A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Diary of Izumi Shikibu." by Izumi Shikibu (974- )
Publication: Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan. translated by Annie Shepley Omori and Kochi Doi, with an introduction by Amy Lowell. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920, pp. 147-196.

[Page 147]



[Page 148]

[Page 149]



A.D. 1002-1003

MANY months had passed in lamenting the World,1 more shadowy than a dream. Already the tenth day of the Deutzia month was over. A deeper shade lay under the trees and the grass on the embankment was greener.2 These changes, unnoticed by any, seemed beautiful to her, and while musing upon them a man stepped lightly along behind the hedge. She was idly curious, but when he came towards her she recognized the page of the late prince.3 He came at a sorrowful moment, so she said, "Is your coming not long delayed? To talk over the past was inclined." "Would it not have been presuming?–Forgive me–In mountain temples have been worshipping. To be without ties is sad, so wishing to take service again I went to Prince Sochi-no-miya."

"Excellent! that Prince is very elegant and is known to me. He cannot be as of yore?" [i.e. unmarried.] So she said, and he replied, "No, but he is very gracious. He asked me whether I ever visit you now- [Page 150]  adays–'Yes, I do,' said I; then, breaking off this branch of tachibana 1 flowers, His Highness replied, 'Give this to her, [see] how she will take it'. The Prince had in mind the old poem:

The scent of tachibana flowers in May
Recalls the perfumed sleeves of him who is no longer here.
So I have come–what shall I say to him?"

It was embarrassing to return an oral message through the page, and the Prince had not written; discontented, yet wishing to make some response, she wrote a poem and gave it to the page:

That scent, indeed, brings memories
But rather, to be reminded of that other,
Would hear the cuckoo's 2 voice.

The Prince was on the veranda of his palace, and as the page approached him with important face, he led him into an inner room saying, "What is it?" The page presented the poem.

The Prince read it and wrote this answer:

The cuckoo sings on the same branch
With voice unchanged,
That shall you know.

His Highness gave this to the page and walked away, saying, "Tell it to no one, I might be thought amorous." The page brought the poem to the lady. Lovely it was, but it seemed wiser not to write too often [so did not answer]. [Page 151] 

On the day following his first letter this poem was sent:

To you I betrayed my heart–
Alas! Confessing
Brings deeper grief,
Lamenting days.

Feeling was rootless, but being unlearned in loneliness, and attracted, she wrote an answer:

If you lament to-day
At this moment your heart
May feel for mine–
For in sorrow
Months and days have worn away.

He wrote often and she answered–sometimes–and felt her loneliness a little assuaged. Again she received a letter. After expressing feelings of great delicacy:

[I would] solace [you] with consoling words
If spoken in vain
No longer could be exchanged.

To talk with you about the departed one; how would it be [for you] to come in the evening unobtrusively?

Her answer:

As I hear of comfort I wish to talk with you, but being an uprooted person there is no hope of my standing upright. I am footless [meaning, I cannot go to you].

Thus she wrote, and His Highness decided to come as a private person.

It was still daylight, and he secretly called his servant Ukon-no-zo, who had usually been the medium by which the letters had reached the Prince, and said, [Page 152]  "I am going somewhere." The man understood and made preparations.

His Highness came in an humble palanquin and made his page announce him. It was embarrassing. She did not know what to do; she could not pretend to be absent after having written him an answer that very day. It seemed too heartless to make him go back at once without entering. Thinking, "I will only talk to him," she placed a cushion by the west door on the veranda, and invited the Prince there. Was it because he was so much admired by the world that he seemed to her unusually fascinating? But this only increased her caution. While they were talking the moon shone out and it became uncomfortably bright.

He: "As I have been out of society and living in the shade, I am not used to such a bright place as this"–It was too embarrassing!–"Let me come in where you are sitting; I will not be rude as others are. You are not one to receive me often, are you?" "No indeed! What a strange idea! Only to-night we shall talk together I think; never again!" Thus lightly talking, the night advanced–"Shall we spend the night in this way?" he asked:

The night passes,
We dream no faintest dream–
What shall remain to me of this summer night ?


Thinking of the world
Sleeves wet with tears are my bed-fellows.
Calmly to dream sweet dreams–
There is no night for that.

[Facing Page]


[Page 152] 

He: "I am not a person who can leave my house easily. You may think me rude, but my feeling for you grows ardent." And he crept into the room. Felt horribly embarrassed, but conversed together and at daybreak he returned.

Next day's letter:

In what way are you thinking about me? I feel anxiety–

To you it may be a commonplace to speak of love,
But my feeling this morning–
  To nothing can it be compared!

She answered:

Whether commonplace or not–
Thoughts do not dwell upon it
  For the first time [I] am caught in the toils.

O what a person! What has she done! So tenderly the late Prince spoke to her! She felt regret and her mind was not tranquil. Just then the page came. Awaited a letter, but there was none. It disappointed her; how much in love! When the page returned, a letter was given.

The letter:

Were my heart permitted even to feel the pain of waiting!
It may be to wait is lesser pain–
To-night–not even to wait for–

The Prince read it, and felt deep pity, yet there must be reserve [in going out at night]. His affection for his Princess is unusually light, but he may be thinking it would seem odd to leave home every night. Perhaps he will reserve himself until the mourning for the late Prince is over; 1 it is a sign that his love is not deep. An answer came after nightfall. [Page 153] 

Had she said she was waiting for me with all her heart,
Without rest towards the house of my beloved
Should I have been impelled !

When I think how lightly you may regard me!

Her answer:

Why should I think lightly of you?

I am a drop of dew
Hanging from a leaf
Yet I am not unrestful
For on this branch I seem to have existed
From before the birth of the world.

Please think of me as like the unstable dew which cannot even remain unless the leaf supports it.

His Highness received this letter. He wanted to come, but days passed without realizing his wish. On the moon-hidden day [last day of month] she wrote:

If to-day passes
Your muffled voice of April, O cuckoo
When can I hear?

She sent this poem, but as the Prince had many callers it could only reach him the next morning. His answer:

The cuckoo's song in spring is full of pain.
Listen and you will hear his song of summer
Full-throated from to-day.1

And so he came at last, avoiding public attention. The lady was preparing herself for temple-going, and in the act of religious purification. Thinking that the rare visits of the Prince betrayed his indifference, and [Page 155]  supposing that he had come only to show that he was not without sympathy, she continued the night absorbed in religious services, talking little with him.

In the morning the Prince said: "I have passed an extraordinary night"–

New is such feeling for me
We have been near,
Yet the night passed and our souls have not met.

And he added, "I am wretched."

She could feel his distress and was sorry for him; and said:

With endless sorrow my heart is weighted
And night after night is passed
Even without meeting of the eyelids.

For me this is not new.

May 2. The Prince wrote to her: "Are you going to the temple to-day? When shall you be at home again?"


