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Title: Exotics and Retrospectives
Author: Hearn, Lafcadio, 1850-1904
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    _Copyright, 1898_

    _All rights reserved_


All but one of the papers composing this volume appear for the first
time. The little essays, or rather fantasies, forming the second part of
the book, deal with experiences in two hemispheres; but their general
title should explain why they have been arranged independently of
that fact. To any really scientific imagination, the curious analogy
existing between certain teachings of evolutional psychology and certain
teachings of Eastern faith,--particularly the Buddhist doctrine that all
sense-life is Karma, and all substance only the phenomenal result of
acts and thoughts,--might have suggested something much more significant
than my cluster of _Retrospectives_. These are offered merely as
intimations of a truth incomparably less difficult to recognize than to

        L. H.

      _February 15, 1898_.


  EXOTICS:--                        PAGE

  I. FUJI-NO-YAMA                      3
  II. INSECT-MUSICIANS                39
  V. FROGS                           157
  VI. OF MOON-DESIRE                 175


  I. FIRST IMPRESSIONS               187
  II. BEAUTY IS MEMORY               199
  III. SADNESS IN BEAUTY             211
  IV. PARFUM DE JEUNESSE             221
  V. AZURE PSYCHOLOGY                227
  VI. A SERENADE                     241
  VII. A RED SUNSET                  251
  VIII. FRISSON                      263
  IX. VESPERTINA COGNITIO            275
  X. THE ETERNAL HAUNTER             293

List of Illustrations

  _Full Page_
  INSECT CAGES                                                        51
    1. A Form of Insect Cage.
    2. Cage for Large Musical Insects.
    3. Cage for Small Musical Insects.
  GATE OF KOBUDERA                                                    97
  TOMB IN KOBUDERA, showing Sotoba                                   102
  TOMB IN KOBUDERA, sculptured with image of Bodhisattva Mahâsthâma  137

  _Illustrations in the Text_
  KANÉTATAKI (“The Bell-Ringer”), natural size                        57
  MATSUMUSHI, slightly enlarged                                       60
  SUZUMUSHI, slightly enlarged                                        63
  UMAOI, natural size                                                 67
  KIRIGIRISU, natural size                                            68
  KUSA-HIBARI, natural size                                           69
  YAMATO-SUZU (“Little-Bell of Yamato”), natural size                 69
  KIN-HIBARI, natural size                                            70
  KURO-HIBARI, natural size                                           70
  EMMA-KŌROGI, natural size                                           71
  EMMA-KŌROGI                                                         72
  KUTSUWAMUSHI, natural size                                          73
  KANTAN, natural size                                                75



--“Even the worst tea is sweet when first made from the new
leaf.”--_Japanese proverb._

Exotics and Retrospectives



    Kité miréba,
    Sahodo madé nashi,
    Fuji no Yama!

    Seen on close approach, the mountain of Fuji does not come up to
    expectation.--_Japanese proverbial philosophy._

The most beautiful sight in Japan, and certainly one of the most
beautiful in the world, is the distant apparition of Fuji on cloudless
days,--more especially days of spring and autumn, when the greater
part of the peak is covered with late or with early snows. You can
seldom distinguish the snowless base, which remains the same color as
the sky: you perceive only the white cone seeming to hang in heaven;
and the Japanese comparison of its shape to an inverted half-open fan
is made wonderfully exact by the fine streaks that spread downward
from the notched top, like shadows of fan-ribs. Even lighter than a
fan the vision appears,--rather the ghost or dream of a fan;--yet the
material reality a hundred miles away is grandiose among the mountains
of the globe. Rising to a height of nearly 12,500 feet, Fuji is visible
from thirteen provinces of the Empire. Nevertheless it is one of the
easiest of lofty mountains to climb; and for a thousand years it has
been scaled every summer by multitudes of pilgrims. For it is not only
a sacred mountain, but the most sacred mountain of Japan,--the holiest
eminence of the land that is called Divine,--the Supreme Altar of
the Sun;--and to ascend it at least once in a life-time is the duty
of all who reverence the ancient gods. So from every district of the
Empire pilgrims annually wend their way to Fuji; and in nearly all the
provinces there are pilgrim-societies--_Fuji-Kō_,--organized for the
purpose of aiding those desiring to visit the sacred peak. If this act
of faith cannot be performed by everybody in person, it can at least
be performed by proxy. Any hamlet, however remote, can occasionally
send one representative to pray before the shrine of the divinity of
Fuji, and to salute the rising sun from that sublime eminence. Thus a
single company of Fuji-pilgrims may be composed of men from a hundred
different settlements.

By both of the national religions Fuji is held in reverence. The Shintō
deity of Fuji is the beautiful goddess Ko-no-hana-saku-ya-himé,--she
who brought forth her children in fire without pain, and whose name
signifies “Radiant-blooming-as-the-flowers-of-the-trees,” or, according
to some commentators, “Causing-the-flowers-to-blossom-brightly.” On the
summit is her temple; and in ancient books it is recorded that mortal
eyes have beheld her hovering, like a luminous cloud, above the verge
of the crater. Her viewless servants watch and wait by the precipices
to hurl down whomsoever presumes to approach her shrine with unpurified
heart.... Buddhism loves the grand peak because its form is like the
white bud of the Sacred Flower,--and because the eight cusps of its top,
like the eight petals of the Lotos, symbolize the Eight Intelligences of
Perception, Purpose, Speech, Conduct, Living, Effort, Mindfulness, and

But the legends and traditions about Fuji, the stories of its rising
out of the earth in a single night,--of the shower of pierced-jewels
once flung down from it,--of the first temple built upon its summit
eleven hundred years ago,--of the Luminous Maiden that lured to the
crater an Emperor who was never seen afterward, but is still worshipped
at a little shrine erected on the place of his vanishing,--of the sand
that daily rolled down by pilgrim feet nightly reascends to its former
position,--have not all these things been written in books? There
is really very little left for me to tell about Fuji except my own
experience of climbing it.

I made the ascent by way of Gotemba,--the least picturesque, but
perhaps also the least difficult of the six or seven routes open to
choice. Gotemba is a little village chiefly consisting of pilgrim-inns.
You reach it from Tōkyō in about three hours by the Tōkaidō railway,
which rises for miles as it approaches the neighborhood of the mighty
volcano. Gotemba is considerably more than two thousand feet above the
sea, and therefore comparatively cool in the hottest season. The open
country about it slopes to Fuji; but the slope is so gradual that the
table-land seems almost level to the eye. From Gotemba in perfectly
clear weather the mountain looks uncomfortably near,--formidable by
proximity,--though actually miles away. During the rainy season it
may appear and disappear alternately many times in one day,--like an
enormous spectre. But on the grey August morning when I entered Gotemba
as a pilgrim, the landscape was muffled in vapors; and Fuji was totally
invisible. I arrived too late to attempt the ascent on the same day;
but I made my preparations at once for the day following, and engaged a
couple of _gōriki_ (“strong-pull men”), or experienced guides. I felt
quite secure on seeing their broad honest faces and sturdy bearing. They
supplied me with a pilgrim-staff, heavy blue _tabi_ (that is to say,
cleft-stockings, to be used with sandals), a straw hat shaped like Fuji,
and the rest of a pilgrim’s outfit;--telling me to be ready to start
with them at four o’clock in the morning.

What is hereafter set down consists of notes taken on the journey, but
afterwards amended and expanded,--for notes made while climbing are
necessarily hurried and imperfect.


    August 24th, 1897.

From strings stretched above the balcony upon which my inn-room opens,
hundreds of towels are hung like flags,--blue towels and white, having
printed upon them in Chinese characters the names of pilgrim-companies
and of the divinity of Fuji. These are gifts to the house, and serve
as advertisements.... Raining from a uniformly grey sky. Fuji always

    August 25th.

3:30 _a. m._--No sleep;--tumult all night of parties returning late
from the mountain, or arriving for the pilgrimage;--constant clapping
of hands to summon servants;--banqueting and singing in the adjoining
chambers, with alarming bursts of laughter every few minutes....
Breakfast of soup, fish, and rice. Gōriki arrive in professional
costume, and find me ready. Nevertheless they insist that I shall
undress again and put on heavy underclothing;--warning me that even
when it is Doyō (the period of greatest summer heat) at the foot of the
mountain, it is Daikan (the period of greatest winter cold) at the top.
Then they start in advance, carrying provisions and bundles of heavy
clothing.... A kuruma waits for me, with three runners,--two to pull,
and one to push, as the work will be hard uphill. By kuruma I can go to
the height of five thousand feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Morning black and slightly chill, with fine rain; but I shall soon be
above the rain-clouds.... The lights of the town vanish behind us;--the
kuruma is rolling along a country-road. Outside of the swinging penumbra
made by the paper-lantern of the foremost runner, nothing is clearly
visible; but I can vaguely distinguish silhouettes of trees and, from
time to time, of houses,--peasants’ houses with steep roofs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Grey wan light slowly suffuses the moist air;--day is dawning through
drizzle.... Gradually the landscape defines with its colors. The way
lies through thin woods. Occasionally we pass houses with high thatched
roofs that look like farmhouses; but cultivated land is nowhere

       *       *       *       *       *

Open country with scattered clumps of trees,--larch and pine. Nothing in
the horizon but scraggy tree-tops above what seems to be the rim of a
vast down. No sign whatever of Fuji.... For the first time I notice that
the road is black,--black sand and cinders apparently, volcanic cinders:
the wheels of the kuruma and the feet of the runners sink into it with a
crunching sound.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rain has stopped, and the sky becomes a clearer grey.... The trees
decrease in size and number as we advance.

       *       *       *       *       *

What I have been taking for the horizon, in front of us, suddenly
breaks open, and begins to roll smokily away to left and right. In
the great rift part of a dark-blue mass appears,--a portion of Fuji.
Almost at the same moment the sun pierces the clouds behind us; but the
road now enters a copse covering the base of a low ridge, and the view
is cut off.... Halt at a little house among the trees,--a pilgrims’
resting-place,--and there find the gōriki, who have advanced much more
rapidly than my runners, waiting for us. Buy eggs, which a gōriki rolls
up in a narrow strip of straw matting;--tying the matting tightly with
straw cord between the eggs,--so that the string of eggs has somewhat
the appearance of a string of sausages.... Hire a horse.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sky clears as we proceed;--white sunlight floods everything. Road
reascends; and we emerge again on the moorland. And, right in front,
Fuji appears,--naked to the summit,--stupendous,--startling as if
newly risen from the earth. Nothing could be more beautiful. A vast
blue cone,--warm-blue, almost violet through the vapors not yet lifted
by the sun,--with two white streaklets near the top which are great
gullies full of snow, though they look from here scarcely an inch
long. But the charm of the apparition is much less the charm of color
than of symmetry,--a symmetry of beautiful bending lines with a curve
like the curve of a cable stretched over a space too wide to allow of
pulling taut. (This comparison did not at once suggest itself: The
first impression given me by the grace of those lines was an impression
of femininity;--I found myself thinking of some exquisite sloping of
shoulders towards the neck.) I can imagine nothing more difficult to
draw at sight. But the Japanese artist, through his marvellous skill
with the writing-brush,--the skill inherited from generations of
calligraphists,--easily faces the riddle: he outlines the silhouette
with two flowing strokes made in the fraction of a second, and manages
to hit the exact truth of the curves,--much as a professional archer
might hit a mark, without consciously taking aim, through long exact
habit of hand and eye.


I see the gōriki hurrying forward far away,--one of them carrying the
eggs round his neck!... Now there are no more trees worthy of the
name,--only scattered stunted growths resembling shrubs. The black
road curves across a vast grassy down; and here and there I see large
black patches in the green surface,--bare spaces of ashes and scoriæ;
showing that this thin green skin covers some enormous volcanic deposit
of recent date.... As a matter of history, all this district was buried
two yards deep in 1707 by an eruption from the side of Fuji. Even in
far-off Tōkyō the rain of ashes covered roofs to a depth of sixteen
centimetres. There are no farms in this region, because there is little
true soil; and there is no water. But volcanic destruction is not
eternal destruction; eruptions at last prove fertilizing; and the divine
“Princess-who-causes-the-flowers-to-blossom-brightly” will make this
waste to smile again in future hundreds of years.

       *       *       *       *       *

... The black openings in the green surface become more numerous and
larger. A few dwarf-shrubs still mingle with the coarse grass.... The
vapors are lifting; and Fuji is changing color. It is no longer a
glowing blue, but a dead sombre blue. Irregularities previously hidden
by rising ground appear in the lower part of the grand curves. One of
these to the left,--shaped like a camel’s hump,--represents the focus of
the last great eruption.

       *       *       *       *       *

The land is not now green with black patches, but black with green
patches; and the green patches dwindle visibly in the direction of the
peak. The shrubby growths have disappeared. The wheels of the kuruma,
and the feet of the runners sink deeper into the volcanic sand.... The
horse is now attached to the kuruma with ropes, and I am able to advance
more rapidly. Still the mountain seems far away; but we are really
running up its flank at a height of more than five thousand feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fuji has ceased to be blue of any shade. It is
black,--charcoal-black,--a frightful extinct heap of visible ashes and
cinders and slaggy lava.... Most of the green has disappeared. Likewise
all of the illusion. The tremendous naked black reality,--always
becoming more sharply, more grimly, more atrociously defined,--is a
stupefaction, a nightmare.... Above--miles above--the snow patches glare
and gleam against that blackness,--hideously. I think of a gleam of
white teeth I once saw in a skull,--a woman’s skull,--otherwise burnt to
a sooty crisp.

       *       *       *       *       *

So one of the fairest, if not the fairest of earthly visions, resolves
itself into a spectacle of horror and death.... But have not all human
ideals of beauty, like the beauty of Fuji seen from afar, been created
by forces of death and pain?--are not all, in their kind, but composites
of death, beheld in retrospective through the magical haze of inherited


The green has utterly vanished;--all is black. There is no road,--only
the broad waste of black sand sloping and narrowing up to those
dazzling, grinning patches of snow. But there is a track,--a yellowish
track made by thousands and thousands of cast-off sandals of straw
(_waraji_), flung aside by pilgrims. Straw sandals quickly wear out upon
this black grit; and every pilgrim carries several pair for the journey.
Had I to make the ascent alone, I could find the path by following that
wake of broken sandals,--a yellow streak zigzagging up out of sight
across the blackness.

       *       *       *       *       *

6:40 _a. m._--We reach Tarōbō, first of the ten stations on the
ascent: height, 6000 feet. The station is a large wooden house, of
which two rooms have been fitted up as a shop for the sale of staves,
hats, raincoats, sandals,--everything pilgrims need. I find there a
peripatetic photographer offering for sale photographs of the mountain
which are really very good as well as very cheap.... Here the gōriki
take their first meal; and I rest. The kuruma can go no further; and I
dismiss my three runners, but keep the horse,--a docile and surefooted
creature; for I can venture to ride him up to _Ni-gō-goséki_, or Station
No. 2-1/2.

       *       *       *       *       *

Start for No. 2-1/2 up the slant of black sand, keeping the horse at a
walk. No. 2-1/2 is shut up for the season.... Slope now becomes steep as
a stairway, and further riding would be dangerous. Alight and make ready
for the climb. Cold wind blowing so strongly that I have to tie on my
hat tightly. One of the gōriki unwinds from about his waist a long stout
cotton girdle, and giving me one end to hold, passes the other over
his shoulder for the pull. Then he proceeds over the sand at an angle,
with a steady short step, and I follow; the other guide keeping closely
behind me to provide against any slip.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is nothing very difficult about this climbing, except the
weariness of walking through sand and cinders: it is like walking over
dunes.... We mount by zigzags. The sand moves with the wind; and I have
a slightly nervous sense--the feeling only, not the perception; for I
keep my eyes on the sand,--of height growing above depth.... Have to
watch my steps carefully, and to use my staff constantly, as the slant
is now very steep.... We are in a white fog,--passing through clouds!
Even if I wished to look back, I could see nothing through this vapor;
but I have not the least wish to look back. The wind has suddenly
ceased--cut off, perhaps, by a ridge; and there is a silence that I
remember from West Indian days: the Peace of High Places. It is broken
only by the crunching of the ashes beneath our feet. I can distinctly
hear my heart beat.... The guide tells me that I stoop too much,--orders
me to walk upright, and always in stepping to put down the heel first.
I do this, and find it relieving. But climbing through this tiresome
mixture of ashes and sand begins to be trying. I am perspiring and
panting. The guide bids me keep my honorable mouth closed, and breathe
only through my honorable nose.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are out of the fog again.... All at once I perceive above us, at
a little distance, something like a square hole in the face of the
mountain,--a door! It is the door of the third station,--a wooden hut
half-buried in black drift.... How delightful to squat again,--even in
a blue cloud of wood-smoke and under smoke-blackened rafters! Time, 8:30
a. m. Height, 7,085 feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of the wood-smoke the station is comfortable enough inside;
there are clean mattings and even kneeling-cushions. No windows,
of course, nor any other opening than the door; for the building
is half-buried in the flank of the mountain. We lunch.... The
station-keeper tells us that recently a student walked from Gotemba to
the top of the mountain and back again--in geta! Geta are heavy wooden
sandals, or clogs, held to the foot only by a thong passing between the
great and the second toe. The feet of that student must have been made
of steel!

Having rested, I go out to look around. Far below white clouds are
rolling over the landscape in huge fluffy wreaths. Above the hut, and
actually trickling down over it, the sable cone soars to the sky. But
the amazing sight is the line of the monstrous slope to the left,--a
line that now shows no curve whatever, but shoots down below the
clouds, and up to the gods only know where (for I cannot see the end
of it), straight as a tightened bowstring. The right flank is rocky
and broken. But as for the left,--I never dreamed it possible that a
line so absolutely straight and smooth, and extending for so enormous a
distance at such an amazing angle, could exist even in a volcano. That
stupendous pitch gives me a sense of dizziness, and a totally unfamiliar
feeling of wonder. Such regularity appears unnatural, frightful; seems
even artificial,--but artificial upon a superhuman and demoniac scale.
I imagine that to fall thence from above would be to fall for leagues.
Absolutely nothing to take hold of. But the gōriki assure me that there
is no danger on that slope: it is all soft sand.


Though drenched with perspiration by the exertion of the first climb, I
am already dry, and cold.... Up again.... The ascent is at first through
ashes and sand as before; but presently large stones begin to mingle
with the sand; and the way is always growing steeper.... I constantly
slip. There is nothing firm, nothing resisting to stand upon: loose
stones and cinders roll down at every step.... If a big lava-block were
to detach itself from above!... In spite of my helpers and of the staff,
I continually slip, and am all in perspiration again. Almost every stone
that I tread upon turns under me. How is it that no stone ever turns
under the feet of the gōriki? _They_ never slip,--never make a false
step,--never seem less at ease than they would be in walking over a
matted floor. Their small brown broad feet always poise upon the shingle
at exactly the right angle. They are heavier men than I; but they move
lightly as birds.... Now I have to stop for rest every half-a-dozen
steps.... The line of broken straw sandals follows the zigzags we
take.... At last--at last another door in the face of the mountain.
Enter the fourth station, and fling myself down upon the mats. Time,
10:30 a. m. Height, only 7,937 feet;--yet it seemed such a distance!

       *       *       *       *       *

Off again.... Way worse and worse.... Feel a new distress due to the
rarefaction of the air. Heart beating as in a high fever.... Slope
has become very rough. It is no longer soft ashes and sand mixed
with stones, but stones only,--fragments of lava, lumps of pumice,
scoriæ of every sort, all angled as if freshly broken with a hammer.
All would likewise seem to have been expressly shaped so as to turn
upside-down when trodden upon. Yet I must confess that they never
turn under the feet of the gōriki.... The cast-off sandals strew the
slope in ever-increasing numbers.... But for the gōriki I should have
had ever so many bad tumbles: they cannot prevent me from slipping;
but they never allow me to fall. Evidently I am not fitted to climb
mountains.... Height, 8,659 feet--but the fifth station is shut up! Must
keep zigzaging on to the next. Wonder how I shall ever be able to reach
it!... And there are people still alive who have climbed Fuji three and
four times, _for pleasure_!... Dare not look back. See nothing but the
black stones always turning under me, and the bronzed feet of those
marvellous gōriki who never slip, never pant, and never perspire....
Staff begins to hurt my hand.... Gōriki push and pull: it is shameful of
me, I know, to give them so much trouble.... Ah! sixth station!--may all
the myriads of the gods bless my gōriki! Time, 2:07 p. m. Height, 9,317

       *       *       *       *       *

Resting, I gaze through the doorway at the abyss below. The land is now
dimly visible only through rents in a prodigious wilderness of white
clouds; and within these rents everything looks almost black.... The
horizon has risen frightfully,--has expanded monstrously.... My gōriki
warn me that the summit is still miles away. I have been too slow. We
must hasten upward.

       *       *       *       *       *

Certainly the zigzag is steeper than before.... With the stones now
mingle angular rocks; and we sometimes have to flank queer black bulks
that look like basalt.... On the right rises, out of sight, a jagged
black hideous ridge,--an ancient lava-stream. The line of the left slope
still shoots up, straight as a bow-string.... Wonder if the way will
become any steeper;--doubt whether it can possibly become any rougher.
Rocks dislodged by my feet roll down soundlessly;--I am afraid to look
after them. Their noiseless vanishing gives me a sensation like the
sensation of falling in dreams....

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a white gleam overhead--the lowermost verge of an immense
stretch of snow.... Now we are skirting a snow-filled gully,--the
lowermost of those white patches which, at first sight of the summit
this morning, seemed scarcely an inch long. It will take an hour to pass
it.... A guide runs forward, while I rest upon my staff, and returns
with a large ball of snow. What curious snow! Not flaky, soft, white
snow, but a mass of transparent globules,--exactly like glass beads. I
eat some, and find it deliciously refreshing.... The seventh station is
closed. How shall I get to the eighth?... Happily, breathing has become
less difficult.... The wind is upon us again, and black dust with it.
The gōriki keep close to me, and advance with caution.... I have to stop
for rest at every turn on the path;--cannot talk for weariness.... I do
not feel;--I am much too tired to feel.... How I managed it, I do not
know;--but I have actually got to the eighth station! Not for a thousand
millions of dollars will I go one step further to-day. Time, 4:40 p. m.
Height, 10,693 feet.


It is much too cold here for rest without winter clothing; and now I
learn the worth of the heavy robes provided by the guides. The robes
are blue, with big white Chinese characters on the back, and are padded
thickly as bedquilts; but they feel light; for the air is really like
the frosty breath of February.... A meal is preparing;--I notice that
charcoal at this elevation acts in a refractory manner, and that a
fire can be maintained only by constant attention.... Cold and fatigue
sharpen appetite: we consume a surprising quantity of _Zō-sui_,--rice
boiled with eggs and a little meat. By reason of my fatigue and of the
hour, it has been decided to remain here for the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tired as I am, I cannot but limp to the doorway to contemplate the
amazing prospect. From within a few feet of the threshold, the ghastly
slope of rocks and cinders drops down into a prodigious disk of clouds
miles beneath us,--clouds of countless forms, but mostly wreathings
and fluffy pilings;--and the whole huddling mass, reaching almost
to the horizon, is blinding white under the sun. (By the Japanese,
this tremendous cloud-expanse is well named _Wata-no-Umi_, “the Sea
of Cotton.”) The horizon itself--enormously risen, phantasmally
expanded--seems halfway up above the world: a wide luminous belt ringing
the hollow vision. Hollow, I call it, because extreme distances below
the sky-line are sky-colored and vague,--so that the impression you
receive is not of being on a point under a vault, but of being upon a
point rising into a stupendous blue sphere, of which this huge horizon
would represent the equatorial zone. To turn away from such a spectacle
is not possible. I watch and watch until the dropping sun changes the
colors,--turning the Sea of Cotton into a Fleece of Gold. Half-round
the horizon a yellow glory grows and burns. Here and there beneath it,
through cloudrifts, colored vaguenesses define: I now see golden water,
with long purple headlands reaching into it, with ranges of violet peaks
thronging behind it;--these glimpses curiously resembling portions of a
tinted topographical map. Yet most of the landscape is pure delusion.
Even my guides, with their long experience and their eagle-sight, can
scarcely distinguish the real from the unreal;--for the blue and
purple and violet clouds moving under the Golden Fleece, exactly mock
the outlines and the tones of distant peaks and capes: you can detect
what is vapor only by its slowly shifting shape.... Brighter and
brighter glows the gold. Shadows come from the west,--shadows flung by
cloud-pile over cloud-pile; and these, like evening shadows upon snow,
are violaceous blue.... Then orange-tones appear in the horizon; then
smouldering crimson. And now the greater part of the Fleece of Gold has
changed to cotton again,--white cotton mixed with pink.... Stars thrill
out. The cloud-waste uniformly whitens;--thickening and packing to the
horizon. The west glooms. Night rises; and all things darken except that
wondrous unbroken world-round of white,--the Sea of Cotton.

       *       *       *       *       *

The station-keeper lights his lamps, kindles a fire of twigs, prepares
our beds. Outside it is bitterly cold, and, with the fall of night,
becoming colder. Still I cannot turn away from that astounding
vision.... Countless stars now flicker and shiver in the blue-black sky.
Nothing whatever of the material world remains visible, except the
black slope of the peak before my feet. The enormous cloud-disk below
continues white; but to all appearance it has become a liquidly level
white, without forms,--a white flood. It is no longer the Sea of Cotton.
It is a Sea of Milk, the Cosmic Sea of ancient Indian legend,--and
always self-luminous, as with ghostly quickenings.


Squatting by the wood fire, I listen to the gōriki and the
station-keeper telling of strange happenings on the mountain. One
incident discussed I remember reading something about in a Tōkyō paper:
I now hear it retold by the lips of a man who figured in it as a hero.

A Japanese meteorologist named Nonaka, attempted last year the rash
undertaking of passing the winter on the summit of Fuji for purposes
of scientific study. It might not be difficult to winter upon the peak
in a solid observatory furnished with a good stove, and all necessary
comforts; but Nonaka could afford only a small wooden hut, in which he
would be obliged to spend the cold season _without fire_! His young wife
insisted on sharing his labors and dangers. The couple began their
sojourn on the summit toward the close of September. In midwinter news
was brought to Gotemba that both were dying.

Relatives and friends tried to organize a rescue-party. But the
weather was frightful; the peak was covered with snow and ice; the
chances of death were innumerable; and the gōriki would not risk their
lives. Hundreds of dollars could not tempt them. At last a desperate
appeal was made to them as representatives of Japanese courage and
hardihood: they were assured that to suffer a man of science to perish,
without making even one plucky effort to save him, would disgrace the
country;--they were told that the national honor was in their hands.
This appeal brought forward two volunteers. One was a man of great
strength and daring, nick-named by his fellow-guides, _Oni-guma_,
“the Demon-Bear,” the other was the elder of my gōriki. Both believed
that they were going to certain destruction. They took leave of their
friends and kindred, and drank with their families the farewell cup of
water,--_midzu-no-sakazuki_,--in which those about to be separated by
death pledge each other. Then, after having thickly wrapped themselves
in cotton-wool, and made all possible preparation for ice climbing, they
started,--taking with them a brave army-surgeon who had offered his
services, without fee, for the rescue. After surmounting extraordinary
difficulties, the party reached the hut; but the inmates refused to
open! Nonaka protested that he would rather die than face the shame of
failure in his undertaking; and his wife said that she had resolved
to die with her husband. Partly by forcible, and partly by gentle
means, the pair were restored to a better state of mind. The surgeon
administered medicines and cordials; the patients, carefully wrapped up,
were strapped to the backs of the guides; and the descent was begun.
My gōriki, who carried the lady, believes that the gods helped him on
the ice-slopes. More than once, all thought themselves lost; but they
reached the foot of the mountain without one serious mishap. After weeks
of careful nursing, the rash young couple were pronounced out of danger.
The wife suffered less, and recovered more quickly, than the husband.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gōriki have cautioned me not to venture outside during the night
without calling them. They will not tell me why; and their warning is
peculiarly uncanny. From previous experiences during Japanese travel,
I surmise that the danger implied is supernatural; but I feel that it
would be useless to ask questions.

The door is closed and barred. I lie down between the guides, who are
asleep in a moment, as I can tell by their heavy breathing. I cannot
sleep immediately;--perhaps the fatigues and the surprises of the
day have made me somewhat nervous. I look up at the rafters of the
black roof,--at packages of sandals, bundles of wood, bundles of many
indistinguishable kinds there stowed away or suspended, and making queer
shadows in the lamplight.... It is terribly cold, even under my three
quilts; and the sound of the wind outside is wonderfully like the sound
of great surf,--a constant succession of bursting roars, each followed
by a prolonged hiss. The hut, half buried under tons of rock and drift,
does not move; but the sand does, and trickles down between the rafters;
and small stones also move after each fierce gust, with a rattling just
like the clatter of shingle in the pull of a retreating wave.

       *       *       *       *       *

4. _a. m._--Go out alone, despite last evening’s warning, but keep
close to the door. There is a great and icy blowing. The Sea of Milk is
unchanged: it lies far below this wind. Over it the moon is dying....
The guides, perceiving my absence, spring up and join me. I am reproved
for not having awakened them. They will not let me stay outside alone:
so I turn in with them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dawn: a zone of pearl grows round the world. The stars vanish; the sky
brightens. A wild sky, with dark wrack drifting at an enormous height.
The Sea of Milk has turned again into Cotton,--and there are wide
rents in it. The desolation of the black slope,--all the ugliness of
slaggy rock and angled stone, again defines.... Now the cotton becomes
disturbed;--it is breaking up. A yellow glow runs along the east like
the glare of a wind-blown fire.... Alas! I shall not be among the
fortunate mortals able to boast of viewing from Fuji the first lifting
of the sun! Heavy clouds have drifted across the horizon at the point
where he should rise.... Now I know that he has risen; because the upper
edges of those purple rags of cloud are burning like charcoal. But I
have been so disappointed!

