but were playing by the side of Ladies Yasurai and Kohyoé, joking and chattering like little birds.
At the occasional festival of the Kamo shrine the Vice-Lieutenant-General [first son of the Prime Minister] was made the King's substitute. It was a day of fasting also, so the Lord Prime Minister had passed the night at the palace. The nobles and dancers passed the night of the festival in making a great noise with much merriment in the corridors. Next morning an attendant of the Chamberlain brought something to an attendant of the Lord Prime Minister. It was the box-cover of the previous night. There was in it a silver case for romances, besides a mirror, a comb of aloe wood, and a silver kogai. The comb seemed to be given to adorn the hair of the messenger at the festival. Something was written on the box-cover in reed style in raised characters. It was the answer to the poem of the lycopodium. Two characters were omitted and it was difficult to read. She seemed to have misunderstood. The Chamberlain thought it really was a gift to her from our Queen, so the return was made thus openly. It was but a foolish joke and I felt sorry for her.
The Prime Minister's wife came to court to see the festival. His son, adorning his head with artificial wisteria, appeared quite a man, noble and dignified. The Lady Kura [his nurse] , not taking any notice of the dancers, wept for joy watching her young lord. As it was still the day of fasting, they came back from the shrine at two in the morning, and the sacred dance was performed listlessly, as the important persons were absent. Kanetoki [a dancer] who had been very handsome last year, was much fallen off. Though a stranger to him I felt regret, being reminded of the fleeting life of us all
[Here an interval occurs.]
On the twentieth of the Finishing month I went again to Court. It was the anniversary of the day on which I had first come. I remembered my former career as a wanderer on dream paths, and I loathed myself for having become so familiar with court life. The night was far advanced and as the Queen was fasting, we did not present ourselves before her. I felt lonely and was lying down. The maids-of-honour around me said: "The hours here are very different from those at home. There all would be sleeping by this time, but here our dreams are broken by the sound of shoes along the corridor." Hearing them girlishly talking I murmured to myself:
My life and the year are closing together.
At the sound of the wind dreary is my heart.
On that moon-hidden night [last night of the year] the driving off of evil spirits was soon finished. We dyed our teeth [black], and after finishing decorating our faces we sat at ease. Ben-no-Naishi came, and after talking she went to sleep. The Queen's seamstress sat in the doorway watching the maid Ateki sewing. Just then we heard an unusual noise from the direction of Her Majesty's apartment. I tried to wake up Ben-no-Naishi, but she was heavy with sleep. Some one was heard crying wildly. I was frightened and could not think what to do. Was it a fire? But no, it was not that. I pushed the seamstress forward, saying, "Go there! over there! Oh, dear!!" Then, "Her Majesty is in her own room, we must by all means get to her!" I shook Ben-no-Naishi roughly to awaken her and we three ran trembling—flying rather than walking. We saw two naked persons. They were Lady Yugei and Lady Kohyobé. It seemed that they had been robbed of their clothes, and I felt more distressed than before. The kitchen servants had all gone out; even the Queen's guards had retired after devil-driving. We clapped our hands, but no one came. Some went to call the women attendants, while I, forgetting my shyness, said, "Call Hyobu-no-Jo, the secretary." He was sought for, but had left the palace. I felt irritated indeed, but at last an assistant to the Master of Ceremonies came who poured oil into several lamps. We found many who had fainted. At the news a messenger arrived from the King, but we were too frightened to receive him properly. He took out dresses from the royal wardrobe to give them. The new dresses for New Year's Day were not stolen, so these ladies took their misfortune lightly—but unforgettably dreadful is a nude form. I can never call it laughable. It was too dreadful to speak of, but we could not help talking.
The New Year's Day  was inauspicious. The rice-cake [mochi] ceremony was deferred. However, on the third day, the August Crown Prince went up to the King and the rice-cake festival was given for him. His attendant was Lady Dainagon. The dress of the ladies on the first day was karaginu of purple and old rose colour, red kimono and shaded train; on the second day, red and purple brocade, deep violet glossy silk, green karaginu, train dyed by rubbing flowers. On the third day we wore white and rose-coloured brocaded garments, trimmed with many folds. The karaginu was of dull red and old rose brocade. When we wear deep violet-coloured shining silk the inner robe is of crimson; when we wear crimson outside the inner dress is usually of deep violet. The pale and deep colour of spring leaf buds, dull red, golden yellow, and light and dark crimsons—dresses of these ordinary colours were worn trimmed with six folds in very beautiful combinations.
Lady Saisho held the August Prince's honourable sword. The Lord Prime Minister took the August Prince in his arms and they presented themselves before the King. Lady Saisho's dress was a garment trimmed with three and five folds, and figured of the same colour trimmed with seven folds. The uchigi was adorned with a pattern of oak-leaves beautifully embroidered. She wore a karaginu and train trimmed with three folds. Her unlined inner kimono was woven in a pattern. Her costume was in the Chinese style. Her hair was ornamented more elaborately than usual. Her style of dress and manner showed great knowledge of the world. She is rather tall and has a well-rounded figure. Her face is very small and exquisitely tinted.
[The following eleven paragraphs are portraits of prominent ladies of the court.]
Lady Dainagon is very small and refined, white, beautiful, and round, though in demeanour very lofty. Her hair is three inches longer than her height. She uses exquisitely carved hairpins. Her face is lovely, her manners delicate and charming.