In its season the time of gently falling rain will be over.
To-night I will drag from its bed the root of ayame. 1

Went to the temple and came back after two or three days to find a letter [from him]:

My heart yearns for thee, and I wish to see thee, yet I am discouraged by the treatment of the other night. I am sad [Page 156]  and ashamed. Do not suppose that I remain at home because my feeling is shallow.

She is cold-hearted, yet I cannot forget her.
Time wipes out bitterness, but deepens longings
Which to-day have overcome me.

Not slight is my feeling, although–

Her reply:

Are you coming ? Scarcely believable are your words,
For not even a shadow
Passes before my unfrequented dwelling.

The Prince came as usual unannounced. The lady did not believe that he would come at all, and being tired out with the religious observances of several days, fell asleep. No one noticed the gentle knocking at the gate. He, on the other hand, had heard some rumours, and suspecting the presence of another lover, quietly retired. A letter came on the morning of the next day:

I stood before your closed door
Never to be opened.
Seeing, it became the symbol of your pitiless heart!

I tasted the bitterness of love, and pitied myself.

Then she knew that he had come the night before–carelessly fallen asleep!–and wrote back:

How can you write the thought?
The door of precious wood was closely shut,
No way to read that heart.

All is thy suspicion–O that I could lay bare my heart [to you]!

The next night he wanted to come again, yet he was advised against it. He feared the criticism of the Chamberlain and Crown Prince, so his visits became [Page 157]  more and more infrequent. In the continuous rains the lady gazed at the clouds and thought how the court would be talking about them. She had had many friends; now there was only the Prince. Though people invented various tales about her, she thought the truth could never be known to any. The Prince wrote a letter about the tedious rain:

You are thinking only of the long rains
Forever falling everywhere.
Into my heart also the rain falls–
Long melancholy days.

It was smile-giving to see that he seized upon every occasion to write her a poem, and she also felt as he did that this was a time for sentiment.

The reply:

Unaware of the sadness in your heart,
Knowing only of the rain in mine.

And on another paper she wrote another poem:

It passes, the very sorrowful life of the world–
By to-day's long { rains
meditation it can be known
The { high-water mark
flood will be exceeded.

Is it still long? [before you come].

The Prince read this letter and the messenger came back with his answer:

Helpless man,
I am weary even of life.
Not to you alone beneath the sky
Is rain and dulness.

For us both it is a stupid world. [Page 158] 

It was the sixth day of the Fifth month–rain not yet stopped. The Prince had been much more touched by her answer of the day before, which was deeper in feeling, and on that morning of heavy rain he sent with much kindness to inquire after her.

Very terrible was the sound of rain...
Of what was I thinking
All the long night through
Listening to the rain against the window?

I was sheltered, but the storm was in my heart.

The lady wrote thus to the Prince, and he thought, "Not hopeless."

His poem:

All the night through, it was of you I thought–
How is it in a house where is no other
To make rain forgotten?

At noon people were talking about the flooding of the Kamo River, and many went to see it, the Prince among them. He wrote:

How are you at present? I have just come back from flood-seeing.

The feeling of my heart, like the overflowing waters of the flood,
But deeper my heart's feeling.

Do you know this ?

She wrote:

Toward me the waters do not overflow.
No depth lies there
Though the meadow is flooded.

Words are not enough.

In these words she replied to him; and his Highness made up his mind to come, and ordered perfumery for himself. Just then his old nurse, Jiju-no-Menoto, came up: "Where are you going?" she said, [Page 159]  "People are talking about it. She is no lady of high birth. If you wish her to serve you, you may summon her here as a servant. Your undignified goings-out are very painful for us. Many men go to her, and some awkward thing may happen. All these improper things are suggested by Ukon-no-Zo. 1 He accompanied the late Prince also. If you wander out in the depths of night no good can come of it. I will tell the Prime Minister 2 of the persons who accompany you in these night visits. In the world there may be changes. No one can tell what will happen to-morrow. The late Minister loved you much and asked the present one to show you favour. You must keep yourself from these indiscretions till worldly affairs are quite settled."

The Prince said: "Where shall I go? I am so bored, and am seeking temporary recreation. People are foolish to make much of it."

He said this, although much hurt by the necessity for it. Besides that, he thought her not unworthy of him and even wished to bring her to the palace [as a concubine]. On the other hand, he reflected that in that case things even more painful to hear would be said, and in his trouble of mind days were passed.

At last he visited her. "I could not come in spite of my desires. Please do not think that I neglect you. The fault is in you; I have heard that there are many [Page 160]  friends of yours who are jealous of me. That makes me more reserved, and so many days have gone by."

The Prince talked gently, and said: "Now come for this night only. There is a hidden place no one sees; there I can talk with tranquil mind." The palanquin was brought near the veranda. She was forced to enter it and went, without her own volition, with unsteady mind. She kept thinking that people would know about it, but as the night was far advanced no one found them out. The conveyance was quietly brought to a corridor where no one was and he got out.

He whispered, "As the moon is very bright, get down quickly." She was afraid, but hurriedly obeyed him. "Here there is no one to see us; from this time we will meet here. At your honourable dwelling I am always anxious about other men. I can never be at ease there." His words were gentle, and when it was dawn he made her get into the palanquin and said, "I wish to go with you, but as it is broad daylight I fear people may think I have passed the night outside the Court."

He remained in the palace, and she on her way home thought of that strange going out and of the rumours that would fly about–yet the uncommonly beautiful features of the Prince at dawn were lingering in her mind.

Her letter:

Rather would I urge your early return at evening
Than ever again make you arise at dawn
It is so sorrowful.
[Page 161] 

His reply:

To see you departing in the morning dew–
It were better to come back in the evening unsatisfied.

Let us drive away such thoughts. I cannot go out this evening on account of the evil spirit [i.e., he might encounter it]. Only to fetch you I venture.

She felt distress because this [sort of thing] could not go on always. But he came with the same palanquin and said, "Hurry, hurry!" She felt ashamed because of her maids, yet stole out into the carriage. At the same place as last night voices were heard, so they went to another building. At dawn he complained of the cock's crowing, and leading her gently into the palanquin, went out [with her]. On the way he said, "At such times as these, always come with me," and she–"How can it always be so?" Then he returned.

Two or three days went by; the moon was wonderfully bright; she went to the veranda to see it and there received a letter:

What are you doing at this moment? Are you gazing at the moon?

Are you thinking with me
Of the moon at the mountain's edge?
In memory lamenting the short sweet night–
Hearing the cock, awake too soon!

More than usually pleasing was that letter, for her thoughts were then dwelling on the bright moon-night when she was unafraid of men's eyes at the Prince's palace. [Page 162] 

The answer:

That night
The same moon shone down–
Thinking so I gaze,
But unsatisfied is my heart,
And my eyes are not contented
With moon-seeing.