       *       *       *       *       *

More and more luminous the hollow world. League-wide heapings of cottony
cloud roll apart. Fearfully far-away there is a light of gold upon
water: the sun here remains viewless, but the ocean sees him. It is
not a flicker, but a burnished glow;--at such a distance ripplings are
invisible.... Further and further scattering, the clouds unveil a vast
grey and blue landscape;--hundreds and hundreds of miles throng into
vision at once. On the right I distinguish Tōkyō bay, and Kamakura,
and the holy island of Enoshima (no bigger than the dot over this
letter “i”);--on the left the wilder Suruga coast, and the blue-toothed
promontory of Idzu, and the place of the fishing-village where I have
been summering,--the merest pin-point in that tinted dream of hill and
shore. Rivers appear but as sun-gleams on spider-threads;--fishing-sails
are white dust clinging to the grey-blue glass of the sea. And the
picture alternately appears and vanishes while the clouds drift and
shift across it, and shape themselves into spectral islands and
mountains and valleys of all Elysian colors....


6:40 _a. m._--Start for the top.... Hardest and roughest stage of
the journey, through a wilderness of lava-blocks. The path zigzags
between ugly masses that project from the slope like black teeth. The
trail of cast-away sandals is wider than ever.... Have to rest every
few minutes.... Reach another long patch of the snow that looks like
glass-beads, and eat some. The next station--a half-station--is closed;
and the ninth has ceased to exist.... A sudden fear comes to me, not of
the ascent, but of the prospective descent by a route which is too steep
even to permit of comfortably sitting down. But the guides assure me
that there will be no difficulty, and that most of the return-journey
will be by another way,--over the interminable level which I wondered at
yesterday,--nearly all soft sand, with very few stones. It is called the
_hashiri_ (“glissade”); and we are to descend at a run!...

All at once a family of field-mice scatter out from under my feet in
panic; and the gōriki behind me catches one, and gives it to me. I hold
the tiny shivering life for a moment to examine it, and set it free
again. These little creatures have very long pale noses. How do they
live in this waterless desolation,--and at such an altitude,--especially
in the season of snow? For we are now at a height of more than eleven
thousand feet! The gōriki say that the mice find roots growing under the

       *       *       *       *       *

Wilder and steeper;--for me, at least, the climbing is sometimes on
all fours. There are barriers which we surmount with the help of
ladders. There are fearful places with Buddhist names, such as the
_Sai-no-Kawara_, or Dry Bed of the River of Souls,--a black waste strewn
with heaps of rock, like those stone-piles which, in Buddhist pictures
of the underworld, the ghosts of children build....

       *       *       *       *       *

Twelve thousand feet, and something,--the top! Time, 8:20 a. m....
Stone huts; Shintō shrine with tōrii; icy well, called the Spring of
Gold; stone tablet bearing a Chinese poem and the design of a tiger;
rough walls of lava-blocks round these things,--possibly for protection
against the wind. Then the huge dead crater,--probably between a
quarter of a mile and half-a-mile wide, but shallowed up to within
three or four hundred feet of the verge by volcanic detritus,--a cavity
horrible even in the tones of its yellow crumbling walls, streaked
and stained with every hue of scorching. I perceive that the trail of
straw sandals ends _in_ the crater. Some hideous over-hanging cusps
of black lava--like the broken edges of a monstrous cicatrix--project
on two sides several hundred feet above the opening; but I certainly
shall not take the trouble to climb them. Yet these,--seen through
the haze of a hundred miles,--through the soft illusion of blue
spring-weather,--appear as the opening snowy petals of the bud of the
Sacred Lotos!... No spot in this world can be more horrible, more
atrociously dismal, than the cindered tip of the Lotos as you stand upon

But the view--the view for a hundred leagues,--and the light of the
far faint dreamy world,--and the fairy vapors of morning,--and the
marvellous wreathings of cloud: all this, and only this, consoles me for
the labor and the pain.... Other pilgrims, earlier climbers,--poised
upon the highest crag, with faces turned to the tremendous East,--are
clapping their hands in Shintō prayer, saluting the mighty Day....
The immense poetry of the moment enters into me with a thrill. I
know that the colossal vision before me has already become a memory
ineffaceable,--a memory of which no luminous detail can fade till the
hour when thought itself must fade, and the dust of these eyes be
mingled with the dust of the myriad million eyes that also have looked,
in ages forgotten before my birth, from the summit supreme of Fuji to
the Rising of the Sun.



      Mushi yo mushi,
    Naïté ingwa ga
      Tsukuru nara?

    “O insect, insect!--think you that Karma can be exhausted by
    song?”--_Japanese poem._


If you ever visit Japan, be sure to go to at least one
temple-festival,--_en-nichi_. The festival ought to be seen at night,
when everything shows to the best advantage in the glow of countless
lamps and lanterns. Until you have had this experience, you cannot know
what Japan is,--you cannot imagine the real charm of queerness and
prettiness, the wonderful blending of grotesquery and beauty, to be
found in the life of the common people.

In such a night you will probably let yourself drift awhile with
the stream of sight-seers through dazzling lanes of booths full
of toys indescribable--dainty puerilities, fragile astonishments,
laughter-making oddities;--you will observe representations of
demons, gods, and goblins;--you will be startled by _mandō_--immense
lantern-transparencies, with monstrous faces painted upon them;--
you will have glimpses of jugglers, acrobats, sword-dancers,
fortune-tellers;--you will hear everywhere, above the tumult of voices,
a ceaseless blowing of flutes and booming of drums. All this may not be
worth stopping for. But presently, I am almost sure, you will pause in
your promenade to look at a booth illuminated like a magic-lantern, and
stocked with tiny wooden cages out of which an incomparable shrilling
proceeds. The booth is the booth of a vendor of singing-insects; and
the storm of noise is made by the insects. The sight is curious; and a
foreigner is nearly always attracted by it.

But having satisfied his momentary curiosity, the foreigner usually
goes on his way with the idea that he has been inspecting nothing
more remarkable than a particular variety of toys for children. He
might easily be made to understand that the insect-trade of Tōkyō
alone represents a yearly value of thousands of dollars; but he would
certainly wonder if assured that the insects themselves are esteemed
for the peculiar character of the sounds which they make. It would not
be easy to convince him that in the æsthetic life of a most refined
and artistic people, these insects hold a place not less important
or well-deserved than that occupied in Western civilization by our
thrushes, linnets, nightingales and canaries. What stranger could
suppose that a literature one thousand years old,--a literature full
of curious and delicate beauty,--exists upon the subject of these
short-lived insect-pets?

       *       *       *       *       *

The object of the present paper is, by elucidating these facts, to
show how superficially our travellers might unconsciously judge the
most interesting details of Japanese life. But such misjudgments are
as natural as they are inevitable. Even with the kindest of intentions
it is impossible to estimate correctly at sight anything of the
extraordinary in Japanese custom,--because the extraordinary nearly
always relates to feelings, beliefs, or thoughts about which a stranger
cannot know anything.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before proceeding further, let me observe that the domestic insects of
which I am going to speak, are mostly night-singers, and must not be
confounded with the _semi_ (cicadæ), mentioned in former essays of mine.
I think that the cicadæ,--even in a country so exceptionally rich as is
Japan in musical insects,--are wonderful melodists in their own way. But
the Japanese find as much difference between the notes of night-insects
and of cicadæ as we find between those of larks and sparrows; and they
relegate their cicadæ to the vulgar place of chatterers. _Semi_ are
therefore never caged. The national liking for caged insects does not
mean a liking for mere noise; and the note of every insect in public
favor must possess either some rhythmic charm, or some mimetic quality
celebrated in poetry or legend. The same fact is true of the Japanese
liking for the chant of frogs. It would be a mistake to suppose that all
kinds of frogs are considered musical; but there are particular species
of very small frogs having sweet notes; and these are caged and petted.

Of course, in the proper meaning of the word, insects do not _sing_;
but in the following pages I may occasionally employ the terms “singer”
and “singing-insect,”--partly because of their convenience, and partly
because of their correspondence with the language used by Japanese
insect-dealers and poets, describing the “voices” of such creatures.


There are many curious references in the old Japanese classic literature
to the custom of keeping musical insects. For example in the chapter
entitled _Nowaki_[1] of the famous novel “Genji Monogatari,” written
in the latter part of the tenth century by the Lady Murasaki-Shikibu,
it is stated: “The maids were ordered to descend to the garden, and
give some water to the insects.” But the first definite mention of
cages for singing-insects would appear to be the following passage
from a work entitled _Chomon-Shū_:--“On the twelfth day of the eighth
month of the second year of Kaho [1095 A. D.], the Emperor ordered
his pages and chamberlains to go to Sagano and find some insects. The
Emperor gave them a cage of network of bright purple thread. All,
even the head-chaplain and his attendants, taking horses from the
Right and the Left Imperial Mews, then went on horseback to hunt for
insects. Tokinori Ben, at that time holding the office of _Kurando_,[2]
proposed to the party as they rode toward Sagano, a subject for poetical
composition. The subject was, _Looking for insects in the fields_. On
reaching Sagano, the party dismounted, and walked in various directions
for a distance of something more than ten _chō_,[3] and sent their
attendants to catch the insects. In the evening they returned to the
palace. They put into the cage some _hagi_[4] and _ominameshi_ [for the
insects]. The cage was respectfully presented to the Empress. There
was _saké_-drinking in the palace that evening; and many poems were
composed. The Empress and her court-ladies joined in the making of the

       *       *       *       *       *

This would appear to be the oldest Japanese record of an
insect-hunt,--though the amusement may have been invented earlier than
the period of Kaho. By the seventeenth century it seems to have become a
popular diversion; and night-hunts were in vogue as much as day-hunts.
In the _Teikoku Bunshū_, or collected works of the poet Teikoku, who
died during the second year of Shōwō (1653), there has been preserved
one of the poet’s letters which contains a very interesting passage on
the subject. “Let us go insect-hunting this evening,”--writes the poet
to his friend. “It is true that the night will be very dark, since there
is no moon; and it may seem dangerous to go out. But there are many
people now going to the graveyards every night, because the Bon festival
is approaching[5];--therefore the way to the fields will not be lonesome
for us. I have prepared many lanterns;--so the _hata-ori_, _matsumushi_,
and other insects will probably come to the lanterns in great number.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It would also seem that the trade of insect-seller (_mushiya_) existed
in the seventeenth century; for in a diary of that time, known as the
Diary of Kikaku, the writer speaks of his disappointment at not finding
any insect-dealers in Yedo,--tolerably good evidence that he had met
such persons elsewhere. “On the thirteenth day of the sixth month of
the fourth year of Teikyo [1687], I went out,” he writes, “to look for
_kirigirisu_-sellers. I searched for them in Yotsuya, in Kōjimachi, in
Hongō, in Yushimasa, and in both divisions of Kanda-Sudamachō[6]; but I
found none.”

As we shall presently see, the _kirigirisu_ was not sold in Tōkyō until
about one hundred and twenty years later.

       *       *       *       *       *

But long before it became the fashion to keep singing-insects, their
music had been celebrated by poets as one of the æsthetic pleasures of
the autumn. There are charming references to singing-insects in poetical
collections made during the tenth century, and doubtless containing
many compositions of a yet earlier period. And just as places famous
for cherry, plum, or other blossoming trees, are still regularly
visited every year by thousands and tens of thousands, merely for the
delight of seeing the flowers in their seasons,--so in ancient times
city-dwellers made autumn excursions to country-districts simply for
the pleasure of hearing the chirruping choruses of crickets and of
locusts,--the night-singers especially. Centuries ago places were noted
as pleasure-resorts solely because of this melodious attraction;--such
were Musashino (now Tōkyō), Yatano in the province of Echizen, and Mano
in the province of Ōmi. Somewhat later, probably, people discovered that
each of the principal species of singing-insects haunted by preference
some particular locality, where its peculiar chanting could be heard to
the best advantage; and eventually no less than eleven places became
famous throughout Japan for different kinds of insect-music.

The best places to hear the _matsumushi_ were:--

    (1) Arashiyama, near Kyōto, in the province of Yamashiro;
    (2) Sumiyoshi, in the province of Settsu;
    (3) Miyagino, in the province of Mutsu.

The best places to hear the _suzumushi_ were:--

    (4) Kagura-ga-Oka, in Yamashiro;
    (5) Ogura-yama, in Yamashiro;
    (6) Suzuka-yama, in Isé;
    (7) Narumi, in Owari.

The best places to hear the _kirigirisu_ were:--

    (8) Sagano, in Yamashiro;
    (9) Takeda-no-Sato, in Yamashiro;
    (10) Tatsuta-yama, in Yamato;
    (11) Ono-no-Shinowara, in Ōmi.

       *       *       *       *       *

Afterwards, when the breeding and sale of singing-insects became a
lucrative industry, the custom of going into the country to hear them
gradually went out of fashion. But even to-day city-dwellers, when
giving a party, will sometimes place cages of singing-insects among the
garden-shrubbery, so that the guests may enjoy not only the music of the
little creatures, but also those memories or sensations of rural peace
which such music evokes.


The regular trade in musical insects is of comparatively modern
origin. In Tōkyō its beginnings date back only to the Kwansei era
(1789-1800),--at which period, however, the capital of the Shōgunate
was still called Yedo. A complete history of the business was recently
placed in my hands,--a history partly compiled from old documents,
and partly from traditions preserved in the families of several noted
insect-merchants of the present day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The founder of the Tōkyō trade was an itinerant foodseller named Chūzō,
originally from Echigo, who settled in the Kanda district of the city
in the latter part of the eighteenth century. One day, while making his
usual rounds, it occurred to him to capture a few of the _suzumushi_,
or bell-insects, then very plentiful in the Negishi quarter, and to
try the experiment of feeding them at home. They throve and made
music in confinement; and several of Chūzō’s neighbors, charmed by
their melodious chirruping, asked to be supplied with _suzumushi_
for a consideration. From this accidental beginning, the demand for
_suzumushi_ grew rapidly to such proportions that the foodseller at last
decided to give up his former calling and to become an insect-seller.

Chūzō only caught and sold insects: he never imagined that it would be
more profitable to breed them. But the fact was presently discovered
by one of his customers,--a man named Kirayama, then in the service
of the Lord Aoyama Shimodzuké-no-Kami. Kiriyama had bought from Chūzō
several _suzumushi_, which were kept and fed in a jar half-filled with
moist clay. They died in the cold season; but during the following
summer Kiriyama was agreeably surprised to find the jar newly peopled
with a number of young ones, evidently born from eggs which the first
prisoners had left in the clay. He fed them carefully, and soon had the
pleasure, my chronicler says, of hearing them “begin to sing in small
voices.” Then he resolved to make some experiments; and, aided by Chūzō,
who furnished the males and females, he succeeded in breeding not only
_suzumushi_, but three other kinds of singing-insects also,--_kantan_,
_matsumushi_, and _kutsuwamushi_. He discovered, at the same time,
that, by keeping his jars in a warm room, the insects could be hatched
considerably in advance of the natural season. Chūzō sold for Kiriyama
these home-bred singers; and both men found the new undertaking
profitable beyond expectation.

The example set by Kiriyama was imitated by a _tabiya_, or
stocking-maker named Yasubei (commonly known as Tabiya Yasubei by
reason of his calling), who lived in Kanda-ku. Yasubei likewise made
careful study of the habits of singing-insects, with a view to their
breeding and nourishment; and he soon found himself able to carry on
a small trade in them. Up to that time the insects sold in Yedo would
seem to have been kept in jars or boxes: Yasubei conceived the idea of
having special cages manufactured for them. A man named Kondō, vassal to
the Lord Kamei of Honjō-ku, interested himself in the matter, and made
a number of pretty little cages which delighted Yasubei, and secured a
large order from him. The new invention found public favor at once; and
Kondō soon afterwards established the first manufactory of insect-cages.

INSECTS,--_Kirigirisu, Kutsuwamushi, etc._


The demand for singing-insects increased from this time so rapidly, that
Chūzō soon found it impossible to supply all his would-be customers
directly. He therefore decided to change his business to wholesale
trade, and to sell to retail dealers only. To meet orders, he purchased
largely from peasants in the suburbs and elsewhere. Many persons were
employed by him; and Yasubei and others paid him a fixed annual sum for
sundry rights and privileges.

Some time after this Yasubei became the first itinerant-vendor of
singing-insects. He walked through the streets crying his wares; but
hired a number of servants to carry the cages. Tradition says that while
going his rounds he used to wear a _katabira_[7] made of a much-esteemed
silk stuff called _sukiya_, together with a fine Hakata-girdle; and
that this elegant way of dressing proved of much service to him in his

Two men, whose names have been preserved, soon entered into competition
with Yasubei. The first was Yasakura Yasuzō, of Honjō-ku, by previous
occupation a _sahainin_, or property-agent. He prospered, and became
widely known as Mushi-Yasu,--“Yasu-the-Insect-Man.” His success
encouraged a former fellow-_sahainin_, Genbei of Uyeno, to go into the
same trade. Genbei likewise found insect-selling a lucrative occupation,
and earned for himself the sobriquet of Mushi-Gen, by which he is yet
remembered. His descendants in Tōkyō to-day are _amé_[8]-manufacturers;
but they still carry on the hereditary insect-business during the summer
and autumn months; and one of the firm was kind enough to furnish me
with many of the facts recorded in this little essay.

Chūzō, the father and founder of all this curious commerce, died without
children; and sometime in the period of Bunsei (1818-1829) his business
was taken over by a distant relative named Yamasaki Seïchirō. To Chūzō’s
business, Yamasaki joined his own,--that of a toy-merchant. About the
same time a law was passed limiting the number of insect-dealers in the
municipality to thirty-six. The thirty-six then formed themselves into
a guild, called the Ōyama-Kō (“Ōyama Society”), having for patron the
divinity Sekison-Sama of the mountain Ōyama in Sagami Province.[9] But
in business the association was known as the Yedō-Mushi-Kō, or Yedo

It is not until after this consolidation of the trade that we hear of
the _kirigirisu_,--the same musical insect which the poet Kikaku had
vainly tried to buy in the city in 1687,--being sold in Yedo. One of the
guild known as Mushiya Kojirō (“Kojirō the Insect-Merchant”), who did
business in Honjō-Ku, returning to the city after a short visit to his
native place in Kadzusa, brought back with him a number of _kirigirisu_,
which he sold at a good profit. Although long famous elsewhere, these
insects had never before been sold in Yedo.

“When Midzu Echizen-no-Kami,” says the chronicle, “became _machi-bugyō_
(or chief magistrate) of Yedo, the law limiting the number of
insect-dealers to thirty-six, was abolished.” Whether the guild was
subsequently dissolved the chronicle fails to mention.

Kiriyama, the first to breed singing-insects artificially, had, like
Chūzō, built up a prosperous trade. He left a son, Kaméjirō, who was
adopted into the family of one Yumoto, living in Waséda, Ushigomé-ku.
Kaméjirō brought with him to the Yumoto family the valuable secrets of
his father’s occupation; and the Yumoto family is still celebrated in
the business of insect breeding.

To-day the greatest insect-merchant in Tōkyō is said to be Kawasumi
Kanésaburō, of Samon-chō in Yotsuya-ku. A majority of the lesser
dealers obtain their autumn stock from him. But the insects bred
artificially, and sold in summer, are mostly furnished by the Yumoto
house. Other noted dealers are Mushi-Sei, of Shitaya-ku, and Mushi-Toku,
of Asakusa. These buy insects caught in the country, and brought to
the city by the peasants. The wholesale dealers supply both insects
and cages to multitudes of itinerant vendors who do business in the
neighborhood of the parish-temples during the _en-nichi_, or religious
festivals,--especially after dark. Almost every night of the year there
are _en-nichi_ in some quarter of the capital; and the insect-sellers
are rarely idle during the summer and autumn months.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps the following list of current Tōkyō prices[10] for
singing-insects may interest the reader:--

    Suzumushi         3 sen 5 rin, to 4 sen.
    Matsumushi        4  „            5  „
    Kantan           10  „           12  „
    Kin-hibari       10  „           12  „
    Kusa-hibari      10  „           12  „
    Kuro-hibari       8  „           12  „
    Kutsuwamushi     10  „           15  „
    Yamato-suzu       8  „           12  „
    Kirigirisu       12  „           15  „
    Emma-kōrogi       5  „
    Kanétataki       12  „
    Umaoi            10  „

These prices, however, rule only during the busy period of the insect
trade. In May and the latter part of June the prices are high,--for only
artificially bred insects are then in the market. In July _kirigirisu_
brought from the country will sell as low as one sen. The _kantan_,
_kusa-hibari_, and _Yamato-suzu_ sell sometimes as low as two sen. In
August the _Emma-kōrogi_ can be bought even at the rate of ten for one
sen; and in September the _kuro-hibari_, _kanétataki_, and _umaoi_ sell
for one or one and a half sen each. But there is little variation at any
season in the prices of _suzumushi_ and of _matsumushi_. These are never
very dear, but never sell at less than three sen; and there is always a
demand for them. The _suzumushi_ is the most popular of all; and the
greater part of the profits annually made in the insect-trade is said to
be gained on the sale of this insect.


As will be seen from the foregoing price-list, twelve varieties
of musical insects are sold in Tōkyō. Nine can be artificially
bred,--namely the _suzumushi_, _matsumushi_, _kirigirisu_, _kantan_,
_kutsuwamushi_, _Emma-kōrogi_, _kin-hibari_, _kusa-hibari_ (also called
_Asa-suzu_), and the _Yamato-suzu_, or _Yoshino-suzu_. Three varieties,
I am told, are not bred for sale, but captured for the market: these
are the _kanétataki_, _umaoi_ or _hataori_, and _kuro-hibari_. But a
considerable number of all the insects annually offered for sale, are
caught in their native haunts.

[Illustration: KANÉTATAKI (“THE BELL-RINGER”) (_natural size_).]

The night-singers are, with few exceptions, easily taken. They are
captured with the help of lanterns. Being quickly attracted by light,
they approach the lanterns; and when near enough to be observed, they
can readily be covered with nets or little baskets. Males and females
are usually secured at the same time, for the creatures move about
in couples. Only the males sing; but a certain number of females are
always taken for breeding purposes. Males and females are kept in the
same vessel only for breeding: they are never left together in a cage,
because the male ceases to sing when thus mated, and will die in a short
time after pairing.

The breeding pairs are kept in jars or other earthen vessels half-filled
with moistened clay, and are supplied every day with fresh food. They
do not live long: the male dies first, and the female survives only
until her eggs have been laid. The young insects hatched from them,
shed their skin in about forty days from birth, after which they grow
more rapidly, and soon attain their full development. In their natural
state these creatures are hatched a little before the Doyō, or Period
of Greatest Heat by the old calendar,--that is to say, about the middle
of July;--and they begin to sing in October. But when bred in a warm
room, they are hatched early in April; and, with careful feeding, they
can be offered for sale before the end of May. When very young, their
food is triturated and spread for them upon a smooth piece of wood;
but the adults are usually furnished with unprepared food,--consisting
of parings of egg-plant, melon-rind, cucumber-rind, or the soft
interior parts of the white onion. Some insects, however, are specially
nourished;--the _abura-kirigirisu_, for example, being fed with
sugar-water and slices of musk-melon.


All the insects mentioned in the Tōkyō price-list are not of equal
interest; and several of the names appear to refer only to different
varieties of one species,--though on this point I am not positive. Some
of the insects do not seem to have yet been scientifically classed; and
I am no entomologist. But I can offer some general notes on the more
important among the little melodists, and free translations of a few out
of the countless poems about them,--beginning with the _matsumushi_,
which was celebrated in Japanese verse a thousand years ago:


As ideographically written, the name of this creature signifies
“pine-insect;” but, as pronounced, it might mean also “waiting-insect,”--
since the verb “_matsu_,” “to wait,” and the noun “_matsu_,” “pine,”
have the same sound. It is chiefly upon this double meaning of the word
as uttered that a host of Japanese poems about the _matsumushi_ are
based. Some of these are very old,--dating back to the tenth century at

[Illustration: MATSUMUSHI (_slightly enlarged_).]

Although by no means a rare insect, the matsumushi is much esteemed for
the peculiar clearness and sweetness of its notes--(onomatopoetically
rendered in Japanese by the syllables _chin-chirorīn, chin-chirorīn_),--
little silvery shrillings which I can best describe as resembling the
sound of an electric bell heard from a distance. The matsumushi haunts
pine-woods and cryptomeria-groves, and makes its music at night. It is a
very small insect, with a dark-brown back, and a yellowish belly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps the oldest extant verses upon the matsumushi are those contained
in the _Kokinshū_,--a famous anthology compiled in the year 905 by the
court-poet Tsurayuki and several of his noble friends. Here we first
find that play on the name of the insect as pronounced, which was to be
repeated in a thousand different keys by a multitude of poets through
the literature of more than nine hundred years:--

      Aki no no ni
    Michi mo madoinu;
      Matsumushi no
    Koe suru kata ni
    Yadoya karamashi.

“In the autumn-fields I lose my way;--perhaps I might ask for lodging
in the direction of the cry of the waiting-insect;”--that is to say,
“might sleep to-night in the grass where the insects are waiting for
me.” There is in the same work a much prettier poem on the matsumushi by

    With dusk begins to cry the male of the Waiting-insect;--
    I, too, await my beloved, and, hearing, my longing grows.

The following poems on the same insect are less ancient but not less

    Forever past and gone, the hour of the promised advent!--
    Truly the Waiter’s voice is a voice of sadness now!

    Parting is sorrowful always,--even the parting with autumn!
    O plaintive matsumushi, add not thou to my pain!

    Always more clear and shrill, as the hush of the night grows deeper,
    The Waiting-insect’s voice;--and I that wait in the garden,
    Feel enter into my heart the voice and the moon together.


The name signifies “bell-insect;” but the bell of which the sound is
thus referred to is a very small bell, or a bunch of little bells such
as a Shinto priestess uses in the sacred dances. The _suzumushi_ is a
great favorite with insect-fanciers, and is bred in great numbers for
the market. In the wild state it is found in many parts of Japan; and at
night the noise made by multitudes of _suzumushi_ in certain lonesome
places might easily be mistaken,--as it has been by myself more than
once,--for the sound of rapids. The Japanese description of the insect
as resembling “a watermelon seed”--the black kind--is excellent. It
is very small, with a black back, and a white or yellowish belly. Its
tintinnabulation--_ri-ï-ï-ï-in_, as the Japanese render the sound--might
easily be mistaken for the tinkling of a _suzu_. Both the _matsumushi_
and the _suzumushi_ are mentioned in Japanese poems of the period of
Engi (901-922).

[Illustration: SUZUMUSHI (_slightly enlarged_).]

Some of the following poems on the suzumushi are very old; others are of
comparatively recent date:--

    Yes, my dwelling is old: weeds on the roof are growing;--
    But the voice of the suzumushi that will never be old!

    To-day united in love,--we who can meet so rarely!
    Hear how the insects ring!--their bells to our hearts keep time.

    The tinkle of tiny bells,--the voices of suzumushi,
    I hear in the autumn-dusk,--and think of the fields at home.

    Even the moonshine sleeps on the dews of the garden-grasses;
    Nothing moves in the night but the suzumushi’s voice.

    Heard in these alien fields, the voice of the suzumushi,--
    Sweet in the evening-dusk,--sounds like the sound of home.

    Vainly the suzumushi exhausts its powers of pleasing,
    Always, the long night through, my tears continue to flow!

    Hark to those tinkling tones,--the chant of the suzumushi!
    --If a jewel of dew could sing, it would tinkle with such a voice!

    Foolish-fond I have grown;--I feel for the suzumushi!--
    In the time of the heavy rains, what will the creature do?


The _hataori_ is a beautiful bright-green grasshopper, of very
graceful shape. Two reasons are given for its curious name, which
signifies “the Weaver.” One is that, when held in a particular way,
the struggling gestures of the creature resemble the movements
of a girl weaving. The other reason is that its music seems to
imitate the sound of the reed and shuttle of a hand-loom in

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a pretty folk-story about the origin of the _hataori_ and the
_kirigirisu_, which used to be told to Japanese children in former
times.--Long, long ago, says the tale, there were two very dutiful
daughters who supported their old blind father by the labor of their
hands. The elder girl used to weave, and the younger to sew. When the
old blind father died at last, these good girls grieved so much that
they soon died also. One beautiful morning, some creatures of a kind
never seen before were found making music above the graves of the
sisters. On the tomb of the elder was a pretty green insect, producing
sounds like those made by a girl weaving,--_ji-ï-ï-ï, chon-chon!
ji-ï-ï-ï, chon-chon!_ This was the first _hataori-mushi_. On the tomb of
the younger sister was an insect which kept crying out, “_Tsuzuré--sasé,
sasé!--tsuzuré, tsuzuré--sasé, sasé, sasé!_” (Torn clothes--patch, patch
them up!--torn clothes, torn clothes--patch up, patch up, patch up!)
This was the first _kirigirisu_. Then everybody knew that the spirits
of the good sisters had taken those shapes. Still every autumn they cry
to wives and daughters to work well at the loom, and warn them to repair
the winter garments of the household before the coming of the cold.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such poems as I have been able to obtain about the _hataori_ consist of
nothing more than pretty fancies. Two, of which I offer free renderings,
are ancient,--the first by Tsurayuki; the second by a poetess
classically known as “Akinaka’s Daughter”:--

    Weaving-insects I hear; and the fields, in their autumn-colors,
    Seem of Chinese-brocade:--was this the weavers’ work?

