The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu

Chapter 12

Suma

For Genji life had become an unbroken succession of reverses and afflictions. He must consider what to do next. If he went on pretending that nothing was amiss, then even worse things might lie ahead. He thought of the Suma coast. People of worth had once lived there, he was told, but now it was deserted save for the huts of fishermen, and even they were few. The alternative was worse, to go on living this public life, so to speak, with people streaming in and out of his house. Yet he would hate to leave, and affairs at court would continue to be much on his mind if he did leave. This irresolution was making life difficult for his people.

Unsettling thoughts of the past and the future chased one another through his mind. The thought of leaving the city aroused a train of regrets, led by the image of a grieving Murasaki. It was very well to tell himself that somehow, someday, by some route they would come together again. Even when they were separated for a day or two Genji was beside himself with worry and Murasaki’s gloom was beyond describing. It was not as if they would be parting for a fixed span of years; and if they had only the possibility of a reunion on some unnamed day with which to comfort themselves, well, life is uncertain, and they might be parting forever. He thought of consulting no one and taking her with him, but the inappropriateness of subjecting such a fragile lady to the rigors of life on that harsh coast, where the only callers would be the wind and the waves, was too obvious. Having her with him would only add to his worries. She guessed his thoughts and was unhappy. She let it be known that she did not want to be left behind, however forbidding the journey and life at the end of it.

Then there was the lady of the orange blossoms. He did not visit her often, it is true, but he was her only support and comfort, and she would have every right to feel lonely and insecure. And there were women who, after the most fleeting affairs with him, went on nursing their various secret sorrows.

Fujitsubo, though always worried about rumors, wrote frequently. It struck him as bitterly ironical that she had not returned his affection earlier, but he told himself that a fate which they had shared from other lives must require that they know the full range of sorrows.

He left the city late in the Third Month. He made no announcement of his departure, which was very inconspicuous, and had only seven or eight trusted retainers with him. He did write to certain people who should know of the event. I have no doubt that there were many fine passages in the letters with which he saddened the lives of his many ladies, but, grief-stricken myself, I did not listen as carefully as I might have.

Two or three days before his departure he visited his father-in-law. It was sad, indeed rather eerie, to see the care he took not to attract notice. His carriage, a humble one covered with cypress basketwork, might have been mistaken for a woman’s. The apartments of his late wife wore a lonely, neglected aspect. At the arrival of this wondrous and unexpected guest, the little boy’s nurse and all the other women who had not taken positions elsewhere gathered for a last look. Even the shallowest of the younger women were moved to tears at the awareness he brought of transience and mutability. Yūgiri, the little boy, was very pretty indeed, and indefatigably noisy.

“It has been so long. I am touched that he has not forgotten me.” He took the boy on his knee and seemed about to weep.

The minister, his father-in-law, came in. “I know that you are shut up at home with little to occupy you, and I had been thinking I would like to call on you and have a good talk. I talk on and on when once I let myself get started. But I have told them I am ill and have been staying away from court, and I have even resigned my offices; and I know what they would say if I were to stretch my twisted old legs for my own pleasure. I hardly need to worry about such things any more, of course, but I am still capable of being upset by false accusations. When I see how things are with you, I know all too painfully what a sad day I have come on at the end of too long a life. I would have expected the world to end before this was allowed to happen, and I see hot a ray of light in it all.”

“Dear sir, we must accept the disabilities we bring from other lilies. Everything that has happened to me is a result of my own inadequacy. I have heard that in other lands as well as our own an offense which does not, like mine, call for dismissal from office is thought to become far graver if the culprit goes on happily living his old life. And when exile is considered, as I believe it is in my case, the offense must have been thought more serious. Though I know I am innocent, I know too what insults I may look forward to if I stay, and so I think that I will forestall them by leaving.”

Brushing away tears, the minister talked of old times, of Genji’s father, and all he had said and thought. Genji too was weeping. The little boy scrambled and rolled about the room, now pouncing upon his father and now making demands upon his grandfather.