She mused alone until the day dawned. The next night the Prince came again, but she knew not of it. A lady was living in the opposite house. The Prince's attendant saw a palanquin stopping before it and said to His Highness, "Some one has already come–there is a palanquin." "Let us retire," said the Prince, and he went away. Now he could believe the rumours. He was angry with her, yet being unable to make an end of it he wrote: "Have you heard that I went to you last night? It makes me unhappy that you don't know even that.

Against the hill of pines where the maiden pines for me,
Waves were high–that I had seen.
Yet to-day's sight, O ominous! "1

She received the letter on a rainy day, O unlooked-for disaster! She suspected slanderous tongues.

You only are my always-waited-for island–
What waves can sweep it away!

So she answered, but the Prince being somewhat troubled by the sight of the previous night, did not write to her for a long time. [Page 163] 

Yet at last:

Love and misery in various shapes
Pass through my mind and never rest.

She wished to answer, but was ashamed to explain herself, so only wrote:

Let it be as you will, come or not, yet to part without bitter feeling would lighten my sorrow.

From that time he seldom sent letters. One moon-bright night she was lying with grieving thoughts. She envied the moon in its serene course and could not refrain from writing to the Prince:

In her deserted house
She gazes at the moon–
He is not coming
And she cannot reveal her heart–
There is none who will listen.

She sent her page to give the poem to Ukon-no-Zo. Just then the Prince was talking with others before the King. When he retired from the presence, Ukon-no-Zo offered the letter. "Prepare the palanquin," he said, and he came to her. The lady was sitting near the veranda looking at the sky, and feeling that some one was coming had had the sudaré rolled down. He was not in his court robe, but in his soft, everyday wear, which was more pleasing to her eye. He silently placed his poem before her on the end of his fan, saying, "As your messenger returned too soon without awaiting my answer–" She drew it towards her with her own.

The Prince seemed to think of coming in, but went out into the garden, singing, "My beloved is [Page 164]  like a dew-drop on a leaf." At last he came nearer, and said: "I must go to-night. I came secretly, but on such a bright night as this none can escape being seen. To-morrow I must remain within for religious duties, and people will be suspicious if I am not at home." He seemed about to depart, when she–"Oh, that a shower might come! So another brightness, more sweet than the heavenly one, might linger here for a while!" He felt that she was more amiable than others had admitted. "Ah, dear one," he said, and came up for a while, then went away, saying:

Unwillingly urged by the moon on her cloudy track
His body is going out, but not his heart.

When he was gone she had the sudaré rolled up and read his poem in the moonlight.

She is looking at the moon,
But her thoughts are all of me
Hearing this
It draws me to her side.

How happy! He seemed to have been thinking her a worthless woman, but he has changed his mind, she thought. The Prince, on his side, thought the lady would have some value for him when he wanted to be amused, but even while he was thinking it, he was told that the Major-General was her favourite and visited her in the daytime. Still others said, "Hyobukyo is another of her lovers." The Prince was deterred by these words and wrote no more.

One day His Highness's little page, who was the lover of one of her maids, came to the house. While [Page 165]  they were chattering the page was asked if he had brought a letter, he answered: "No; one day my Lord came here, but he found a palanquin at the gate. From that time he does not write letters. Moreover, he has heard that others visit here." When the boy was gone this was told. She was deeply humiliated. No presumptuous thoughts nor desire for material dependence had been hers. Only while she was loved and respected had she wished for intercourse. Estrangement of any other kind would have been bearable, but her heart was torn asunder to think that he should suspect her of so shameful a thing. In the midst of mourning over her unfortunate situation, a letter was brought her:

I am ill and much troubled these days. Of late I visited your dwelling, but alas! at an unlucky time. I feel that I am unmanly.

Let it be–
I win not look toward the beach–
The seaman's little boat has rowed away.

Her answer:

You have heard unmentionable things about me. I am humiliated and it is painful for me to write any more. Perhaps this will be the last letter.
Off the shore of { aimlessness
With burning heart and dripping sleeves,
I am he who drifts in the seaman's boat.

It was already the Seventh month. On the seventh day she received many letters from elegant persons in deference to the celestial lovers, 1 but her heart was [Page 166]  not touched by them. She was only thinking that she was utterly forgotten by the Prince, who had never lost such an opportunity to write to her; but [at last] there came a poem:

Alas! that I should become like the Herder-God
Who can only gaze at the Weaving One
Beyond the River of Heaven.

The lady saw that he could not forget her and she was pleased.

Her poem:

I cannot even look towards that shore
Where the Herder-God waits:
The lover stars also might avoid me.

His Highness would read, and he would feel that he must not desert her. Towards the moon-hidden day [end of the month] he wrote to her:

I am very lonely. Please write to me sometimes as to one of your friends.

Her reply:

Because you do not wake you cannot hear–
The wind is sighing in the reeds–
Ah, nights and nights of Autumn !

The messenger who took the poem came back with one from him:

O my beloved, how can you think my sleep untroubled? Lately sad thoughts have been mine and never sleep is sound.

The wind blows over the reeds–
I will not sleep, but listen
Whether its sigh thrills my heart.

[Page 167] 

After two or three days, towards evening, he came unexpectedly and made his palanquin draw into the courtyard. As she had not yet seen him in the daylight, he was abashed, he said, but there was no help for it. He went away soon and did not write for so long that anxiety began to fill her heart, so at last she sent:

Wearily the Autumn days drag by
From him no message–
Boding silence!

Sweet are man's promises, but how different is the heart!

Then he wrote that, though he never forgot her, of late he could not leave the palace.

Though days pass
And others may forget
I can never lose the thought
That meeting in the evening
Of an Autumn day.

The lady was pitiable, having no one to depend on, and tried to sustain herself with the uncertain consolations of a life of sentiment. Reflection increased her wretchedness, and when the eighth month came she went to Ishiyama Temple 1 to revive her doleful spirit intending to remain there for seven days.

One day the Prince said to his page: "It is a long time since I wrote; here is a letter for her." The page replied: "I went to her house the other day and heard that she had lately gone to Ishiyama Temple." "Then [Page 168]  –it is already late in the day–to-morrow morning you shall go there." He wrote a letter and the page went to Ishiyama with it.

Her mind was not in the presence of Buddha, but at home in the Royal City. She was thinking that were she loved by him as at the beginning there would have been no wandering like that. She was very sad, yet sadness made her pray to the Buddha with all her heart.

Perceiving that some one approached, she looked down, wondering who it might be. It was the Prince's page! As she had just been thinking of the Prince, she hurriedly sent her maid to question him. The letter was brought and opened with more agitation than usual. It was as follows:

You seem to be steeped in Buddha's teaching. It would have given me pleasure to have been informed of it. Surely I am not loved so deeply that I am a hindrance to your devotion to Buddha. Only to think of your calm makes me jealous.