Lady Senji is also a little person, and haughty. Her hair is fine and glossy and one foot longer than the ordinary. She puts us to shame, her carriage is so noble. When she walks before us we feel so much in the shade that we are uncomfortable. Her mind and speech make us feel that a really noble person ought to be like her.
—If I go on describing ladies' manners I shall be called an old gossip, so I must refrain from talking about those around me. I will be silent about the questionable and imperfect.
Lady Koshosho, all noble and charming. She is like a weeping-willow tree at budding-time. Her style is very elegant and we all envy her her manners. She is so shy and retiring that she seems to hide her heart even from herself. She is of childlike purity even to a painful degree—should there be a low-minded person who would treat her ill or slander her, her spirit would be overwhelmed and she would die. Such delicacy and helplessness make us anxious about her.
Lady Miya-no-Naishi, also a beauty of good height. Her appearance as she sits is very dignified. She is fashionable. Although no single feature is especially beautiful she has altogether an air of youth and beauty. Her face is [literal translation] high in the middle and she excels others in the fairness of her skin. Her hair-ornaments, her forehead, oh, beautiful! produce an effect of refinement and elegance. She is very frank and unaffected in manner, and never the least bit awkward about anything. She is naturalness itself. Her character may be an example for us. She never tries consciously to attract, and she has no vanity.
Lady Shikibu is her younger sister. She Is too plump, and her complexion is a fragrant white. She has a bright small face and beautiful hair, although it is not long. She presents herself before the Queen with false hair. Her plump appearance, oh, smile-giving! Her eyes and forehead are lovely indeed; her smile is full of sweetness.
Among the younger ladies I think Kodayu and Genshikibu are beautiful. The former is a little person quite modern in type. Her pretty hair is abundant at the roots, but gets too thin at the end, which is one foot longer than she is. Her face is full of wit. People will think her very pretty, and indeed there is no feature one would wish to improve. The latter is tall and rather superior. Her features are fine; she is smile-giving and lovable. She is very refined and seems to be a favourite daughter of some person of dignity.
Lady Kohyoé-no-Jo is also refined. These ladies cannot be looked down upon by court nobles. With every one some fault is to be found, but only those who are ever mindful to conceal it even when alone, can completely succeed.
Lady Attendant Myaki is a very pretty person. Her hair is scarcely longer than her uchigi, the ends are beautifully cut. Her face was agreeable also when I last saw it.
There is also Lady Gosetchi-no-Ben. She is the adopted daughter of Middle Adviser Hei. Her face is like a picture. She has a broad forehead and eyelids drooping at the corners. Her features are not remarkable at any point, but her complexion is white, her hands and arms are pretty. When I saw her in the spring for the first time her hair, which was profusely abundant, was one foot longer than herself, but it suddenly became thinner at the ends, and now it is only a little longer than she is.
A Lady Koma had very long hair, an agreeable lady in those days; now she has become like the bridge of a lute which has been immovably fastened with glue. She has gone home.
So much for their appearance and now for their dispositions. Here few can be selected, though each has some good points and few are entirely bad. It is very difficult to possess such qualities as prudence, wit, charm, right-mindedness, all at once. As to many ladies, the question is whether they excel most in charms of mind or person. It is hard to decide! Wicked, indeed, to write so much of others!
There is Lady Chujo who waits upon the Princess dedicated to the service of the Kamo shrine. I had heard of her and secretly managed to see her letters addressed to other persons. They were very beautifully written but with such an exalted opinion of herself; in the whole world she is the person of profoundest knowledge! None to compare with her, it seems she is thinking. On reading them my heart beat faster, I was furiously indignant for every one here [the ladies of her own Queen's Court], although it maybe it is wrong to feel so. "Be it in composition or poetry who can judge save our Princess-Abbess, who will have bright futures but the ladies attending our Princess?" ! ! It may be reasonable, yet I have never seen, compared to ours, any good poems by the lady attendants of that Princess-Abbess. They seem to be living an idle poetic life, but if they were to compete with us, it is not necessarily certain they would be superior, though no one knows them well. On a beautiful moonlight night or morning, at the time of flowers or of cuckoo, courtiers might visit their residence. Other-worldly and sacred it is, and made to the taste of their Princess. There they remain undisturbed, admiring her. On the other hand, with us many things occur. The Queen has to go up to His Majesty's apartment, the Lord Prime Minister comes, and we have to keep watch at night. But there is nothing of all this in that world all their own where they may indulge in elegance and avoid blunders. If I could live there like an old piece of buried wood thrown in among them, I might succeed in freeing myself from the reproach of shallowness—would that I might indulge in elegance there, relaxing myself! Forward young ladies there can devote themselves to dress, making themselves inferior to none and pleasing to courtiers. On the other hand, in our Queen's Court we rather neglect to adorn ourselves, for our Queen has no rivals now. Moreover, she thinks unfavourably of frivolous women, so those who wish to serve her and remain in favour keep from association with men. Of course everywhere there are light-hearted, unashamed, thoughtless women, and men who visit our court to find them say we are awkward and unversed in social usage. Our ladies of the higher ranks are, indeed, much too reserved and haughty; it is not in this way that they can bring honour to our Queen. It is painful to see them. The attendants of the Princess-Abbess seem to have been alluding to these ladies, but both defects and merits are found in every one, so we may not be inferior to them after all. Even our young ladies nowadays have heard of self-respect. It would be embarrassing if they were too frivolous, but one would not wish them to be heartless either.