“I have gone on grieving for my daughter. And then I think what agony all this would have been to her, and am grateful that she lived such a short life and was spared the nightmare. So I try to tell myself, in any event. My chief sorrows and worries are for our little man here. He must grow up among us dotards, and the days and months will go by without the advantage of your company. It used to be that even people who were guilty of serious crimes escaped this sort of punishment; and I suppose we must call it fate, in our land and other lands too, that punishment should come all the same. But one does want to know what the charges are. In your case they quite defy the imagination.”

Tō no Chūjō came in. They drank until very late, and Genji was induced to stay the night. He summoned Aoi’s various women. Chūnagon was the one whom he had most admired, albeit in secret. He went on talking to her after everything was quiet, and it would seem to have been because of her that he was prevailed upon to spend the night. Dawn was at hand when he got up to leave. The moon in the first suggestions of daylight was very beautiful. The cherry blossoms were past their prime, and the light through the few that remained flooded the garden silver. Everything faded together into a gentle mist, sadder and more moving than on a night in autumn. He sat for a time leaning against the railing at a corner of the veranda. Chūnagon was waiting at the door as if to see him off.

“I wonder when we will be permitted to meet again.” He paused, choking with tears. “Never did I dream that this would happen, and I neglected you in the days when it would have been so easy to see you.”

Saishō, Yūgiri’s nurse, came with a message from Princess Omiya. “I would have liked to say goodbye in person, but I have waited in hope that the turmoil of my thoughts might quiet a little. And now I hear that you are leaving, and it is still so early. Everything seems changed, completely wrong. It is a pity that you cannot at least wait until our little sleepyhead is up and about.”

Weeping softly, Genji whispered to himself, not precisely by way of reply:

“There on the shore, the salt burners’ fires await me.

Will their smoke be as the smoke over Toribe Moor?

Is this the parting at dawn we are always hearing of? No doubt there are those who know.”

“I have always hated the word ‘farewell,’” said Saishō, whose grief seemed quite unfeigned.” And our farewells today are unlike any others.”

“Over and over again, “he sent back to Princess Omiya, “I have thought of all the things I would have liked to say to you; and I hope you will understand and forgive my muteness. As for our little sleepyhead, I fear that if I were to see him I would wish to stay on even in this hostile city, and so I shall collect myself and be on my way.”

All the women were there to see him go. He looked more elegant and handsome than ever in the light of the setting moon, and his dejection would have reduced tigers and wolves to tears. These were women who had served him since he was very young. It was a sad day for them.

There was a poem from Princess Omiya:

“Farther retreats the day when we bade her goodbye,

For now you depart the skies that received the smoke.”

Sorrow was added to sorrow, and the tears almost seemed to invite further misfortunes.

He returned to Nijō. The women, awake the whole night through, it seemed, were gathered in sad clusters. There was no one in the guardroom. The men closest to him, reconciled to going with him, were making their own personal farewells. As for other court functionaries, there had been ominous hints of sanctions were they to come calling, and so the grounds, once crowded with horses and carriages, were empty and silent. He knew again what a hostile world it had become. There was dust on the tables, cushions had been put away. And what would be the extremes of waste and the neglect when he was gone?

He went to Murasaki’s wing of the house. She had been up all night, not even lowering the shutters. Out near the verandas little girls were noisily bestirring themselves. They were so pretty in their night dress — and presently, no doubt, they would find the loneliness too much, and go their various ways. Such thoughts had not before been a part of his life.

He told Murasaki what had kept him at Sanjō. “And I suppose you are filled with the usual odd suspicions. I have wanted to be with you every moment I am still in the city, but there are things that force me to go out. Life is uncertain enough at best, and I would not want to seem cold and unfeeling.”

“And what should be’odd’ now except that you are going away?”

That she should feel these sad events more cruelly than any of the others was not surprising. From her childhood she had been closer to Genji than to her own father, who now bowed to public opinion and had not offered a word of sympathy. His coldness had caused talk among her women. She was beginning to wish that they had kept him in ignorance of her whereabouts.

Someone reported what her stepmother was saying: “She had a sudden stroke of good luck, and now just as suddenly everything goes wrong. It makes a person shiver. One after another, each in his own way, they all run out on her.”