The poem:

Do you feel that my soul wanders after you,
Passing across the Barrier ?
   O ceaseless longing!

When shall you return?

When she was in his neighbourhood he wrote but seldom–gratifying that he should send a letter so far!

The answer:

The way of { meeting
Omi 1 [Page 169] 
She was thinking that he had quite forgotten–
Who can it be that is coming across the barrier?

You ask when I shall go back–it is as yet uncertain.
On the Mount { Nagara
while being
My yearning is towards the [ Biwa lake
open water
{ Uchi de no Hama
The beach of going out
Does not lie towards { Miyako
the royal city.

The Prince read her poems and said to the page: "I am sorry to trouble you, but please go once more."

His poem:

I sought for you in the { Osaka Yama
mount of meeting
But though never forgetting you
My way was lost in the trackless valley.

His second poem:

Being overwhelmed with sorrow
I wished to remain in retirement
But { Omi no umi
the lake of meeting
Is beyond { Uchi de no Hama
the beach of going out.

She wrote back only poems:

Tears which could not be restrained at the barrier
Flow towards the { Omi no umi–
lake of meeting

And on the margin she wrote:

Let me try you–
My own heart also,
Come and tempt me towards the royal city. [Page 170] 

His Highness had never thought of going so far [to seek her], but he thought he must go to her as he had received such a letter. He came and they went back together.

His poem:

Infelicitous love! Although entered into the Way of Eternal Law. 1
             Who was it came
And tempted back to the Royal City?

The answer:

Out of the mountain to the darker path I wander,
  Because I met you once more.

Towards the moon-hidden day a devastating wind blew hard. It rained and she was even sadder than usual, when a letter was brought. She thought the Prince had not lost a fit occasion to inquire for her, and she could harbour no hard thoughts of him.

His poem:

In sorrow I gaze upon the sky of Autumn
The clouds are in turmoil
And the wind is high.

Her answer:

A gentle wind of Autumn makes me sad
O day of storm–
No way to speak of it!

The Prince thought in this he could read her true feeling, but days passed before his visit.

It was after the tenth day of the Ninth month. He waked and saw the morning moon. 2 It seemed a long time since he had seen her. He felt that she was gazing at this moon, so followed by his page, he knocked at [Page 171]  her gate. The lady was lying awake and meditating, lost in a melancholy which may have been due to the season. She wondered at the knock, but knew not who the visitor might be. She waked the maid lying beside her, who was in a sound sleep; the latter called out for the manservant. When he went out, waking with difficulty, the knocking had ceased and the visitor had gone. The guest must have thought her a dull sleeper and been disheartened. Who was it likely to be? Surely one of like mind with herself! Her man, who had gone out after much rousing, and seen no one, complained that it was only her fancy. "Even at night our mistress is restless–Oh, these unpeaceful persons!" Thus he grumbled away, but went to sleep again at once.

The lady got up and saw the misty sky. When morning came she jotted down her thoughts aimlessly, and while doing it received a letter:

In the Autumn night
The pale morning moon was setting
When I turned away from the shut door.

He must have thought her a disappointing woman. Yet she was happy to think that he never failed to associate her with every changing season and came to her door when he was attracted by the lovely sight of the sky, so she folded the notes she had just written and sent them to His Highness.

The notes:

Sound of wind; wind blows hard as if it were determined to blow away the last leaves on the branch. It grows cloudy and threatening, rain patters slightly. I am hopelessly desolate. [Page 172] 
Before the Autumn ends
My sleeves will be all rotted with tears,
The slow rains cannot do more to them.
I am sad, but no one remarks it; the leaves of trees and plants change day by day and so affection in him. In anticipation I feel the dreariness of the long winter rains; the leaves are pitifully teased by the winds; the drops on the leaves which may vanish at any moment–how like they are to my own life!

The sight of the leaves ever reminds me strangely of my own sadness. I cannot go within, but lie on the veranda; mayhap my end is not far off. I feel a vague anger that others are in comfortable sleep and cannot sympathize with me. Just now I heard the faint cry of a wild goose. 1 Others will not be touched by it, but I cannot endure the sound.

How many nights, alas!–
Only the calls of the wild geese–
Let me not pass the time in this way. I will open the shutter and watch the moon declining towards the western horizon. It seems distant and serenely transparent. There is mist over the earth; together comes the sound of the morning bell and the crowing of cocks. There will be no moment like this in past or future. I feel that the colour of my sleeves is new to me.
Another with same thoughts
May be gazing at the pale morning moon
Of the Long-night month–
No sight is more sorrowful.
Now there comes a knocking at the gate. What does it mean? Who passes the night with thoughts like mine?
There is one of like mind with me
Musing upon the morning moon.
But no way to find him out!

[Facing Page] 


[Page 173] 

She had meant to send the last poem only to the Prince, but when she learned that it was His Highness himself who had come she sent all.

The Prince read and did not feel that his visit had been in vain, if she also had been awake and sadly dreaming. He wrote promptly and the letter was presented while she was gazing aimlessly. She opened it anxiously and read:

First poem:

She thinks her own sleeves only are wet
But another's also are rotting.

Second poem:

Dew-life soon to vanish away,
Hangs long suspended in forgetfulness of self
On the long-blooming chrysanthemum flower.

Third poem:

Sleepless the call of wild geese on the cloud-track
Yet the pain is from your own heart.

Fourth poem:

There may be another with thoughts like mine,
Who is gazing toward the sky of the morning moon.

Fifth poem:

Although not together
You too were gazing at the moon
Believing that I went this morning to your gate,

O that gate hard to be opened!

So her writing had not been uselessly sent!

Towards the moon-hidden day she had another [Page 174]  letter. After excusing himself for his late neglect he wrote:

I have an awkward thing to ask you. There is a lady with whom I have been secretly intimate. She is going away to a distant province and I want to send her a poem which will touch her heart deeply. Everything you write touches me, so please compose a poem for me.

She was unwilling conceitedly to carry out his wishes, but she thought it too prudish to refuse him, so she wrote with the words: "How can I satisfy you?"

Her poem:

In the tears of regret
Your image will linger long
Even after chilly Autumn has gone by.

It is painful for me to write a heartfelt letter in your place.

And on the margin she wrote:

Leaving you, where can she go?
For me no other life.

The Prince wrote back:

Very good poem is all that I can say. I cannot say that you have expressed my heart. Forsaking me she wanders away.

So let it be.
Let me think of you, the unexcelled one.
There is not another.

Thus I can live on.

It was the Tenth month and more than ten days had passed before the Prince came to her.

"The inner room is too dark and makes me restless. Let me sit here near the veranda." He said many [Page 175]  heart-touching and tender words. She could not help being pleased. The moon was hidden and rain came pattering down; the scene was in harmony with their feeling. Her heart was disturbed with mingled emotions. The Prince perceived her feeling and thought: "Why is she so much slandered by others? She is always here alone sorrowing thus." He pitied her and startled the lady a little whose head was bowed in distress on her hand by reciting a poem:

It is not dripping rain nor morning dew
Yet here lying, strangely wet are the sleeves of the arm-pillow.