Our Queen of perfect mind, enviably lovely, is reserved and never obtrusive, for she believes that few who are forward can avoid blunders. In fact, imperfect wit is worse than reserve. Our Queen when she was very young was much annoyed to hear persons of shallow culture saying vulgar, narrow things with conceit, so she favoured ladies who made no mistakes, and childlike persons pleased her very well. This is why our ladies have become so retiring. As Her Majesty grows older, she begins to see the world as it is, the bad and good qualities of the human heart. Reserve or boldness—she knows neither is good. The court nobles rather look down on us—"Nothing interesting here!" they seem to say. The Queen knows this, but she knows we cannot please everybody. If we stumble, hideous things may happen. Yet we must not be faint-hearted and bashful either, so Her Majesty says, but our old habits are not so easily shaken off, and all the young nobles of the present day are, on their side, only indulgent pleasure-seekers.
The ladles around the Abbess, who indulge in aesthetic pursuits, gazing at the moon and admiring flowers, may talk only of these things to the nobles, boastfully and intentionally, and the nobles might say that it is difficult to find ladies with whom they can chatter light-heartedly morning or evening, or discuss interesting topics occasionally; although, as I haven't heard them say it, I don't know really what they think. In general conversation it is awkward to say profound things. It is far better to speak with simplicity, and the nobles seem to think so. The difficulty is to understand the occasion and adapt one's self to it.
When the First Official of Her Majesty comes to report to her, the delicate, shy ladies-in-waiting cannot meet him on common ground, or converse fluently, not because they are deficient in words or thoughts, but because of their extreme timidity. They fear their faults may be noticed so they cannot decide what to say. Others [Abbess ladies] may not be so. Even women of high birth must follow the general custom when they become ladies-in-waiting at the Court, but many behave as if they were still daughters at home.
The Great Adviser is displeased to be received by ladies of low rank, so when he comes to the Queen's court to make some report and suitable ladies to receive him are not available, he goes away without seeing Her Majesty. Other court nobles, who often come to make reports, have each a favourite lady, and when that one is away they are displeased, and go away saying to other people, that the Queen's ladies are quite unsatisfactory. There may be some reason in it, yet it is quite unreasonable for the Abbess's ladies to say that we are unworthy to be seen or heard. It is easy to criticize, and difficult to realize our own ideals. These ladies, however, do not know that, and being full of conceit, they treat others with disdain, thus revealing their own limitations. Oh, how I wanted to show the letters to the Queen, but they had been stolen by the lady who secretly showed them to me, and they were soon taken back. I coveted those letters!
Lady Izumi Shikibu corresponds charmingly, but her behaviour is improper indeed. She writes with grace and ease and with a flashing wit. There is fragrance even in her smallest words. Her poems are attractive, but they are only improvisations which drop from her mouth spontaneously. Every one of them has some interesting point, and she is acquainted with ancient literature also, but she is not like a true artist who is filled with the genuine spirit of poetry. Yet I think even she cannot presume to pass judgment on the poems of others.
The wife of the Governor of Tamba Province is called by the Queen and Prime Minister Masa Hira Emon. Though she is not of noble birth, her poems are very satisfying. She does not compose and scatter them about on every occasion, but so far as we know them, even her miscellaneous poems shame us. Those who compose poems whose loins are all but broken, yet who are infinitely self-exalted and vain, deserve our contempt and pity.
Lady Seishonagon. A very proud person. She values herself highly, and scatters her Chinese writings all about. Yet should we study her closely, we should find that she is still imperfect. She tries to be exceptional, but naturally persons of that sort give offence. She is piling up trouble for her future. One who is too richly gifted, who indulges too much in emotion, even when she ought to be reserved, and cannot turn aside from anything she is interested in, in spite of herself will lose self-control. How can such a vain and reckless person end her days happily!
[Here there is a sudden change from the Court to her own home.]
Having no excellence within myself, I have passed my days without making any special impression on any one. Especially the fact that I have no man who will look out for my future makes me comfortless. I do not wish to bury myself in dreariness. Is it because of my worldly mind that I feel lonely? On moonlight nights in autumn, when I am hopelessly sad, I often go out on the balcony and gaze dreamily at the moon. It makes me think of days gone by. People say that it is dangerous to look at the moon in solitude, but something impels me, and sitting a little withdrawn I muse there. In the wind-cooled evening I play on the koto, though others may not care to hear it. I fear that my playing betrays the sorrow which becomes more intense, and I become disgusted with myself—so foolish and miserable am I.