This was too much. There was nothing more she wished to say to them. Henceforth she would have only Genji.

“If the years go by and I am still an outcast,” he continued, “I will come for you and bring you to my’cave among the rocks.’ But we must not be hasty. A man who is out of favor at court is not permitted the light of the sun and the moon, and it is thought a great crime, I am told, for him to go on being happy. The cause of it all is a great mystery to me, but I must accept it as fate. There seems to be no precedent for sharing exile with a lady, and I am sure that to suggest it would be to invite worse insanity from an insane world.”

He slept until almost noon.

Tō no Chūjō and Genji’s brother, Prince Hotaru, came calling. Since he was now without rank and office, he changed to informal dress of unfigured silk, more elegant, and even somehow grand, for its simplicity. As he combed his hair he could not help noticing that loss of weight had made him even handsomer.

“I am skin and bones,” he said to Murasaki, who sat gazing at him, tears in her eyes. “Can I really be as emaciated as this mirror makes me? I am a little sorry for myself.

“I now must go into exile. In this mirror

An image of me will yet remain beside you.”

Huddling against a pillar to hide her tears, she replied as if to herself:

“If when we part an image yet remains,

Then will I find some comfort in my sorrow.”

Yes, she was unique — a new awareness of that fact stabbed at his heart.

Prince Hotaru kept him affectionate company through the day and left in the evening.

It was not hard to imagine the loneliness that brought frequent notes from the house of the falling orange blossoms. Fearing that he would seem unkind if he did not visit the ladies again, he resigned himself to spending yet another night away from home. It was very late before he gathered himself for the effort.

“We are honored that you should consider us worth a visit,” said Lady Reikeiden — and it would be difficult to record the rest of the interview.

They lived precarious lives, completely dependent on Genji. So lonely indeed was their mansion that he could imagine the desolation awaiting it once he himself was gone; and the heavily wooded hill rising dimly beyond the wide pond in misty moonlight made him wonder whether the “cave among the rocks” at Suma would be such a place.

He went to the younger sister’s room, at the west side of the house. She had been in deep despondency, almost certain that he would not find time for a visit. Then, in the soft, sad light of the moon, his robes giving off an indescribable fragrance, he made his way in. She came to the veranda and looked up at the moon. They talked until dawn.

“What a short night it has been. I think how difficult it will be for us to meet again, and I am filled with regrets for the days I wasted. I fear I worried too much about the precedents I might be setting.”

A cock was crowing busily as he talked on about the past. He made a hasty departure, fearful of attracting notice. The setting moon is always sad, and he was prompted to think its situation rather like his own. Catching the deep purple of the lady’s robe, the moon itself seemed to be weeping.

“Narrow these sleeves, now lodging for the moonlight.

Would they might keep a light which I do not tire of.”

Sad himself, Genji sought to comfort her.

“The moon will shine upon this house once more.

Do not look at the clouds which now conceal it.

“I wish I were really sure it is so, and find the unknown future clouding my heart.”

He left as dawn was coming over the sky.

His affairs were in order. He assigned all the greater and lesser affairs of the Nijō mansion to trusted retainers who had not been swept up in the currents of the times, and he selected others to go with him to Suma. He would take only the simplest essentials for a rustic life, among them a book chest, selected writings of Po Chü-i and other poets, and a seven-stringed Chinese koto. He carefully refrained from anything which in its ostentation might not become a nameless rustic.

Assigning all the women to Murasaki’s west wing, he left behind deeds to pastures and manors and the like and made provision for all his various warehouses and storerooms. Confident of Shōnagon’s perspicacity, he gave her careful instructions and put stewards at her disposal. He had been somewhat brisk and businesslike toward his own serving women, but they had had security — and now what was to become of them?

“I shall be back, I know, if I live long enough. Do what you can in the west wing, please, those of you who are prepared to wait.”

And so they all began a new life.

To Yūgiri’s nurse and maids and to the lady of the orange blossoms he sent elegant parting gifts and plain, useful everyday provisions as well.

