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BY LAKE BIWA
(By the dream-like waters of Lake Biwa's tide,
In the opal haze, one eve of spring, were
My loved one whispered, sitting at my side. "The color of forget-me-not," said she.)
It was a beautiful day late in April. The soft caress of spring was in the air when one day my knight and I found ourselves by Lake Biwa, the lake of the lute.
The water was softly lapping against the stones beneath the tiny balcony, as we sat in the small four-and-a-half mat room of the rural hostelry of Zé-zé.
Our hearts were full of content and happiness, things distressful and faraway had lost their power. We felt free of the world, the ukiyo, the unstable world of change and pain and care.
A soft, opalescent haze hung over the blue mirror-like lake, and the boats, with their sails, in the hazy distance lay as in a mirage of fairy-land. The rhythm of oars in the offing borne softly, so softly over the waters, sounded like heavenly music, marking the happy time.
on our bare sandaled feet soothes and revives us. With the twilight we find peace and rest and sanctuary from the fulsome, noisy glare of a midsummer day. The sonorous cry of the sad cicada, the "day-darkener," rings in the evening like a temple bell, and the threnody of the flowing river drifts like music over the quiet landscape.
As we saunter along the river, up from the village comes noise of an unwonted commotion.
Hark! the conch-shells drone in the distance "ho-ho-ho," and the drum throbs "don-don," and the gong is beaten "kan-kan." In unison the village orchestra keeps rhythm: "ho-ho, don-don, kan-kan."
This is the O Yare, the summer festival of the village. The O Yare is the great "driving-away" of insects through bonfires on the river-bank.
Insects in myriads, attracted by the light, fly toward the fires and meet death in the flames. Thus the ricefields and gardens are freed of these pests. The O Yare is the great "sending-off."
The rustics gather in the street, waiting for the torches to appear. The shouts of the youths are heard in the distance. The procession soon comes into view.
The first torch (taimatsu) is a stack of straw built with an umbrella-like roof. Against this great sheaf purple lanterns are draped as bunches of grapes, and yellow lanterns are arranged to look like luscious loquatsz. Giant apples of bamboo frame and painted paper add to this bright cluster of harvest fruit.
When the four taimatsu have reached the bank, with great ceremony and clamor they are lighted by the young men, and the bonfires flare into the night. Bundles of wood and straw are thrown into the flames; the villagers beat the bonfires with long sticks, each striving to make his fire burn the brightest. The flames rise high in the sky and cast long, fiery reflections upon the river.
How happy are the married couple first staying together in the paternal home! The Festival of the O Yare seems to them the welcome celebration of coming to their Ise home.
WOULD you know the purest ecstasy in life? Would you know the thrill of a revelation beyond the sweetest dreams, beyond all that mortal imagination may conjure up in happy vision?
Then come with me before the break of day to my woodland shrine beside a running rill. Here behold the morningglory unfold her dewy freshness to the dawn, while as high priestess at the altar raised to the love of nature she offers heavenward the adoration of simple souls, who in the moonlight have counted with the fervor of prayer and the anticipation of hope the buds that would open at the first ray of the rising sun.
Around us the birds, unseen choristers of the woods, burst forth in happy alleluias, warbling with liquid cadence among the trees.
Oh, morning-glories, morning-glories! Born with the dew and the first breath of dawn, these virgins, luminous as the moonlight, evanescent as the rainbow, and pure and cool as the source of a mountain spring, hold their first and last communion at sunrise, when soon, too soon, they wilt and die.
To this early service with the devotees of the morning come the honey-bee and the jewel-mailed dragon-fly and the peacock-sheened butterfly with black, velvety wings, all seeking the sweet transports of life.
As the delicate chalices of the morningglory are lifted to greet the sunlight, what marvels of color do they reveal! No queen in all her glory was ever ravishingly arrayed like one of these.
Beneath the softest bloom of velvet, the gleaming luster of silk, or the filmy iridescence of pearl, what crystallizations of the prism are displayed, what gleams of tropic fires, what rose-bursts of dawn!
Soul-rapt, I gaze upon moonstonemisted mauves as delicate as the pale amethyst from the Koshu Mountains, and pinks as soft as the faintly blushing cherries that tinge the hills of spring, upon white as immaculate as falling flakes of snow.
And who shall describe the blues that the morning-glory reveals? There is blue as thrillingly brilliant as the scintillating blue in the plumage of the
humming-bird, as delicate as that of the forget-me-not and robin's-egg blue, and there is heaven's deep azure which the universe gathers in its depths, embracing and blessing all.
This is the coronation of the blessed morn. Behold, diadems of dew tremulous with the first stirrings of the leaves, and brighter than the gems in any monarch's crown, hang on every tree! Now a tense stillness of expectation fills the air, while the incense of the earth, the fragrance of flowers, is wafted on the wings of the life-giving breezes of the dawn.
Then come with me to this coronation of the blessed morn, and participate in the rapture of this innocent revel. Leave the heavy-lidded eyed to their prison of slothful sleep and come forth.
Dear, indeed, to me the morning-glory; Day by day there opens in its blossoms All my dreams!
O, morning-glory, the poets and philosophers see in your short life a symbol of the impermanence of human existence. They lament your ephemeral beauty, which, after a brief triumph of splendor, perishes under the merciless sun of day.
Let me rather glory in the perfection you attain in the shortest of days, a sunlit hour of the dawn! Let me, too, strive to make perfect the little which is mine, and then, like you, O morning-glory, shall I be an uplifting impetus, a living joy to all I meet!
The maiden poetess, Chiyo of kagat, spiritual soul, one morning went to draw water from her well, when she found that during the night a morningglory vine, with its tendrils and tender, green stalk, had encircled the rope of her bucket.
Those beautiful fetters she refused to break, and bereft of her crystal draft, she set out to beg water from a neighboring well, composing the ever since celebrated hokku on the way:
(My bucket being taken This morn by morning-glory, I come to beg for water.)
Round my heart has the morningglory wound itself, and those tender, fragile bands, I too, will never break; for the morning-glory has given my soul a new joy, my life a new zest, and myself a new virtue the virtue of greeting the rising sun.
Oh, come with me to this feast of beauty, and with the dragon-fly and the bee and the butterfly learn the simple delight of watching the morning-glory unfold her dewy freshness at break of day!
PLUM-BLOSSOMS! Plum-blossoms! Fair heralds of the spring! My heart leaps with joy when your dainty, starlike flowers of pearl and snow begin to illumine the bare branches of the old, old trees, gnarled and bent like a dragon with age. Odorous of the genial days of spring are the chill winds of February and March, when your sweet flowers bloom, braving with samurai spirit the later frosts and snow of the year.
Thus have you become a symbol of womanly beauty and virtue, with fortitude proving sweet patience and courage and endurance during the storms of adversity.
In the beginning of a friendship, on a pilgrimage to admire the plum-blossoms, "the eldest flowers of Mother Earth," the knight first led me forth from the city.
Oh, the surprising charm of nature's ethereal beauty that awaits the pilgrim at the Akebonoya, "The Tea-house of the Dawn!"
In the hillside garden there the plumblossoms form a canopy of flowerwreathed branches, some faintly flushed with soft pink, others ivory and pearly white, all softly radiant in the sunlight.