My room is ugly, blackened by smoke. I play on a thirteen or six-stringed koto, but I neglect to take away the bridges even in rainy weather, and I lean it up against the wall between the cabinet and the door jamb. On either side of the koto stands a lute [Japanese biwa]. A pair of big bookcases have in them all the books they can hold. In one of them are placed old poems and romances. They are the homes of worms which come frightening us when we turn the pages, so none ever wish to read them. [Perhaps her own writings, she speaks so slightingly of them.] As to the other cabinet, since the person who placed his own books [there] no hand has touched it. When I am bored to death I take out one or two of them; then my maids gather around me and say: "Your life will not be favoured with old age if you do such a thing! Why do you read Chinese? Formerly even the reading of sutras was not encouraged for women." They rebuke me in the [shade i.e. behind my back]. I have heard of it and have wished to say, "It is far from certain that he who does no forbidden thing enjoys a long life," but it would be a lack of reserve to say it [to the maids]. Our deeds vary with our age and deeds vary with the individual. Some are proud [to read books], others look over old cast-away writings because they are bored with having nothing to do. It would not be becoming for such a one to chatter away about religious thoughts, noisily shaking a rosary. I feel this, and before my women keep myself from doing what otherwise I could do easily. But after all, when I was among the ladies of the Court I did not say what I wanted to say either, for it is useless to talk with those who do not understand one and troublesome to talk with those who criticize from a feeling of superiority. Especially one-sided persons are troublesome. Few are accomplished in many arts and most cling narrowly to their own opinion.
Pretty and coy, shrinking from sight, unsociable, proud, fond of romance, vain and poetic, looking down upon others with a jealous eye—such is the opinion of those who do not know me, but after seeing me they say, "You are wonderfully gentle to meet with; I cannot identify you with that imagined one."
I see that I have been slighted, hated, and looked down upon as an old gossip, and I must bear it, for it is my destiny to be solitary. The Queen said once, "You were ever mindful not to show your soul, but I have become more intimate with you than others." I hope that I may not be looked at obliquely even by those who are ill-natured, affected, and unsociable. As a rule one is easy at the back [i.e. not afraid of gossip] who is modest, gentle, and of tranquil disposition. Even a coquettish and frivolous person is not rebuked if she is good-natured and of a disposition not embarrassing to others. A person who is self-exalted and eccentric with scornful mouth and demeanor can be unmistakably perceived, and one can be on one's guard; by observing closely one may discover faults of speech and behaviour. Those whose words and deeds are not in harmony, or who are always trying to outdo one another, attract notice. One seldom wishes to criticize those who have defects, but are good-natured. One cannot but sympathize with them. Those who habitually do evil with intention deserve to be freely talked about and laughed at even though sometimes they do it without intention. We ought to love even those who hate us, but it is very difficult to do it. Even the Buddha of Profound Mercy does not say that the sins against Buddha, the laws of religion, and priests, are slight. Moreover, in this muddy world it is best to let alone the persons who hate us. If we compare one who tries to excel in hatred saying extraordinary words and watching [their effect] ill-humouredly face to face, with one who coldly hides her heart with a tranquil manner, we can see which is superior.
There is a lady, Saémon-no-Naishi, who unreasonably cherished hatred of me. I was not at first aware of it, but later heard of much criticism of me in my absence. Once the King was listening to a reading of my Genji-monogatarl, and said, "She is gifted, she must have read the Chronicle of Japan." This lady heard of it, and unreflectingly spread abroad among the courtiers the idea that I am very proud of my learning, giving me the name of "The Japanese Chronicle lady"—it is laughable, indeed! I am reserved even before the maids of my own house; how then should I show my learning in Court? When my elder brother Shikibu-no-Jo was a boy he was taught to read "Chinese Historical Records." I listened, sitting beside him, and learned wonderfully fast, though he was sometimes slow and forgot. Father, who was devoted to study, regretted that I had not been a son, but I heard people saying that it is not beautiful even for a man to be proud of his learning, and after that I did not write so much as the figure one in Chinese. I grew clumsy with my [writing] brush. For a long time I did not care for the books I had already read. Thus I was ashamed to think how others would hate me on hearing what Lady Saémon said, and I assumed an air of not being able to read the characters written on the Royal screen. But the Queen made me read [to her] the poetical works of Li T'ai Po, and as she wished to learn them I have been teaching her since the Summer of two years ago the second and third volumes of that collection very secretly when none were present. Her Majesty and I tried to conceal it, but His Majesty the King and the Lord Prime Minister finding it out, the latter presented to the Queen many poetical books which he had had copied. I think that bitter Saémon does not know it yet. If she did, how she would criticize me!
Everything in this world is burdensome. Now I shall not be afraid whatever happens. Whatever others may say of me I will recite sutras kneeling before Amitabha Buddha. When my mind has become completely free from the burden of the world, nothing will weaken my determination to become a saint. Though I set myself devotedly against worldly passions, it seems that there extends before me a limbo of dull wanderings before I can mount the cloud. I must be there now. I am now of a fit age for the religious life. It is common to suppose that men read sutras when they are old, yet really they are not read, for minds grow more and more relax with age. I may be interpreted as one who imitates persons of profound thought, but I will devote myself to the religious life. The person of deep-rooted sin cannot succeed even in such a hope [as that]. There happens many a circumstance which makes me think of the [probable] wickedness of my pre-natal life and everything makes me sad.
[There seems to be an abrupt transition here and the following paragraph seems to be part of a letter, perhaps sent with the diary or other writing.]
I wish I could make known everything to you, good and bad, things of the world, and those relating to my life—all that I could not write in my letters. You could not expect such writing as this from your friend? You feel weary of life; please look into my heart, also weary. Please write to me—even a little—whatever comes into your mind. It would be very unfortunate if my writings were scattered about and made known to others. I have written many things of this sort, but recently I have torn up all my old writings, burying some, and making dolls' houses of the rest. Since that time I have received no letters and am determined to write no more on fresh paper, so thrifty have I become! I think I am not in the wrong. After reading, please return quickly. As I could not revise all there may be some defects; read—overlooking them.