    Gossamer-threads are spread over the shrubs and grasses:
    Weaving-insects I hear;--do they weave with spider-silk?


The _umaoi_ is sometimes confounded with the _hataori_, which it
much resembles. But the true umaoi--(called _junta_ in Izumo)--is a
shorter and thicker insect than the _hataori_; and has at its tail a
hook-shaped protuberance, which the weaver-insect has not. Moreover,
there is some difference in the sounds made by the two creatures.
The music of the umaoi is not “_ji-ï-ï-ï,--chon-chon_,” but,
“_zu-ï-in-tzō!--zu-ï-in-tzō!_”--say the Japanese.

[Illustration: UMAOI (_natural size_).]


There are different varieties of this much-prized insect. The
_abura-kirigirisu_, a day-singer, is a delicate creature, and must
be carefully nourished in confinement. The _tachi-kirigirisu_,
a night-singer, is more commonly found in the market. Captured
_kirigirisu_ sold in Tōkyō are mostly from the neighborhood of Itabashi,
Niiso, and Todogawa; and these, which fetch high prices, are considered
the best. They are large vigorous insects, uttering very clear notes.
From Kujiukuri in Kadzusa other and much cheaper _kirigirisu_ are
brought to the capital; but these have a disagreeable odor, suffer from
the attacks of a peculiar parasite, and are feeble musicians.

[Illustration: KIRIGIRISU (_natural size_).]

As stated elsewhere, the sounds made by the kirigirisu are said to
resemble those of the Japanese words, “_Tsuzuré--sasé! sasé!_” (Torn
clothes--patch up! patch up!); and a large proportion of the many
poems written about the insect depend for interest upon ingenious but
untranslatable allusions to those words. I offer renderings therefore of
only two poems on the _kirigirisu_,--the first by an unknown poet in the
_Kokinshū_; the second by Tadafusa:--

    O Kirigirisu! when the clover changes color,
    Are the nights then sad for you as for me that cannot sleep?

    O Kirigirisu! cry not, I pray, so loudly!
    Hearing, my sorrow grows, and the autumn-night is long!


[Illustration: KUSA-HIBARI (_natural size_).]

The _kusa-hibari_, or “Grass-Lark,”--also called _Asa-suzu_, or
“Morning-Bell;” _Yabu-suzu_, or “the Little Bell of the Bamboo-grove;”
_Aki-kazé_, or “Autumn-Wind;” and _Ko-suzu-mushi_, or “the Child of the
Bell-Insect,”--is a day-singer. It is very small,--perhaps the smallest
of the insect-choir, except the _Yamato-suzu_.

[Illustration: YAMATO-SUZU (“LITTLE-BELL OF YAMATO”) (_natural size_).]


The _kin-hibari_, or “Golden Lark” used to be found in great numbers
about the neighborhood of the well-known Shino-bazu-no-iké,--the great
lotos-pond of Uyeno in Tōkyō;--but of late years it has become scarce
there. The _kin-hibari_ now sold in the capital are brought from
Todogawa and Shimura.

[Illustration: KIN-HIBARI (_natural size_).]


The _kuro-hibari_, or “Black Lark,” is rather uncommon, and
comparatively dear. It is caught in the country about Tōkyō, but is
never bred.

[Illustration: KURO-HIBARI (_natural size_).]


There are many varieties of this
night-cricket,--called _kōrogi_ from its
One variety, the _ebi-kōrogi_, or “shrimp-kōrogi,” does not make any
sound. But the _uma-kōrogi_, or “horse-kōrogi;” the _Oni-kōrogi_, or
“Demon-kōrogi;” and the _Emma-kōrogi_, or “Cricket-of-Emma[14] [King
of the Dead],” are all good musicians. The color is blackish-brown, or
black;--the best singing-varieties have curious wavy markings on the

[Illustration: EMMA-KŌROGI (_natural size_).]

An interesting fact regarding the _kōrogi_ is that mention of it is made
in the very oldest collection of Japanese poems known, the _Manyōshu_,
probably compiled about the middle of the eighth century. The following
lines, by an unknown poet, which contain this mention, are therefore
considerably more than eleven hundred years old:--

      Niwa-kusa ni
    Murasamé furité
      Kōrogi no
    Naku oto kikeba
    Aki tsukinikeri.

[“Showers have sprinkled the garden-grass. Hearing the sound of the
crying of the kōrogi, I know that the autumn has come.”]

[Illustration: EMMA-KŌROGI.]


There are several varieties of this extraordinary creature,--also
called onomatopoetically _gatcha-gatcha_,--which is most provokingly
described in dictionaries as “a kind of noisy cricket”! The variety
commonly sold in Tōkyō has a green back, and a yellowish-white abdomen;
but there are also brown and reddish varieties. The _kutsuwamushi_ is
difficult to capture, but easy to breed. As the _tsuku-tsuku-bōshi_
is the most wonderful musician among the sun-loving cicadæ or _semi_,
so the _kutsuwamushi_ is the most wonderful of night-crickets. It
owes its name, which means “The Bridle-bit-Insect,” to its noise,
which resembles the jingling and ringing of the old-fashioned Japanese
bridle-bit (_kutsuwa_). But the sound is really much louder and much
more complicated than ever was the jingling of a single _kutsuwa_;
and the accuracy of the comparison is not easily discerned while the
creature is storming beside you. Without the evidence of one’s own eyes,
it were hard to believe that so small a life could make so prodigious
a noise. Certainly the vibratory apparatus in this insect must be
very complicated. The sound begins with a thin sharp whizzing, as of
leaking steam, and slowly strengthens;--then to the whizzing is suddenly
added a quick dry clatter, as of castanets;--and then, as the whole
machinery rushes into operation, you hear, high above the whizzing and
the clatter, a torrent of rapid ringing tones like the tapping of a
gong. These, the last to begin, are also the first to cease; then the
castanets stop; and finally the whizzing dies;--but the full orchestra
may remain in operation for several hours at a time, without a pause.
Heard from far away at night the sound is pleasant, and is really so
much like the ringing of a bridle-bit, that when you first listen to it
you cannot but feel how much real poetry belongs to the name of this
insect,--celebrated from of old as “playing at ghostly escort in ways
where no man can pass.”

[Illustration: KUTSUWAMUSHI (_natural size_).]

The most ancient poem on the _kutsuwamushi_ is perhaps the following, by
the Lady Idzumi-Shikibu:--

      Waga seko wa
    Koma ni makasété
      Kinikeri to,
    Kiku ni kikasuru
    Kutsuwamushi kana!

--which might be thus freely rendered:

    Listen!--his bridle rings;--that is surely my husband
    Homeward hurrying now--fast as the horse can bear him!...
    Ah! my ear was deceived!--only the Kutsuwamushi!


This insect--also called _kantan-gisu_, and _kantan-no-kirigirisu_,--is
a dark-brown night-cricket. Its note--“_zi-ï-ï-ï-in_” is peculiar: I
can only compare it to the prolonged twang of a bow-string. But this
comparison is not satisfactory, because there is a penetrant metallic
quality in the twang, impossible to describe.

[Illustration: KANTAN (_natural size_).]


Besides poems about the chanting of particular insects, there are
countless Japanese poems, ancient and modern, upon the voices of
night-insects in general,--chiefly in relation to the autumn season. Out
of a multitude I have selected and translated a few of the more famous
only, as typical of the sentiment or fancy of hundreds. Although some
of my renderings are far from literal as to language, I believe that
they express with tolerable faithfulness the thought and feeling of the

    Not for my sake alone, I know, is the autumn’s coming;--
    Yet, hearing the insects sing, at once my heart grows sad.


    Faint in the moonshine sounds the chorus of insect-voices:
    To-night the sadness of autumn speaks in their plaintive tone.

    I never can find repose in the chilly nights of autumn,
    Because of the pain I hear in the insects’ plaintive song.

    How must it be in the fields where the dews are falling thickly!
    In the insect-voices that reach me I hear the tingling of cold.

    Never I dare to take my way through the grass in autumn:
    Should I tread upon insect-voices[15]--what would my feelings be!

    The song is ever the same, but the tones of the insects differ,
    Maybe their sorrows vary, according to their hearts.


    Changed is my childhood’s home--all but those insect-voices:
    I think they are trying to speak of happier days that were.

    These trembling dews on the grass--are they tears for the death of
    Tears of the insect-singers that now so sadly cry?

It might be thought that several of the poems above given were intended
to express either a real or an affected sympathy with imagined
insect-pain. But this would be a wrong interpretation. In most
compositions of this class, the artistic purpose is to suggest, by
indirect means, various phases of the emotion of love,--especially that
melancholy which lends its own passional tone to the aspects and the
voices of nature. The baroque fancy that dew might be insect-tears,
is by its very exaggeration intended to indicate the extravagance of
grief, as well as to suggest that human tears have been freshly shed.
The verses in which a woman declares that her heart has become too
affectionate, since she cannot but feel for the bell-insect during a
heavy shower, really bespeak the fond anxiety felt for some absent
beloved, travelling in the time of the great rains. Again, in the
lines about “treading on insect-voices,” the dainty scruple is uttered
only as a hint of that intensification of feminine tenderness which
love creates. And a still more remarkable example of this indirect
double-suggestiveness is offered by the little poem prefacing this

    “O insect, insect!--think you that Karma can be exhausted by song?”

The Western reader would probably suppose that the insect-condition,
or insect-state-of-being, is here referred to; but the real thought of
the speaker, presumably a woman, is that her own sorrow is the result
of faults committed in former lives, and is therefore impossible to

It will have been observed that a majority of the verses cited refer to
autumn and to the sensations of autumn. Certainly Japanese poets have
not been insensible to the real melancholy inspired by autumn,--that
vague strange annual revival of ancestral pain: dim inherited sorrow
of millions of memories associated through millions of years with the
death of summer;--but in nearly every utterance of this melancholy, the
veritable allusion is to grief of parting. With its color-changes, its
leaf-whirlings, and the ghostly plaint of its insect-voices, autumn
Buddhistically symbolizes impermanency, the certainty of bereavement,
the pain that clings to all desire, and the sadness of isolation.

       *       *       *       *       *

But even if these poems on insects were primarily intended to shadow
amorous emotion, do they not reflect also for us the subtlest influences
of nature,--wild pure nature,--upon imagination and memory? Does not
the place accorded to insect-melody, in the home-life as well as in
the literature of Japan, prove an æsthetic sensibility developed in
directions that yet remain for us almost unexplored? Does not the
shrilling booth of the insect-seller at a night-festival proclaim even
a popular and universal comprehension of things divined in the West
only by our rarest poets:--the pleasure-pain of autumn’s beauty, the
weird sweetness of the voices of the night, the magical quickening of
remembrance by echoes of forest and field? Surely we have something
to learn from the people in whose mind the simple chant of a cricket
can awaken whole fairy-swarms of tender and delicate fancies. We may
boast of being their masters in the mechanical,--their teachers of the
artificial in all its varieties of ugliness;--but in the knowledge of
the natural,--in the feeling of the joy and beauty of earth,--they
exceed us like the Greeks of old. Yet perhaps it will be only when
our blind aggressive industrialism has wasted and sterilized their
paradise,--substituting everywhere for beauty the utilitarian, the
conventional, the vulgar, the utterly hideous,--that we shall begin
with remorseful amazement to comprehend the charm of that which we


[1] _Nowaki_ is the name given to certain destructive storms usually
occurring toward the end of autumn. All the chapters of the Genji
Monogatari have remarkably poetical and effective titles. There is an
English translation, by Mr. Kenchō Suyematsu, of the first seventeen

[2] The Kurando, or Kurōdo, was an official intrusted with the care of
the imperial records.

[3] A _chō_ is about one-fifteenth of a mile.

[4] _Hagi_ is the name commonly given to the bush-clover. _Ominameshi_
is the common term for the _valeriana officinalis_.

[5] That is to say, there are now many people who go every night to the
graveyards, to decorate and prepare the graves before the great Festival
of the Dead.

[6] Most of these names survive in the appellations of well-known
districts of the present Tōkyō.

[7] _Katabira_ is a name given to many kinds of light textures used
for summer-robes. The material is usually hemp, but sometimes, as
in the case referred to here, of fine silk. Some of these robes are
transparent, and very beautiful.--Hakata, in Kyūshū, is still famous for
the silk girdles made there. The fabric is very heavy and strong.

[8] _Amé_ is a nutritive gelatinous extract obtained from wheat and
other substances. It is sold in many forms--as candy, as a syrupy liquid
resembling molasses, as a sweet hot drink, as a solid jelly. Children
are very fond of it. Its principal element is starch-sugar.

[9] Ōyama mountain in Sagami is a great resort of Pilgrims. There
is a celebrated temple there, dedicated to Iwanaga-Himé (“Long-Rock
Princess”), sister of the beautiful Goddess of Fuji. Sekison-San is a
popular name both for the divinity and for the mountain itself.

[10] Prices of the year 1897.

[11] _Calyptotryphus Marmoratus. (?)_

[12] _Homeogryllus Japonicus._

[13] _Locusta Japonica. (?)_

[14] Sanscrit: _Yama_. Probably this name was given to the insect on
account of its large staring eyes. Images of King Emma are always made
with very big and awful eyes.

[15] _Mushi no koe fumu._

A Question in the Zen Texts


My friend opened a thin yellow volume of that marvellous text which
proclaims at sight the patience of the Buddhist engraver. Movable
Chinese types may be very useful; but the best of which they are
capable is ugliness itself when compared with the beauty of the old

“I have a queer story for you,” he said.

“A Japanese story?”


“What is the book?”

“According to Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters of the
title, we call it _Mu-Mon-Kwan_, which means ‘The Gateless Barrier.’
It is one of the books especially studied by the Zen sect, or sect
of Dhyâna. A peculiarity of some of the Dhyâna texts,--this being a
good example,--is that they are not explanatory. They only suggest.
Questions are put; but the student must think out the answers for
himself. He must _think_ them out, but not write them. You know that
Dhyâna represents human effort to reach, through meditation, zones of
thought beyond the range of verbal expression; and any thought once
narrowed into utterance loses all Dhyâna quality.... Well, this story is
supposed to be true; but it is used only for a Dhyâna question. There
are three different Chinese versions of it; and I can give you the
substance of the three.”

Which he did as follows:--


--_The story of the girl Ts’ing, which is told in the
Lui-shwo-li-hwan-ki, cited by the Ching-tang-luh, and commented upon in
the Wu-mu-kwan (called by the Japanese Mu-Mon-Kwan), which is a book of
the Zen sect:_--

       *       *       *       *       *

There lived in Han-yang a man called Chang-Kien, whose child-daughter,
Ts’ing, was of peerless beauty. He had also a nephew called
Wang-Chau,--a very handsome boy. The children played together, and were
fond of each other. Once Kien jestingly said to his nephew:--“Some day
I will marry you to my little daughter.” Both children remembered these
words; and they believed themselves thus betrothed.

When Ts’ing grew up, a man of rank asked for her in marriage; and her
father decided to comply with the demand. Ts’ing was greatly troubled by
this decision. As for Chau, he was so much angered and grieved that he
resolved to leave home, and go to another province. The next day he got
a boat ready for his journey, and after sunset, without bidding farewell
to any one, he proceeded up the river. But in the middle of the night he
was startled by a voice calling to him, “Wait!--it is I!”--and he saw a
girl running along the bank towards the boat. It was Ts’ing. Chau was
unspeakably delighted. She sprang into the boat; and the lovers found
their way safely to the province of Chuh.

In the province of Chuh they lived happily for six years; and they had
two children. But Ts’ing could not forget her parents, and often longed
to see them again. At last she said to her husband:--“Because in former
time I could not bear to break the promise made to you, I ran away
with you and forsook my parents,--although knowing that I owed them all
possible duty and affection. Would it not now be well to try to obtain
their forgiveness?” “Do not grieve yourself about that,” said Chau;--“we
shall go to see them.” He ordered a boat to be prepared; and a few days
later he returned with his wife to Han-yang.

According to custom in such cases, the husband first went to the house
of Kien, leaving Ts’ing alone in the boat. Kien, welcomed his nephew
with every sign of joy, and said:--

“How much I have been longing to see you! I was often afraid that
something had happened to you.”

Chau answered respectfully:--

“I am distressed by the undeserved kindness of your words. It is to beg
your forgiveness that I have come.”

But Kien did not seem to understand. He asked:--

“To what matter do you refer?”

“I feared,” said Chau, “that you were angry with me for having run away
with Ts’ing. I took her with me to the province of Chuh.”

“What Ts’ing was that?” asked Kien.

“Your daughter Ts’ing,” answered Chau, beginning to suspect his
father-in-law of some malevolent design.

“What are you talking about?” cried Kien, with every appearance of
astonishment. “My daughter Ts’ing has been sick in bed all these
years,--ever since the time when you went away.”

“Your daughter Ts’ing,” returned Chau, becoming angry, “has not been
sick. She has been my wife for six years; and we have two children; and
we have both returned to this place only to seek your pardon. Therefore
please do not mock us!”

For a moment the two looked at each other in silence. Then Kien arose,
and motioning to his nephew to follow, led the way to an inner room
where a sick girl was lying. And Chau, to his utter amazement, saw the
face of Ts’ing,--beautiful, but strangely thin and pale.

“She cannot speak,” explained the old man; “but she can understand.” And
Kien said to her, laughingly:--“Chau tells me that you ran away with
him, and that you gave him two children.”

The sick girl looked at Chau, and smiled; but remained silent.

“Now come with me to the river,” said the bewildered visitor to his
father-in-law. “For I can assure you,--in spite of what I have seen in
this house,--that your daughter Ts’ing is at this moment in my boat.”

They went to the river; and there, indeed, was the young wife, waiting.
And seeing her father, she bowed down before him, and besought his

Kien said to her:--

“If you really be my daughter, I have nothing but love for you. Yet
though you seem to be my daughter, there is something which I cannot
understand.... Come with us to the house.”

So the three proceeded toward the house. As they neared it, they saw
that the sick girl,--who had not before left her bed for years,--was
coming to meet them, smiling as if much delighted. And the two Ts’ings
approached each other. But then--nobody could ever tell how--they
suddenly melted into each other, and became one body, one person,
one Ts’ing,--even more beautiful than before, and showing no sign of
sickness or of sorrow.

Kien said to Chau:--

“Ever since the day of your going, my daughter was dumb, and most of
the time like a person who had taken too much wine. Now I know that her
spirit was absent.”

Ts’ing herself said:--

“Really I never knew that I was at home. I saw Chau going away in silent
anger; and the same night I dreamed that I ran after his boat.... But
now I cannot tell which was really I,--the I that went away in the boat,
or the I that stayed at home.”


“That is the whole of the story,” my friend observed. “Now there is a
note about it in the _Mu-Mon-Kwan_ that may interest you. This note
says:--‘The fifth patriarch of the Zen sect once asked a priest,--”_In
the case of the separation of the spirit of the girl Ts’ing, which was
the true Ts’ing?_”’ It was only because of this question that the story
was cited in the book. But the question is not answered. The author only
remarks:--‘If you can decide which was the real Ts’ing, then you will
have learned that to go out of one envelope and into another is merely
like putting up at an inn. But if you have not yet reached this degree
of enlightenment, take heed that you do not wander aimlessly about the
world. Otherwise, when Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind shall suddenly be
dissipated, you will be like a crab with seven hands and eight legs,
thrown into boiling water. And in that time do not say that you were
never told about the _Thing_.’... Now the _Thing_--”

“I do not want to hear about the Thing,” I interrupted,--“nor about the
crab with seven hands and eight legs. I want to hear about the clothes.”

“What clothes?”

“At the time of their meeting, the two Ts’ings would have been
differently dressed,--very differently, perhaps; for one was a maid,
and the other a wife. Did the clothes of the two also blend together?
Suppose that one had a silk robe and the other a robe of cotton, would
these have mixed into a texture of silk and cotton? Suppose that one
was wearing a blue girdle, and the other a yellow girdle, would the
result have been a green girdle?... Or did one Ts’ing simply slip out
of her costume, and leave it on the ground, like the cast-off shell of a

“None of the texts say anything about the clothes,” my friend replied:
“so I cannot tell you. But the subject is quite irrelevant, from the
Buddhist point of view. The doctrinal question is the question of what I
suppose you would call the personality of Ts’ing.”

“And yet it is not answered,” I said.

“It is best answered,” my friend replied, “by not being answered.”

“How so?”

“Because there is no such thing as personality.”

The Literature of the Dead

    Shindaréba koso ikitaré.

    “Only because of having died, does one enter into life.”
        --_Buddhist proverb._


Behind my dwelling, but hidden from view by a very lofty curtain of
trees, there is a Buddhist temple, with a cemetery attached to it. The
cemetery itself is in a grove of pines, many centuries old; and the
temple stands in a great quaint lonesome garden. Its religious name is
_Ji-shō-in_; but the people call it Kobudera, which means the Gnarled,
or Knobby Temple, because it is built of undressed timber,--great logs
of _hinoki_, selected for their beauty or strangeness of shape, and
simply prepared for the builder by the removal of limbs and bark. But
such gnarled and knobby wood is precious: it is of the hardest and most
enduring, and costs far more than common building-material,--as might
be divined from the fact that the beautiful alcoves and the choicest
parts of Japanese interiors are finished with wood of a similar kind.
To build Kobudera was an undertaking worthy of a prince; and, as a
matter of history, it was a prince who erected it, for a place of family
worship. There is a doubtful tradition that two designs were submitted
to him by the architect, and that he chose the more fantastic one under
the innocent impression that undressed timber would prove cheap. But
whether it owes its existence to a mistake or not, Kobudera remains one
of the most interesting temples of Japan. The public have now almost
forgotten its existence;--but it was famous in the time of Iyemitsu;
and its appellation, Ji-shō-in, was taken from the kaimyō of one of the
great Shogun’s ladies, whose superb tomb may be seen in its cemetery.
Before Meiji, the temple was isolated among woods and fields; but the
city has now swallowed up most of the green spaces that once secluded
it, and has pushed out the ugliest of new streets directly in front of
its gate.

[Illustration: GATE OF KOBUDERA]

This gate--a structure of gnarled logs, with a tiled and tilted Chinese
roof--is a fitting preface to the queer style of the temple itself.
From either gable-end of the gate-roof, a demon-head, grinning under
triple horns, looks down upon the visitor.[16] Within, except at the
hours of prayer, all is green silence. Children do not play in the
court--perhaps because the temple is a private one. The ground is
everywhere hidden by a fine thick moss of so warm a color, that the
brightest foliage of the varied shrubbery above it looks sombre by
contrast; and the bases of walls, the pedestals of monuments, the
stonework of the bell-tower, the masonry of the ancient well, are
muffled with the same luminous growth. Maples and pines and cryptomerias
screen the façade of the temple; and, if your visit be in autumn, you
may find the whole court filled with the sweet heavy perfume of the
_mokusei_[17]-blossom. After having looked at the strange temple, you
would find it worth while to enter the cemetery, by the black gate on
the west side of the court.

       *       *       *       *       *

I like to wander in that cemetery,--partly because in the twilight of
its great trees, and in the silence of centuries which has gathered
about them, one can forget the city and its turmoil, and dream out of
space and time,--but much more because it is full of beauty, and of the
poetry of great faith. Indeed of such poetry it possesses riches quite
exceptional. Each Buddhist sect has its own tenets, rites, and forms;
and the special character of these is reflected in the iconography and
epigraphy of its burial-grounds,--so that for any experienced eye a
Tendai graveyard is readily distinguishable from a Shingon graveyard,
or a Zen graveyard from one belonging to a Nichiren congregation. But
at Kobudera the inscriptions and the sculptures peculiar to several
Buddhist sects can be studied side by side. Founded for the Hokké,
or Nichiren rite, the temple nevertheless passed, in the course of
generations, under the control of other sects--the last being the
Tendai;--and thus its cemetery now offers a most interesting medley of
the emblems and the epitaphic formularies of various persuasions. It was
here that I first learned, under the patient teaching of an Oriental
friend, something about the Buddhist literature of the dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

No one able to feel beauty could refuse to confess the charm of the
old Buddhist cemeteries,--with their immemorial trees, their evergreen
mazes of shrubbery trimmed into quaintest shapes, the carpet-softness
of their mossed paths, the weird but unquestionable art of their
monuments. And no great knowledge of Buddhism is needed to enable you,
even at first sight, to understand something of this art. You would
recognize the lotos chiselled upon tombs or water-tanks, and would
doubtless observe that the designs of the pedestals represent a lotos
of eight petals,--though you might not know that these eight petals
symbolize the Eight Intelligences. You would recognize the _manji_,
or svastika, figuring the Wheel of the Law,--though ignorant of its
relation to the Mahâyâna philosophy. You would perhaps be able to
recognize also the images of certain Buddhas,--though not aware of the
meaning of their attitudes or emblems in relation to mystical ecstasy
or to the manifestation of the Six Supernatural Powers. And you would
be touched by the simple pathos of the offerings,--the incense and the
flowers before the tombs, the water poured out for the dead,--even
though unable to divine the deeper pathos of the beliefs that make the
cult. But unless an excellent Chinese scholar as well as a Buddhist
philosopher, all book-knowledge of the great religion would still
leave you helpless in a world of riddles. The marvellous texts,--the
exquisite Chinese scriptures chiselled into the granite of tombs, or
limned by a master-brush upon the smooth wood of the _sotoba_,--will
yield their secrets only to an interpreter of no common powers. And
the more you become familiar with their aspect, the more the mystery
of them tantalizes,--especially after you have learned that a literal
translation of them would mean, in the majority of cases, exactly

       *       *       *       *       *

What strange thoughts have been thus recorded and yet concealed? Are
they complex and subtle as the characters that stand for them? Are
they beautiful also like those characters,--with some undreamed-of,
surprising beauty, such as might inform the language of another planet?


As for subtlety and complexity, much of this mortuary literature is
comparable to the Veil of Isis. Behind the mystery of the text--in which
almost every character has two readings--there is the mystery of the
phrase; and again behind this are successions of riddles belonging to a
gnosticism older than all the wisdom of the Occident, and deep as the
abysses of Space. Fortunately the most occult texts are also the least
interesting, and bear little relation to the purpose of this essay.
The majority are attached, not to the sculptured, but to the written
and impermanent literature of cemeteries,--not to the stone monuments,
but to the sotoba: those tall narrow laths of unpainted wood which are
planted above the graves at fixed, but gradually increasing intervals,
during a period of one hundred years.[18]


(_The upper characters are “BONTI”--modified Sanskrit_)]

The uselessness of any exact translation of these inscriptions may be
exemplified by a word-for-word rendering of two sentences written upon
the sotoba used by the older sects. What meaning can you find in such
a term as “Law-sphere-substance-nature-wisdom,” or such an invocation
as “Ether, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth!”--for an invocation it really
is? To understand these words one must first know that, in the
doctrine of the mystical sects, the universe is composed of Five Great
Elements which are identical with Five Buddhas; that each of the Five
Buddhas contains the rest; and that the Five are One by essence, though
varying in their phenomenal manifestations. The name of an element has
thus three significations. The word Fire, for example, means flame as
objective appearance; it means flame also as the manifestation of a
particular Buddha; and it likewise means the special quality of wisdom
or power attributed to that Buddha. Perhaps this doctrine will be more
easily understood by the help of the following Shingon classification of
the Five Elements in their Buddhist relations:--

    I. _Hō-kai-tai-shō-chi_

    (Sansc. Dhârma-dhâtu-prakrit-gñâna), or
    “Law-sphere-substance-nature-wisdom,”--signifying the wisdom
    that becomes the substance of things. This is the element Ether.
    Ether personified is Dai-Nichi-Nyōrai, the “Great Sun-Buddha”
    (Mahâvairokana Tathâgata), who “holds the seal of Wisdom.”

    II. _Dai-en-kyō-chi_

    (Âdarsana-gñâna), or “Great-round-mirror-wisdom,”--that is to
    say the divine power making images manifest. This is the element
    Earth. Earth personified is Ashuku Nyōrai, the “Immovable Tathâgata”

    III. _Byō-dō-shō-chi_

    (Samatâ-gñâna), “Even-equal-nature-wisdom,”--that is, the
    wisdom making no distinction of persons or of things. The element
    Fire. Personified, Fire is Hō-shō Nyōrai, or “Gem-Birth” Buddha
    (Ratnasambhava Tathâgata), presiding over virtue and happiness.

    IV. _Myō-kwan-zatsu-chi_

    “Wondrously-observing-considering-wisdom;”--that is, the wisdom
    distinguishing clearly truth from error, destroying doubts, and
    presiding over the preaching of the Law. The element Water. Water
    personified is Amida Nyōrai, the Buddha of Immeasurable Light
    (Amitâbha Tathâgata).

    V. _Jō-shō-sa-chi_

    (Krityânushthâna-gñâna), the
    “Wisdom-of-accomplishing-what-is-to-be-done;”--that is to
    say, the divine wisdom that helps beings to reach Nirvana.
    The element Air. Air personified is Fu-kū-jō-ju, the
    “Unfailing-of-Accomplishment,”--more commonly called Fuku-Nyōrai
    (Amoghasiddhi, or Sâkyamuni).[19]

Now the doctrine that each of the Five Buddhas contains the rest, and
that all are essentially One, is symbolized in these texts by an
extraordinary use of characters called _Bon-ji_,--which are recognizably
Sanscrit letters. The name of each element can be written with any one
of four characters,--all having for Buddhists the same meaning, though
differing as to sound and form. Thus the characters standing for Fire
would read, according to Japanese pronunciation, _Ra_, _Ran_, _Raän_,
and _Raku_;--and the characters signifying Ether, _Kya_, _Ken_, _Keën_,
and _Kyaku_. By different combinations of the twenty characters making
the five sets, different supernatural powers and different Buddhas
are indicated; and the indication is further helped by an additional
symbolic character, called _Shū-ji_ or “seed-word,” placed immediately
after the names of the elements. The reader will now comprehend the
meaning of the invocatory “Ether, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth!” and of the
strange names of divine wisdom written upon sotoba; but the enigmas
offered by even a single sotoba may be much more complicated than the
foregoing examples suggest. There are unimaginable acrostics; there are
rules, varying according to sect, for the position of texts in relation
to the points of the compass; and there are kabalisms based upon the
multiple values of certain Chinese ideographs. The whole subject of
esoteric inscriptions would require volumes to explain; and the reader
will not be sorry, I fancy, to abandon it at this point in favor of
texts possessing a simpler and a more humane interest.