She was overwhelmed by feeling and could not speak, but he saw her tears glistening in the moonlight. He was touched and said: "Why do you not speak? Have my idle words displeased you?" She replied: "I do not know why, but I feel that my heart is anguished, though your words are in my ears. You will see," she went on lightly; "I shall never forget your poem on the sleeves of the arm-pillow."

Thus the pitiful sad night was passed, and the Prince saw that she had no other lover. He was sorry to go away from her in the early dawn, and immediately sent a message: "How are you to-day? Are the tears dry this morning?"

Her answer:

In the morning they were dry,
For only in a dream
Were the sleeves of the arm-pillow wet.

He read it and smiled at the word "arm-pillow" which she had said she should never forget. [Page 176] 

His poem:

You say it was only in a dream
That the sleeves were wet with tears:
Yet I cannot dry them–the sleeves of the arm-pillow.

I have never experienced so sorrow-sweet an autumn night. Was it the influence of the time?

After that he could not live without seeing her, and visited her oftener. As he saw her more intimately he saw that she was not a faithless woman. Her helpless situation touched his heart more and more, and he became deeply sympathetic with her. Once he said to her: "Even though you live on thus in solitude, I shall never forget you, but it would be better to come to my palace. All these slanderous rumours are due to your living alone. I for my part never met any men [here]; is it because I come from time to time? Yet others tell me very improper things about you which should not be heard; it made me unspeakably sad to turn away from your shut gate. Remembering that you are living in loneliness I sometimes have made a decision; yet being old-fashioned in my ways I hesitated to tell you of it because I anticipated the profound sadness with which you would hear these rumours; nevertheless, I cannot continue our relations in this way. I fear that the rumour might become true; then I should not be allowed to come, and you would become for me like the moon in the Heavenly way. If you really feel the loneliness you speak of, please come to me. There are many persons living there [in his palace], yet you will have no feeling of constraint. As I have been unhappy in my domestic

[Facing Page]


[Page 177]  relations, I do not linger in that desolate region [the house of his Princess]; but am always alone, performing religious services; I hope that my loneliness may be lessened by talking with you whose mind is in sympathy with mine."

Her feeling was opposed to such a thing; she had never told him about the late Prince. Yet there was no mountain retreat to which she could fly from World-troubles and her present condition seemed like a never-ending night. There had been many men who had wanted her; hence many strange reports were flying about. She could have confidence in no one but the Prince, so she was much tempted.

She thought: "He has his wife, yet she lives in a detached house, the nurse does all for him. If I show my affection and take pride in it, I shall be much blamed; my wish is that he should hide me from the world."

"Though to be visited by you is a rare occurrence, such a time soothes my heart; there is nothing else. So let anything happen, I will yield to your every wish. Elsewhere they are saying ugly things about us; if they see the fact accomplished, how much harder their words will be!"

"Those harsh words will be said about me, not you, at any rate. I will find you a completely retired house where we can talk tranquilly." He gave her much hope, and went away in the depths of night–the barred door [outer strong gate of lattice work] had been left open [for that purpose].

She thought within herself, being much troubled: "If I continue to live alone, I can keep myself re- [Page 178]  spected. If I were forsaken by him in his palace, I should be laughed at."

After she retired this poem came:

I went along the path when night was opening.
Sodden were they,
The sleeves of the arm-pillow.

"That idle fancy of the sleeves he has not forgotten." This pleased her.

Her poem:

Your sleeves are wet with the dews on the grass of the morning path.
The sleeves of my arm-pillow are wet, but not with dew.

The next night the moon was very bright. Here and there people were gazing at it. The next morning the Prince wanted to send her a poem and was waiting for the page [to take it]. The lady, too, had noticed the whiteness of the hoar-frost [and sent this poem]:

There was frost on the sleeves of the arm-pillow,
And in the morning,
Lo! At frost-white world!

The Prince was sorry the lady had got ahead of him. He said to himself: "The night was passed yearning after the beloved and frost–"

Just then the page presented himself and His Highness said, with some temper, handing his letter to the page: "Her messenger has already come; I am beaten. I wish you had come earlier." The page ran to her, and said: "I had been summoned before your messenger got there. I was late and he is angry." The lady read the letter: [Page 179] 

The moon last night was very bright,

In a frosty morning I await
With hope unwarranted
One who cannot be expected.

His letter seemed not to have been suggested by hers, and she was pleased that His Highness had been in the same mood with herself.

Her poem:

I did not sleep, gazing at the moon all night
But the dawning of the day
Was in whiteness of hoar-frost.

You are angry with the page. He is very sorry, and it awakes my pity.

The morning sun shines on the frost
So, like the sun, your face.

Two or three days passed without a word from him. Her heart was in his promise which gave her hope, but she could not sleep for anxiety. While lying awake in bed, she heard a knocking at the gate. It was just dawn. "What can it be?" she wondered, and sent a servant to inquire. It was the Prince's letter. It was an unusual hour for it and she wondered sorrowfully whether the Prince had been conscious of her emotion. She opened her shutter and read this letter in the moonlight:

Do you see that the little night opens 1
And on the ridge of the mountain, serenely bright,
Shines the moon of a night of Autumn?

The bridge across the garden pond was clearly seen [Page 180]  in the moonlight. The door was shut, and she thought of the messenger outside the gate and hastened her answer:

The night opens and I cannot sleep,
Yet I am dreaming dreams,
And, loving them, the moon I do not see.

The Prince thought the answer not invented, and that it would be amusing to have her near him, to respond to his every fancy. After two days he came quietly in a palanquin for women. It was the first time she had shown herself to him in full 1 daylight, but it would be unfriendly to creep away and hide, so she went to welcome him, creeping a little nearer to the entrance. He excused himself for the absence of those days and said: "Make up your mind quickly as to the thing I spoke of the other day. I am always uneasy in these wanderings, yet more uneasy when I cannot see you. O troublesome are the ways of this absurd world!"

She replied: "I wish to yield to your mind, whatever it may be, yet my thoughts are troubled when I anticipate my fate and see myself neglected by you afterwards."

He said: "Try it, I can come very seldom." And he went away. On the hedge there was a beautiful mayumi 2 and the Prince, leaning against the balustrade: [Page 181] 

Our words are like these leaves,
Ever coloured deeper and deeper–

And she took it up [completing the 31-syllable poem he had begun]:

Although it is only the pearl dew that deepens them.

The Prince was pleased and thought her not without taste.

He seemed very elegant. He was attired as usual, his underdress exquisite. Her eye was much charmed, and she thought that she was too frivolous [to be thinking about it].