My mind has been wholly occupied with the things and persons of our world, and as I close this writing I reflect on how deeply rooted was my interest in them, but it was only accident that closed my descriptions of others.
[Here an interval during which she returns to Court.]
On the eleventh of the First month, 1009, in the early morning they went to the temple. The Lord Prime Minister's wife accompanied the Queen, others went by boat. I was belated and went at night. There was preaching. People made confession according to the custom of the mountain temple. Many pictures of pagodas were painted, and they amused themselves. Most of the nobles had retired, and there were few persons left when the midnight preaching began. The preachers and interpreters of the sutras were twenty in number. . . . [Here is a sentence whose meaning is lost.] They all preached in different ways about the merit of the Queen's presence; there were many things laughed at. After the preaching the courtiers went boating; they all rowed and enjoyed themselves. At the eastern corner of the temple a bridge had been built opposite the door opening towards the North. There the High Official of the Crown Prince was leaning against the railing. The Lord Prime Minister came for a little while and talked with Lady Saisho, but as we were in the Queen's presence we could not be at our ease. It was pretty both within and without the temple. The pale moon appeared, and young nobles sang songs of the new fashion. A song related that those who had gone into the boat were young and pretty. The old Secretary of the Treasury was among them. He was ashamed with reason to sing with the others, and stood there rather embarrassed. The back view of him was comical and those within the misu [i.e. the ladies] secretly laughed. Some one said, "He in the boat is regretting old age." The High Official on the bridge heard it and sang, "The ancient seekers for eternal life—the tradition is full of lies." It sounded very latest fashion, indeed. Some sang "The Duckweed" accompanied by the flute. Even the morning wind gave us unusual impressions because of the place.
In the Queen's presence was placed Genji-monogatari. Once the Lord Prime Minister saw it and after many playful words wrote to me on a [poem] paper attached to a plum branch.
[The following poem depends for its point on the play upon a word with two meanings.]
|Being notorious for||love|
|I think none pass by without breaking a branch!|
No one in passing has ever broken the plum tree
Who then can know if it be sour?
Oh, regrettable! to be spoken of in such a way! One night I slept in a room near the corridor. Some one came knocking at the door. I was afraid and passed the night without making a sound. The next morning the following poem was sent me [from the Prime Minister]:
All the night through, knocking louder than a water-rail,
I stood in vain at the door of hinoki wood weary and lamenting.
I wrote back:
A cause of deep regret, indeed,
Had the door opened at the knocking of the water-rail!
[Here a space of nearly one year elapses.]
Third day of First month . The August Princes have presented themselves before the King for three days to receive gifts of mochi. Ladies of high rank accompanied them. Saémon-no-Kami held the Prince, and the mochi was brought to His Majesty by the Lord Prime Minister. The King, facing towards the east door, gave it to the August Princes. It was a beautiful sight to see the young Princes coming and returning through the corridor. The Queen Dowager did not present herself. On the first day Lady Saisho served at table; her colour combination was cunningly executed. Ladies Takumi and Hyogo officiated as the Queen's secretaries. The ladies who tied their hair were particularly attractive. The lady who was entrusted with the preparation of toso was very vain of her skill and behaved as if she were a doctor of medicine. Ointment was distributed as usual.
The Prime Minister took the younger Prince in his arms and the King embraced him lovingly, saying, "Long life and health" as usual. The Lord Prime Minister replied, "I will uphold the younger Prince in my arms"; but at that His Augustness the Crown Prince became jealous and begged [to be taken up too], saying, "Ah! Ah!" The Prime Minister was much pleased, and the General of the Right Bodyguard and others were amused by it.
The Lord Prime Minister had an audience with the King and they came out together to find amusement. The Minister was much intoxicated. "Troublesome!" I thought, and hid myself away, but I was found. "You are summoned by the father of the Queen, yet you retire so early! Suspicious person!" said he. "Now, instead of the Queen's father it is you who must compose a poem! It is quite an ordinary occasion, so don't hesitate!" He urged, but it seemed to me very awkward to make one only to have it laughed at. As he was very much in liquor, his face was flushed and flamed out in the torchlight. He said, "The Queen had lived for years alone and solitary. I had seen it with anxiety. It is cheering to behold troublesome children on either side of her." And he went to look at the Princes, who had been put to bed, taking off the bedclothes. He was singing:
"If there be no little pines in the field
How shall I find the symbol of 1000 ages?"
People thought it more suitable that he should sing this old song than make a new one. The next evening the sky was hazy; as the different parts of the palace are built compactly in close rows I could only catch a slight glimpse of it from the veranda. I admired his recitation of last evening with the nurse Madam Nakadaka. This lady is of deep thought and learning.
I went home for a while. For the fifty days' ceremony of the second Prince, which was the fifteenth day of the Sociable Month, I returned in the early morning to the palace. Lady Koshosho returned in embarrassing broad daylight. We two live together; our rooms adjoin and we throw them together, each occupying the whole when the other is absent. When we are there together we put kichō between them. The Lord Prime Minister says we must be gossiping about other people. Some may be uneasy to hear that, but as there are no unfriendly strangers here we are not anxious about it.