The really attractive part of Buddhist cemetery-literature mostly
consists of sentences taken from the sûtras or the sastras; and the
attraction is due not only to the intrinsic beauty of the faith which
these sentences express, but also to the fact that they will be found
to represent, in epitome, a complete body of Buddhist doctrine. Like
the mystical inscriptions above-mentioned, they belong to the sotoba,
not to the gravestones; but, while the invocations usually occupy the
upper and front part of the sotoba, these sutra-texts are commonly
written upon the back. In addition to scriptural and invocatory texts,
each sotoba bears the name of the giver, the kaimyō of the dead, and the
name of a commemorative anniversary. Sometimes a brief prayer is also
inscribed, or a statement of the pious purpose inspiring the erection of
the sotoba. Before considering the scripture-texts proper, in relation
to their embodiment of doctrine, I submit examples of the general
character and plan of sotoba inscriptions. They are written upon both
sides of the wood, be it observed; but I have not thought it necessary
to specify which texts belong to the front, and which to the back of the
sotoba,--since the rules concerning such position differ according to



    _Ether, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth!--Hail to the Sutra of the
    Lotos of the Good Law!_

    (Commemorative text.)

    To-day, the service of the third year has been performed in
    order that our lay-brother [_kaimyō_] may be enabled to cut off the
    bonds of illusion, to open the Eye of Enlightenment, to remain free
    from all pain, and to enter into bliss.

    (Sastra text.)


    Even this body [of flesh] by the virtue of the Sutra of the
    Excellent Law, enters into Buddhahood.



_Hail to the Sutra of the Lotos of the Good Law!_

    (Commemorative text.)

    The rite of feeding the hungry spirits having been fulfilled,
    and the service for the dead having been performed, this sotoba is
    set up in commemoration of the service and the offerings made with
    prayer for the salvation of Buddha on behalf of--(_kaimyō_ follows).

    (Prayer--with English translation.)

    _Gan i shi kudoku
    Fu-gyū o issai
    Gatō yo shujō
    Kai-gu jō butsudo._

    By virtue of this good action I beseech that the merit of it may
    be extended to all, and that we and all living beings may fulfil the
    Way of Buddha.[20]

_The fifth day of the seventh month of the thirtieth year of Meiji, by
---- ----, this sotoba has been set up._



_Hail to the Buddha Amida!_

    (Commemorative mention.)

    This for the sake of--(_here kaimyō_ follows).

    (Sutra text.)

_The Buddha of the Golden Mouth, who possesses the
Great-Round-Mirror-Wisdom,[21] has said: “The glorious light of Amida
illuminates all the worlds of the Ten Directions, and takes into itself
and never abandons all living beings who fix their thoughts upon that


    (Sastra text.)

_The Dai-en-kyō-chi-kyō declares:--“By entering deeply into meditation,
one may behold the Buddhas of the Ten Directions.”_

    (Commemorative text.)

    That the noble Elder Sister[22] Chi-Shō-In-Kō-Un-Tei-Myō,[23]
    now dwelling in the House of Shining Wisdom, may instantly attain to


    Let whomsoever looks upon this sotoba be forever delivered from
    the Three Evil Ways.[25]


_In the thirtieth year of Meiji, on the first day of the fifth month, by
the house of Inouyé, this sotoba has been set up._

The foregoing will doubtless suffice as specimens of the ordinary
forms of inscription. The Buddha praised or invoked is always the
Buddha especially revered by the sect from whose sutra or sastra the
quotation is chosen;--sometimes also the divine power of a Bodhisattva
is extolled, as in the following Zen inscription:--

    _“The Sutra of Kwannon says:--‘In all the provinces of all the
    countries in the Ten Directions, there is not even one temple where
    Kwannon is not self-revealed.’”_

Sometimes the scripture text more definitely assumes the character of a
praise-offering, as the following juxtaposition suggests:--

    “_The Buddha of Immeasurable Light illuminates all worlds in the
    Ten Directions of Space._”

    This for the sake of the swift salvation into Buddhahood of our
    lay-brother named the Great-Secure-Retired-Scholar.

Sometimes we also find a verse of praise or an invocation addressed to
the apotheosized spirit of the founder of the sect,--a common example
being furnished by the sotoba of the Shingon rite:--

    “_Hail to the Great Teacher Haijō-Kongō!_”[26]

Rarely the little prayer for the salvation of the dead assumes, as in
the following beautiful example, the language of unconscious poetry:--

    “_This for the sake of our noble Elder Sister ----. May the
    Lotos of Bliss by virtue of these prayers be made to bloom for her,
    and to bear the fruit of Buddhahood!_”[27]

But usually the prayers are of the simplest, and differ from each other
only in the use of peculiar Buddhist terms:--

    --“This for the sake of the true happiness of our
    lay-brother--[_kaimyō_],--that he may obtain the Supreme Perfect

    --“This tower is set up for the sake of ----, that he may obtain
    complete Sambodhi.”[28]

    --“This precious tower and these offerings for the sake of ----
    ----,--that he may obtain the _Anattra-Sammyak-Sambodhi_.”[29]

One other subject of interest belonging to the merely commemorative
texts of sotoba remains to be mentioned,--the names of certain Buddhist
services for the dead. There are two classes of such services: those
performed within one hundred days after death, and those celebrated at
fixed intervals during a term of one hundred years,--on the 1st, 2d,
7th, 13th, 17th, 24th, 33d, 50th, and 100th anniversaries of the death.
In the Zen rite these commemorative services--(perhaps we might call
them masses)--have singular mystical names by which they are recorded
upon the sotoba of the sect,--such as Lesser Happiness, Greater
Happiness, Broad Repose, The Bright Caress, and The Great Caress.

But we shall now turn to the study of the scripture-texts proper,--those
citations from sûtra or sastra which form the main portion of a
sotoba-writing; expounding the highest truth of Buddhist belief, or
speaking the deepest thought of Eastern philosophy.


At the beginning of my studies in the Kobudera cemetery, I was not
less impressed by the quiet cheerfulness of the sotoba-texts, than by
their poetry and their philosophy. In none did I find even a shadow
of sadness: the greater number were utterances of a faith that seemed
to me wider and deeper than our own,--sublime proclamations of the
eternal and infinite nature of Thought, the unity of all mind, and the
certainty of universal salvation. And other surprises awaited me in
this strange literature. Texts or fragments of texts, that at first
rendering appeared of the simplest, would yield to learned commentary
profundities of significance absolutely startling. Phrases, seemingly
artless, would suddenly reveal a dual suggestiveness,--a two-fold
idealism,--a beauty at once exoteric and mystical. Of this latter
variety of inscription the following is a good example:--

    “_The flower having bloomed last night, the World has become

In the language of the higher Buddhism, this means that through death
a spirit has been released from the darkness of illusion, even as
the perfume of a blossom is set free at the breaking of the bud, and
that the divine Absolute, or World of Law, is refreshed by the new
presence, as a whole garden might be made fragrant by the blooming of
some precious growth. But in the popular language of Buddhism, the same
words signify that in the Lotos-Lake of Paradise another magical flower
has opened for the Apparitional Rebirth into highest bliss of the being
loved and lost on earth, and that Heaven rejoices for the advent of
another Buddha.

       *       *       *       *       *

But I desire rather to represent the general result of my studies, than
to point out the special beauties of this epitaphic literature: and my
purpose will be most easily attained by arranging and considering the
inscriptions in a certain doctrinal order.

A great variety of sotoba-texts refer, directly or indirectly, to the
Lotos-Flower Paradise of Amida,--or, as it is more often called, the
Paradise of the West. The following are typical:--

    “_The Amida-Kyō says:--‘All who enter into that country enter
    likewise into that state of virtue from which there can be no
    turning back.’_”[31]

    “_The Text of Gold proclaims:--‘In that world they receive
    bliss only: therefore that world is called Gokuraku,--exceeding

    “_Hail unto the Lord Amida Buddha! The Golden Mouth has
    said,--‘All living beings that fix their thoughts upon the Buddha
    shall be received and welcomed into his Paradise;--never shall they
    be forsaken.’_”[33]

But texts like these, though dear to popular faith, make no appeal to
the higher Buddhism, which admits heaven as a temporary condition only,
not to be desired by the wise. Indeed, the Mahâyâna texts, describing
Sukhâvatî, themselves suggest its essentially illusive character,--a
world of jewel-lakes and perfumed airs and magical birds, but a world
also in which the voices of winds and waters and singers perpetually
preach the unreality of self and the impermanency of all things. And
even the existence of this Western Paradise might seem to be denied in
other sotoba-texts of deeper significance,--such as this:--

    “_Originally there is no East or West: where then can South or
    North be?_”[34]

“Originally,”--that is to say, in relation to the Infinite. The
relations and the ideas of the Conditioned cease to exist for the
Unconditioned. Yet this truth does not really imply denial of other
worlds of relation,--states of bliss to which the strong may rise, and
states of pain to which the weak may descend. It is a reminder only. All
conditions are impermanent, and so, in the profounder sense, unreal.
The Absolute,--the Supreme Buddha,--is the sole Reality. This doctrine
appears in many sotoba-inscriptions:--

    “_The Blue Mountain of itself remains eternally unmoved: the
    White Clouds come of themselves and go._”[35]

By “the Blue Mountain” is meant the Sole Reality of Mind;--by “the White
Clouds,” the phenomenal universe. Yet the universe exists but as a dream
of Mind:--

    “_If any one desire to obtain full knowledge of all the
    Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future, let him learn
    to comprehend the true nature of the World of Law. Then will he
    perceive that all things are but the production of Mind._”[36]

    “_By the learning and the practice of the True Doctrine, the
    Non-Apparent becomes [for us] the only Reality._”[37]

The universe is a phantom, and a phantom likewise the body of man,
together with all emotions, ideas, and memories that make up the complex
of his sensuous Self. But is this evanescent Self the whole of man’s
inner being? Not so, proclaim the sotoba:--

    “_All living beings have the nature of Buddha. The Nyōrai,[38]
    eternally living, is alone unchangeable._”[39]

    “_The Kegon-Kyō[40] declares:--‘In all living creatures there
    exists, and has existed from the beginning, the Real-Law Nature: all
    by their nature contain the original essence of Buddha.’_”

Sharing the nature of the Unchangeable, we share the Eternal Reality. In
the highest sense, man also is divine:--

    “_The Mind becomes Buddha: the Mind itself is Buddha._”[41]

    “_In the Engaku-Kyō[42] it is written: ‘Now for the first
    time I perceive that all living beings have the original
    Buddha-nature,--wherefore Birth and Death and Nirvana have become
    for me as a dream of the night that is gone.’_”

Yet what of the Buddhas who successively melt into Nirvana, and
nevertheless “return in their order”? Are they, too, phantoms?--is
their individuality also unreal? Probably the question admits of many
different answers,--since there is a Buddhist Realism as well as a
Buddhist Idealism; but, for present purposes, the following famous text
is a sufficient reply:--


    “_Hail to all the Buddhas of the Three Existences,[43] who are
    but one in the One Mind!_”[44]

In relation to the Absolute, no difference exists even between gods and

    “_The Golden Verse of the Jō-sho-sa-chi[45] says:--‘This
    doctrine is equal and alike for all; there is neither superior nor
    inferior, neither above nor below.’_”

Nay, according to a still more celebrated text, there is not even any
difference of personality:--


    “_The ‘I’ and the ‘Not-I’ are not different in the World of Law:
    both are favored alike._”[46]

And a still more wonderful text--(to my thinking, the most remarkable of
all Buddhist texts)--declares that the world itself, phantom though it
be, is yet not different from Mind:--


    “_Grass, trees, countries, the earth itself,--all these shall
    enter wholly into Buddhahood._”[47]

Literally, “shall become Buddha;” that is, they shall enter into
Buddhahood or Nirvana. All that we term matter will be transmuted
therefore into Mind,--Mind with the attributes of Infinite Sentiency,
Infinite Vision, and Infinite Knowledge. As phenomenon, matter is
unreal; but transcendentally it belongs by its ultimate nature to the
Sole Reality.

Such a philosophical position is likely to puzzle the average reader. To
call matter and mind but two aspects of the Ultimate Reality will not
seem irrational to students of Herbert Spencer. But to say that matter
is a phenomenon, an illusion, a dream, explains nothing;--as phenomenon
it exists, and having a destiny attributed to it, must be considered
objectively. Equally unsatisfying is the statement that phenomena
are aggregates of Karma. What is the nature of the particles of the
aggregate? Or, in plainest language, what is the illusion made of?

Not in the original Buddhist scriptures, and still less in the
literature of Buddhist cemeteries, need the reply be sought. Such
questions are dealt with in the sastras rather than in the sûtras;--also
in various Japanese commentaries upon both. A friend has furnished me
with some very curious and unfamiliar Shingon texts containing answers
to the enigma.

The Shingon sect, I may observe, is a mystical sect, which especially
proclaims the identity of mind and substance, and boldly carries out the
doctrine to its furthest logical consequences. Its founder and father
Kū-kai, better known as Kōbōdaishi, declared in his book _Hizōki_ that
matter is not different in essence from spirit. “As to the doctrine
of grass, trees, and things non-sentient becoming Buddhas” he writes,
“I say that the refined forms [_ultimate nature_] of spiritual bodies
consist of the Five Great Elements; that Ether[48] consists of the Five
Great Elements; and that the refined forms of bodies spiritual, of
ether, of plants, of trees, consequently pervade all space. This ether,
these plants and trees, are themselves spiritual bodies. To the eye of
flesh, plants and trees appear to be gross matter. But to the eye of
the Buddha _they are composed of minute spiritual entities_. Therefore,
even without any change in their substance, there can be no error or
impropriety in our calling them Buddhas.”

The use of the term “non-sentient” in the foregoing would seem to
involve a contradiction; but this is explained away by a dialogue in the
book _Shi-man-gi_:--

    Q.--Are not grass and trees sometimes called sentient?

    A.--They can be so called.

    Q.--But they have also been called non-sentient: how can they be
    called sentient?

    A.--In all substance from the beginning exists the impress of
    the wisdom-nature of the Nyōrai (_Tathâgata_): therefore to call
    such things sentient is not error.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Potentially sentient,” the reader might conclude; but this conclusion
would be wrong. The Shingon thought is not of a potential sentiency,
but of a latent sentiency which although to us non-apparent and
non-imaginable, is nevertheless both real and actual. Commenting upon
the words of Kōbōdaishi above cited, the great priest Yū-kai not only
reiterates the opinion of his master, but asserts that it is absurd
to deny that plants, trees, and what we call inanimate objects, can
practise virtue! “Since Mind,” he declares, “pervades the whole World
of Law, the grasses, plants, trees, and earth pervaded by it must all
have mind, and must turn their mind to Buddhahood and practise virtue.
Do not doubt the doctrine of our sect, regarding the Non-Duality of the
Pervading and the Pervaded, merely because of the distinction made in
common parlance between Matter and Mind.” As for _how_ plants or stones
can practise virtue, the sûtras indeed have nothing to say. But that is
because the sûtras, being intended for man, teach only what man should
know and do.

The reader will now, perhaps, be better able to follow out the really
startling Buddhist hypothesis of the nature of matter to its more than
startling conclusion. (It must not be contemned because of the fantasy
of five elements; for these are declared to be only modes of one
ultimate.) All forms of what we call matter are really but aggregates
of spiritual units; and all apparent differences of substance represent
only differences of combination among these units. The differences
of combination are caused by special tendencies and affinities of
the units;--the tendency of each being the necessary result of its
particular evolutional history--(using the term “evolutional” in a
purely ethical sense). All integrations of apparent substance,--the
million suns and planets of the universe,--represent only the affinities
of such ghostly ultimates; and every human act or thought registers
itself through enormous time by some knitting or loosening of forces
working for good or evil.

       *       *       *       *       *

Grass, trees, earth, and all things seem to us what they are not, simply
because the eye of flesh is blind. Life itself is a curtain hiding
reality,--somewhat as the vast veil of day conceals from our sight the
countless orbs of Space. But the texts of the cemeteries proclaim that
the purified mind, even while prisoned within the body, may enter for
moments of ecstasy into union with the Supreme:--

    “_The One Bright Moon illuminates the mind in the meditation
    called Zenjō._”[49]

The “One Bright Moon” is the Supreme Buddha. By the pure of heart He may
even be seen:--

    “_Hail unto the Wondrous Law! By attaining to the state of
    single-mindedness we behold the Buddha._”[50]

Greater delight there is none:--

    “_Incomparable the face of the Nyōrai,--surpassing all beauty in
    this world!_”[51]

But to see the face of one Buddha is to see all:--

    “_The Dai-en-kyō-chi-kyō[52] says:--‘By entering deeply into the
    meditation Zenjō, one may see all the Buddhas of the Ten Directions
    of Space.’_”

    “_The Golden Mouth has said:--‘He whose mind can discern
    the being of one Buddha, may easily behold three, four, five
    Buddhas,--nay, all the Buddhas of the Three Existences.’_”[53]

Which mystery is thus explained:--

    “_The Myō-kwan-satsu-chi-kyō[54] has said:--‘The mind that detaches
    itself from all things becomes the very mind of Buddha.’_”[55]

Visitors to the older Buddhist temples of Japan can scarcely fail to
notice the remarkable character of the gilded aureoles attached to
certain images. These aureoles, representing circles, disks, or ovals
of glory, contain numbers of little niches shaped like archings or
whirls of fire, each enshrining a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. A verse of
the Amitâyur-Dhyâna Sûtra might have suggested this symbolism to the
Japanese sculptors:--“_In the halo of that Buddha there are Buddhas
innumerable as the sands of the Ganga._”[56] Icon and verse alike
express that doctrine of the One in Many suggested by the foregoing
sotoba-texts; and the assurance that he who sees one Buddha can see all,
may further be accepted as signifying that he who perceives one great
truth fully, will be able to perceive countless truths.

But even to the spiritually blind the light must come at last. A host
of cemetery texts proclaim the Infinite Love that watches all, and the
certainty of ultimate and universal salvation:--

    “_Possessing all the Virtues and all the Powers, the Eyes of the
    Infinite Compassion behold all living creatures._”[57]

    “_The Kongō-takara-tō-mei[58] proclaims:--‘All living beings in
    the Six States of Existence[59] shall be delivered from the bonds of
    attachment; their minds and their bodies alike shall be freed from
    desire; and they shall obtain the Supreme Enlightenment.’_”

    “_The Sûtra says:--‘Changing the hearts of all beings, I cause
    them to enter upon the Way of Buddhahood.’_”[60]

Yet the supreme conquest can be achieved only by self-effort:--

    “_Through the destruction of the Three Poisons[61] one may rise
    above the Three States of Existence._”

The Three Existences signify time past, present, and future. To rise
above--(more literally, to “emerge from”)--the Three Existences means
therefore to pass beyond Space and Time,--to become one with the
Infinite. The conquest of Time is indeed possible only for a Buddha; but
all shall become Buddhas. Even a woman, while yet a woman, may reach
Buddhahood, as this Nichiren text bears witness, inscribed above the
grave of a girl:--


    “_All beheld from afar the Dragon Maiden become a Buddha._”

The reference is to the beautiful legend of Sâgara, the daughter of the
Nâga-king, in the _Myō-hō-rengé-kyō_.[62]


Though not representing, nor even suggesting, the whole range of
sotoba-literature, the foregoing texts will sufficiently indicate the
quality of its philosophical interest. The inscriptions of the _haka_,
or tombs, have another kind of interest; but before treating of these,
a few words should be said about the tombs themselves. I cannot attempt
detail, because any description of the various styles of such monuments
would require a large and profusely illustrated volume; while the
study of their sculptures belongs to the enormous subject of Buddhist
iconography,--foreign to the purpose of this essay.

There are hundreds,--probably thousands,--of different forms of
Buddhist funeral monuments,--ranging from the unhewn boulder, with a
few ideographs scratched on it, of the poorest village-graveyard, to
the complicated turret (_kagé-kio_) enclosing a shrine with images, and
surmounted with a spire of umbrella-shaped disks or parasols (Sanscrit:
_tchâtras_),--possibly representing the old Chinese stûpa. The most
common class of _haka_ are plain. A large number of the better class
have lotos-designs chiselled upon some part of them:--either the
pedestal is sculptured so as to represent lotos-petals; or a single
blossom is cut in relief or intaglio on the face of the tablet; or--(but
this is rare)--a whole lotos-plant, leaves and flowers, is designed
in relief upon one or two sides of the monument. In the costly class
of tombs symbolizing the Five Buddhist Elements, the eight-petalled
lotos-symbol may be found repeated, with decorative variations, upon
three or four portions of their elaborate structure. Occasionally
we find beautiful reliefs upon tombstones,--images of Buddhas or
Bodhisattvas; and not unfrequently a statue of Jizō may be seen erected
beside a grave. But the sculptures of this class are mostly old;--the
finest pieces in the Kobudera cemetery, for example, were executed
between two and three hundred years ago. Finally I may observe that the
family crest or _mon_ of the dead is cut upon the front of the tomb, and
sometimes also upon the little stone tank set before it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The inscriptions very seldom include any texts from the holy books. On
the front of the monument, below the chiselled crest, the kaimyō is
graven, together, perhaps, with a single mystical character--Sanscrit
or Chinese; on the left side is usually placed the record of the date
of death; and on the right, the name of the person or family erecting
the tomb. Such is now, at least, the ordinary arrangement; but there
are numerous exceptions; and as the characters are most often disposed
in vertical columns, it is quite easy to put all the inscriptions upon
the face of a very narrow monument. Occasionally the real name is also
cut upon some part of the stone,--together, perhaps, with some brief
record of the memorable actions of the dead. Excepting the kaimyō, and
the sect-invocation often accompanying it, the inscriptions upon the
ordinary class of tombs are secular in character; and the real interest
of such epigraphy is limited to the kaimyō. By _kai_-myō (_sîla_-name)
is meant the Buddhist name given to the spirit of the dead, according
to the custom of all sects except the Ikkō or Shinshū. In a special
sense the term _kai_, or sîla, refers to precepts of conduct[63]; in a
general sense it might be rendered as “salvation by works.” But the
Shinshū allows no _kai_ to any mortal; it does not admit the doctrine
of immediate salvation by works, but only by faith in Amida; and the
posthumous appellations which it bestows are therefore called not
_kai_-myō, but _hō-myō_, or “Law-names.”

Before Meiji the social rank occupied by any one during life
was suggested by the kaimyō. The use, with a kaimyō, of the two
characters reading _in den_, and signifying “temple-dweller,”
or “mansion-dweller,”--or of the more common single character
_in_, signifying “temple” or “mansion,” was a privilege reserved
to the nobility and gentry. Class-distinctions were further
indicated by suffixes. _Koji_,--a term partly corresponding to our
“lay-brother,”--and _Daishi_, “great elder-sister,” were honorifically
attached to the kaimyō of the samurai and the aristocracy; while the
simpler appellations of _Shinshi_ and _Shinnyo_, respectively signifying
“faithful [believing] man,” “faithful woman,” followed the kaimyō of
the humble. These forms are still used; but the distinctions they once
maintained have mostly passed away, and the privilege of the knightly
“_in den_,” and its accompaniments, is free to any one willing to pay
for it. At all times the words _Dōji_ and _Dōnyo_ seem to have been
attached to the kaimyō of children. _Dō_, alone, means a lad, but
when combined with _ji_ or _nyo_ it means “child” in the adjectival
sense;--so that we may render _Dōji_ as “Child-son,” and _Dōnyo_ as
“Child-daughter.” Children are thus called who die before reaching
their fifteenth year,--the majority-year by the old samurai code; a lad
of fifteen being deemed fit for war-service. In the case of children
who die within a year after birth, the terms _Gaini_ and _Gainyo_
occasionally replace _Dōji_ and _Dōnyo_. The syllable _Gai_ here
represents a Chinese character meaning “suckling.”

Different Buddhists sects have different formulas for the composition
of the kaimyō and its addenda;--but this subject would require a whole
special treatise; and I shall mention only a few sectarian customs.
The Shingon sect sometimes put a Sanscrit character--the symbol
of a Buddha--before their kaimyō;--the Shin head theirs with an
abbreviation of the holy name Sakyamuni;--the Nichiren often preface
their inscriptions with the famous invocation, _Namu myō hō rengé kyō_
(“Hail to the Sutra of the Lotos of the Good Law!”),--sometimes followed
by the words _Senzo daidai_ (“forefathers of the generations”);--the
Jōdo, like the Ikkō, use an abbreviation of the name Sakyamuni, or,
occasionally, the invocation _Namu Amida Butsu!_--and they compose their
four-character kaimyō with the aid of two ideographs signifying “honour”
or “fame;”--the Zen sect contrive that the first and the last character
of the kaimyō, when read together, shall form a particular Buddhist
term, or mystical phrase,--except when the kaimyō consists of only two

Probably the word “mansion” in kaimyō-inscriptions would suggest to
most Western readers the idea of heavenly mansions. But the fancy would
be at fault. The word has no celestial signification; yet the history
of its epitaphic use is curious enough. Anciently, at the death of any
illustrious man, a temple was erected for the special services due to
his spirit, and also for the conservation of relics or memorials of him.
Confucianism introduced into Japan the _ihai_, or mortuary tablet,
called by the Chinese _shin-shu_;[64] and a portion of the temple was
set apart to serve as a chapel for the _ihai_, and the ancestral cult.
Any such memorial temple was called _in_, or “mansion,”--doubtless
because the august spirit was believed to occupy it at certain
periods;--and the term yet survives in the names of many celebrated
Buddhist temples,--such as the Chion-In, of Kyōtō. With the passing
of time, this custom was necessarily modified; for as privileges were
extended and aristocracies multiplied, the erection of a separate temple
to each notable presently became impossible. Buddhism met the difficulty
by conferring upon every individual of distinction the posthumous title
of _in-den_,--and affixing to this title the name of an imaginary
temple or “mansion.” So to-day, in the vast majority of kaimyō, the
character _in_ refers only to the temple that would have been built had
circumstance permitted, but now exists only in the pious desire of those
who love and reverence the departed.


(The relief represents Seishi Bosatsu--Bodhisattva Mahâsthâma--in
meditation. It is 187 years old. The white patches on the surface are
lichen growths)]

Nevertheless the poetry of these _in_-names does possess some
real meaning. They are nearly all of them names such as would be
given to real Buddhist temples,--names of virtues and sanctities and
meditations,--names of ecstasies and powers and splendors and luminous
immeasurable unfoldings,--names of all ways and means of escape from the
Six States of Existence and the sorrow of “peopling the cemeteries again
and again.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The general character and arrangement of kaimyō can best be understood
by the aid of a few typical specimens. The first example is from a
beautiful tomb in the cemetery of Kobudera, which is sculptured with
a relief representing the Bodhisattva Mahâsthâma (Seishi Bosatsu)
meditating. All the text in this instance has been cut upon the face of
the monument, to left and right of the icon. Transliterated into Romaji
it reads thus:--


    _Tei-Shō-In_, HŌ-SŌ MYŌ-SHIN, _Daishi_.


    --Shōtoku Ni, Jin shin Shimotsuki, jiu-ku nichi.


    --_Great Elder-Sister_,
    Mansion of the Pine of Chastity_.

    --The nineteenth day of the Month of Frost,[65] second year of
    Shōtoku,[66]--the year being under the Dragon of Elder Water.]

For the sake of clearness, I have printed the posthumous name proper
(_Hō-sō Myō-shin_) in small capitals, and the rest in italics. The
first three characters of the inscription,--_Tei-Shō-In_,--form the
name of the temple, or “mansion.” The pine, both in religious and
secular poetry, is a symbol of changeless conditions of good, because
it remains freshly-green in all seasons. The use of the term “Reality”
in the kaimyō indicates the state of unity with the Absolute;--by
“Window-of-Law” (Law here signifying the Buddha-state) must be
understood that exercise of virtue through which even in this existence
some perception of Infinite Truth may be obtained. I have already
explained the final word, _Daishi_ (“great elder-sister”).