Next day he wrote:

Yesterday I was sorry that you were embarrassed, yet the more attracted by it.

She answered:

The Goddess of Mount Katuragi 1 would have felt so too–
There is no bridge across the way of Kumé.

I did not know what to do.

The messenger came back with his poem:

Were my devotion to be rewarded
How could I stop,
Though bridge were none at Katuragi San.

After that he came oftener, and her tiresome days were lightened. [Page 182] 

But her old friends also sent letters and visited her, too, so she wanted to go to the Prince's palace at once, lest some unlucky thing should occur; yet her heart was anxious and hesitating.

One day he sent word: "Maple trees of the mountain are very beautiful. Come! let us go together to see them." She answered, "I shall be glad to do it." But the appointed day came and his Highness wrote: "To-day I must confine myself for a religious service." But that night it stormed, and the leaves were all gone from the trees. She waked and wrote to the Prince how sorry she was that they could not have gone the previous day.

His answer:

In the Godless month 1 it stormed–
To-day I dream and dream
And wonder if the storm was within my heart.

She returned:

Was it a rainstorm? How my sleeves are wet!
I cannot tell–but muse profoundly.

After the night storm there are no more maple leaves. O that we could have gone to the mountain yesterday!

His Highness returned:

O that we might have gone to see the maple leaves, for this morning it is useless to think of it.

And on the margin there was a poem:

Though I believe
No maple leaves are hanging on the boughs,
Yet we may go to see
If scattering ones remain.
[Page 182] 

And she answered:

Were the mountains of evergreens to change into red leaves,
Then we would go to see them
With tranquil, tranquil hearts.

My poem will make you laugh!

The night came and the Prince visited her. As her dwelling was in an unlucky direction, 1 he came to take her out of it.

"For these forty-five days I shall stop at my cousin's, the Lieutenant-General of the Third Rank, on account of the unlucky direction [of my own house]. It is rather embarrassing to take you to that unfamiliar place." Yet he dared to take her there. The palanquin was drawn into its shelter [small house built for it]; the Prince got out and walked away alone, and she felt very lonesome. When all were asleep he came to take her in and talked about various things. The guards, who were curious about it, were walking to and fro. Ukon-no-Zo and the page waited near the Prince. His feeling for her was so intense at this moment that all the past seemed dull. When day dawned he took her back to her own home, and hurriedly returned himself to get back before people woke up.

She could no longer disregard the earnest and condescending wish of His Highness, and she could no [Page 184]  more treat him with indifference. She made up her mind to go to live with him. She received kind advice against it, but did not listen. As she had been unhappy, she wanted to yield herself to good fortune; yet when she thought of the court servitude she hesitated and said to herself: "It is not my inmost wish. I yearn for a retired religious life far away from worldly troubles. What shall I do when I am forsaken by the Prince? People will laugh at my credulity. Or shall I live on as I am? Then I can associate with my parents and brothers; moreover, I can look after my child, 1 who seems now like an encumbrance." Nevertheless, at last she wanted to go, and she did not write her heart to the Prince, for she thought he would know everything about her if they should live together. Her old friends sent letters, yet she did not answer them saying [to herself]: "There is nothing to write."

A letter from the Prince–in it was written: "I was a fool to believe in you." His words were few. There was an old poem:

You are faithless, yet I will not complain.
As the silent sea
Deep is the hate in my heart.

Her heart was broken. There were many extraordinary rumours about her, yet there were days when she believed that no harm could come of a false rumour. Some one must have slandered her, [Page 185]  suspecting that she was yielding to the earnest desires of the Prince and going to live at the palace.

She was sad, but could not write to him. She was ashamed to think of what the Prince might have heard. The Prince, seeing that she did not explain herself, wrote to her again:

Why do you not answer? Now I believe in the rumour. How swiftly your heart changes! I heard something I did not believe, and wrote to you that you might wipe away such unpleasant thoughts from my mind.

These words opened [i.e. lightened] her bosom a little. She wanted to know what he had heard and suddenly the wish to see him came to her.

O could you come to me this instant! I hunger to see thee, but cannot go because I am buried in slander.

The Prince wrote back:

You are too afraid of slanders and I read your mind in this caution. I am angry about it.
She thought he was teasing her, yet it saddened her, and she replied:
I cannot help it, please come in any case!

He returned:

I say to myself, "I will not suspect, I will not resent," but my heart does not follow my will.

Her answer:

Your enmity will never cease. I rely upon you, yet I suspect your faithfulness.

In the evening the Prince came. He said: "I wrote to you not believing the story. If you wish not to have such things said of you, come!" [Page 186] 

She replied: "Then take me there!" But when it was dawn His Highness returned alone. He wrote to her continually, yet he seldom visited her. Once there was a great storm–the Prince did not inquire for her. She thought His Highness did not sympathize with her solitude, so wrote to him in the evening:

The season of the withering frost is sad,
The autumnal wind rages
And the sighing of the reed never stops.

The Prince's answer was:

The solitary reed which none but me remembers
How it is sighing in the raging wind!

I am even ashamed to confess how much my mind is completely occupied with you.

She was pleased, indeed. The Prince sent his palanquin, saying that he was going to the hidden rendezvous to avoid the unlucky direction of his house. The lady went thither, thinking she would follow every wish of his. They talked tranquilly for many days and nights, and her unrest was chased away. She was now not unwilling to live with him, but when the time for avoiding the unlucky direction was over, she was sent back to her home. There she thought of him more longingly than ever, and sent a poem:

In this hour of longing
Reflection brings to mind each day gone by
And in each one
Was less of sorrow.
[Page 187] 

He replied:

Sorrows of love were less each yesterday,
But how can those vanished days be caught again?

There is no other way but to resolve to come to me.

She was still cautious and could not take things so easily. She passed many days in musing. By this time the coloured leaves [of Autumn] had all fallen. The sky was clear and bright. One evening as the sun was setting she felt very lonely and wrote to him:

You art always my consolation,
Yet with the end of day sadness comes.

He replied:

All are sad when the day ends,
Yet are you sadder than any–
You who wait?

I can sympathize with you and I am coming.

The next morning the frost was very white; he sent to inquire for her, asking, "How are you feeling now?" She sent a poem:

Not in repose was the night passed;
But the frosty morning
Brought its own charm,

His answer contained many touching words, and a poem:

To think alone is [not life].
If you were thinking the same thoughts–

She answered:

You are you and I am I,
Yet between your heart and mine is no separation.
Make no such distinctions.
[Page 188] 

The lady caught cold. Though not serious she suffered. The Prince often inquired for her and at last she answered, saying:

A little better. The thread of life thinned down and it seemed to be going to break, but now it is dear to me because of you. Is it because I am deep in sin?

He wrote back:

Gladly do I hear it:
The thread of your life
Cannot easily be broken,
For it is tied together,
With pledges of long-enduring affection.

