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Chapter III. Sotoba Komachi, The Noh Plays Of Japan

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By KWANAMI PERSONS A PRIEST OF THE KŌYASAN. SECOND PRIEST. ONO NO KOMACHI. CHORUS. PRIEST. We who on shallow hills 1 have built our home In the heart's deep recess seek solitude. (Turning to the audience.) I am a priest of the Kōyasan. I am minded to go up to the Capital to visit the shrines and sanctuaries there. The Buddha of the Past is gone, And he that shall be Buddha has not yet come into the world. SECOND PRIEST. In a dream-lull our lives are passed; all, all That round us lies Is visionary, void. Yet got we by rare fortune at our birth Man's shape, that is hard to get; And dearer gift was given us, harder to win, The doctrine of Buddha, seed of our Salvation. And me this only thought possessed, How I might bring that seed to blossom, till at last I drew this sombre cassock across my back. And knowing now the lives before my birth, No love I owe To those that to this life engendered me, Nor seek a care (have I not disavowed Such hollow bonds?) from child by me begot. A thousand leagues Is little road To the pilgrim's feet. The fields his bed, The hills his home Till the travel's close. PRIEST. We have come so fast that we have reached the pine-woods of Abeno, in the country of Tsu. Let us rest in this place. (They sit down by the Waki's pillar.) KOMACHI. Like a root-cut reed, 1 Should the tide entice, I would come, I think; but now No wave asks; no stream stirs. Long ago I was full of pride; Crowned with nodding tresses, halcyon locks, I walked like a young willow delicately wafted By the winds of Spring. I spoke with the voice of a nightingale that has sipped the dew. I was lovelier than the petals of the wild-rose open-stretched In the hour before its fall. But now I am grown loathsome even to sluts, Poor girls of the people, and they and all men Turn scornful from me. Unhappy months and days pile up their score; I am old; old by a hundred years. In the City I fear men's eyes, And at dusk, lest they should cry "Is it she?" Westward with the moon I creep From the cloud-high City of the Hundred Towers. No guard will question, none challenge Pilgrim so wretched: yet must I he walking Hid ever in shadow of the trees. Past the Lovers' Tomb, And the Hill of Autumn To the River of Katsura, the boats, the moonlight. (She shrinks back and covers her face, frightened of being known.)   Who are those rowing in the boats? 1 Oh, I am weary. I will sit on this tree-stump and rest awhile. PRIEST. Come! The sun is sinking; we must hasten on our way. Look, look at that beggar there! It is a holy Stūpa that she is sitting on! I must tell her to come off it. Now then, what is that you are sitting on? Is it not a holy Stūpa, the worshipful Body of Buddha? Come off it and rest in some other place. KOMACHI. Buddha's worshipful body, you say? But I could see no writing on it, nor any figure carved. I thought it was only a tree-stump. PRIEST. Even the little black tree on the hillside When it has put its blossoms on Cannot be hid; And think you that this tree Cut fivefold in the fashion of Buddha's holy form Shall not make manifest its power? KOMACHI. I too am a poor withered bough. But there are flowers at my heart, 2 Good enough, maybe, for an offering. But why is this called Buddha's body? PRIEST. Hear then! This Stūpa is the Body of the Diamond Lord. 3 It is the symbol of his incarnation. KOMACHI. And in what elements did he choose to manifest his body?   PRIEST. Earth, water, wind, fire and space. KOMACHI. Of these five man also is compounded. Where then is the difference? PRIEST. The forms are the same, but not the virtue. KOMACHI. And what is the virtue of the Stūpa? PRIEST. "He that has looked once upon the Stūpa, shall escape forever from the Three Paths of Evil." 1 KOMACHI. "One thought can sow salvation in the heart." 