Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/11

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MAY, 1893.



IT must be confessed that the ideas of Japan and the Japanese which we are likely to gain through the current literature of the day are apt to be sadly confusing. This, I am quite confident, is not from any desire on the part of writers on Japanese subjects to encourage any false impressions, but rather from the very fact that neither poet nor artist traveler—ay, nor many of the long residents in Japan, for that matter—have opportunity to see or take part in the home life of the people of Japan.

But few visitors to that country have been able, in so short a time, to become so thoroughly en rapport with the customs and life of this interesting people as Sir Edwin Arnold, whose graceful writings show us how he has thought with them, lived with them, and loved with them in a deeper and truer sense than many of the oldest foreign residents, although his stay was comparatively short. Yet even in Sir Edwin's writings on Japan we see the poetry rather than the prose of Japanese life; and this is not to be wondered at, for of all countries and people none could appeal so deeply to the poet as does this fairyland of flowers and romance. The very air one breathes, the delicious sense of rest and quiet, the graceful courtesy of the people, the romantic beauty of mountain or highway, city or dwelling—all these, and far more, complete an ideal picture that awakens enthusiasm in the prosiest of tourists or visitors. It could surely scarcely have been otherwise that the author of the Light of Asia, whose very heart-strings are tuned to the melody of poetry, should have struck the keynote of Japanese life and awakened naught but answering chords of most enchanting harmony.