He even wrote to Oborozukiyo. “I know that I have no right to expect a letter from you; but I am not up to describing the gloom and the bitterness of leaving this life behind.

“Snagged upon the shoals of this river of tears,

I cannot see you. Deeper waters await me.

“Remembering is the crime to which I cannot plead innocent.”

He wrote nothing more, for there was a danger that his letter would be intercepted.

Though she fought to maintain her composure, there was nothing she could do about the tears that wet her sleeves.

“The foam on the river of tears will disappear

Short of the shoals of meeting that wait downstream.”

There was something very fine about the hand disordered by grief.

He longed to see her again, but she had too many relatives who wished him ill. Discretion forbade further correspondence.

On the night before his departure he visited his father’s grave in the northern hills. Since the moon would be coming up shortly before dawn, he went first to take leave of Fujitsubo. Receiving him in person, she spoke of her worries for the crown prince. It cannot have been, so complicated were matters between them, a less than deeply felt interview. Her dignity and beauty were as always. He would have liked to hint at old resentments; but why, at this late date, invite further unpleasantness, and risk adding to his own agitation?

He only said, and it was reasonable enough: “I can think of a single offense for which I must undergo this strange, sad punishment, and because of it I tremble before the heavens. Though I would not care in the least if my own unworthy self were to vanish away, I only hope that the crown prince’s reign is without unhappy event.”

She knew too well what he meant, and was unable to reply. He was almost too handsome as at last he succumbed to tears.

“I am going to pay my respects at His Majesty’s grave. Do you have a message?”

She was silent for a time, seeking to control herself.

“The one whom I served is gone, the other must go.

Farewell to the world was no farewell to its sorrows. But for both of them the sorrow was beyond words. He replied:

“The worst of grief for him should long have passed. And now I must leave the world where dwells the child.” The moon had risen and he set out. He was on horseback and had only five or six attendants, all of them trusted friends. I need scarcely say that it was a far different procession from those of old. Among his men was that guards officer who had been his special attendant at the Kamo lustration services. The promotion he might have expected had long since passed him by, and now his right of access to the royal presence and his offices had been taken away. Remembering that day as they came in sight of the Lower Kamo Shrine, he dismounted and took Genji’s bridle.

“There was heartvine in our caps. I led your horse.

And now at this jeweled fence I berate the gods.”

Yes, the memory must be painful, for the young man had been the most resplendent in Genji’s retinue. Dismounting, Genji bowed toward the shrine and said as if by way of farewell:

“I leave this world of gloom. I leave my name

To the offices of the god who rectifies.”

The guards officer, an impressionable young man, gazed at him in wonder and admiration.

Coming to the grave, Genji almost thought he could see his father before him. Power and position were nothing once a man was gone. He wept and silently told his story, but there came no answer, no judgment upon it. And all those careful instructions and admonitions had served no purpose at all?

Grasses overgrew the path to the grave, the dew seemed to gather weight as he made his way through. The moon had gone behind a cloud and the groves were dark and somehow terrible. It was as if he might lose his way upon turning back. As he bowed in farewell, a chill came over him, for he seemed to see his father as he once had been.

“And how does he look upon me? I raise my eyes,

And the moon now vanishes behind the clouds.”

Back at Nijō at daybreak, he sent a last message to the crown prince. Tying it to a cherry branch from which the blossoms had fallen, he addressed it to Omyōbu, whom Fujitsubo had put in charge of her son’s affairs. “Today I must leave. I regret more than anything that I cannot see you again. Imagine my feelings, if you will, and pass them on to the prince.

“When shall I, a ragged, rustic outcast,

See again the blossoms of the city?”

She explained everything to the crown prince. He gazed at her solemnly.

“How shall I answer?” Omyōbu asked.

“I am sad when he is away for a little, and he is going so far, and how — tell him that, please.”

A sad little answer, thought Omyōbu.

All the details of that unhappy love came back to her. The two of them should have led placid, tranquil lives, and she felt as if she and she alone had been the cause of all the troubles.

“I can think of nothing to say.” It was clear to him that her answer had indeed been composed with great difficulty. “I passed your message on to the prince, and was sadder than ever to see how sad it made him.