I went to the Queen's audience. My friend wore brocaded uchigi of old rose and white, a red karaginu and figured train. My dress was of red and purple and light green. My karaginu was green and white. The rubbed design on the train was in the very latest fashion, and it would perhaps have been better if a younger lady had worn it. There were seventeen ladies of His Majesty the King's court who presented themselves before the Queen. Lady Tachibana of the third rank served the royal table. Ladies Kodayu and Shikibu on the balcony. The serving of the young August Prince's dinner was entrusted to Lady Koshosho. Their Majesties sat within the dais [one for each]. The morning sun shone in and I felt too much brilliancy in their presence. The King wore a robe with narrow sleeves. The Queen was dressed in red as usual. Her inner kimonos were purple and red with pale and dark green and two shades of yellow. His Majesty's outer dress was grape-coloured brocade, and his inner garment white and green—all rare and modern both in design and colour.
It seemed to be too dazzling in their presence, so I softly slid away into an inner room. The nurse, Madam Nakadaka, holding the young Prince in her arms, came out towards the south between the canopied King and Queen. She is short in stature, but of dignified demeanour. She was perfectly tranquil and grave and a good example for the young Prince [then not two months old!]. She wore grape-coloured uchigi and patternless karaginu of white and old rose. That day all did their utmost to adorn themselves. One had a little fault in the colour combination at the wrist opening. When she went before the Royal presence to fetch something, the nobles and high officials noticed it. Afterwards, Lady Saisho regretted it deeply. It was not so bad; only one colour was a little too pale. Lady Kotaiyu wore a crimson unlined dress and over it an uchigi of deep and pale plum colour bordered with folds. Her karaginu was white and old rose. Lady Gen Shikibu appears to have been wearing a red and purple figured silk. Some said it was unsuitable because it was not brocade. That judgment is too conventional. There may be criticism where want of taste is too apparent, but it were better to criticize manners. Dress is rather unimportant in comparison.
The ceremony of giving mochi to the Prince is ended and the table is taken away. The misu of the anteroom was rolled up, and we saw ladies sitting crowded at the west side of the dais. There were Lady Tachibana of the third rank, and Naishi Nosuké, the younger attendant of the August Princes sitting in the doorway. In the east anteroom near the shioji there were ladies of high rank. I went to seek Lady
SCREENED DAIS PREPARED FOR ROYALTY
From a print in an old book.
Dainagon and Lady Koshosho, who were sitting east of the dais. His August Majesty sat on the dais with his dining-table before him. The ornaments of it were exquisitely beautiful. On the south balcony there sat the Minister of the Right and Left and the Chamberlain, the first officials of the Crown Prince and of the Queen and the Great Adviser Shijo, facing towards the North, the West being the more honourable seat. There were no officials of low rank. Afterwards they begun to amuse themselves. Courtiers sat on the southeast corridor of the side building. The four lower officials took their usual places [on the steps below Royalty] to perform some music. They were Kagemasa, Korekazé, Yukiyoshi, Tonomasa. From the upper seat the Great Adviser Shijo conducted the music. To no Ben played the lute, Tsunetaka played the harp [koto]. The Lieutenant-General of the Left Bodyguard and State Councillor played the flute. Some outsiders joined in the music. One made a mistake in the notes and was hissed. The Minister of the Right praised the six-stringed koto. He became too merry, and made a great mistake, which sent a chill even to the onlookers.
The Prime Minister's gift was flutes put into two boxes.
- This diary seems to have been jotted down in disconnected paragraphs and the editors have preserved that form.
- Tsuchimikado: the residence of Prime Minister Fujiwara, the father of the Queen.
- Priests are praying for the easy delivery of the Queen, who has gone to her parents' house before the birth, in accordance with old Japanese custom.
- The writer of this diary lost her husband in 1001.
- Altars before Fudo, Gosansé, Gunsari, Daiitoku, Kongoyasha.
- See the plan of a great house of those days.
- Yorimichi, the Prime Minister Fujiwara Michinaga's son, who was then sixteen years old.
- Misu: a thin finely woven bamboo curtain, behind which one may see but not be seen, hung before great personages and women's apartments.
- Tonearasoi: at present not known.
- Imayo, or "new style," a kind of song in vogue in those days. The verse consists of eight or ten alternating seven- and five-syllable lines.
- This perfume was composed of purified Borneo camphor, aloe wood and musk, and was used to perfume clothing, etc.
- Hagi: violet-coloured dress with blue lining, the violet dye taken from sapan-wood; Shion: pale purple dress with blue lining.
- A face covering used while sleeping.
- Floss silk was used to protect chrysanthemum flowers from frost. The flower itself was believed to have the virtue of lengthening life. The Imperial garden party undoubtedly originated from a belief in this virtue in the flower.
- Ladies were crowded close behind the misu looking at the moon.
- Hangings, screens, and clothes of attendants were all white at the time of a birth.
- Which would otherwise have attacked the Queen. Some of the ladies-in-waiting undertook this duty. There is a difference of opinion between the translators as to whether this was done with the intention of deceiving the evil spirits into attacking the wrong person (by introducing into her neighbourhood other women surrounded with screens and attendants) or by transmitting the supposed evil spirits out of the Queen into her ladies by a sort of mesmerization.
