of the people that one can not well dissociate the one from the other. The story of Kogo-no-Tsuboné—properly an utai, or historical poem—is a favorite on account of the sweet romance it contains.
Long, long years ago, before the Shoguns, that now sleep in their ancient graves in Shiba, had gained power, and before the advent of foreigners had been even dreamed of, the peace-loving young Emperor Takakura, a monarch of the imperial line, graced the sacred throne of his ancestors.
But the imperial power of Takakura was but a nominal one, for the prime minister—one Kiyomori, of Taira descent—virtually ruled the land, and, to accomplish his ends more adroitly, had even caused his daughter to be made empress. Thus the peace-loving young monarch was a mere tool in the artful hands of Kiyomori. Indeed, his power was great, for the emperor could not have declared war or made peace against Kiyomori's tyrant will.
So, while the prime minister was scheming with his daughter the empress, the young monarch was forced to seek consolation in music and art, and found a willing and loving follower in one of his retainers, Nakakuni, who himself was a most skilled performer on the flute. Now, it happened that among the royal musicians at the palace there was a lady in waiting to the royal household who in music far outranked any other. Fair as a dream, gifted with the sweetest of voices, Kogo—for this was her name—was able to awaken music from her koto strings that seemed to spring from the very soul of the instrument. None but the tapering fingers of the fair Kogo could create such entrancing harmony, and it truly seemed as though the silken strings would murmur a loving response to her gentle caress.
Frequently the flutist Nakakuni would accompany Kogo's music and song, while the young emperor would listen like one entranced. These three passed many happy hours together; but as time wore on, the young monarch realized that sweet Kogo's music and verse had awakened love. But, alas! Kiyomori learned of the emperor's infatuation, and poor Kogo was compelled to secretly flee to the mountain forests of Saga in order to escape from the relentless persecutions of Kiyomori and his daughter the empress.
On learning of Kogo's flight from the palace, Takakura at once ordered his faithful retainer Nakakuni to go in search of the missing maiden, and look far and wide, and not to return until he had found her hiding place. The fleetest horse of the royal mews was made ready, and Nakakuni, bearing with him a message from the Emperor, was soon speeding toward the gloomy mountain of Saga.