Less mystical, but not less beautiful, is this Nichiren kaimyō
sculptured upon the grave of a young samurai:

    _Ko-shin In, Ken-dō Nichi-ki, Koji._


    Bright-Sun-on-the-Way-of-the-Wise, in the Mansion of Luminous

On the same stone is carven the kaimyō of the wife:--

    _Shin-kyō In, Myō-en Nichi-ko, Daishi._


    Spherically-Wondrous-Sunbeam, in the Mansion of the Mirror of
    the Heart._]

Perhaps the reader will now be able to find interest in the following
selection of kaimyō, translated for me by Japanese scholars. The
inscriptions are of various rites and epochs; but I have arranged them
only by class and sex:--



    Law-Nature-Eternally-Complete, in the Mansion of the Mirror of


    Lone-Moon-above-Snowy-Peak, in the Mansion of Quiet Light._


    Wonderful-Radiance-of-Luminous-Sound, in the Mansion of the
    Day-dawn of Mind._


    Pure-Lotos-bloom-of-the-Heart, in the Mansion of Shining


    Real-Earnestness-Self-sufficing-within, in the Mansion of


    Wonderful-Brightness-of-the-Clouds-of-Law, in the Mansion of


    Law-Echo-proclaiming-Truth, in the Mansion of Real Zeal._


    Ocean-of-Reason-Calmly-Full, in the Mansion of Self-Nature._


    in the Mansion of the Virtue of Pity._


    Perfect-Enlightenment-beaming-tranquil-Glory,--in the Mansion of
    Supreme Comprehension._


    Autumnal-Prospect-Clear-of-Cloud,--of the Household of
    Sakyamuni,--in the Mansion of the Obedient Heart._


    Illustrious-Brightness,--of the Household of the Buddha,--in the
    Mansion of Conspicuous Virtue._


    Daily-Peace-Home-Prospering, in the Mansion of Spherical

       *       *       *       *       *













    Moon-Dawn-of-the-Mountain-of-Light, dwelling in the August
    Mansion of Self-witness._[69]


    Wondrous-Lotos-of-Fleckless-Light, in the Mansion of the
    Moonlike Heart._


    the Mansion of the Great Sea of Compassion._


    Lotos-Heart-of-Wondrous-Apparition,--in the Mansion of Luminous


    Clear-Light-of-the-Spotless-Moon, in the Mansion of


    Pure-Mind-as-a-Sun-of-Compassion, in the Mansion of Real Light._


    Wondrous-Lotos-of-Fragrance-Etherial, in the Mansion of













    Instantly-Attaining-to-the-Perfect-Peace, dwelling in the August
    Mansion of Purity._


    Permeating-Lucidity-of-the-Pure-Grove, dwelling in the August
    Mansion of Blossom-Fragrance._















    Bright-Shining-Height-of-Wisdom, dwelling in the August Mansion
    of Fragrant Trees._















After having studied the sotoba-texts previously cited, the reader
should be able to divine the meaning of most of the kaimyō above given.
At all events he will understand such frequently-repeated terms as
“Moon,” “Lotos,” “Law.” But he may be puzzled by other expressions; and
some further explanation will, perhaps, not be unwelcome.

Besides expressing a pious hope for the higher happiness of the
departed, or uttering some assurance of special conditions in the
spiritual world, a great number of kaimyō also refer, directly or
indirectly, to the character of the vanished personality. Thus a man of
widely-recognized integrity and strong moral purpose, may--like my dead
friend--be not unfitly named: “Bright-Sun-on-the-Way-of-the-Wise.” The
child-daughter or the young wife, especially remembered for sweetness
of character, may be commemorated by some such posthumous name as
“Plumflower-Light,” or “Luminous-Shadow-of-the-Plumflower-Chamber;”--the
word “plumflower” in either case at once suggesting the quality
of the virtue of the dead, because this blossom in Japan is the
emblem of feminine moral charm,--more particularly faithfulness
to duty and faultless modesty. Again, the memory of any person
noted for deeds of charity may be honoured by such a kaimyō as,
of-the-Poor.” Finally I may observe that the kaimyō-terms expressing
altitude, luminosity, and fragrance, have most often a moral-exemplary
signification. But in all countries epitaphic literature has its
conventional hypocrisies or extravagances. Buddhist kaimyō frequently
contain a great deal of religious flattery; and beautiful posthumous
names are often given to those whose lives were the reverse of

When we find among feminine kaimyō such appellations as
“Wondrous-Lotos,” or “Beautiful-as-the-Lotos-of-the-Dawn,” we may be
sure in the generality of cases that the charm, to which reference
is so made, was ethical only. Yet there are exceptions; and the more
remarkable of these are furnished by the kaimyō of children. Names like
“Dream-of-Spring,” “Radiant-Phantasm,” “Snowy-Bubble,” do actually refer
to the lost form,--or at least to the supposed parental idea of vanished
beauty and grace. But such names also exemplify a peculiar consolatory
application of the Buddhist doctrine of Impermanency. We might say that
through the medium of these kaimyō the bereaved are thus soothed in the
loftiest language of faith:--“Beautiful and brief was the being of your
child,--a dream of spring, a radiant passing vision,--a snowy bubble.
But in the order of eternal law all forms must pass; material permanency
there is none: only the divine Absolute dwelling in every being,--only
the Buddha in the heart of each of us,--forever endures. Be this great
truth at once your comfort and your hope!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Extraordinary examples of the retrospective significance sometimes
given to posthumous names, are furnished by the kaimyō of the
Forty-Seven Rōnin buried at Sengakuji in Tōkyō. (Their story is
now well-known to all the English-reading world through Mitford’s
eloquent and sympathetic version of it in the “Tales of Old
Japan.”) The noteworthy peculiarity of these kaimyō is that each
contains the two words, “dagger” and “sword,”--used in a symbolic
sense, but having also an appropriate military suggestiveness.
Ōïshi Kuranosuké Yoshiwo, the leader, is alone styled _Koji_;--the
kaimyō of his followers have the humbler suffix _Shinshi_. Ōïshi’s
kaimyō reads:--“_Dagger-of-Emptiness-and-stainless-Sword, in the
Mansion of Earnest Loyalty_.” I need scarcely call attention to
the historic meaning of the mansion-name. Three of the kaimyō
of his followers will serve as examples of the rest. That of
Masé Kyudayu Masaake is:--“_Dagger-of-Fame-and-Sword-of-the-Way
[or Doctrine.]_” The kaimyō of Ōïshi Sezayémon Nobukiyo
is:--“_Dagger-of-Magnanimity-and-Sword-of-Virtue._” And the kaimyō of
Horibei Yasubei is:--“_Dagger-of-Cloud-and-Sword-of-Brightness._”

The first and the last of these four kaimyō will be found obscure; and
several more of the forty-seven inscriptions are equally enigmatic
at first sight. Usually in a kaimyō the word “Emptiness,” or “Void,”
signifies the Buddhist state of absolute spiritual purity,--the state of
Unconditioned Being. But in the kaimyō of Ōïshi Kuranosuké the meaning
of it, though purely Buddhist, is very different. By “emptiness” here,
we must understand “illusion,” “unreality,”--and the full meaning of
the phrase “dagger-emptiness” is:--“_Wisdom that, seeing the emptiness
of material forms, pierces through illusion as a dagger._” In Horibei
Yasubei’s kaimyō we must similarly render the word “cloud” by illusion;
and “Dagger-of-Cloud” should be interpreted, “_Illusion-penetrating
Dagger of Wisdom._” The wisdom that perceives the emptiness of
phenomena, is the sharply-dividing, or distinguishing wisdom,--is
_Myō-kwan-zatsu-chi_ (Pratyavekshana-gñâna).


Possibly I have presumed too much upon the patience of my readers; yet
I feel that these studies can yield scarcely more than the glimpse of
a subject wide and deep as a sea. If they should arouse any Western
interest in the philosophy and the poetry of Buddhist epitaphic
literature, then they will certainly have accomplished all that I could
reasonably hope.

Not improbably I shall be accused, as I have been on other occasions,
of trying to make Buddhist texts “more beautiful than they are.” This
charge usually comes from persons totally ignorant of the originals,
and betrays a spirit of disingenuousness with which I have no sympathy.
Whoever confesses religion to have been a developing influence in the
social and moral history of races,--whoever grants that respect is due
to convictions which have shaped the nobler courses of human conduct
for thousands of years,--whoever acknowledges that in any great religion
something of eternal truth must exist,--will hold it the highest
duty of a translator to interpret the concepts of an alien faith as
generously as he would wish his own thoughts or words interpreted by his
fellow-men. In the rendering of Chinese sentences this duty presents
itself under a peculiar aspect. Any attempt at literal translation would
result in the production either of nonsense, or of a succession of ideas
totally foreign to far-Eastern thought. The paramount necessity in
treating such texts is to discover and to expound the thought conveyed
to Oriental minds by the original ideographs,--which are very different
things indeed from “written words.” The translations given in this essay
were made by Japanese scholars, and, in their present form, have the
approval of competent critics.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I write these lines a full moon looks into my study over the trees of
the temple-garden, and brings me the recollection of a little Buddhist

“_From the foot of the mountain, many are the paths ascending in shadow;
but from the cloudless summit all who climb behold the self-same Moon._”

       *       *       *       *       *

The reader who knows the truth shrined in this little verse will not
regret an hour passed with me among the tombs of Kobudera.


[16] Such figures are really elaborate tiles, and are called
_onigawara_, or “demon-tiles.” It may naturally be asked why
demon-heads should be ever placed above Buddhist gate-ways. Originally
they were not intended to represent demons, in the Buddhist sense,
but guardian-spirits whose duty it was to drive demons away. The
_onigawara_ were introduced into Japan either from China or Korea--not
improbably Korea; for we read that the first roof-tiles made in Japan
were manufactured shortly after the introduction of the new faith
by Korean priests, and under the supervision of Shōtoku Taishi, the
princely founder and supporter of Japanese Buddhism. They were baked at
Koizumi-mura, in Yamato;--but we are not told whether there were any of
this extraordinary shape among them. It is worth while remarking that in
Korea to-day you can see hideous faces painted upon house-doors,--even
upon the gates of the royal palace; and these, intended merely to
frighten away evil spirits, suggest the real origin of the demon-tiles.
The Japanese, on first seeing such tiles, called them demon-tiles
because the faces upon them resembled those conventionally given to
Buddhist demons; and now that their history has been forgotten, they are
popularly supposed to represent demon-guardians. There would be nothing
contrary to Buddhist faith in the fancy;--for there are many legends of
good demons. Besides, in the eternal order of divine law, even the worst
demon must at last become a Buddha.

[17] _Osmanthus fragrans._ This is one of the very few Japanese plants
having richly-perfumed flowers.

[18] The word “sotoba” is identical with the Sanscrit “stûpa.”
Originally a mausoleum, and later a simple monument--commemorative or
otherwise,--the stûpa was introduced with Buddhism into China, and
thence, perhaps by way of Korea, into Japan. Chinese forms of the stone
stûpa are to be found in many of the old Japanese temple-grounds. The
wooden _sotoba_ is only a symbol of the stûpa; and the more elaborate
forms of it plainly suggest its history. The slight carving along its
upper edges represents that superimposition of cube, sphere, crescent,
pyramid, and body-pyriform (symbolizing the Five Great Elements), which
forms the design of the most beautiful funeral monuments.

[19] These relations of the elements to the Buddhas named are not,
however, permanently fixed in the doctrine,--for obvious philosophical
reasons. Sometimes Sakyamuni is identified with Ether, and Amitâbha with
Air, etc., etc. In the above enumeration I have followed the order taken
by Professor Bunyiu Nanjio, who nevertheless suggests that this order is
not to be considered perpetual.

[20] The above prayer is customarily said after having read a sûtra, or
copied a sacred text, or caused a Buddhist service to be performed.

[21] Dai-en-kyō-chi (Âdarsana-gñâna). Amida is the Japanese form of the
name Amitâbha.

[22] “Great (or Noble) Elder Sister” is the meaning of the title
_dai-shi_ affixed to the _kaimyō_ of a woman. In the rite of the Zen
sect _dai-shi_ always signifies a married woman; _shin-nyo_, a maid.

[23] This _kaimyō_, or posthumous name, literally signifies:

[24] The Supreme Wisdom; the state of Buddhahood.

[25] _San-Akudō_,--the three unhappy conditions of Hell, of the World of
Hungry Spirits (_Pretas_), and of Animal Existence.

[26] “Haijō Kongō” means “the Diamond of Universal Enlightenment:” it
is the honorific appellation of Kūkai or Kobodaishi, founder of the

[27] From a Zen sotoba.

[28] In Japanese “Sanbodai.” The term “tower” refers of course to the
_sotoba_, the symbol of a real tower, or at least of the desire to erect
such a monument, were it possible.

[29] In Japanese, _Anuka-tara-sanmaku-sanbodai_,--the supreme form of
Buddhist enlightenment.

[30] From a sotoba of the Jodo sect.

[31] From a sotoba of the Jōdo sect. The Amida-Kyō, or Sûtra of Amida,
is the Japanese [Chinese] version of the smaller Sukhâvatî-Vyûha Sûtra.

[32] _Gokuraku_ is the common word in Japan for the Buddhist heaven. The
above inscription, translated for me from a sotoba of the Jōdo sect,
is an abbreviated form of a verse in the Smaller Sukhâvatî-Vyûha (see
_Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts_: “Sacred Books of the East”), which Max Müller
has thus rendered in full:--“In that world Sukhâvatî, O Sâriputra, there
is neither bodily nor mental pain for living beings. The sources of
happiness are innumerable there. For that reason is that world called
Sukhâvatî, the happy.”

[33] From a sotoba of the Jōdo sect.

[34] Sotoba of the Jōdo sect.

[35] Sotoba of the Jōdo sect.

[36] Sotoba of the Zen sect.

[37] Sotoba of the Zen sect.

[38] Tathâgata.

[39] From a sotoba of the Zen sect.

[40] Avatamsaka Sûtra.--This text is also from a Zen sotoba.

[41] From a tombstone of the Jōdo sect. The text is evidently from the
Chinese version of the Amitâyur-Dhyâna-Sûtra (see _Buddhist Mahâyâna
Texts_: “Sacred Books of the East”). It reads in the English version
thus:--“In fine, it is your mind that becomes Buddha;--nay, it is your
mind that is indeed Buddha.”

[42] Pratyeka-Buddha sastra?--From a sotoba of the Zen sect.

[43] _San-zé_, or _mitsu-yo_,--the Past, Present, and Future.

[44] “Mind” is here expressed by the character _shin_ or _kokoro_.--The
text is from a Zen sotoba, but is used also, I am told, by the mystical
sects of Tendai and Shingon.

[45] Krityânushthâna-gñâna.--The text is from a sotoba of the Shingon

[46] More literally, “Self and Other:” i. e., the Ego and the Non-Ego
in the meaning of “I” and “Thou.” There is no “I” and “Thou” in
Buddhahood.--This text was copied from a Zen sotoba.

[47] From a Zen sotoba.

[48] The Chinese word literally means “void,”--as in the expression
“Void Supreme,” to signify the state of Nirvana. But the philosophical
reference here is to the ultimate substance, or primary matter; and the
rendering of the term by “Ether” (rather in the Greek than the modern
sense, of course) has the sanction of Bunyiu Nanjio, and the approval of
other eminent Sanscrit and Chinese scholars.

[49] Literally, “illuminates the Zenjō-mind.” Zenjō is the Sanscrit
_Dhyâna_. It is believed that in real _Dhyâna_ the mind can hold
communication with the Absolute.--From a sotoba of the Zen sect.

[50] From a sotoba of the Tendai sect.

[51] From a Jōdo sotoba.

[52] Literally, “the Great-Round-Mirror-Wisdom-Sûtra.” Sansc.,
_Adarsana-gñâna_.--From a Zen sotoba.

[53] Sotoba of the Zen sect.

[54] _Pratyavekshana-gñâna._

[55] From a Zen sotoba.

[56] _Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts_: “Sacred Books of the East,” vol. xlix.
p. 180.

[57] From a sotoba of the Zen sect.

[58] Lit.: “the Inscription of the Tower of Diamond,”--name of a
Buddhist text.

[59] The Six States of Existence are Heaven, Man, Demons, Hell, Hungry
Spirits (_Pretas_), and Animals.--The above is from a Zen sotoba.

[60] Sotoba of the Nichiren sect.

[61] _San-doku_ or _Mitsu-no-doku_, viz.:--Anger, Ignorance, and
Desire.--From a Zen sotoba.

[62] Japanese title of the Saddhârma-Pundarika Sûtra. See, for legend,
chap. xi. of Kern’s translation in the _Sacred Books of the East_

[63] There is a great variety of _sîla_;--five, eight, and ten for
different classes of laity; two hundred and fifty for priests;--five
hundred for nuns, etc., etc.--Be it here observed that the posthumous
Buddhist name given to the dead must not be studied as referring always
to conduct in this world, but rather as referring to _sîla_ in another
world. The _kaimyō_ is thus a title of spiritual initiation.--Some
Japanese Buddhist sects hold what are called _Ju-Kai-E_ (“_sîla_-giving
assemblies”), at which the initiated are given _kaimyō_ of another
sort,--_sîla_-names of admission as neophytes.

[64] That is, according to the Japanese reading of the Chinese

[65] By the old calendar, the eleventh month was the Month of Frost.

[66] The second year of the period Shōtoku corresponds to 1712
A.D.--(For the meaning of the phrase “Dragon of Elder Water” the reader
will do well to consult Professor Rein’s _Japan_, pp. 434-436.)

[67] This beautiful kaimyō is identical with that placed upon the
monument of my dear friend Nishida, buried in the Nichiren cemetery of
Chōmanji, in Matsué.

[68] Signifying:--“believing man of mind as chastely pure as the snow
upon a peak in winter.”

[69] This is the kaimyō of the lady for whose sake the temple of
Kobudera was built; and the words “Mansion of Self-witness” here refer
to the temple itself, which is thus named (_Ji-Shō In_). The Chinese
text reads:--“Ji-Shō-In den, Kwo-zan Kyō-kei, Daishi,”--literally,
“Great Elder-Sister, Dawn-Katsura-of-Luminous-Mountain, dwelling in the
August Mansion of Self-witness.” The katsura (_olea fragrans_) is a tree
mysteriously connected, in Japanese poetical fancy, with the moon; and
its name is often used, as here, to signify the moon. _Katsura-no-hana_,
or “katsura-flower” is a poetical term for moonlight.--This kaimyō is
remarkable in having the honorific term “August” prefixed to the name of
the mansion or temple,--a sign of the high rank of the dead lady. The
full date inscribed is “twenty-eighth day of Mid-Autumn” (the old eighth
month) “of the seventeenth year of Kwansei” (1640 A. D.)

[70] The prefix _dai_ (great) before the ordinary term _dōji_ (male
child) is of rare occurrence. Probably the lad was of princely birth.
The grave is in a reserved part of the Kobudera cemetery; and the
year-date of death is “the fourth of Enkyō”--corresponding to 1747.

[71] The tomb bearing this kaimyō is set beside that inscribed with the
kaimyō preceding. Probably the boys were brothers. In both instances we
have the honorific prefix “dai,” and the term “August” qualifying the
mansion-name. The year-date of death is “the second of Kwan-en” (1749).

[72] Probably a princely child,--sister apparently of the highborn boys
before referred to. She is buried beside them in Kobudera. Observe here
again the use of the prefix _dai_,--this time before the term _dōnyo_,
“child-girl” or “child-daughter.” Perhaps the _dai_ here would be better
rendered by “grand” than by “great.” Notice that the term “August”
precedes the mansion-name in this case also. The date of death is given
as “the sixth year of Hōreki” (1756).



    “With hands resting upon the floor, reverentially you repeat
    your poem, O frog!”

    _Ancient Poem._


Few of the simpler sense-impressions of travel remain more intimately
and vividly associated with the memory of a strange land than
sounds,--sounds of the open country. Only the traveller knows how
Nature’s voices--voices of forest and river and plain--vary according to
zone; and it is nearly always some local peculiarity of their tone or
character that appeals to feeling and penetrates into memory,--giving us
the sensation of the foreign and the far-away. In Japan this sensation
is especially aroused by the music of insects,--hemiptera uttering
a sound-language wonderfully different from that of their Western
congeners. To a lesser degree the exotic accent is noticeable also in
the chanting of Japanese frogs,--though the sound impresses itself upon
remembrance rather by reason of its ubiquity. Rice being cultivated all
over the country,--not only upon mountain-slopes and hill-tops, but even
within the limits of the cities,--there are flushed levels everywhere,
and everywhere frogs. No one who has travelled in Japan will forget the
clamor of the ricefields.

Hushed only during the later autumn and brief winter, with the first
wakening of spring waken all the voices of the marsh-lands,--the
infinite bubbling chorus that might be taken for the speech of the
quickening soil itself. And the universal mystery of life seems to
thrill with a peculiar melancholy in that vast utterance--heard through
forgotten thousands of years by forgotten generations of toilers, but
doubtless older by myriad ages than the race of man.

Now this song of solitude has been for centuries a favorite theme
with Japanese poets; but the Western reader may be surprised to learn
that it has appealed to them rather as a pleasant sound than as a

       *       *       *       *       *

Innumerable poems have been written about the singing of frogs; but a
large proportion of them would prove unintelligible if understood as
referring to common frogs. When the general chorus of the ricefield
finds praise in Japanese verse, the poet expresses his pleasure only
in the great volume of sound produced by the blending of millions of
little croakings,--a blending which really has a pleasant effect,
well compared to the lulling sound of the falling of rain. But when
the poet pronounces an individual frog-call melodious, he is not
speaking of the common frog of the ricefields. Although most kinds of
Japanese frogs are croakers, there is one remarkable exception--(not
to mention tree-frogs),--the _kajika_, or true singing-frog of Japan.
To say that it croaks would be an injustice to its note, which is
sweet as the chirrup of a song-bird. It used to be called _kawazu_;
but as this ancient appellation latterly became confounded in common
parlance with _kaeru_, the general name for ordinary frogs, it is now
called only _kajika_. The _kajika_ is kept as a domestic pet, and is
sold in Tōkyō by several insect-merchants. It is housed in a peculiar
cage, the lower part of which is a basin containing sand and pebbles,
fresh water and small plants; the upper part being a framework of fine
wire-gauze. Sometimes the basin is fitted up as a _ko-niwa_, or model
landscape-garden. In these times the kajika is considered as one of
the singers of spring and summer; but formerly it was classed with
the melodists of autumn; and people used to make autumn-trips to the
country for the mere pleasure of hearing it sing. And just as various
places used to be famous for the music of particular varieties of
night-crickets, so there were places celebrated only as haunts of the
kajika. The following were especially noted:--

Tamagawa and Ōsawa-no-Iké,--a river and a lake in the province of

Miwagawa, Asukagawa, Sawogawa, Furu-no-Yamada, and Yoshinogawa,--all in
the province of Yamato.

Koya-no-Iké,--in Settsu.

Ukinu-no-Iké,--in Iwami.

Ikawa-no-Numa,--in Kōzuké.

Now it is the melodious cry of the kajika, or kawazu, which is so often
praised in far-Eastern verse; and, like the music of insects, it is
mentioned in the oldest extant collections of Japanese poems. In the
preface to the famous anthology called _Kokinshū_, compiled by Imperial
Decree during the fifth year of the period of Engi (A. D. 905), the
poet Ki-no-Tsurayuki, chief editor of the work, makes these interesting

--“The poetry of Japan has its roots in the human heart, and thence has
grown into a multi-form utterance. Man in this world, having a thousand
millions of things to undertake and to complete, has been moved to
express his thoughts and his feelings concerning all that he sees and
hears. When we hear the _uguisu_[73] singing among flowers, and the
voice of the kawazu which inhabits the waters, what mortal [_lit.: ‘who
among the living that lives’_] does not compose poems?”

The kawazu thus referred to by Tsurayuki is of course the same creature
as the modern kajika: no common frog could have been mentioned as a
songster in the same breath with that wonderful bird, the uguisu. And
no common frog could have inspired any classical poet with so pretty a
fancy as this:--

      Té wo tsuité,
    Uta moshi-aguru,
      Kawazu kana!

“With hands resting on the ground, reverentially you repeat your poem,
O frog!” The charm of this little verse can best be understood by those
familiar with the far-Eastern etiquette of posture while addressing
a superior,--kneeling, with the body respectfully inclined, and hands
resting upon the floor, with the fingers pointing outwards.[74]

It is scarcely possible to determine the antiquity of the custom of
writing poems about frogs; but in the _Manyōshū_, dating back to the
middle of the eighth century, there is a poem which suggests that even
at that time the river Asuka had long been famous for the singing of its

      Ima mo ka mo
    Asuka no kawa no
      Yū sarazu
    Kawazu naku sé no
    Kiyoku aruran.

“Still clear in our day remains the stream of Asuka, where the kawazu
nightly sing.” We find also in the same anthology the following curious
reference to the singing of frogs:--

    Kimaseru kimi wo,
      Sasagawa no
    Kawazu kikasezu
    Kayeshi tsuru kamo!

“Unexpectedly I received the august visit of my lord.... Alas, that he
should have returned without hearing the frogs of the river Sawa!” And
in the _Rokujōshū_, another ancient compilation, are preserved these
pleasing verses on the same theme:--

      Tamagawa no
    Hito wo mo yogizu
      Naku kawazu,
    Kono yū kikéba
    Oshiku ya wa aranu?

“Hearing to-night the frogs of the Jewel River [or Tamagawa], that sing
without fear of man, how can I help loving the passing moment?”


Thus it appears that for more than eleven hundred years the Japanese
have been making poems about frogs; and it is at least possible that
verses on this subject, which have been preserved in the _Manyōshū_,
were composed even earlier than the eighth century. From the oldest
classical period to the present day, the theme has never ceased to
be a favorite one with poets of all ranks. A fact noteworthy in
this relation is that the first poem written in the measure called
_hokku_, by the famous Bashō, was about frogs. The triumph of this
extremely brief form of verse--(three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables
respectively)--is to create one complete sensation-picture; and Bashō’s
original accomplishes the feat,--difficult, if not impossible, to repeat
in English:--

      Furu iké ya,
    Kawazu tobikomu,
      Midzu no oto.

(“Old pond--frogs jumping in--sound of water.”) An immense number of
poems about frogs were subsequently written in this measure. Even at
the present time professional men of letters amuse themselves by making
short poems on frogs. Distinguished among these is a young poet known
to the Japanese literary world by the pseudonym of “Roséki,” who lives
in Ōsaka and keeps in the pond of his garden hundreds of singing frogs.
At fixed intervals he invites all his poet-friends to a feast, with the
proviso that each must compose, during the entertainment, one poem about
the inhabitants of the pond. A collection of the verses thus obtained
was privately printed in the spring of 1897, with funny pictures of
frogs decorating the covers and illustrating the text.

But unfortunately it is not possible through English translation to give
any fair idea of the range and character of the literature of frogs. The
reason is that the greater number of compositions about frogs depend
chiefly for their literary value upon the untranslatable,--upon local
allusions, for example, incomprehensible outside of Japan; upon puns;
and upon the use of words with double or even triple meanings. Scarcely
two or three in every one hundred poems can bear translation. So I can
attempt little more than a few general observations.

       *       *       *       *       *

That love-poems should form a considerable proportion of this curious
literature will not seem strange to the reader when he is reminded that
the lovers’ trysting-hour is also the hour when the frog-chorus is in
full cry, and that, in Japan at least, the memory of the sound would be
associated with the memory of a secret meeting in almost any solitary
place. The frog referred to in such poems is not usually the kajika.
But frogs are introduced into love-poetry in countless clever ways. I
can give two examples of modern popular compositions of this kind. The
first contains an allusion to the famous proverb,--_I no naka no kawazu
daikai wo shirazu_: “The frog in the well knows not the great sea.” A
person quite innocent of the ways of the world is compared to a frog in
a well; and we may suppose the speaker of the following lines to be some
sweet-hearted country-girl, answering an ungenerous remark with very
pretty tact:--

    _Laugh me to scorn if you please;--call me your “frog-in-the-well”:
    Flowers fall into my well; and its water mirrors the moon!_

The second poem is supposed to be the utterance of a woman having good
reason to be jealous:--

    _Dull as a stagnant pond you deemed the mind of your mistress;
    But the stagnant pond can speak: you shall hear the cry of the

Outside of love-poems there are hundreds of verses about the common
frogs of ponds or ricefields. Some refer chiefly to the volume of the
sound that the frogs make:--

    _Hearing the frogs of the ricefields, methinks that the water

    _As we flush the ricefields of spring, the frog-song flows with
        the water._

    _From ricefield to ricefield they call: unceasing the challenge
        and answer._

    _Ever as deepens the night, louder the chorus of pond-frogs._

    _So many the voices of frogs that I cannot but wonder if the pond
        be not wider at night than by day!_

    _Even the rowing boats can scarce proceed, so thick the clamor of
        the frogs of Horié!_

The exaggeration of the last verse is of course intentional, and in the
original not uneffective. In some parts of the world--in the marshes of
Florida and of southern Louisiana, for example,--the clamor of the frogs
at certain seasons resembles the roaring of a furious sea; and whoever
has heard it can appreciate the fancy of sound as obstacle.

Other poems compare or associate the sound made by frogs with the sound
of rain:--

    _The song of the earliest frogs,--fainter than falling of rain._

    _What I took for the falling of rain is only the singing of frogs._

    _Now I shall dream, lulled by the patter of rain and the song of
        the frogs._

Other poems, again, are intended only as tiny pictures,--thumb-nail
sketches,--such as this _hokku_,--

    _Path between ricefields; frogs jumping away to right and left_;--

--or this, which is a thousand years old:--

    _Where the flowers of the yamabuki are imaged in the still
        marsh-water, the voice of the kawazu is heard_;--

--or the following pretty fancy:--

    _Now sings the frog, and the voice of the frog is perfumed;--for
        into the shining stream the cherry-petals fall._

The last two pieces refer, of course, to the true singing frog.