- Fudo: a terrible-looking Buddhist idol who was thought to have the power to subdue all evil spirits.
- For good luck.
- So that she might be ordained as a priestess and insured a good reception in the next world, only done when the sick person is in great danger.
- This was contrary to etiquette and shows the extreme excitement of the moment. Ladies and gentlemen of the court remained in separate rooms on social occasions.
- Kurodo = secretary (in charge of court manuscripts).
- Everybody was still wearing white, colour of purification.
- See frontispiece.
- Every Japanese family does this to-day, for almost all gardens have artificial brooks or ponds.
- Imperial shrine at Isé: the oldest shrine, built 5 B.C., dedicated to the Heaven Shining Goddess, ancestor of the Imperial family. This shrine is rebuilt every twenty years on the same model. It is the most sacred spot in Japan, and all serious events pertaining to the Empire or Imperial Household are announced there to the Goddess-Ancestor by Imperial Messenger.
- Nusa: rolls of silk or paper offered by a worshipper.
- Because a birth in a house was defilement, while a messenger to or from a god was holy.
- Saishi: a kind of gold ornament with five radiating points worn on the forehead and tied on around the head. (See frontispiece.)
- This was to frighten away evil spirits.
- Rice-scattering; for good luck.
- Here occurs an untranslatable sentence. Literally it would seem to be: It seems hair growing in good monochromatic picture. That might mean that the Queen seemed like a beauty in a picture drawn with ink and brush (see some illustrations in this book).
- Purple and scarlet.
- Karaginu: a short garment with long sleeves and worn of a different colour from the uchigi. (See frontispiece.)
- Uchigi: long unconfined flowing robe put on over the dress. It was made of elegant material and lined with another colour and was the distinctive and beautiful part of the court dress of that day. Under it were worn two or more other silk robes of different colours, one often intended to show through and modify the colour of the other. They were fastened in front by a belt like the present-day kimono, and over them was hung at the back the long and elaborate train of heavy white silk on which the last word of elegance in embroidery or painting was placed. In the presence of Royalty the ladies knelt in rows one behind the other, and doubtless these trains made a great display spread out before those sitting behind. (See frontispiece.)
- See frontispiece.
- Unemé: beautiful women, selected from various provinces for their beauty, especially to wait on the Royal table.
- Mohitori: officials who had charge of wells, shoyu (Japanese sauce) and ice-houses.
- Migusiagé: attendants whose hair was done up with hairpins.
- King's housekeepers.
- Da: a gambling game now not known. It was played with dice.
- (The following poem, then composed, is made with words of two meanings. It is impossible to arrange it in poetic form in English, but we present the two meanings in separate phrases, which the reader may combine for himself.)
Japanese words with their meanings:
- Mezurashiki hikari = uncommon light.
Sashi sou = added.
pour more saké into.
Sakazuki wa = waxing moon.
- Chiyomo = for a thousand ages.
Megurame = circulate circulate, O moon never waning!
circulate the cup to all persons countless times.
- We pray that the waxing moon [i.e. the young Prince] may never wane, but shine for a thousand ages without change!
- May this cup [of joy] be full as soon as emptied and circulate freely to all!
- A pleated divided skirt worn by both men and women.
- In Kioto it used to be the custom to cover the earth of the gardens with very white fine sand.
- A school created in 825 A.D. by the Prime Minister Fujiwara Fuyutsugu to educate the younger members of the Fujiwara family.
- This "court fashion" of sending rolls of silk as presents from the Emperor or Empress prevails to-day, one thousand years later.
- This person was the second son of the Prime Minister; therefore the Queen's brother or half-brother and uncle of the Crown Prince.
- The island of Horai; Japanese Elysium, a crystal island of eternal youth and felicity, supposed to exist in mid-ocean. A miniature presentation of this island is used on festal occasions as the emblem of eternity, or unchangeableness.
- The Prime Minister wished to arrange a marriage between his eldest son and the Prince's daughter. The authoress's cousin had adopted the Prince's son.
- This incident has for some reason become very famous and artists have used it as a subject for pictures. One of these is now hanging in the Imperial Museum in Tokyo.
- Poems were written on oblongs of crimson, yellow, gold, or other paper according to the feeling of the writer. Nowadays oblong poem papers can be bought anywhere, but they are generally white or gray with gold decoration.
- The King's visit was made October 16, 1008.
- It was de rigueur for ladies to conceal their faces with fans.
- The left side is the more honourable position, but this time the King sat at the right side because perhaps they could not move the Queen's dais.
- A special effect of brilliant shining produced by beating the silk.
- A special effect of brilliant shining produced by beating the silk.
- These garments were evidently made of very thin material, colours underneath being intended to modify the outer ones, hence the art of dressing became very subtle.
- Doubtless this office was highly important and held in honour. In those days poison and inferior foods were to be guarded against. Throughout the journal it may be noticed that all directly serving the King and Queen in any way are persons of high rank.
- In this curiously delicate operation the actual leaf or flower from which the colour was obtained was rubbed onto the silk to make the desired pattern.
- Light blue and some kinds of yellow are colours relegated to the elderly in Japan. Babies and young people are dressed in bright colours and showy patterns. The old wear plain stuffs and pale or dull colours.