The end of the year was at hand. The first day of the Frost month seemed like a day of early spring, but the next morning it snowed. The Prince sent a poem:

Since the god-age it has snowed,
      It is a known thing,
Yet that snow seems very fresh this morning!

She returned an answer:

First snow! I see it young every winter,
Yet my face grows old
As Winter comes.

Days were passed in exchanging these nothings. Again his letter:

I become impatient to see you, and just now wanted to go to you, but my friends have met here to compose poems together.

She wrote:

Had you no time to come?
Then I would go to you.

O that I knew { an even way of love.
the art of composing poems.
[Page 189] 

He was pleased.

Come to my house. Here is the even way and here's the way to see each other.

That night he visited her, and talked touchingly of many things. "Would you be sad," he said, "if I should desert my house and become a monk?" He spoke sadly, and she wondered why such a thought had entered his mind, and whether it could be true or not. Overcome with melancholy she wept. Outside was tranquil rain and snow: they slept not at all, but talked together with feeling throughout the night as if the world were all forgotten. She felt that his affection was deeper than she had suspected. He seemed to feel everything in her, and could sympathize with her every emotion. In that case she could accomplish her determination from the beginning [to go to become a nun]. So she made up her mind, but said nothing and sat lamenting. He saw her feeling and said:

Lover's fancy of a moment held us both through the night,

And she continued:

Tears came to their eyes,
And without was the rain.

In the morning he talked of merrier things than usual, and went back. Though she had no faith in it [i.e. the convent], yet she had been thinking of it to comfort her solitude. Now her mind was confused, trying to think how to realize it, and she told her perplexed feeling to the Prince: [Page 190] 

On waking I cannot think.
I wish that those were only dreams [of which we talked last night].

And on the margin she wrote:

We made our vows so earnestly,
Yet must these vows yield
To the common fate of the changing world.

I am sorry to think of it.

The Prince read it and made answer:

I wanted to write to you first–

I will not think it real,
Those sad things were only dreams
Dreamed in a night of dreams.

I wish that you would think so too. You dwell too much upon nothing.

Only life is fickle:
We know not how it will end.
But promises shall endure
As long as the pine-tree at Suminoye. 1

O my beloved, I spoke to you of what I did not heartily wish. You are too literal. I am sorry for that.

Yet the lady's thought lingered over that sad intention and she lamented much. Once she was making haste to set out when she received the Prince's letter:

Oh, I longed for it, though I had just seen it
A yamato-nadeshiko 2 growing in the hedge of a mountain-dwelling.

It was painful to her present mind, yet she replied:

If you love, come and see,
Even the thousand swift gods will not forbid
Those who follow in the Way. [Page 191] 

He smiled over the poem. As he was reading sutras those days he sent the following poem:

The way of meeting is not god-forbidden.
But I am on the seat of the Law
And cannot leave it.

Her answer:

Then will I go thither to seek you,
Only do you enlarge the seat!

Once it snowed heavily and he sent her a poem affixed to a branch covered with snow:

Snow falls, and on all the branches
Plum flowers are in bloom,
Though it is not yet spring.

This was unexpected and she wrote back.

Thinking that plum flowers were in bloom
I broke the branch,
And snow scattered like the flowers.

The next morning early he sent a poem:

These winter nights lovers keep vigil.
Lying on one's lonely bed
  Day dawns
And the eyelids have not met.

Her answer:

Can it be true?
On Winter nights eyes are shut in ice [frozen tears]
And midnight hours are desolate.
I wait for dawn, although no joy is in it.

What the Prince had been thinking of he wrote in heart-dwindling words, saying, "I think I cannot live out my life in this world," so she wrote back:

For me, it is fitting to speak of these things,
For they recall
The romance of past days.
[Page 192] 

His poem:

I would not exist even for a moment
In a world where sorrows
Follow one another like the joints
In the bamboo stalk.

He had been troubling himself to find out a fit place to conceal her, but he reflected, "She is not used to such a life and would be embarrassed by it. For my part, I should be much rebuked. It is simpler to go myself and bring her as my maid."

So on the eighteenth of the Finishing month on a moon-bright night he visited her. He said in the ordinary way, "Now, please come," and she thought it for a night only. When she got into the palanquin alone, "Take an attendant with you. If you are willing we will talk together tranquilly tomorrow and the day after to-morrow."

He had not spoken in this way before, and she, guessing his intention, took her maid with her. She was not carried to the same house as before. The room was beautifully adorned, and he said, "Live here privately; you may have several attendants." Now she was sure she had understood him and she thought it fortunate to come thus secretly. People would be astonished to find she had come here to live before they were aware. When day dawned she sent her servant to fetch her case of combs and other things. The Prince left the room, but the shutters were still closed. It was not frightful, but uncomfortable.

"I wish," said the Prince, "to arrange that you shall live in the North building. This room is near the

[Facing Page]


[Page 193]  Audience Room and has no charm in it" [i.e. some one might discover her]. So she shut herself up and listened in secret. In the daytime courtiers of the ex-Emperor [his father] came to see him. He said: "How is it with you here? Can you stay? I feared that you would find it disagreeable by my side"; and she answered, "I feared just the same thing." He laughed and said: "To tell the truth, take care of yourself while I am away; some impertinent fellows may come to catch a glimpse of you. In a few days I will have you live openly in the room where now is my housekeeper [nurse]. The room where I pass the day has no visitors.

After two or three days she was removed to the North side building. 1 People were astonished and ran and told the Princess, who said: "Even without this event, I have not been treated as I ought to have been. She is of no high birth; it is too much." She was angry because he had told her nothing. His secrecy displeased her very much, and she was more inconsolable than ever. The Prince felt sorry for her and tried to be with her oftener. She said to him: "I am ill with hearing rumours and have come to hate seeing people. Why have you not told me this before? I would not have interfered: I cannot bear to be treated like a woman of no importance. I am ashamed to think that people are laughing at me." She said it weeping and weeping. He answered: "I brought her for my maid, and I thought that you would allow it; as you are angry with me the Lieutenant-General [her brother] [Page 194]  hates me also. I brought her to dress my hair and she shall serve you also." The Princess was not softened by these words, but she was silenced.

Thus days passed and the lady became used to the court life. She dressed his hair and served in everything. As he did not allow her to retire to her private room, the visits of the Princess became more and more rare. The Princess lamented it infinitely. The year turned back and on the first day of the Social month all the courtiers came to perform the ceremony of congratulation before the Emperor. The Prince was among them. He was younger and fairer than any, and even this made her ashamed of herself. From the Princess's house her ladies went out to see the procession, yet they did not care so much to see the courtiers as to look at her. They were in great disorder looking about; it was an ugly sight.