2 Is that of less price? SECOND PRIEST. If your heart has seen salvation, how comes it that you linger in the World? KOMACHI. It is my body that lingers, for my heart left it long ago. PRIEST. You have no heart at all, or you would have known the Body of Buddha. KOMACHI. It was because I knew it that I came to see it! SECOND PRIEST. And knowing what you know, you sprawled upon it without a word of prayer? KOMACHI. It was on the ground already. What harm could it get by my resting on it?   PRIEST. It was an act of discord. 1 KOMACHI. Sometimes from discord salvation springs. SECOND PRIEST. From the malice of Daiba ... 2 KOMACHI. As from the mercy of Kwannon. 3 PRIEST. From the folly of Handoku ...  4 KOMACHI. As from the wisdom of Monju. 5 SECOND PRIEST. That which is called Evil KOMACHI. Is Good. PRIEST. That which is called Illusion KOMACHI. Is Salvation. 6 SECOND PRIEST. For Salvation   KOMACHI. Cannot be planted like a tree. PRIEST. And the Heart's Mirror KOMACHI. Hangs in the void. CHORUS (speaking for KOMACHI). "Nothing is real. Between Buddha and Man Is no distinction, but a seeming of difference planned For the welfare of the humble , the ill-instructed, Whom he has vowed to save. Sin itself may be the ladder of salvation." So she spoke, eagerly; and the priests, "A saint, a saint is this decrepit, outcast soul." And bending their heads to the ground, Three times did homage before her. KOMACHI. I now emboldened Recite a riddle, a jesting song. "Were I in Heaven The Stūpa were an ill seat; But here, in the world without, What harm is done?" 1 CHORUS. The priests would have rebuked her; But they have found their match. PRIEST. Who are you? Pray tell us the name you had, and we will pray for you when you are dead. KOMACHI. Shame covers me when I speak my name; but if you will pray for me, I will try to tell you. This is my name; write it down in your prayer-list: I am the ruins of Komachi, daughter of Ono no Yoshizane, Governor of the land of Dewa. PRIESTS. Oh piteous, piteous! Is this Komachi that once Was a bright flower, Komachi the beautiful, whose dark brows Linked like young moons; Her face white-farded ever; Whose many, many damask robes Filled cedar-scented halls? KOMACHI. I made verses in our speech And in the speech of the foreign Court. CHORUS. The cup she held at the feast Like gentle moonlight dropped its glint on her sleeve. Oh how fell she from splendour, How came the white of winter To crown her head? Where are gone the lovely locks, double-twined, The coils of jet? Lank wisps, scant curls wither now On wilted flesh; And twin-arches, moth-brows tinge no more With the hue of far hills. "Oh cover, cover From the creeping light of dawn Silted seaweed locks that of a hundred years Lack now but one. Oh hide me from my shame." (KOMACHI hides her face.) CHORUS (speaking for the PRIEST). What is it you carry in the wallet string at your neck? KOMACHI. Death may come to-day--or hunger to-morrow. A few beans and a cake of millet: That is what I carry in my bag. CHORUS. And in the wallet on your back? KOMACHI. A garment stained with dust and sweat. CHORUS. And in the basket on your arm? KOMACHI. Sagittaries white and black. CHORUS. Tattered cloak, 1 KOMACHI. Broken hat . . . CHORUS. She cannot hide her face from our eyes; And how her limbs KOMACHI. From rain and dew, hoar-frost and snow? CHORUS (speaking for KOMACHI while she mimes the actions they describe). Not rags enough to wipe the tears from my eyes! Now, wandering along the roads I beg an alms of those that pass. And when they will not give, An evil rage, a very madness possesses me. My voice changes. Oh terrible!   KOMACHI (thrusting her hat under the PRIESTS' noses and shrieking at them menacingly). Grr! You priests, give me something: give me something ... Ah! PRIEST. What do you want? KOMACHI. Let me go to Komachi. 