Many short poems are addressed directly to the frog itself,--whether
kaeru or kajika. There are poems of melancholy, of affection, of humor,
of religion, and even of philosophy among these. Sometimes the frog is
likened to a spirit resting on a lotos-leaf; sometimes, to a priest
repeating sûtras for the sake of the dying flowers; sometimes to a
pining lover; sometimes to a host receiving travellers; sometimes to a
blasphemer, “always beginning” to say something against the gods, but
always afraid to finish it. Most of the following examples are taken
from the recent book of frog-poems published by Roséki;--each paragraph
of my prose rendering, it should be remembered, represents a distinct

    _Now all the guests being gone, why still thus respectfully
        sitting, O frog?_

    _So resting your hands on the ground, do you welcome the Rain,
        O frog?_

    _You disturb in the ancient well the light of the stars, O frog!_

    _Sleepy the sound of the rain; but your voice makes me dream,
        O frog!_

    _Always beginning to say something against the great Heaven,
        O frog!_

    _You have learned that the world is void: you never look at it as
        you float, O frog!_

    _Having lived in clear-rushing mountain-streams, never can your
        voice become stagnant, O frog!_

The last pleasing conceit shows the esteem in which the superior vocal
powers of the kajika are held.


I thought it strange that out of hundreds of frog-poems collected for me
I could not discover a single mention of the coldness and clamminess of
the frog. Except a few jesting lines about the queer attitudes sometimes
assumed by the creature, the only reference to its uninviting qualities
that I could find was the mild remark,

    _Seen in the daytime, how uninteresting you are, O frog!_

While wondering at this reticence concerning the chilly, slimy,
flaccid nature of frogs, it all at once occurred to me that in other
thousands of Japanese poems which I had read there was a total absence
of allusions to tactual sensations. Sensations of colors, sounds,
and odors were rendered with exquisite and surprising delicacy; but
sensations of taste were seldom mentioned, and sensations of touch
were absolutely ignored. I asked myself whether the reason for this
reticence or indifference should be sought in the particular temperament
or mental habit of the race; but I have not yet been able to decide
the question. Remembering that the race has been living for ages upon
food which seems tasteless to the Western palate, and that impulses to
such action as hand-clasping, embracing, kissing, or other physical
display of affectionate feeling, are really foreign to far-Eastern
character, one is tempted to the theory that gustatory and tactual
sensations, pleasurable and otherwise, have been less highly evolved
with the Japanese than with us. But there is much evidence against such
a theory; and the triumphs of Japanese handicraft assure us of an almost
incomparable delicacy of touch developed in special directions. Whatever
be the physiological meaning of the phenomenon, its moral meaning
is of most importance. So far as I have been able to judge, Japanese
poetry usually ignores the inferior qualities of sensation, while making
the subtlest of appeals to those superior qualities which we call
æsthetic. Even if representing nothing else, this fact represents the
healthiest and happiest attitude toward Nature. Do not we Occidentals
shrink from many purely natural impressions by reason of repulsion
developed through a morbid tactual sensibility? The question is at least
worth considering. Ignoring or mastering such repulsion,--accepting
naked Nature as she is, always lovable when understood,--the Japanese
discover beauty where we blindly imagine ugliness or formlessness or
loathsomeness,--beauty in insects, beauty in stones, beauty in frogs.
Is the fact without significance that they alone have been able to make
artistic use of the form of the centipede?... You should see my Kyōtō
tobacco-pouch, with centipedes of gold running over its figured leather
like ripplings of fire!


[73] _Cettia cantans_,--the Japanese nightingale.

[74] Such, at least, is the posture prescribed by the old etiquette
for _men_. But the rules were very complicated, and varied somewhat
according to rank as well as to sex. Women usually turn the fingers
inward instead of outward when assuming this posture.

Of Moon-Desire



He was two years old when--as ordained in the law of perpetual
recurrence--he asked me for the Moon.

Unwisely I protested,--

“The Moon I cannot give you because it is too high up. I cannot reach

He answered:--

“By taking a very long bamboo, you probably could reach it, and knock it

I said,--

“There is no bamboo long enough.”

He suggested:--

“By standing on the ridge of the roof of the house, you probably could
poke it with the bamboo.”

--Whereat I found myself constrained to make some approximately truthful
statements concerning the nature and position of the Moon.

This set me thinking. I thought about the strange fascination that
brightness exerts upon living creatures in general,--upon insects and
fishes and birds and mammals,--and tried to account for it by some
inherited memory of brightness as related to food, to water, and to
freedom. I thought of the countless generations of children who have
asked for the Moon, and of the generations of parents who have laughed
at the asking. And then I entered into the following meditation:--

       *       *       *       *       *

Have we any right to laugh at the child’s wish for the Moon? No wish
could be more natural; and as for its incongruity,--do not we, children
of a larger growth, mostly nourish wishes quite as innocent,--longings
that if realized could only work us woe,--such as desire for the
continuance after death of that very sense-life, or individuality,
which once deluded us all into wanting to play with the Moon, and often
subsequently deluded us in far less pleasant ways?

Now foolish as may seem, to merely empirical reasoning, the wish of the
child for the Moon, I have an idea that the highest wisdom commands us
to wish for very much more than the Moon,--even for more than the Sun
and the Morning-Star and all the Host of Heaven.


I remember when a boy lying on my back in the grass, gazing into the
summer blue above me, and wishing that I could melt into it,--become
a part of it. For these fancies I believe that a religious tutor was
innocently responsible: he had tried to explain to me, because of
certain dreamy questions, what he termed “the folly and the wickedness
of pantheism,”--with the result that I immediately became a pantheist,
at the tender age of fifteen. And my imaginings presently led me not
only to want the sky for a playground, but also to become the sky!

Now I think that in those days I was really close to a great
truth,--touching it, in fact, without the faintest suspicion of its
existence. I mean the truth that the wish _to become_ is reasonable in
direct ratio to its largeness,--or, in other words, that the more you
wish to be, the wiser you are; while the wish _to have_ is apt to be
foolish in proportion to its largeness. Cosmic law permits us very few
of the countless things that we wish to have, but will help us to become
all that we can possibly wish to be. Finite, and in so much feeble,
is the wish to have: but infinite in puissance is the wish to become;
and every mortal wish to become must eventually find satisfaction. By
wanting to be, the monad makes itself the elephant, the eagle, or the
man. By wanting to be, the man should become a god. Perhaps on this
tiny globe, lighted only by a tenth-rate yellow sun, he will not have
time to become a god; but who dare assert that his wish cannot project
itself to mightier systems illuminated by vaster suns, and there reshape
and invest him with the forms and powers of divinity? Who dare even say
that his wish may not expand him beyond the Limits of Form, and make him
one with Omnipotence? And Omnipotence, without asking, can have much
brighter and bigger play-things than the Moon.

Probably everything is a mere question of wishing,--providing that we
wish, not to have, but to be. Most of the sorrow of life certainly
exists because of the wrong kind of wishing and because of the
contemptible pettiness of the wishes. Even to wish for the absolute
lordship and possession of the entire earth were a pitifully small
and vulgar wish. We must learn to nourish very much bigger wishes than
that! My faith is that we must wish to become the total universe with
its thousands of millions of worlds,--and more than the universe, or a
myriad universes,--and more even than Space and Time.


Possibly the power for such wishing must depend upon our comprehension
of the ghostliness of substance. Once men endowed with spirit all forms
and motions and utterances of Nature: stone and metal, herb and tree,
cloud and wind,--the lights of heaven, the murmuring of leaves and
waters, the echoes of the hills, the tumultuous speech of the sea. Then
becoming wiser in their own conceit, they likewise became of little
faith; and they talked about “the Inanimate” and “the Inert,”--which
are nonexistent,--and discoursed of Force as distinct from Matter, and
of Mind as distinct from both. Yet we now discover that the primitive
fancies were, after all, closer to probable truth. We cannot indeed
think of Nature to-day precisely as did our forefathers; but we find
ourselves obliged to think of her in very much weirder ways; and the
later revelations of our science have revitalized not a little of the
primitive thought, and infused it with a new and awful beauty. And
meantime those old savage sympathies with savage Nature that spring
from the deepest sources of our being,--always growing with our growth,
strengthening with our strength, more and more unfolding with the
evolution of our higher sensibilities,--would seem destined to sublime
at last into forms of cosmical emotion expanding and responding to

       *       *       *       *       *

Have you never thought about those immemorial feelings?... Have you
never, when looking at some great burning, found yourself exulting
without remorse in the triumph and glory of fire?--never unconsciously
coveted the crumbling, splitting, iron-wrenching, granite-cracking
force of its imponderable touch?--never delighted in the furious and
terrible splendor of its phantasmagories,--the ravening and bickering
of its dragons,--the monstrosity of its archings,--the ghostly soaring
and flapping of its spires? Have you never, with a hill-wind pealing
in your ears, longed to ride that wind like a ghost,--to scream round
the peaks with it,--to sweep the face of the world with it? Or, watching
the lifting, the gathering, the muttering rush and thunder-burst of
breakers, have you felt no impulse kindred to that giant motion,--no
longing to leap with that wild white tossing, and to join in that mighty
shout?... And all such ancient emotional sympathies with Nature’s
familiar forces--do they not prelude, with their modern æsthetic
developments, the future growth of rarer sympathies with incomparably
subtler forces, and of longings to be limited only by our power to know?
Know ether--shivering from star to star;--comprehend its sensitivities,
its penetrancies, its transmutations;--and sympathies ethereal will
evolve. Know the forces that spin the suns;--and already the way has
been reached of becoming one with them.

And furthermore, is there no suggestion of such evolvement in the
steady widening through all the centuries of the thoughts of their
world-priests and poets?--in the later sense of Life-as-Unity absorbing
or transforming the ancient childish sense of life-personal?--in the
tone of the new rapture in world-beauty, dominating the elder worship
of beauty-human?--in the larger modern joy evoked by the blossoming
of dawns, the blossoming of stars,--by all quiverings of color, all
shudderings of light? And is not the thing-in-itself, the detail, the
appearance, being ever less and less studied for its mere power to
charm, and ever more and more studied as a single character in that
Infinite Riddle of which all phenomena are but ideographs?

       *       *       *       *       *

Nay!--surely the time must come when we shall desire to be all that
is, all that ever has been known,--the past and the present and the
future in one,--all feeling, striving, thinking, joying, sorrowing,--and
everywhere the Part,--and everywhere the Whole. And before us, with the
waxing of the wish, perpetually the Infinities shall widen.

And I--even I!--by virtue of that wish, shall become all forms, all
forces, all conditions: Ether, Wind, Fire, Water, Earth,--all motion
visible or viewless,--all vibration named of light, of color, of
sonority, of torrefaction,--all thrillings piercing substance,--all
oscillations picturing in blackness, like the goblin-vision of the
X-rays. By virtue of that wish I shall become the Source of all
becoming and of all ceasing,--the Power that shapes, the Power that
dissolves,--creating, with the shadows of my sleep, the life that shall
vanish with my wakening. And even as phosphor-lampings in currents
of midnight sea, so shall shimmer and pulse and pass, in mine Ocean
of Death and Birth, the burning of billions of suns, the whirling of
trillions of worlds....


--“Well,” said the friend to whom I read this revery, “there is some
Buddhism in your fancies--though you seem to have purposely avoided
several important points of doctrine. For instance, you must know that
Nirvana is never to be reached by wishing, but by _not_ wishing. What
you call the ‘wish-to-become’ can only help us, like a lantern, along
the darker portions of the Way. As for wanting the Moon--I think that
you must have seen many old Japanese pictures of apes clutching at the
reflection of the Moon in water. The subject is a Buddhist parable: the
water is the phantom-flux of sensations and ideas; the Moon--not its
distorted image--is the sole Truth. And your Western philosopher was
really teaching a Buddhist parable when he proclaimed man but a higher
kind of ape. For in this world of illusion, man is truly still the ape,
trying to seize on water the shadow of the Moon.”

--“Ape indeed,” I made answer,--“but an ape of gods,--even that divine
Ape of the Ramayana who may clutch the Sun!”



    “Murmurs and scents of the Infinite Sea.”


First Impressions



I wonder why the emblematical significance of the Composite Photograph
has been so little considered by the philosophers of evolution. In
the blending and coalescing of the shadows that make it, is there no
suggestion of that bioplasmic chemistry which, out of the intermingling
of innumerable lives, crystallizes the composite of personality? Has the
superimposition of images upon the sensitized plate no likeness to those
endless superimpositions of heredity out of which every individuality
must shape itself?... Surely it is a very weird thing, this Composite
Photograph,--and hints of things weirder.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every human face is a living composite of countless faces,--generations
and generations of faces superimposed upon the sensitive film of Life
for the great cosmic developing process. And any living face, well
watched by love or by hate, will reveal the fact. The face of friend
or sweetheart has a hundred different aspects; and you know that you
want, when his or her “likeness” is taken, to insist upon the reflection
of the dearest of these. The face of your enemy,--no matter what
antipathy it may excite,--is not invariably hateful in itself: you must
acknowledge, to yourself at least, having observed in it moments of an
expression the reverse of unworthy.

Probably the ancestral types that try to reproduce themselves in
the modulations of facial expression, are nearly always the more
recent;--the very ancient having become metamorphosed, under weight of
superimposition, into a blank underlying vagueness,--a mere protoplasmic
background out of which, except in rare and monstrous cases, no
outline can detach itself. But in every normal face whole generations
of types do certainly, by turns of mood, make flitting apparition.
Any mother knows this. Studying day by day the features of her child,
she finds in them variations not to be explained by simple growth.
Sometimes there is a likeness to one parent or grandparent; sometimes
a likeness to another, or to remoter kindred; and at rarer intervals
may appear peculiarities of expression that no member of the family can
account for. (Thus, in darker centuries, the ghastly superstition of
the “changeling,” was not only possible, but in a certain sense quite
natural.) Through youth and manhood and far into old age these mutations
continue,--though always more slowly and faintly,--even while the
general characteristics steadily accentuate; and death itself may bring
into the countenance some strange expression never noticed during life.


As a rule we recognize faces by the modes of expression habitually
worn,--by the usually prevalent character-tones of them,--rather than
by any steady memory of lines. But no face at all moments remains
exactly the same; and in cases of exceptional variability the expression
does not suffice for recognition: we have to look for some fixed
peculiarity, some minute superficial detail independent of physiognomy.
All expression has but a relative permanency: even in faces the
most strongly marked, its variations may defy estimate. Perhaps the
mobility is, within certain limits, in direct ratio to irregularity
of feature;--any approach to ideal beauty being also an approach to
relative fixity. At all events, the more familiar we become with any
common face, the more astonishing the multitude of the transformations
we observe in it,--the more indescribable and bewildering its fugitive
subtleties of expression. And what are these but the ebb and flow of
life ancestral,--under-ripplings in that well-spring unfathomable of
personality whose flood is Soul. Perpetually beneath the fluid tissues
of flesh the dead are moulding and moving--not singly (for in no
phenomenon is there any singleness), but in currents and by surgings.
Sometimes there is an eddying of ghosts of love; and the face dawns as
if a sunrise lighted it. Sometimes there is a billowing up of ghosts of
hate; and the face darkens and distorts like an evil dream,--and we say
to the mind behind it, “You are not now _your better self_.” But that
which we call the self, whether the better or the worse, is a complexity
forever shifting the order of its combinations. According to stimulus of
hope or fear, of joy or pain, there must vibrate within every being, at
differing rhythms, with varying oscillation, incalculable tremulosities
of ancestral life. In the calmest normal existence slumber all the
psychical tones of the past,--from the lurid red of primal sense-impulse
to the violet of spiritual aspiration,--even as all known colours sleep
in white light. And over the sensitive living mask, at each strong
alternation of the psychical currents, flit shadowy resurrections of
dead expression.

Seeing faces and their changes, we learn intuitively the relation to
our own selves of the selves that confront us. In very few cases could
we even try to explain how this knowledge comes,--how we reach those
conclusions called, in common parlance, “first impressions.” Faces
are not _read_. The impressions they give are only _felt_, and have
much of the same vague character as impressions of sound,--making
within us mental states either pleasant or unpleasant or somewhat
of both,--evoking now a sense of danger, now a melting sympathy,
occasionally a gentle sadness. And these impressions, though seldom at
fault, cannot be very well explained in words. The reasons of their
accuracy are likewise the reasons of their mystery,--reasons not to
be discovered in the narrow range of our personal experience,--reasons
very, very much older than we. Could we remember our former lives, we
should know more exactly the meaning of our likes and our dislikes. For
the truth is that they are superindividual. It is not the individual eye
that perceives everything perceived in a face. The dead are the real
seers. But as they remain unable to guide us otherwise than by touching
the chords of mental pleasure or pain, we can feel the relative meaning
of faces only in a dim, though powerful way.

Instinctively, at least, superindividuality is commonly recognized.
Hence such phrases as “force of character,” “moral force,” “personal
fascination,” “personal magnetism,” and others showing that the
influence exerted by man upon man is known to be independent of mere
physical conditions. Very insignificant bodies have that within them by
which formidable bodies are mastered and directed. The flesh-and-blood
man is only the visible end of an invisible column of force reaching
out of the infinite past into the momentary present,--only the material
Symbol of an immaterial host. A contest between even two wills is a
contest of phantom armies. The domination of many personalities by the
simple will of one,--hinting the perception by the compelled of superior
viewless powers behind the compeller,--is never to be interpreted by the
old hypothesis of soul-equality. Only by scientific psychology can the
mystery of certain formidable characters be even partly explained; but
any explanation must rest upon the acceptance, in some form or other,
of the immense evolutional fact of psychical inheritance. And psychical
inheritance signifies the super-individual,--pre-existence revived in
compound personality.

Yet, from our ethical standpoint, that super-individuality which we
thus unconsciously allow in the very language used to express psychical
domination, is a lower manifestation. Though working often for good, the
power in itself is of evil; and the recognition of it by the subjugated
is not a recognition of higher moral energy, but of a higher _mental_
energy signifying larger evolutional experience of wrong, deeper
reserves of aggressive ingenuity, heavier capacities for the giving of
pain. Called by no matter what euphemistic name, such power is brutal
in its origin, and still allied to those malignities and ferocities
shared by man with lower predatory creatures. But the beauty of the
superindividual is revealed in that rarer power which the dead lend the
living to win trust, to inspire ideals, to create love, to brighten
whole circles of existence with the charm and wonder of a personality
never to be described save in the language of light and music.


Now if we could photographically _decompose_ a composite photograph
so as to separate in order inverse all the impressions interblended
to make it, such process would clumsily represent what really
happens when the image of a strange face is telegraphed back--like a
police-photograph--from the living retina to the mysterious offices
of inherited memory. There, with the quickness of an electric flash,
the shadow-face is decomposed into all the ancestral types combined
in it; and the resulting verdict of the dead, though rendered only by
indefinable sensation, is more trustworthy than any written certificate
of character could ever be. But its trustworthiness is limited to
the _potential_ relation of the individual seen to the individual
seeing. Upon different minds, according to the delicate balance of
personality,--according to the qualitative sum of inherited experience
in the psychical composition of the observer,--the same features will
make very different impressions. A face that strongly repels one person
may not less strongly attract another, and will produce nearly similar
impressions only on groups of emotionally homogeneous natures. Certainly
the fact of this ability to discern in the composition of faces that
indefinable something which welcomes or which warns, does suggest
the possibility of deciding some laws of ethical physiognomy; but
such laws would necessarily be of a very general and simple kind, and
their relative value could never equal that of the uneducated personal

How, indeed, should it be otherwise? What science could ever hope to
measure the infinite possibilities of psychical combination? And the
present in every countenance is a recombination of the past;--the living
is always a resurrection of the dead. The sympathies and the fears,
the hopes and the repulsions that faces inspire, are but revivals and
reiterations,--echoes of sentiency created in millions of minds by
immeasurable experience operating through immeasurable time. My friend
of this hour, though no more identical with his forefathers than any
single ripple of a current is identical with all the ripples that ever
preceded it, is nevertheless by soul-composition one with myriads known
and loved in other lands and in other lives,--in times recorded and in
times forgotten,--in cities that still remain and in cities that have
ceased to be,--by thousands of my vanished selves.

Beauty is Memory



When you first saw her your heart leaped, and a tingling shocked through
all your blood like a gush of electricity. Simultaneously your senses
were changed, and long so remained.

That sudden throb was the awakening of your dead;--and that thrill was
made by the swarming and the crowding of them;--and that change of sense
was wrought only by their multitudinous desire,--for which reason it
seemed _an intensification_. They remembered having loved a number of
young persons somewhat resembling her. But where, or when, they did not
recollect. They--(and They, of course, are You)--had drunk of Lethe many
times since then.

The true name of the River of Forgetfulness is the River of
Death--though you may not find authority for the statement in classical
dictionaries. But the Greek story, that the waters of Lethe bring
to weary souls oblivion of the past, is not quite true. One draught
will indeed numb and becloud some forms of memory,--will efface the
remembrance of dates and names and of other trifling details;--but a
million draughts will not produce total oblivion. Even the destruction
of the world would not have that result. _Nothing is absolutely
forgotten except the non-essential._ The essential can, at most, only be
dimmed by the drinking of Lethe.

It was because of billions of billions of memories amassed through
trillions of lives, and blended within you into some one vague delicious
image, that you came to believe a certain being more beautiful than
the sun. The delusion signified that she happened to resemble this
composite,--mnemonic shadowing of all the dead women related to the
loves of your innumerable lives. And this first part of your experience,
when you could not understand,--when you fancied the beloved a witch,
and never even dreamed that the witchery might be the work of ghosts,
was--the Period of Wonder.


Wonder at what? At the power and mystery of beauty. (For whether only
within yourself, or partly within and partly outside of yourself, it
was beauty that you saw, and that made you wonder.) But you will now
remember that the beloved seemed lovelier than mortal woman really could
be;--and the how and the why of that seeming are questions of interest.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the power to see beauty we are born--somewhat, though not
altogether, as we are born with the power to perceive color. Most
human beings are able to discern something of beauty, or at least
of approach to beauty--though the volume of the faculty varies in
different individuals more than the volume of a mountain varies from
that of a grain of sand. There are men born blind; but the normal being
inherits some ideal of beauty. It may be vivid or it may be vague; but
in every case it represents an accumulation of countless impressions
received by the race,--countless fragments, of prenatal remembrance
crystallized into one composite image within organic memory, where,
like the viewless image on a photographic plate awaiting development, it
remains awhile in darkness absolute. And just because it is a composite
of numberless race-memories of individual attraction, this ideal
necessarily represents, in the superior mind, a something above the
existing possible,--something never to be realized, much less surpassed,
in the present state of humanity.

And what is the relation of this composite, fairer than human
possibility, to the illusion of love? If it be permissible to speak
one’s imagining of the unimaginable, I can dare a theory. When, in
the hour of the ripeness of youth, there is perceived some objective
comeliness faintly corresponding to certain outlines of the inherited
ideal, at once a wave of emotion ancestral bathes the long-darkened
image, defines it, illuminates it,--and so deludes the senses;--for the
sense-reflection of the living objective becomes temporarily blended
with the subjective phantasm,--with the beautiful luminous ghost made
of centillions of memories. Thus to the lover the common suddenly
becomes the impossible, because he really perceives blended with it the
superindividual and superhuman. He is much too deeply bewitched by that
supernatural to be persuaded of his illusion, by any reasoning. What
conquers his will is not the magic of anything living or tangible, but a
charm sinuous and fugitive and light as fire,--a spectral snare prepared
for him by myriads unthinkable of generations of dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

So much and no more of theory I venture as to the _how_ of the riddle.
But what of the _why_,--the reason of the emotion made by this ghostly
beauty revived out of the measureless past? What should beauty have to
do with a superindividual ecstasy older than all æsthetic feeling? What
is the evolutional secret of the fascination of beauty?

I think that an answer can be given. But it will involve the fullest
acceptance of this truth:--_There is no such thing as beauty-in-itself._

All the riddles and contradictions of our æsthetic systems are natural
consequences of the delusion that beauty is a something absolute, a
transcendental reality, an eternal fact. It is true that the appearance
we call beauty is the symbol of a fact,--is the visible manifestation of
a development beyond the ordinary,--a bodily evolution more advanced
than the existing average. In like manner what we call grace is a real
manifestation of the economy of force. But since there can be no cosmic
limit to evolutional possibilities, there never can be any standards of
grace or of beauty that are not relative and essentially transitory; and
there can be no physical ideals,--not even Greek ideals,--that might
not in the course of human evolution or of superhuman evolution be so
much more than realized as to become vulgarities of form. An ultimate
of beauty is inconceivable and impossible; no term of æsthetics can
ever represent more than the idea of a phase of the perpetual becoming,
a temporary relation in comparative evolution. Beauty-in-itself is
only the name of a sensation, or complex of sensation, mistaken for
objectivity--much as sound and light and color were once imagined to be

Yet what is it that attracts?--what is the meaning of the resistless
emotion which we call the Sense of Beauty?

Like the sensing of light or color or perfume, the recognition of
beauty is a recognition of fact. But that fact bears to the feeling
evoked no more likeness than the reality of five hundred billions of
ether-shiverings per second bears to the sensation of orange. Still in
either case the fact is a manifestation of force. Representing higher
evolution, the phenomenon termed beauty also represents a relatively
superior fitness for life, a higher ability to fulfil the conditions of
existence; and it is the non-conscious perception of this representation
that makes the fascination. The longing aroused is not for any mere
abstraction, but for greater completeness of faculty as means to the
natural end. To the dead within each man, beauty signifies the presence
of what they need most,--Power. They know, in despite of Lethe, that
when they lived in comely bodies life was usually made easy and happy
for them, and that when prisoned in feeble or in ugly bodies, they found
life miserable or difficult. They want to live many times again in sound
young bodies,--in shapes that assure force, health, joy, quickness to
win and energy to keep the best prizes of life’s contest. They want,
if possible, conditions better than any of the past, but in no event
conditions worse.


And so the Riddle resolves itself as Memory,--immeasurable Memory of all
bodily fitness for the ends of life: a Composite glorified, doubtless,
by some equally measureless inherited sense of all the vanished joys
ever associated with such fitness.

Infinite, may we not term it--this Composite? Aye, but not merely
because the multitudes of dead memories that make it are unspeakable.
Equally unspeakable the width and the depth of the range of them
throughout the enormity of Time.... O lover, how slender the beautiful
witch,--the ghost within the ghost of you! Yet the depth of that ghost
is the depth of the Nebulous Zone bespanning Night,--the luminous Shadow
that Egypt figured of old as Mother of the Sun and the Gods, curving
her long white woman’s-body over the world. As a vapor of phosphorus,
or wake of a ship in the night,--only so with naked eye can we behold
it. But pierced by vision telescopic, it is revealed as the further
side of the Ring of the Cosmos,--dim belt of millions of suns seemingly
massed together like the cells of a living body, yet so seeming only
by reason of their frightful remoteness. Even thus really separated
each from each in the awfulness of the Night of Time,--by silent
profundities of centuries,--by interspaces of thousands and of myriads
of years,--though collectively shaping to love’s desire but one dim soft
sweet phantom,--are those million-swarming memories that make for youth
its luminous dream of beauty.

Sadness in Beauty

The poet who sang that beautiful things bring sadness, named as
beautiful things music and sunset and night, clear skies and transparent
waters. Their sadness he sought to explain by vague soul-memories
of Paradise. Very old-fashioned this explanation; but it contains a
shadowing of truth. For the mysterious sadness associated with the sense
of beauty is certainly not of this existence, but of countless anterior
lives,--and therefore indeed a sadness of reminiscence.

Elsewhere I try to explain why certain qualities of music, and certain
aspects of sunset produce sadness, and even more than sadness. As
for impressions of night, however, I doubt if the emotion that night
evokes in this nineteenth century can be classed with the sadness that
beauty brings. A wonderful night,--a tropical night, for instance,
lucent and lukewarm, with a new moon in it, curved and yellow like a
ripe banana,--may inspire, among other minor feelings something of
tenderness; but the great dominant emotion evoked by the splendor of the
vision is not sadness. Breaking open the heavens to their highest, night
widens modern thought over the bounds of life and death by the spectacle
of that Infinite whose veil is day. Night also forces remembrance of
the mystery of our tether,--the viewless force that holds us down
to this wretched little ball of a world. And the result is cosmic
emotion--vaster than any sense of the sublime,--drowning all other
emotion,--but nowise akin to the sadness that beauty causes. Anciently
the emotion of night must have been incomparably less voluminous.
Men who believed the sky to be a solid vault, never could have felt,
as we feel it, the stupendous pomp of darkness. And our ever-growing
admiration of those awful astral questions in the Book of Job, is mainly
due to the fact that, with the progress of science, they continue to
make larger and larger appeal to forms of thought and feeling which
never could have entered into the mind of Job.

But the sadness excited by the beauty of a perfect day, or by the charm
of nature in her brightest moods, is a fact of another kind, and needs
a different explanation. Inherited the feeling must be,--but through
what cumulation of ancestral pain? Why should the tenderness of an
unclouded sky, the soft green sleep of summered valleys, the murmurous
peace of sun-flecked shadows, inspire us with sadness? Why should any
inherited emotion following an æsthetic perception be melancholy rather
than joyous?... Of course I do not refer to the sense of vastness or
permanence or power aroused by the sight of the sea, or by any vision
of sea-like space, or by the majesty of colossal ranges. That is the
feeling of the sublime,--always related to fear. Æsthetic sadness is
related rather to desire.

       *       *       *       *       *

“All beautiful things bring sadness,” is a statement as near to truth
as most general statements; but the sadness and its evolutional history
must vary according to circumstances. The melancholy awakened by the
sight of a beautiful face cannot be identical with that awakened by the
sight of a landscape, by the hearing of music, or by the reading of a
poem. Yet there should be some one emotional element common to æsthetic
sadness,--one general kind of feeling which would help us to solve the
riddle of the melancholy inspired by the sight of beauty in Nature. Such
a common element, I believe, is inherited longing,--inherited dim sense
of loss, shadowed and qualified variously by interrelated feelings.
Different forms of this inheritance would be awakened by different
impressions of the beautiful. In the case of human beauty, the æsthetic
recognition might be toned or shadowed by immemorial inheritance of
pain--pain of longing, and pain of separation from numberless forgotten
beloved. In the case of a color, a melody, an effect of sunshine or of
moonlight, the sense-impressions appealing to æsthetic feeling might
equally appeal to various ancestral memories of pain. The melancholy
given by the sight of a beautiful landscape is certainly a melancholy of
longing,--a sadness massive as vague, because made by the experience of
millions of our dead.