After dark when the ceremony was over, His Highness came back and all the court nobles came with him to amuse themselves. It was very gay and a contrast to the solitary life of her old home. One day the Prince heard that even the lowest servants were speaking evil of her. He thought it was due to the behaviour of his wife, and being displeased seldom went to the Royal dwelling. She was sorry for the Princess, yet she did not know what to do. She remained there, thinking that she would do as she was bid.

The Princess's elder sister was married to the Crown Prince and just then was living with her parents. She wrote to the younger Princess: "How are you? I have heard something of what people are saying [Page 195]  these days. Is it true? Even I feel disgraced. Come to us during the night."

The Princess could not console herself when she thought how much people who make talk about nothing were gossiping. She wrote back to her sister: "I have received your letter. I had been unhappy in the world [married life] and now am in a painful situation. For a time I will go back, and beholding the young Princess will comfort me. Please send some one to summon me. I cannot go away when I desire, for he will not permit it." She began to put her affairs in order, taking away those things which must not be seen by others. She said: "I am going there for a while, for if I stay here my husband will feel uncomfortable to come to me. It is painful for both of us." And they said: "People are talking and laughing about it a good deal. He went out himself to get her. She is dazzling to the eye; she lives in the court ladies' room over there. She goes to the Prince's hall three or four times a day. It is quite right that you should punish him–going away with few words!"

All hated the lady, and he was sorry for her. His Highness suspected what his wife was going to do, and he found his conjecture realized when the sons of his brother-in-law came to fetch her. A lady-in-waiting said to the housekeeper: "The princess has taken important things with her; she is going away." The housekeeper was in great anxiety and said to the Prince: "The Princess is going away. What will the Crown Prince think of it! Go to comfort her."

It was painful to her [the lady] to see these things [Page 196]  going on. She was very sorry and pained, yet, as it was an unfit time to say anything, she kept silence. She wanted to get away from this disagreeable place, but thought that also not good. She thought she could never get rid of her trouble if she stayed. His Highness went towards the Princess, who met him as if nothing had happened. "Is it true," he said, "that you are going to your elder sister? Why have you not asked me for the palanquin?" She answered: "Something has happened. There is something which demands me and they have sent messengers for me." She said nothing more. The Princess's words, her letters, and those of her sister were written roughly, from supposition.



Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 149]

1 In the writings of the ladies of those days World (yononaka) is often used as a synonym of love affair; i.e. their relations with men.

2 In those days noblemen's houses were surrounded with an embankment, instead of a wall.

3 Prince Tametaka, the third Prince of the Emperor Rezrei who reigned 968-969. The Prince died on June I3, 1002. He had been Izumi Shikibu's lover.

[Page 150]

1 Tachibana: a kind of orange.

2 The cuckoo sings when the tachibana is in flower. In this instance the "cuckoo" means the young Prince. Thus there is a suggestion here if he chooses to take it.

[Page 153]

1 The period of mourning was to end on June 13, 1003.

[Page 154]

1 The cuckoo sings with low note in early spring, but when April is passed his voice grows clear and loud. It is a favourite bird in Japan.

[Page 155]

1 The meaning of the poem is vague. Ayame may mean Iris sibiricarain-stop, darkness–these are homonyms in Japanese. The fifth day of the fifth month was a festival day, and people adorned their houses with iris sibirica, so the last line might mean that she wanted to prepare for the festival. If we take the word ayame in the meaning of rain-stop, then we can understand the poem as follows: "It is the wet season now, and it is raining within my heart. To-night I am going to the temple to pray that the rainy season will be over (and to chase away the darkness from my soul). After that I wish you to come."

[Page 159]

1 Ukon-no-Zo, an officer in the Bodyguard. He seems to have been an attendant of the late Prince Tametaka, before he served the present Prince.

2 Prime Minister Fujiwara-no-Michinaga, the most powerful man of the age. (See the Introduction and the Murasaki Shikibu diary.)

[Page 162]

1 In the Japanese Matsu, n. = pine-tree; Matsu, v. = to wait. This poem refers to a famous one:
If my heart grows faithless, and beat for another man,
May waves pass over the hill of pines, where I pine for my beloved!

[Page 165]

1 For the Festival of the stars on the seventh day of the Seventh month see the notes on pages 23, 24, of the Sarashina Diary. On this [Page 166]  evening it was customary to write letters or pay visits in memory of the heavenly lovers.

[Page 167]

1 Ishiyama Temple is some five miles to the east of Kioto. To reach there one must rise over the ascent of Osaka, and the barrier of Seki at the foot of Mount Seki, where travellers were stopped and examined. The temple commands a fine view of Lake Biwa, still more distant.

[Page 168]

1 This group of poems have as their base the play upon words of two meanings, or place-names whose meanings make the necessary [Page 169]  suggestive idea. Omi is the name of the province in which are Ishiyama and Lake Biwa. Here the word is used as the homophon of meeting. Mount Nagara is near the Ishiyama Temple. Nagara is the homophon of "while being (on the mountain)."

[Page 170]

1 Law of Buddha.

2 The waning moon is called the morning moon because it can be seen after dawn.

[Page 172]

1 Wild geese visit Japan in Autumn and fly away northwards in the early spring. They are never alone, and their cries calling to each other make the solitary woman feel loneliness more keenly.

[Page 179]

1 It is the Japanese way to say night opens instead of day dawns. The word little means nothing but a feeling of endearment.

[Page 180]

1 The Japanese lady in her dwelling where the light was softened by her window-panes of white silk, or her sudaré, dwelt always in a sort of twilight probably very becoming to beauty.

2 Mayumi–Evonymoeus europus. In Autumn the leaves of the tree become purple or red, and they are so pretty that people call them "mountain brocade."

[Page 181]

1 According to an ancient fable, En-no-Shokaku, a great magician who could command even gods, once summoned gods of many mountains to make a stone bridge at Kumé on Mount Katuragi in the Province of Yamato. The goddess of Mount Katuragi was very shy, and, working only at night, never showed herself before others. The magician grew angry with her, and punished her by unveiling her. That was the cause of the failure in the work. (The inmost soul hides itself and works in the dark. If you try to bring it into clear consciousness, you will fail in your work.)

[Page 182]

1 The Godless month–the Tenth month; so called because in that month all the gods left their abodes and went to the High Plain of Heaven to hold counsel together.

[Page 183]

1 In those days they believed in lucky and unlucky directions. Those who went in an unlucky direction might have some unfortunate incidents. This belief still holds in the country life of the people. The writer was once deprived of a good servant who wanted to come to her, but could not because her house was in an "unlucky direction! "

[Page 184]

1 In 997 she had Koshikibu-no-Naishi (she was also a poetess and court lady). Her husband was Tachibana Michisada, to whom she was married before she knew Prince Tanetaka.

[Page 190]

1 The pine-tree at Suminoye is famous for its age.

2 Yamato-nadeshiko–Japanese pink; the homonym means the caressed girl of Yamato.

[Page 193]

1 See plan of palace or nobleman's house.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom