can not reproduce Nature in art," a Japanese artist has said, "and instead of making so bold an attempt, had best satisfy ourselves with mere suggestions of Nature's beauties." The same may be said of some Japanese poetry, for the uta, or sonnets, usually are mere poetic suggestions of a deeper meaning or sentiment. This brings one to a realization of the close connection between art and poetry in Japan, as also between poetry and music. In social gatherings among friends, a favorite mode for mutual entertainment is for one of the guests to quickly sketch some passing thought or memory of one of Nature's beauties; it may be the crest of some distant mountain, a branch heavy with blossoms, or a flower. This sketch is then passed on to another guest, who, in looking at it, seeks to find some poetic suggestion, or hidden lesson, and having done so, adds the verse to the sketch, and the picture is complete. These illustrated sonnets, the fruits of poetic inspiration and artistic impression, are taken home, to be preserved as cherished souvenirs of the evening's entertainment.
To illustrate this more clearly, we will say that an artist has, with two or three rough strokes of his brush, depicted a bleak mountain peak, with a flock of birds flying above it. This is passed to Aritsuné, a Japanese poet of recognized merit, who after a few moments' thought adds a sonnet to the sketch. It is, like the sketch, a mere suggestion of a deeper sentiment, or imi, as the Japanese would have it. I can best render it as follows, making the translation as literal as possible:
We may struggle to the peak
Of the mountain, bare and bleak,
There but to learn,
And well discern,
That the winging birds above,
Speeding to their nests of love,
More of Nature's beauties see
Far than we.
Surely the beauty of the thought is evident, and the deeper meaning, or imi, appreciable even to the prosiest of us. Yet in rendering the lesson of the sonnet, as implied to the Japanese reader of the above words, I might add the following lines:
So, when striving naught but fame to obtain,
Thou chance mayst reach the highest peak of earthly gain;
Then thou wilt learn,
And well discern,
That Nature doth her beauties wide outspread
For those to daily duties who are wed.
While simple lives yield peace and light,
Fame blinds the sight.