1 PRIEST. But you told us you were Komachi. What folly is this you are talking? KOMACHI. No, no.... Komachi was very beautiful. Many letters came to her, many messages,-- Thick as raindrops out of a black summer sky. But she sent no answer, not even an empty word. And now in punishment she has grown old: She has lived a hundred years-- I love her, oh I love her! PRIEST. You love Komachi? Say then, whose spirit has possessed you? KOMACHI. There were many who set their hearts on her, But among them all It was Shōshō who loved her best, Shii no Shōshō of the Deep Grass. 2 CHORUS (speaking for KOMACHI, i. e. for the spirit of Sōshō). The wheel goes back; I live again through the cycle of my woes. Again I travel to the shaft-bench. The sun ... what hour does he show? Dusk. . . . Alone in the moonlight I must go my way. Though the watchmen of the barriers Stand across my path, They shall not stop me! (Attendants robe KOMACHI in the Court hat and travelling-cloak of Shōshō.) Look, I go! KOMACHI. Lifting the white skirts of my trailing dress, CHORUS (speaking for KOMACHI, while she, dressed as her lover Shōshō, mimes the night-journey). Pulling down over my ears the tall, nodding hat, Tying over my head the long sleeves of my hunting cloak, Hidden from the eyes of men, In moonlight, in darkness, On rainy nights I travelled; on windy nights, Under a shower of leaves; when the snow was deep, KOMACHI. And when water dripped at the roof-eaves,--tok, tok . . . CHORUS. Swiftly, swiftly coming and going, coming and going One night, two nights, three nights, Ten nights (and this was harvest night) . . . I never saw her, yet I travelled; Faithful as the cock who marks each day the dawn, I carved my marks on the bench. I was to come a hundred times; There lacked but one . . . KOMACHI (feeling the death-agony of Shōshō). My eyes dazzle. Oh the pain, the pain! CHORUS. Oh the pain! and desperate, Before the last night had come, He died,--Shii no Shōshō the Captain. (Speaking for KOMACHI, who is now no longer possessed by Shōshō's spirit.) Was it his spirit that possessed me, Was it his anger that broke my wits? If this be so, let me pray for the life hereafter, Where alone is comfort; Piling high the sands 1 Till I be burnished as gold. 2 See, I offer my flower 3 to Buddha, 1 hold it in both hands. Oh may He lead me into the Path of Truth, Into the Path of Truth.   114:1 The Kōyasan is not so remote as most mountain temples. 115:1 See . 116:1 Seami, writing c. 1430, says: "Komachi was once a long play. After the words 'Who are those,' etc., there used to be a long lyric passage" (Works, ). 116:2 "Heart flowers," kokoro no hana, is a synonym for "poetry." 116:3 Vajrasattya, himself an emanation of Vairochana, the principal Buddha of the Shingon Sect. 117:1 From the Nirvāna Sūtra. 117:2 From the Avatamsaka Sūtra. 118:1 Lit. "discordant karma." 118:2 A wicked disciple who in the end attained to illumination. Also called Datta; cp. Kumasaka, . 118:3 The Goddess of Mercy. 118:4 A disciple so witless that he could not recite a single verse of Scripture. 118:5 God of Wisdom. 118:6 From the Nirvāna Sūtra. 119:1 The riddle depends on a pun between sotoba and soto wa, "without" "outside." 121:1 The words which follow suggest the plight of her lover Shōshō when he travelled to her house "a hundred nights all but one," to cut his notch on the bench. 122:1 The spirit of her lover Shōshō has now entirely possessed her: this "possession-scene" lasts very much longer on the stage than the brief words would suggest. 122:2 Fukagusa the name of his native place, means "deep grass." 124:1 See Hokkekyō, II. 18. 124:2 The colour of the saints in heaven. 124:3 Her "heart-flower." i.e. poetic talent.

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1 Sara Di Diego = "This is a sect of Shingon Buddhism.  It's the oldest and largest Shingon sect.  It's name comes from it's headquarters: Mount Koya.Work Cited:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dyasan_Shingon-sh%C5%AB"