- This dance was performed by court nobles at the coronation of the present Emperor at Kioto, 1915.
- Artificial hills in Japanese gardens are intended to bring mountain scenery to mind, whether large or small. They are sometimes of considerable size.
- Reigned 970 to 984. This lady may have been his mistress or had interesting reminiscences to relate.
- The feuds of the Fujiwara family. Fujiwara Fuhito had four sons who became the founders of the four great Fujiwara families—Minami, Kyo, Kita, and Shiki. They were all aspiring to the King's favour and at enmity with each other, the present Prime Minister Michinaga far outstripping the others in power.
- Mochi: a cake made of beaten rice flour paste.
- These dainty white wooden boxes of food arranged in a way pleasing to the eye are still a feature of Japanese life. They are distributed, with varying contents, at weddings and funerals, sold at railway stations, and carried on picnics.
- At banquets a great cup was used which could contain one or two quarts of liquor. When this was circulated among the guests each was expected to empty the cup, and it was the pride of the drinker to toss it off in one draught.
- The hero of Genji Monogatari.
- The Queen desired a literary Court to rival that of the first Queen. See note on p. 131.
- A special kind of wild duck called oshidori which is always seen in couples.
- Kokiden: residence of the first Queen.
- The World; i.e. matrimonial affairs.
- Three anthologies, of Ancient and Modern Poems, Later Selections of Poems, and Miscellaneous Poems, respectively.
- These men were famous calligraphers.
- This famous dance, whose origin is given below, was performed at the present Emperor's coronation at Kioto in 1915, by five daughters of ancient noble families selected for their beauty. It is said that these young ladies immediately thereafter received a great many offers of marriage.
Gosetchi was a great holiday succeeded by two days of feasting. The dancing girls (of the diary) were all daughters of persons of high rank, three being daughters of courtiers and two daughters of province governors. Tradition says that when King Tenmu was at his palace of Yoshino, heavenly maidens came down and danced before him fluttering the long celestial sleeves of their feathery dresses five times. This was the origin of the dance.
- Each dancer was attended by helpers who were sometimes persons of degree. Their duties were to arrange trains and costumes in the postures of the dance.
- Her father was Keeper of the Seal. Her aunt was one of the queens.
- See signs of the zodiac, of Old Japan.
- The name of a detached hall in the Imperial Palace.
- Like the knights' tents in the tournaments each girl's apartment was distinguished by special devices of cloths or banners hung before it.
- Horai: an island of eternal life and felicity supposed to exist in the eastern ocean. Horai symbolizes changelessness, and it must have been intended as a hint at the impropriety of Sakyō's changed position.
- Festival of the ancient gods, for which preparation was made the day before by fasting.
- This Incident was very well known and is mentioned in several of the writings of the period. The mirror is the symbol of the soul of a Japanese woman. With the mirror Sakyō sent a poem:
- Alas! the waving moss deceived your vision.
- The clear mirror is never tarnished:
- Therefore look deep.
- Mochi: it is still the custom in Japan to serve a cake made of beaten rice on New Year's Day, the great festival of the year. The sound of this beating is heard from house to house throughout the country, and gives everybody a holiday feeling. The ceremonies last three days.
- These colour combinations were very subtle because the effect was produced by the play of one or perhaps two colours showing through one another.
- One of the young women who had danced the Gosetchi.
- Fujiwara Michitaka, the Prime Minister's brother.
- This lady was one of the greatest poets Japan has ever produced. See her diary, which is the record of her liaison with a young prince.
- A daughter of the famous court lady, poet, and historian Akazomé Emon, to whom the court history of the time is traditionally ascribed.
- Seishonagon. A lady famous for her learning and wit and with a little reputation for daring. Pretty and vivacious, learned and witty, she was allowed liberties unrebuked—one may call her the New Woman of the day. She served in the court of the first Queen Sadako, daughter of the Prime Minister's brother. The two Queens were in rivalry. Seishonagon was the literary light of that court, as Murasaki Shikibu and Izumi Shikibu were of this.
- Because one may be bewitched; ancient belief dating from long before her day.
- A koto is called a horizontal harp, but It consists of a number of strings stretched the length of the Instrument, the scale made by an arrangement of bridges placed under the strings, and played upon by four ivory keys worn on the four fingers of the right hand.
- Her husband who was a scholar in Chinese literature. He died in 1001. It is now 1008.
- Large and learned volumes by the Chinese scholar Seŭ-ma Ch'ien.
- The Merciful Buddha of the West Paradise.
- It is believed that this Buddha comes to welcome the departing soul of the believer mounted on a rainbow-coloured cloud.
- The great Enryakuji on Mount Hiyé, northeast of Kioto.
- A line from an old Chinese poem about Jofuku and Bunsei, seekers of the herb of eternal life. When they entered the boat they were young men, but were very old when they returned.
- The Japanese New Year ceremonies extend over three days.
- Both these little princes, grandsons of the Prime Minister, eventually came to the throne.
- Toso: New Year's drink of spiced saké supposed to prolong life.
- The names of these colours are translated in modern terms. The Japanese names of colours for dresses were all of colours in combination, which often were called after flowers or plants. These names could not convey the right idea. For instance, what is here translated old rose and white, would be in those days called cherry, intended to convey to the mind the thought of the cherry-tree in bloom.
- Paper doors.