“The æsthetic feeling for nature in its purity,” declares Sully, “is
a modern growth ... the feeling for nature’s wild solitudes is hardly
older than Rousseau.” Perhaps to many this will seem rather a strong
statement in regard to the races of the West;--it is not true of the
races of the Far East, whose art and poetry yield ancient proof to the
contrary. But no evolutionist would deny that the æsthetic love of
nature has been developed through civilization, and that many abstract
sentiments now involved with it are of very recent origin. Much of the
sadness made in us by the sight of a beautiful landscape would therefore
be of comparatively modern growth, though less modern than some of the
higher qualities of æsthetic pleasure which accompany the emotion. I
surmise it to be mainly the inherited pain of that separation from
Nature which began with the building of walled cities. Possibly there
is blended with it something of incomparably older sorrow--such as the
immemorial mourning of man for the death of summer; but this, and other
feelings inherited from ages of wandering, would revive more especially
in the great vague melancholy that autumn brings into what we still call
our souls.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ever as the world increasing its wisdom increases its sorrow, our
dwellers in cities built up to heaven more and more regret the joys of
humanity’s childhood,--the ancient freedom of forest and peak and plain,
the brightness of mountain water, the cool keen sweetness of the sea’s
breath and the thunder-roll of its eternal epic. And all this regret of
civilization for Nature irretrievably forsaken, may somehow revive in
that great soft dim sadness which the beauty of a landscape makes us

In one sense we are certainly wrong when we say that the loveliness of
a scene brings tears to the eyes. It cannot be the loveliness of the
scene;--it is the longing of generations quickening in the hearts of us.
The beauty we speak of has no real existence: the emotion of the dead
alone makes it seem to be,--the emotion of those long-buried millions
of men and women who loved Nature for reasons very much simpler and
older than any æsthetic emotion is. To the windows of the house of life
their phantoms crowd,--like prisoners toward some vision of bright skies
and flying birds, free hills and glimmering streams, beyond the iron
of their bars. They behold their desire of other time,--the vast light
and space of the world, the wind-swept clearness of azure, the hundred
greens of wold and plain, the spectral promise of summits far away. They
hear the shrilling and the whirr of happy winged things, the chorus of
cicada and bird, the lisping and laughing of water, the under-tone of
leafage astir. They know the smell of the season--all sharp sweet odors
of sap, scents of flower and fruitage. They feel the quickening of the
living air,--the thrilling of the great Blue Ghost.

But all this comes to them, filtered through the bars and veils of their
rebirth, only as dreams of home to hopeless exile,--of child-bliss to
desolate age,--of remembered vision to the blind!

Parfum de Jeunesse

“I remember,”--said an old friend, telling me the romance of his
youth,--“that I could always find her cloak in the cloak-room without a
light, when it was time to take her home. I used to know it in the dark,
because it had the smell of sweet new milk....”

Which set me somehow to thinking of English dawns, the scent of
hayfields, the fragrance of hawthorn days;--and cluster after cluster
of memories lighted up in succession through a great arc of remembrance
that flashed over half a lifetime even before my friend’s last words
had ceased to sound in my ears. And then recollection smouldered into
revery,--a revery about the riddle of the odor of youth.

       *       *       *       *       *

That quality of the _parfum de jeunesse_ which my friend described is
not uncommon,--though I fancy that it belongs to Northern rather than
to Southern races. It signifies perfect health and splendid vigor. But
there are other and more delicate varieties of the attraction. Sometimes
it may cause you to think of precious gums or spices from the uttermost
tropics; sometimes it is a thin, thin sweetness,--like a ghost of musk.
It is not personal (though physical personality certainly has an odor):
it is the fragrance of a season,--of the springtime of life. But even
as the fragrance of spring, though everywhere a passing delight, varies
with country and climate, so varies the fragrance of youth.

Whether it be of one sex more than of another were difficult to say.
We notice it chiefly in girls and in children with long hair, probably
because it dwells especially in the hair. But it is always independent
of artifice as the sweetness of the wild violet is. It belongs to the
youth of the savage not less than to the youth of the civilized,--to
the adolescence of the peasant not less than to that of the prince.
It is not found in the sickly and the feeble, but only in perfect
joyous health. Perhaps, like beauty, it may have some vague general
relation to conditions ethical. Individual odors assuredly have,--as the
discrimination of the dog gives witness.

Evolutionists have suggested that the pleasure we find in the perfume
of a flower may be an emotional reflection from æons enormously
remote, when such odor announced, to forms of ancestral life far lower
than human, the presence of savory food. To what organic memory of
association might be due, upon the same hypothesis, our pleasure in the
perfume of youth?

Perhaps there were ages in which that perfume had significances more
definite and special than any which we can now attach to it. Like the
pleasure yielded by the fragrance of flowers, the pleasure given by the
healthy fragrance of a young body may be, partly at least, a survival
from some era in which odorous impressions made direct appeal to the
simplest of life-serving impulses. Long dissociated from such possible
primitive relation, odor of blossom and odor of youth alike have now
become for us excitants of the higher emotional life,--of vague but
voluminous and supremely delicate æsthetic feeling.

Like the feeling awakened by beauty, the pleasure of odor is a pleasure
of remembrance,--is the magical appeal of a sensation to countless
memories of countless lives. And even as the scent of a blossom
evokes the ghosts of feelings experienced in millions of millions of
unrecorded springs,--so the fragrance of youth bestirs within us the
spectral survival of sensations associated with every vernal cycle of
all the human existence that has vanished behind us.

And this fragrance of fresh being likewise makes invocation to
ideal sentiment,--to parental scarcely less than to amorous
tenderness,--because conjoined through immeasurable time with the charm
and the beauty of childhood. Out of night and death is summoned by its
necromancy more than a shadowy thrill from the rapture of perished
passion,--more than a phantom-reflex from the delight of countless
bridals;--even something also of the ecstasy of pressing lips of caress
to the silky head of the first-born,--faint refluence from the forgotten
joy of myriad millions of buried mothers.

Azure Psychology



Least common of the colors given by nature to bird, insect, and
blossom is bright pure blue. Blue flowers are believed to proclaim for
the plant that bears them a longer history of unchecked development
than flowers of any other primary color suggest; and the high cost
of the tint is perhaps hinted by the inability of the horticulturist
to produce blue roses or blue chrysanthemums. Vivid blue appears in
the plumage of some wonderful birds, and on the wings of certain
amazing butterflies--especially tropical butterflies;--but usually
under conditions that intimate a prodigious period of evolutional
specialization. Altogether it would seem that blue was the latest pure
color developed in the evolution of flower and scale and feather; and
there is reason to believe that the power of perceiving blue was not
acquired until after the power of distinguishing red and green and
yellow had already been gained.

Whether the hypothesis be true or false, it is certainly noteworthy
that, of the primary colors, blue alone has remained, up to the present
time, a color pleasurable in its purest intensity to the vision of
highly civilized races. Bright red, bright green, bright orange,
yellow, or violet, can be used but sparingly in our nineteenth-century
attire and decoration. They have become offensive in their spectral
purity because of the violence of the sensations that they give;--they
remain grateful only to the rudimentary æsthetic feeling of children,
of the totally uncultivated, or of savages. What modern beauty clothes
herself in scarlet, or robes herself in fairy green? We cannot paint
our chambers violet or saffron--the mere idea jars upon our nerves. But
the color of heaven has not ceased to delight us. Sky-blue can still be
worn by our fairest; and the luminous charm of azure ceilings and azure
wall-surfaces--under certain conditions of lighting and dimension--is
still recognized.

“Nevertheless,” some one may say, “we do not paint the _outside_ of a
building skyblue; and a skyblue façade would be even more disagreeable
than an orange or a crimson façade.” This is true,--but not because the
effect of the color upon large surfaces is necessarily displeasing.
It is true only because vivid blue, unlike other bright colors, is
never associated in our experience of nature with large and opaque
_solidity_. When mountains become blue for us, they also become
ghostly and semi-transparent. Upon a housefront the color must appear
monstrous, because giving the notion of the unnatural,--of a huge blue
dead solidity tangibly proximate. But a blue ceiling, a blue vault,
blue walls of corridors, may suggest the true relation of the color to
depth and transparency, and make for us a grateful illusion of space
and summer-light. Yellow, on the other hand, is a color well adapted to
façades, because associated in memory with the beautiful effect of dying
sunlight over pale broad surfaces.

But although yellow remains, after blue, the most agreeable of the
primary colors, it cannot often be used for artistic purposes, like
blue, in all its luminous strength. Pale tones of yellow,--especially
creamy tones,--are capable of an immense variety of artistic employment;
but this is not true of the brilliant and burning yellow. Only blue is
always agreeable in its most vivid purity--providing that it be not
used in massive displays so as to suggest the anomaly of blue hardness
and blue opacity.[75]

In Japan, which may still be called the land of perfect good taste in
chromatics--notwithstanding the temporary apparition of some discords
due to Western influence,--almost any ordinary street-vista tells the
story of the race-experience with color. The general tone of the vista
is given by bluish greys above and dark blues below, sharply relieved
by numerous small details of white and cool yellow. In this perspective
the bluish-greys represent the tiling of roofs and awnings; the dark
blues, shop-draperies; the bright whites, narrow strips of plastered
surface; the pale yellows, mostly smooth naked wood, and glimpses of
rush-mattings. The broader stretches of color are furthermore relieved
and softened by the sprinkling of countless ideographs over draperies
and shop-signs--black, (and sometimes red) against white; white or gold
on blue. Strong yellows, greens, oranges, purples are invisible. In
dress also greys and cool blues rule: when you do happen to see robes
or _hakama_ all of one brilliant color,--worn by children or young
girls,--that color is either a sky-blue, or a violet with only just
enough red in it to kindle the azure,--a rainbow-violet of exquisite


But I wish to speak neither of the æsthetic value of blue in relation
to arts and industries, nor of the optical significance of blue as the
product of six hundred and fifty billion oscillations of the luminous
ether per second. I only want to say something about the psychology of
the color,--about its subjective evolutional history.

Certainly the same apparition of blue will bestir in different
minds different degrees of feeling, and will set in motion, through
memory-revival of unlike experiences, totally dissimilar operations
of fancy. But independently of such psychological variation--mainly
personal and superficial,--there can be no doubt that the color evokes
in the _general_ mind one common quality of pleasurable feeling,--a
vivacious thrill,--a tone of emotional activity unmistakably related to
the higher zones of sentiency and of imagination.

       *       *       *       *       *

In my own case the sight of vivid blue has always been accompanied by an
emotion of vague delight--more or less strong according to the luminous
intensity of the color. And in one experience of travel,--sailing to the
American tropics,--this feeling rose into ecstasy. It was when I beheld
for the first time the grandest vision of blue in this world,--the glory
of the Gulf-Stream: a magical splendor that made me doubt my senses,--a
flaming azure that looked as if a million summer skies had been
condensed into pure fluid color for the making of it. The captain of the
ship leaned over the rail with me; and we both watched the marvellous
sea for a long time in silence. Then he said:--

       *       *       *       *       *

“Fifteen years ago I took my wife with me on this trip--just after we
were married, it was;--and she wondered at the water. She asked me to
get her a silk dress of the very same color. I tried in ever so many
places; but I never could get just what she wanted till a chance took me
to Canton. I went round the Chinese silk-shops day after day, looking
for that color. It wasn’t easy to find; but I did get it at last. Wasn’t
she glad, though, when I brought it home to her!... She’s got it

       *       *       *       *       *

Still, at times, in sleep, I sail southward again over the wonder of
that dazzling surging azure;--then the dream shifts suddenly across
the world, and I am wandering with the Captain through close dim queer
Chinese streets,--vainly seeking a silk of the Blue of the Gulf-Stream.
And it was this memory of tropic days that first impelled me to think
about the reason of the delight inspired by the color.


Possibly the wave of pleasurable emotion excited by a glorious vision
of blue is not more complex than the feeling aroused by any massive
display of any other pure color;--but it is higher in the quality of its
complexity. For the ideational elements that blend in the volume of it
include not a few of the noblest,--not a few of those which also enter
into the making of Cosmic Emotion.

Being the seeming color of the ghost of our planet,--of the breath of
the life of the world,--blue is likewise the color apparent of the
enormity of day and the abyss of the night. So the sensation of it makes
appeal to the ideas of Altitude, of Vastness, and of Profundity;--

Also to the idea of Space in Time; for blue is the tint of distance and
of vagueness;--

Also to the idea of Motion; for blue is the color of Vanishing and of
Apparition. Peak and vale, bay and promontory, turn blue as we leave
them; and out of blue they grow and define again as we glide homeward.

And therefore in the volume of feeling awakened in us by the sensation
of blue, there should be something of the emotion associated with
experience of change,--with countless ancestral sorrows of parting. But
if there indeed be any such dim survival, it is utterly whelmed and
lost in that all-radiant emotional inheritance related to Summer and
Warmth,--to the joy of past humanity in the light of cloudless days.

Still more significant is the fact that although blue is a sacred color,
the dominant tones of the feeling it evokes are gladness and tenderness.
Blue speaks to us of the dead and of the gods, but never of their

       *       *       *       *       *

Now when we reflect that blue is the color of the idea of the divine,
the color pantheistic, the color ethical,--thrilling most deeply into
those structures of thought to which belong our sentiments of reverence
and justice, of duty and of aspiration,--we may wonder why the emotion
it calls up should be supremely gladsome. Is it because that sensuous
race-experience of blue skies,--that measureless joy of the dead in
light and warmth, which has been transmitted to each of us in organic
memory,--is vastly older than the religious idea, and therefore
voluminous enough to drown any ethical feeling indirectly related to the
color-sensation? Partly so, no doubt;--but I will venture another, and a
very simple explanation:--

       *       *       *       *       *

_All moral pulsations in the wave of inherited feeling which responds to
the impression of blue, belong only to the beautiful and tender aspects
of faith._

       *       *       *       *       *

And thus much having been ventured, I may presume a little further.

I imagine that for many of us one of the most powerful elements in
this billow of pleasurable feeling evoked by the vision of blue, _is_
spiritual, in the fullest ethical meaning of the word;--that under the
fleeting surface-plexus of personal emotion empirically associated
with the color, pulses like a tide the transmitted religious emotion
of unnumbered ages;--and that, quickening and vivifying all inherited
sense of blue as beauty, is the inherited lucent rapture of blue as the
splendor mystical,--as the color of the everlasting Peace. Something
of all human longing for all the Paradises ever imagined,--of all
pre-existent trust in the promise of reunion after death,--of all
expired dreams of unending youth and bliss,--may be revived for us,
more or less faintly, in this thrill of the delight of azure. Even
as through the jewel-radiance of the Tropic Stream pass undulations
from the vaster deep,--with their sobbings and whisperings, their
fugitive drift and foam,--so, through the emotion evoked by the vision
of luminous blue, there may somehow quiver back to us out of the
Infinite--(multitudinous like the billion ether-shiverings that make the
blue sensation of a moment)--something of all the aspirations of the
ancient faiths, and the power of the vanished gods, and the passion and
the beauty of all the prayer ever uttered by lips of man.


[75] Blue jewels, blue eyes, blue flowers delight us; but in these the
color accompanies either transparency or visible softness. It is perhaps
because of the incongruity between hard opacity and blue that the sight
of a book in sky-blue binding is unendurable. I can imagine nothing more

[76] This essay was written several years ago. During 1897 I noticed for
the first time since my arrival in Japan a sprinkling of dark greens
and light-yellows in the fashions of the season; but the general tone
of costume was little affected by these exceptions to older taste. The
light-yellow appeared only in some girdles of children.

A Serenade



“Broken” were too abrupt a word. My sleep was not broken, but suddenly
melted and swept away by a flow of music from the night without,--music
that filled me with expectant ecstasy by the very first gush of its
sweetness: a serenade,--a playing of flutes and mandolines.

The flutes had dove-tones; and they cooed and moaned and purled;--and
the mandolines throbbed through the liquid plaint of them, like a
beating of hearts. The players I could not see: they were standing in
heavy shadows flung into the street by a tropical moon,--shadows of
plantain and of tamarind.

Nothing in all the violet gloom moved but that music, and the
fire-flies,--great bright slow sparks of orange and of emerald. The
warm air held its breath; the plumes of the palms were still; and the
haunting circle of the sea, blue even beneath the moon, lay soundless as
a circle of vapor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Flutes and mandolines--a Spanish melody--nothing more. Yet it seemed as
if the night itself were speaking, or, out of the night some passional
life long since melted into Nature’s mystery, but continuing to haunt
the tepid, odorous, sparkling darkness of that strange world, which
sleeps under the sun, and wakens only to the stars. And its utterance
was the ghostly reiteration of rapture that had been, and never again
could be,--an utterance of infinite tenderness and of immeasurable

Never before had I felt how the simplest of music could express what
no other art is able even to suggest;--never before had I known
the astonishing possibilities of melody without ornament, without
artifice,--yet with a charm as bewildering, as inapprehensible, as the
Greek perception of the grace supreme.

Now nothing in perfect art can be only voluptuous; and this music,
in despite of its caress, was immeasurably, ineffably sad. And
the exquisite blending of melancholy with passion in a motive so
simple,--one low long cooing motive, over and over again repeated, like
a dove’s cry,--had a _strangeness_ of beauty like the musical thought
of a vanished time,--one rare survival, out of an era more warmly human
than our own, of some lost art of melody.


The music hushed, and left me dreaming, and vainly trying to explain the
emotion that it had made. Of one thing only I felt assured,--that the
mystery was of other existences than mine.

For the living present, I reflected, is the whole dead past. Our
pleasures and our pains alike are but products of evolution,--vast
complexities of sentiency created by experience of vanished beings
more countless than the sands of a myriad seas. All personality is
recombination; and all emotions are of the dead. Yet some seem to us
more ghostly than others,--partly because of their greater relative
mystery, partly because of the immense power of the phantom waves
composing them. Among pleasurable forms, the ghostliest are the emotion
of first love, the emotion following the perception of the sublime in
nature--of terrible beauty,--and the emotion of music. Why should they
so be? Probably because the influences that arouse them thrill furthest
into our forgotten past. Frightful as the depth of the abyss of Space
is the depth of one thinking life,--measureless even by millions of
ages;--and who may divine how profoundly in certain personalities the
mystery can be moved. We only know that the deeper the thrilling, the
heavier the wave responding, and the weirder the result,--until those
profundities are reached of which a single surge brings instant death,
or makes perpetual ruin of the delicate structures of thought.

Now any music that makes powerful appeal to the emotion of love,
awakening the passional latency of the past within us, must inevitably
revive dead pain not less than dead delight. Pain of the conquest of
will by a mystery resistless and pitiless, the torture of doubt, the
pangs of rivalry, the terror of impermanency,--shadows of these and
many another sorrow have had their part in the toning of that psychical
inheritance which makes at once love’s joy and love’s anguish, and grows
forever from birth to birth.

And thus it may happen that a child, innocent of passion or of real
pain, is moved even to tears by music uttering either. Unknowingly he
feels in that utterance a shadowing of the sorrow of numberless vanished


But it seemed to me that the extraordinary emotion awakened by that
tropical melody needed an explanation more qualitative than the
explanation above attempted. I felt sure that the dead past to which
the music had made appeal must have been a special past,--that some
particular class or group of emotional memories had been touched. Yet
what class?--what group? For the time being, I could not even venture a

Long afterwards, however, some chance happening revived for me with
surprising distinctness the memory of the serenade;--and simultaneously,
like a revelation, came the certainty that the whole spell of the
melody--all its sadness and all its sweetness--had been supremely and
uniquely _feminine_.

--“Assuredly,” I reflected, as the new conviction grew upon me, “the
primal source of all human tenderness has been the Eternal Feminine....
Yet how should melody uttering only the soul of woman have been composed
by man, and bestir within man this innominable quickening of emotional

The answer shaped itself at once,--

--“_Every mortal man has been many millions of times a woman._”

       *       *       *       *       *

Undoubtedly in either sex survives the sum of the feelings and of
the memories of both. But some rare experience may appeal at times
to the feminine element of personality alone,--to one half only of
the phantom-world of Self,--leaving the other hemisphere dormant and
unillumed. And such experience had found embodiment in the marvellous
melody of the serenade which I had heard.

That tremulous sweetness was never masculine; that passional sadness
never was of man:--unisexual both and inseparably blended into a single
miracle of tone-beauty. Echoing far into the mystery of my own past,
the enchantment of that tone had startled from their sleep of ages
countless buried loves, and set the whole delicate swarm fluttering
in some delicious filmy agony of revival,--set them streaming and
palpitating through the Night of Time,--like those myriads eddying
forever through the gloom of the vision of Dante.

       *       *       *       *       *

They died with the music and the moon,--but not utterly. Whenever in
dream the memory of that melody returns, again I feel the long soft
shuddering of the dead,--again I feel the faint wings spread and thrill,
responsive to the cooing of those spectral flutes, to the throbbing of
those shadowy mandolines. And the elfish ecstasy of their thronging
awakes me; but always with my wakening the delight passes, and in the
dark the sadness only lingers,--unutterable,--infinite...!

A Red Sunset



The most stupendous apparition of red that I ever saw was a tropical
sunset in a cloudless sky,--a sunset such as can be witnessed only
during exceptional conditions of atmosphere. It began with a flaming of
orange from horizon to zenith; and this quickly deepened to a fervid
vermilion, through which the crimson disk glared like the cinder of a
burnt-out star. Sea, peak, and palm caught the infernal glow; and I
became conscious of a vague strange horror within myself,--a sense of
distress like that which precedes a nightmare. I could not then explain
the feeling;--I only knew that the color had aroused it.

But how aroused it?--I later asked myself. Common theories about the
ugly sensation of bright red could not explain for me the weirdness of
that experience. As for the sanguine associations of the color, they
could interpret little in my case; for the sight of blood had never
affected my nerves in the least. I thought that the theory of psychical
inheritance might furnish some explanation;--but how could it meet the
fact that a color, which the adult finds insufferable, continues to
delight the child?

All ruddy tones, however, are not unpleasant to refined sensibility:
some are quite the reverse,--as, for example, the various tender colors
called pink or rose. These appeal to very agreeable kinds of sensuous
experience: they suggest delicacy and softness; they awaken qualities of
feeling totally different from those excited by vermilion or scarlet.
Pink, being the tint of the blossoming of flowers and the blossoming
of youth,--of the ripeness of fruit and the ripeness of flesh, is
ever associated with impressions of fragrance and sweetness, and with
memories of beautiful lips and cheeks.

No: it is only the pure brilliant red, the fervid red, that arouses
sinister feeling. Experience with this color seems to have been the
same even in societies evolved under conditions utterly unlike those of
our own history,--Japan being a significant example. The more refined
and humane a civilization becomes, the less are displays of the color
tolerated in its cultivated circles. But how are we to account for that
pleasure which bright red still gives to the children of the people who
detest it?


Many sensations which delighted us as children, prove to us either
insipid or offensive in adult life. Why? Because there have grown up
with our growth feelings which, though now related to them, were dormant
during childhood; ideas now associated with them, but undeveloped during
childhood; and experiences connected with them, never imagined in

For the mind, at our birth, is even less developed than the body; and
its full ripening demands very much more time than is needed for the
perfect bodily growth. Both by his faults and by his virtues the child
resembles the savage, because the instincts and the emotions of the
primitive man are the first to mature within him;--and they are the
first to mature in the individual because they were the first evolved in
the history of the race, being the most necessary to self-maintenance.
That in later adult life they take a very inferior place is because the
nobler mental and moral qualities--comparatively recent products of
social discipline and civilized habit--have at last gained massiveness
enough to dominate them under normal conditions;--have become like
powerful new senses upon which the primitive emotional nature learns to
depend for guidance.

All emotions are inheritances; but the higher, because in evolutional
order the latest, develop only with the complete unfolding of the brain.
Some, ethically considered the very loftiest, are said to develop only
in old age,--to which they impart a particular charm. Other faculties
also of a high order, chiefly æsthetic, would seem in the average of
cases to mature in middle life. And to this period of personal evolution
probably belongs the finer sense of beauty in color,--a much simpler
faculty than the ethical sense, though possibly related to it in ways

Vivid colors appeal to the rudimentary æsthetic sense of our children,
as they do to the æsthetic sense of savages; but the civilized
adult dislikes most of the very vivid colors: they exasperate his
nerves like an excessive crash of brass and drums during a cheap
orchestral performance. Cultured vision especially shrinks from a
strong blaze of red. Only the child delights in vermilion and scarlet.
Growing up he gradually learns to think of what we call “loud red”
as vulgar, and to dislike it much more than did his less delicate
ancestors of the preceding century. Education helps him to explain
why he thinks it vulgar, but not to explain why he _feels_ it to be
unpleasant,--independently of the question whether it tires his eyes.


And now I come back to the subject of that tropical sunset.

Even in the common æsthetic emotion excited by the spectacle of any
fine sunset, there are elements of feeling ancient as the race,--dim
melancholy, dim fear, inherited from ages when the dying of the day
was ever watched with sadness and foreboding. After that mighty
glow, the hours of primeval horror,--the fear of blackness, the
fear of nocturnal foes, the fear of ghosts. These, and other weird
feelings,--independently of the physical depression following the
withdrawal of sunlight,--would by inheritance become emotionally related
to visions of sundown; and the primitive horror would at last be
evolutionally transmuted to one elemental tone of the modern sublime.
But the spectacle of a vast _crimson_ sunset would awaken feelings
less vague than the sense of the sublime,--feelings of a definitely
sinister kind. The very color itself would make appeal to special
kinds of inherited feelings, simply because of its relation to awful
spectacles,--the glare of the volcano-summit, the furious vermilion of
lava, the raging of forest-fires, the overglow of cities kindling in the
track of war, the smouldering of ruin, the blazing of funeral-pyres. And
in this lurid race-memory of fire as destroyer,--as the “ravening ghost”
of Northern fancy,--there would mingle a vague distress evolved through
ancestral experience of _crimson heat in relation to pain_,--an organic
horror. And the like tremendous color in celestial phenomena would
revive also inherited terror related of old to ideas of the portentous
and of the wrath of gods.

       *       *       *       *       *

Probably the largest element of the unpleasant feeling aroused in man
by this angry color has been made by the experience of the race with
fire. But in even the most vivid red there is always some suggestion
of passion, and of the tint of blood. Inherited emotion related to
the sight of death must be counted among the elements of the sinister
feeling that the hue excites. Doubtless for the man, as for the bull,
the emotional wave called up by displays of violent red, is mostly the
creation of impressions and of tendencies accumulated through all the
immense life of the race; and, as in the old story of Thomas the Rhymer,
we can say of our only real Fairy-land, our ghostly past,--

    ... “_A’ the blude that’s shed on earth
    Rins through the springs o’ that Countrie._”

But those very associations that make burning red unbearable to modern
nerves must have already been enormously old when it first became the
color of pomp and luxury. How then should such associations affect us
unpleasantly now?

I would answer that the emotional suggestions of the color continued
to be pleasurable for the adult, as they still are for the child,
only while they remained more vague and much less voluminous than at
present. Becoming intensified in the modern brain, they gradually
ceased to yield pleasure,--somewhat as warmth increased to the degree
of heat ceases to be pleasurable. Still later they became painful; and
their actual painfulness exposes the fundamentally savage nature of
those sensations of splendor and power which the color once called into
play. And the intensification of the feeling evoked by red has not been
due merely to later accumulation of inherited impressions, but also
to the growth and development of emotions essentially antithetical to
ideas of violence and pain, and yet inseparable from them. The moral
sensibility of an era that has condemned not a few of the amusements of
our forebears to the limbo of old barbarities,--the humanity of an age
that refuses to believe in a hell of literal fire, that prohibits every
brutal sport, that compels kindness to animals,--is offended by the
cruel suggestiveness of the color. But within the slowly-unfolding brain
of the child, this modern sensibility is not evolved;--and until it has
been evolved, with the aid of experience and of education, the feeling
aroused by such a color as vivid scarlet will naturally continue to be
pleasurable rather than painful.


While thus trying to explain why a color dignified as imperial in
other centuries should have become offensive in our own, I found
myself wondering whether most of our actual refinements might not in
like manner become the vulgarities of a future age. Our standards
of taste and our ideals of beauty can have only a value relative to
conditions which are constantly changing. Real and ideal alike are
transitory,--mere apparitional undulations in the flux of the perpetual
Becoming. Perhaps the finest ethical or æsthetical sentiment of
to-day will manifest itself in another era only as some extraordinary
psychological atavism,--some rare individual reversion to the conditions
of a barbarous past.

What in the meantime would be the fate of sensations that are even
now becoming intolerable? Any faculty, mental or physical, however
previously developed by evolutional necessities, would have a tendency
to dwindle and disappear from the moment that it ceased to be either
useful or pleasurable. Continuance of the power to perceive red would
depend upon the possible future usefulness of that power to the race.
Not without suggestiveness in this connection may be the fact that it
represents the lowest rate of those ether-oscillations which produce
color. Perhaps our increasing dislike to it indicates that power to
distinguish it will eventually pass away--pass away in a sort of
Daltonism at the inferior end of the color-scale. Such visual loss would
probably be more than compensated by superior coincident specializations
of retinal sensibility. A more highly organized generation might
enjoy wonders of color now unimaginable, and yet never be able to
perceive red,--not, at least, that red whose sensation is the spectral
smouldering of the agonies and the furies of our evolutional past, the
haunting of a horror innominable, immeasurable,--enormous phantom-menace
of expired human pain.



Some there may be who have never felt the thrill of a human touch; but
surely these are few! Most of us in early childhood discover strange
differences in physical contact;--we find that some caresses soothe,
while others irritate; and we form in consequence various unreasoning
likes and antipathies. With the ripening of youth we seem to feel these
distinctions more and more keenly,--until the fateful day in which
we learn that a certain feminine touch communicates an unspeakable
shiver of delight,--exercises a witchcraft that we try to account for
by theories of the occult and the supernatural. Age may smile at these
magical fancies of youth; and nevertheless, in spite of much science,
the imagination of the lover is probably nearer to truth than is the
wisdom of the disillusioned.

We seldom permit ourselves in mature life to think very seriously about
such experiences. We do not deny them; but we incline to regard them as
nervous idiosyncrasies. We scarcely notice that even in the daily act
of shaking hands with persons of either sex, sensations may be received
which no physiology can explain.

I remember the touch of many hands,--the quality of each clasp, the
sense of physical sympathy or repulsion aroused. Thousands I have
indeed forgotten,--probably because their contact told me nothing in
particular; but the strong experiences I fully recollect. I found that
their agreeable or disagreeable character was often quite independent
of the moral relation: but in the most extraordinary case that I can
recall--(a strangely fascinating personality with the strangest of
careers as poet, soldier, and refugee)--the moral and the physical charm
were equally powerful and equally rare. “Whenever I shake hands with
that man,” said to me one of many who had yielded to his spell, “I feel
a warm shock go all through me, like a glow of summer.” Even at this
moment when I think of that dead hand, I can feel it reached out to me
over the space of twenty years and of many a thousand miles. Yet it was
a hand that had killed....

       *       *       *       *       *

These, with other memories and reflections, came to me just after
reading a criticism on Mr. Bain’s evolutional interpretation of the
thrill of pleasure sometimes given by the touch of the human skin. The
critic asked why a satin cushion kept at a temperature of about 98°
would not give the same thrill; and the question seemed to me unfair
because, in the very passage criticised, Mr. Bain had sufficiently
suggested the reason. Taking him to have meant--as he must have
meant,--not that the thrill is given by any kind of warmth and softness,
but only by the _peculiar_ warmth and softness of the human skin, his
interpretation can scarcely be contested by a sarcasm. A satin cushion
at a temperature of about 98° could not give the same sensation as that
given by the touch of the human skin for reasons even much more simple
than Mr. Bain implied,--since it is totally different from the human
skin in substance, in texture, and in the all-important fact that it is
not alive, but dead. Of course warmth and softness in themselves are
not enough to produce the thrill of pleasure considered by Mr. Bain:
under easily imaginable circumstances they may produce something of
the reverse. Smoothness has quite as much to do with the pleasure of
touch as either softness or warmth can have; yet a moist or a very dry
smoothness may be disagreeable. Again, cool smoothness in the human
skin is perhaps even more agreeable than warm smoothness; yet there is
a cool smoothness common to many lower forms of life which causes a
shudder. Whatever be those qualities making pleasurable the touch of a
hand, for example, they are probably very many in combination, and they
are certainly peculiar to the _living_ touch. No possible artificial
combination of warmth and smoothness and softness combined could excite
the same quality of pleasure that certain human touches give,--although,
as other psychologists than Mr. Bain have observed, it may give rise to
a fainter kind of agreeable feeling.

A special sensation can be explained only by special conditions. Some
philosophers would explain the conditions producing this pleasurable
thrill, or _frisson_, as mainly subjective; others, as mainly
objective. Is it not most likely that either view contains truth;--that
the physical cause must be sought in some quality, definable or
indefinable, attaching to a particular touch; and that the cause of the
coincident emotional phenomena should be looked for in the experience,
not of the individual, but of the race?

       *       *       *       *       *

Remembering that there can be no two tangible things exactly alike,--no
two blades of grass, or drops of water, or grains of sand,--it ought not
to seem incredible that the touch of one person should have power to
impart a sensation different from any sensation producible by the touch
of any other person. That such difference could neither be estimated nor
qualified would not necessarily imply unimportance or even feebleness.
Among the voices of the thousands of millions of human beings in this
world, there are no two precisely the same;--yet how much to the ear
and to the heart of wife or mother, child or lover, may signify the
unspeakably fine difference by which each of a billion voices varies
from every other! Not even in thought, much less in words, can such
distinction be specified; but who is unfamiliar with the fact and with
its immense relative importance?

That any two human skins should be absolutely alike is not possible.
There are individual variations perceptible even to the naked eye,--for
has not Mr. Galton taught us that the visible finger-marks of no two
persons are the same? But in addition to differences visible--whether
to the naked eye, or only under the microscope, there must be other
differences of quality depending upon constitutional vigor, upon nervous
and glandular activities, upon relative chemical composition of tissue.
Whether touch be a sense delicate enough to discern such differences,
would be, of course, a question for psycho-physics to decide,--and
a question not simply of magnitudes, but of qualities of sensation.
Perhaps it is not yet even legitimate to suppose that, just as by ear we
can distinguish the qualitative differences of a million voices, so by
touch we might be able to distinguish qualitative differences of surface
scarcely less delicate. Yet it is worth while here to remark that the
tingle or shiver of pleasure excited in us by certain qualities of
voice, very much resembles the thrill given sometimes by the touch of a
hand. Is it not possible that there may be recognized, in the particular
quality of a living skin, something not less uniquely attractive than
the indeterminable charm of what we call a bewitching voice?

Perhaps it is not impossible. But in the character of the _frisson_
itself there is a hint that the charm of the touch provoking it may be
due to something much more deeply vital than any physical combination
of smoothness, warmth and softness,--to something, as Mr. Bain has
suggested, electric or magnetic. Human electricity is no fiction:
every living body,--even a plant,--is to some degree electrical; and
the electric conditions of no two organisms would be exactly the same.
Can the thrill be partly accounted for by some individual peculiarity
of these conditions? May there not be electrical differences of touch
appreciable by delicate nervous systems,--differences subtle as those
infinitesimal variations of timbre by which every voice of a million
voices is known from every other?

Such a theory might be offered in explanation of the fact that the
slightest touch of a particular woman, for example, will cause a shock
of pleasure to men whom the caresses of other and fairer women would
leave indifferent. But it could not serve to explain why the same
contact should produce no effect upon some persons, while causing
ecstasy in others. No purely physical theory can interpret all the
mystery of the _frisson_. A deeper explanation is needed;--and I imagine
that one is suggested by the phenomenon of “love _at first sight_.”

The power of a woman to inspire love at first sight does not depend
upon some attraction visible to the common eye. It depends partly upon
something objective which only certain eyes can see; and it depends
partly upon some thing which no mortal can see,--_the psychical
composition of the subject of the passion_. Nobody can pretend to
explain in detail the whole enigma of first love. But a general
explanation is suggested by evolutional philosophy,--namely, that the
attraction depends upon an inherited individual susceptibility to
special qualities of feminine influence, and subjectively represents
a kind of superindividual recognition,--a sudden wakening of that
inherited composite memory which is more commonly called “passional
affinity.” Certainly if first love be evolutionally explicable, it means
the perception by the lover of some thing differentiating the beloved
from all other women,--something corresponding to an inherited ideal
within himself, previously latent, but suddenly lighted and defined by
result of that visual impression.

And like sight, though perhaps less deeply, do other of our senses
reach into the buried past. A single strain of melody, the sweetness
of a single voice--what thrill immeasurable will either make in the
fathomless sleep of ancestral memory! Again, who does not know that
speechless delight bestirred in us on rare bright days by something
odorous in the atmosphere,--enchanting, but indefinable? The first
breath of spring, the blowing of a mountain breeze, a south wind from
the sea may bring this emotion,--emotion overwhelming, yet nameless as
its cause,--an ecstasy formless and transparent as the air. Whatever
be the odor, diluted to very ghostliness, that arouses this delight,
the delight itself is too weirdly voluminous to be explained by any
memory-revival of merely individual experience. More probably it is
older even than human life,--reaches deeper into the infinite blind
depth of dead pleasure and pain.

Out of that ghostly abyss also must come the thrill responding within
us to a living touch,--touch electrical of man, questioning the
heart,--touch magical of woman, invoking memory of caresses given by
countless delicate and loving hands long crumbled into dust. Doubt it
not!--the touch that makes a thrill within you is a touch that you have
felt before,--sense-echo of forgotten intimacies in many unremembered

Vespertina Cognitio



I doubt if there be any other form of terror that even approaches
the fear of the supernatural, and more especially the fear of the
supernatural in dreams. Children know this fear both by night and by
day; but the adult is not likely to suffer from it except in slumber,
or under the most abnormal conditions of mind produced by illness.
Reason, in our healthy waking hours, keeps the play of ideas far above
those deep-lying regions of inherited emotion where dwell the primitive
forms of terror. But even as known to the adult in dreams only, there
is no waking fear comparable to this fear,--none so deep and yet so
vague,--none so unutterable. The indefiniteness of the horror renders
verbal expression of it impossible; yet the suffering is so intense
that, if prolonged beyond a certain term of seconds, it will kill.
And the reason is that such fear is not of the individual life: it
is infinitely more massive than any personal experience could account
for;--it is prenatal, ancestral fear. Dim it necessarily is, because
compounded of countless blurred millions of inherited fears. But for the
same reason, its depth is abysmal.

The training of the mind under civilization has been directed toward
the conquest of fear in general, and--excepting that ethical quality
of the feeling which belongs to religion--of the supernatural in
particular. Potentially in most of us this fear exists; but its sources
are well-guarded; and outside of sleep it can scarcely perturb any
vigorous mind except in the presence of facts so foreign to all relative
experience that the imagination is clutched before the reason can
grapple with the surprise.

Once only, after the period of childhood, I knew this emotion in a
strong form. It was remarkable as representing the vivid projection of a
dream-fear into waking consciousness; and the experience was peculiarly
tropical. In tropical countries, owing to atmospheric conditions, the
oppression of dreams is a more serious suffering than with us, and is
perhaps most common during the siesta. All who can afford it pass their
nights in the country; but for obvious reasons the majority of colonists
must be content to take their siesta, and its consequences, in town.

The West-Indian siesta does not refresh like that dreamless midday nap
which we enjoy in Northern summers. It is a stupefaction rather than
a sleep,--beginning with a miserable feeling of weight at the base of
the brain: it is a helpless surrender of the whole mental and physical
being to the overpressure of light and heat. Often it is haunted by ugly
visions, and often broken by violent leaps of the heart. Occasionally
it is disturbed also by noises never noticed at other times. When the
city lies all naked to the sun, stripped by noon of every shadow, and
empty of wayfarers, the silence becomes amazing. In that silence the
papery rustle of a palm-leaf, or the sudden sound of a lazy wavelet
on the beach,--like the clack of a thirsty tongue,--comes immensely
magnified to the ear. And this noon, with its monstrous silence, is for
the black people the hour of ghosts. Everything alive is senseless with
the intoxication of light;--even the woods drowse and droop in their
wrapping of lianas, drunk with sun....

Out of the siesta I used to be most often startled, not by sounds,
but by something which I can describe only as a sudden shock of
thought. This would follow upon a peculiar internal commotion caused,
I believe, by some abnormal effect of heat upon the lungs. A slow
suffocating sensation would struggle up into the twilight-region between
half-consciousness and real sleep, and there bestir the ghastliest
imaginings,--fancies and fears of living burial. These would be
accompanied by a voice, or rather the idea of a voice, mocking and
reproaching:--“‘_Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is
for the eyes to behold the sun._’... Outside it is day,--tropical
day,--primeval day! And you sleep!!... ‘_Though a man live many years
and rejoice in them all, yet--_’ ... Sleep on!--all this splendor will
be the same when your eyes are dust!... ‘_Yet let him remember the days
of darkness_;--FOR THEY SHALL BE MANY!’”

       *       *       *       *       *

How often, with that phantom crescendo in my ears, have I leaped in
terror from the hot couch, to peer through the slatted shutters at the
enormous light without--silencing, mesmerizing;--then dashed cold water
over my head, and staggered back to the scorching mattress, again to
drowse, again to be awakened by the same voice, or by the trickling of
my own perspiration--a feeling not always to be distinguished from that
caused by the running of a centipede! And how I used to long for the
night, with its Cross of the South! Not because the night ever brought
coolness to the city, but because it brought relief from the _weight_ of
that merciless sunfire. For the feeling of such light is the feeling of
a deluge of something ponderable,--something that drowns and dazzles and
burns and numbs all at the same time, and suggests the idea of liquified

       *       *       *       *       *

There are times, however, when the tropical heat seems only to thicken
after sunset. On the mountains the nights are, as a rule, delightful
the whole year round. They are even more delightful on the coast facing
the trade-winds; and you may sleep there in a seaward chamber, caressed
by a warm, strong breeze,--a breeze that plays upon you not by gusts
or whiffs, but with a steady ceaseless blowing,--the great fanning
wind-current of the world’s whirling. But in the towns of the other
coast--nearly all situated at the base of wooded ranges cutting off
the trade-breeze,--the humid atmosphere occasionally becomes at night
something nameless,--something worse than the air of an overheated
conservatory. Sleep in such a medium is apt to be visited by nightmare
of the most atrocious kind.

My personal experience was as follows:--


I was making a tour of the island with a half-breed guide; and we had
to stop for one night in a small leeward-coast settlement, where we
found accommodation at a sort of lodging-house kept by an aged widow.
There were seven persons only in the house that night,--the old lady,
her two daughters, two colored female-servants, myself and my guide. We
were given a single-windowed room upstairs, rather small,--otherwise a
typical, Creole bedroom, with bare clean floor, some heavy furniture
of antique pattern, and a few rocking-chairs. There was in one corner
a bracket supporting a sort of household shrine--what the Creoles call
a _chapelle_. The shrine contained a white image of the Virgin before
which a tiny light was floating in a cup of oil. By colonial custom
your servant, while travelling with you, sleeps either in the same room,
or before the threshold; and my man simply lay down on a mat beside the
huge four-pillared couch assigned to me, and almost immediately began
to snore. Before getting into bed, I satisfied myself that the door was
securely fastened.

       *       *       *       *       *

The night stifled;--the air seemed to be coagulating. The single large
window, overlooking a garden, had been left open,--but there was no
movement in that atmosphere. Bats--very large bats,--flew soundlessly
in and out;--one actually fanning my face with its wings as it circled
over the bed. Heavy scents of ripe fruit--nauseously sweet--rose
from the garden, where palms and plantains stood still as if made of
metal. From the woods above the town stormed the usual night-chorus of
tree-frogs, insects, and nocturnal birds,--a tumult not to be accurately
described by any simile, but suggesting, through numberless sharp
tinkling tones, the fancy of a wide slow cataract of broken glass. I
tossed and turned on the hot hard bed, vainly trying to find one spot
a little cooler than the rest. Then I rose, drew a rocking-chair to
the window and lighted a cigar. The smoke hung motionless; after each
puff, I had to blow it away. My man had ceased to snore. The bronze of
his naked breast--shining with moisture under the faint light of the
shrine-lamp,--showed no movement of respiration. He might have been a
corpse. The heavy heat seemed always to become heavier. At last, utterly
exhausted, I went back to bed, and slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

It must have been well after midnight when I felt the first vague
uneasiness,--_the suspicion_,--that precedes a nightmare. I was
half-conscious, dream-conscious of the actual,--knew myself in that
very room,--wanted to get up. Immediately the uneasiness grew into
terror, because I found that I could not move. Something unutterable in
the air was mastering will. I tried to cry out, and my utmost effort
resulted only in a whisper too low for any one to hear. Simultaneously
I became aware of a Step ascending the stair,--a muffled heaviness; and
the real nightmare began,--the horror of the ghastly magnetism that
held voice and limb,--the hopeless will-struggle against dumbness and
impotence. The stealthy Step approached, but with lentor malevolently
measured,--slowly, slowly, as if the stairs were miles deep. It
gained the threshold,--waited. Gradually then, and without sound, the
locked door opened; and the Thing entered, bending as it came,--a
thing robed,--feminine,--reaching to the roof,--not to be looked at!
A floor-plank creaked as It neared the bed;--and then--with a frantic
effort--I woke, bathed in sweat; my heart beating as if it were going
to burst. The shrine-light had died: in the blackness I could see
nothing; but I thought I heard that Step retreating. I certainly heard
the plank creak again. With the panic still upon me, I was actually
unable to stir. The wisdom of striking a match occurred to me, but I
dared not yet rise. Presently, as I held my breath to listen, a new
wave of black fear passed through me; for I heard moanings,--long
nightmare moanings,--moanings that seemed to be answering each other
from two different rooms below. And then, close to me, my guide began to
moan,--hoarsely, hideously. I cried to him:--


We both sat up at once. I heard him panting, and I knew that he was
fumbling for his cutlass in the dark. Then, in a voice husky with fear,
he asked:--

“_Missié, ess ou tanne?_” [Monsieur, est-ce que vous entendez?]

The moaners continued to moan,--always in crescendo: then there were
sudden screams,--“_Madame!_”--“_Manzell!_”--and running of bare feet,
and sounds of lamps being lighted, and, at last, a general clamor of
frightened voices. I rose, and groped for the matches. The moans and the
clamor ceased.

“_Missié_,” my man asked again, “_ess ou tè oué y?_” [Monsieur, est-ce
que vous l’avez vue?]

--“_Ça ou le di?_” [Qu’est-ce que vous voulez dire?] I responded in
bewilderment, as my fingers closed on the match-box.

--“_Fenm-là?_” he answered.... THAT WOMAN?

The question shocked me into absolute immobility. Then I wondered if I
could have understood. But he went on in his patois, as if talking to

--“Tall, tall--high like this room, that Zombi. When She came the floor
cracked. I heard--I saw.”

After a moment, I succeeded in lighting a candle, and I went to the
door. It was still locked,--double-locked. No human being could have
entered through the high window.

--“Louis!” I said, without believing what I said,--“you have been only

--“Missié,” he answered, “it was no dream. _She has been in all the
rooms, touching people!_”

I said,--

--“That is foolishness! See!--the door is double-locked.”

Louis did not even look at the door, but responded:--

--“Door locked, door not locked, Zombi comes and goes.... I do not like
this house.... Missié, leave that candle burning!”

He uttered the last phrase imperatively, without using the respectful
_souplé_--just as a guide speaks at an instant of common danger; and
his tone conveyed to me the contagion of his fear. Despite the candle,
I knew for one moment the sensation of nightmare outside of sleep! The
coincidences stunned reason; and the hideous primitive fancy fitted
itself, like a certitude, to the explanation of cause and effect.
The similarity of my vision and the vision of Louis, the creaking of
the floor heard by us both, the visit of the nightmare to every room
in succession,--these formed a more than unpleasant combination of
evidence. I tried the planking with my foot in the place where I
thought I had seen the figure: it uttered the very same loud creak that
I had heard before. “_Ça pa ka sam révé_,” said Louis. No!--that was not
like dreaming. I left the candle burning, and went back to bed--not to
sleep, but to think. Louis lay down again, with his hand on the hilt of
his cutlass.

       *       *       *       *       *

I thought for a long time. All was now silent below. The heat was at
last lifting; and occasional whiffs of cooler air from the garden
announced the wakening of a land-breeze. Louis, in spite of his recent
terror, soon began to snore again. Then I was startled by hearing a
plank creak--quite loudly,--the same plank that I had tried with my
foot. This time Louis did not seem to hear it. There was nothing there.
It creaked twice more,--and I understood. The intense heat first, and
the change of temperature later, had been successively warping and
unwarping the wood so as to produce those sounds. In the state of
dreaming, which is the state of imperfect sleep, noises may be audible
enough to affect imagination strongly,--and may startle into motion a
long procession of distorted fancies. At the same time it occurred to me
that the almost concomitant experiences of nightmare in the different
rooms could be quite sufficiently explained by the sickening atmospheric
oppression of the hour.

There still remained the ugly similitude of the two dreams to be
accounted for; and a natural solution of this riddle also, I was able
to find after some little reflection. The coincidence had certainly
been startling; but the similitude was only partial. That which my
guide had seen in his nightmare was a familiar creation of West-Indian
superstition--probably of African origin. But the shape that I had
dreamed about used to vex my sleep in childhood,--a phantom created for
me by the impression of a certain horrible Celtic story which ought not
to have been told to any child blessed, or cursed, with an imagination.


Musing on this experience led me afterwards to think about the meaning
of that fear which we call “the fear of darkness,” and yet is not really
fear of darkness. Darkness, as a simple condition, never could have
originated the feeling,--a feeling that must have preceded any definite
idea of ghosts by thousands of ages. The inherited, instinctive fear,
as exhibited by children, is not a fear of darkness in itself, but of
indefinable danger associated with darkness. Evolutionally explained,
this dim but voluminous terror would have for its primal element the
impressions created by real experience--experience of something acting
in darkness;--and the fear of the supernatural would mingle in it only
as a much later emotional development. The primeval cavern-gloom lighted
by nocturnal eyes;--the blackness of forest-gaps by river-marges, where
destruction lay in wait to seize the thirsty;--the umbrages of tangled
shores concealing horror;--the dusk of the python’s lair;--the place of
hasty refuge echoing the fury of famished brute and desperate man;--the
place of burial, and the fancied frightful kinship of the buried to
the cave-haunters:--all these, and countless other impressions of the
relation of darkness to death, must have made that ancestral fear of the
dark which haunts the imagination of the child, and still betimes seizes
the adult as he sleeps in the security of civilization.

Not all the fear of dreams can be the fear of the immemorial. But that
strange nightmare-sensation of being held by invisible power exerted
from a distance--is it quite sufficiently explained by the simple
suspension of will-power during sleep? Or could it be a composite
inheritance of numberless memories of _having been caught_? Perhaps
the true explanation would suggest no prenatal experience of monstrous
mesmerisms nor of monstrous webs,--nothing more startling than the
evolutional certainty that man, in the course of his development, has
left behind him conditions of terror incomparably worse than any now
existing. Yet enough of the psychological riddle of nightmare remains
to tempt the question whether human organic memory holds no record of
extinct forms of pain,--pain related to strange powers once exerted by
some ghastly vanished life.

The Eternal Haunter

This year the Tōkyō color-prints--_Nishiki-è_--seem to me of unusual
interest. They reproduce, or almost reproduce, the color-charm of the
early broadsides; and they show a marked improvement in line-drawing.
Certainly one could not wish for anything prettier than the best prints
of the present season.

My latest purchase has been a set of weird studies,--spectres of all
kinds known to the Far East, including many varieties not yet discovered
in the West. Some are extremely unpleasant; but a few are really
charming. Here, for example, is a delicious thing by “Chikanobu,” just
published, and for sale at the remarkable price of three _sen_!

Can you guess what it represents?... Yes, a girl,--but what kind of
a girl? Study it a little.... Very lovely, is she not, with that shy
sweetness in her downcast gaze,--that light and dainty grace, as of a
resting butterfly?... No, she is not some Psyche of the most Eastern
East, in the sense that you mean--but she is a soul. Observe that the
cherry-flowers falling from the branch above, are passing _through_
her form. See also the folds of her robe, below, melting into blue
faint mist. How delicate and vapory the whole thing is! It gives you
the feeling of spring; and all those fairy colors are the colors of a
Japanese spring-morning.... No, she is not the personification of any
season. Rather she is a dream--such a dream as might haunt the slumbers
of Far-Eastern youth; but the artist did not intend her to represent
a dream.... You cannot guess? Well, she is a tree-spirit,--the Spirit
of the Cherry-tree. Only in the twilight of morning or of evening she
appears, gliding about her tree;--and whoever sees her must love her.
But, if approached, she vanishes back into the trunk, like a vapor
absorbed. There is a legend of one tree-spirit who loved a man, and even
gave him a son; but such conduct was quite at variance with the shy
habits of her race....

You ask what is the use of drawing the Impossible? Your asking proves
that you do not feel the charm of this vision of youth,--this dream
of spring. _I_ hold that the Impossible bears a much closer relation
to fact than does most of what we call the real and the commonplace.
The Impossible may not be naked truth; but I think that it is usually
truth,--masked and veiled, perhaps, but eternal. Now to me this Japanese
dream is true,--true, at least, as human love is. Considered even as
a ghost it is true. Whoever pretends not to believe in ghosts of any
sort, lies to his own heart. Every man is haunted by ghosts. And this
color-print reminds me of a ghost whom we all know,--though most of us
(poets excepted) are unwilling to confess the acquaintance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps--for it happens to some of us--you may have seen this haunter,
in dreams of the night, even during childhood. Then, of course, you
could not know the beautiful shape bending above your rest: possibly you
thought her to be an angel, or the soul of a dead sister. But in waking
life we first become aware of her presence about the time when boyhood
begins to ripen into youth.

This first of her apparitions is a shock of ecstasy, a breathless
delight; but the wonder and the pleasure are quickly followed by a
sense of sadness inexpressible,--totally unlike any sadness ever felt
before,--though in her gaze there is only caress, and on her lips the
most exquisite of smiles. And you cannot imagine the reason of that
feeling until you have learned who she is,--which is not an easy thing
to learn.

Only a moment she remains; but during that luminous moment all the tides
of your being set and surge to her with a longing for which there is not
any word. And then--suddenly!--she is not; and you find that the sun has
gloomed, the colors of the world turned grey.

Thereafter enchantment remains between you and all that you loved
before,--persons or things or places. None of them will ever seem again
so near and dear as in other days.

Often she will return. Once that you have seen her she will never
cease to visit you. And this haunting,--ineffably sweet, inexplicably
sad,--may fill you with rash desire to wander over the world in search
of somebody like her. But however long and far you wander, never will
you find that somebody.

Later you may learn to fear her visits because of the pain they
bring,--the strange pain that you cannot understand. But the breadth of
zones and seas cannot divide you from her; walls of iron cannot exclude
her. Soundless and subtle as a shudder of ether is the motion of her.

Ancient her beauty as the heart of man,--yet ever waxing fairer, forever
remaining young. Mortals wither in Time as leaves in the frost of
autumn; but Time only brightens the glow and the bloom of her endless

All men have loved her;--all must continue to love her. But none shall
touch with his lips even the hem of her garment.

All men adore her; yet all she deceives, and many are the ways of her
deception. Most often she lures her lover into the presence of some
earthly maid, and blends herself incomprehensibly with the body of
that maid, and works such sudden glamour that the human gaze becomes
divine,--that the human limbs shine through their raiment. But presently
the luminous haunter detaches herself from the mortal, and leaves her
dupe to wonder at the mockery of sense.

No man can describe her, though nearly all men have some time tried
to do so. Pictured she cannot be,--since her beauty itself is a
ceaseless becoming, multiple to infinitude, and tremulous with perpetual
quickening, as with flowing of light.

There is a story, indeed, that thousands of years ago some marvellous
sculptor was able to fix in stone a single remembrance of her. But this
doing became for many the cause of sorrow supreme; and the Gods decreed,
out of compassion, that to no other mortal should ever be given power
to work the like wonder. In these years we can worship only;--we cannot

But who is she?--what is she?... Ah! that is what I wanted you to ask.
Well, she has never had a name; but I shall call her a tree-spirit.

The Japanese say that you can exorcise a tree-spirit,--if you are cruel
enough to do it,--simply by cutting down her tree.

But you cannot exorcise the Spirit of whom I speak,--nor ever cut down
her tree.

For her tree is the measureless, timeless, billion-branching Tree of
Life,--even the World-Tree, Yggdrasil, whose roots are in Night and
Death, whose head is above the Gods.

Seek to woo her--she is Echo. Seek to clasp her--she is Shadow. But her
smile will haunt you into the hour of dissolution and beyond,--through
numberless lives to come.

And never will you return her smile,--never, because of that which it
awakens within you,--the pain that you cannot understand.

And never, never shall you win to her,--because she is the phantom light
of long-expired suns,--because she was shaped by the beating of infinite
millions of hearts that are dust,--because her witchery was made in
the endless ebb and flow of the visions and hopes of youth, through
countless forgotten cycles of your own incalculable past.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s note

A half-title page at the front of the book, and duplicate title headings
which were printed before all except the first essay in each section,
have been removed.

Illustrations have been moved next to the text which they illustrate,
and so may not match the order in the List of Illustrations.

The following printing errors have been corrected:

Illustration following p. 50 “Kutswamushi” changed to “Kutsuwamushi”

p. 70 “KIN-HIBARI _natural size_)” changed to “KIN-HIBARI (_natural

p. 101 “sublety” changed to “subtlety”

p. 123 “inaminate” changed to “inanimate”

p. 127 “--The” changed to “--‘The”

p. 127 “Buddha.” changed to “Buddha.’”

Illustration after p. 136 “Seishi ‘Bosatsu” changed to “Seishi Bosatsu”

p. 142 “the Law” changed to “the-Law”

p. 142 “the Wondrous” changed to “the-Wondrous”

p. 142 (note) “reads:--Ji” changed to “reads:--“Ji”

p. 147 “Benevolence Listening” changed to “Benevolence-Listening”

p. 150 “Cloud-and Sword” changed to “Cloud-and-Sword”

p. 266 “softnesss” changed to “softness”

The following are inconsistently used:

bowstring and bow-string

glass-beads and glass beads

hataori and hata-ori

Kūkai and Kū-kai

lifetime and life-time

Sâkyamuni and Sakyamuni

skyblue and sky-blue

superindividual and super-individual

superindividuality and super-individuality

Sûtra (and sûtra) and Sutra (and sutra)

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