“Quickly the blossoms fall. Though spring departs,

You will come again, I know, to a city of flowers.”

There was sad talk all through the crown prince’s apartments in the wake of the letter, and there were sounds of weeping. Even people who scarcely knew him were caught up in the sorrow. As for people in his regular service, even scullery maids of whose existence he can hardly have been aware were sad at the thought that they must for a time do without his presence.

So it was all through the court. Deep sorrow prevailed. He had been with his father day and night from his seventh year, and, since nothing he had said to his father had failed to have an effect, almost everyone was in his debt. A cheerful sense of gratitude should have been common in the upper ranks of the court and the ministries, and omnipresent in the lower ranks. It was there, no doubt; but the world had become a place of quick punishments. A pity, people said, silently reproving the great ones whose power was now absolute; but what was to be accomplished by playing the martyr? Not that everyone was satisfied with passive acceptance. If he had not known before, Genji knew now that the human race is not perfect.

He spent a quiet day with Murasaki and late in the night set out in rough travel dress.

“The moon is coming up. Do please come out and see me off. I know that later I will think of any number of things I wanted to say to you. My gloom strikes me as ridiculous when I am away from you for even a day or two.”

He raised the blinds and urged her to come forward. Trying not to weep, she at length obeyed. She was very beautiful in the moonlight. What sort of home would this unkind, inconstant city be for her now? But she was sad enough already, and these thoughts were best kept to himself.

He said with forced lightness:

“At least for this life we might make our vows, we thought.

And so we vowed that nothing would ever part us. How silly we were!”

This was her answer:

“I would give a life for which I have no regrets

If it might postpone for a little the time of parting.”

They were not empty words, he knew; but he must be off, for he did not want the city to see him in broad daylight.

Her face was with him the whole of the journey. In great sorrow he boarded the boat that would take him to Suma. It was a long spring day and there was a tail wind, and by late afternoon he had reached the strand where he was to live. He had never before been on such a journey, however short. All the sad, exotic things along the way were new to him. The Oe station was in ruins, with only a grove of pines to show where it had stood.

“More remote, I fear, my place of exile

Than storied ones in lands beyond the seas.”

The surf came in and went out again. “I envy the waves,” he whispered to himself. It was a familiar poem, but it seemed new to those who heard him, and sad as never before. Looking back toward the city, he saw that the mountains were enshrouded in mist. It was as though he had indeed come “three thousand leagues.” The spray from the oars brought thoughts scarcely to be borne.

“Mountain mists cut off that ancient village.

Is the sky I see the sky that shelters it?”

Not far away Yukihira had lived in exile, “dripping brine from the sea grass.” Genji’s new house was some distance from the coast, in mountains utterly lonely and desolate. The fences and everything within were new and strange. The grass-roofed cottages, the reed-roofed galleries — or so they seemed — were interesting enough in their way. It was a dwelling proper to a remote littoral, and different from any he had known. Having once had a taste for out-of-the-way places, he might have enjoyed this Suma had the occasion been different.

Yoshikiyo had appointed himself a sort of confidential steward. He summoned the overseers of Genji’s several manors in the region and assigned them to necessary tasks. Genji watched admiringly. In very quick order he had a rather charming new house. A deep brook flowed through the garden with a pleasing murmur, new plantings were set out; and when finally he was beginning to feel a little at home he could scarcely believe that it all was real. The governor of the province, an old retainer, discreetly performed numerous services. All in all it was a brighter and livelier place than he had a right to expect, although the fact that there was no one whom he could really talk to kept him from forgetting that it was a house of exile, strange and alien. How was he to get through the months and years ahead?

The rainy season came. His thoughts traveled back to the distant city. There were people whom he longed to see, chief among them the lady at Nijō, whose forlorn figure was still before him. He thought too of the crown prince, and of little Yūgiri, running so happily, that last day, from father to grandfather and back again. He sent off letters to the city. Some of them, especially those to Murasaki and to Fujitsubo, took a great deal of time, for his eyes clouded over repeatedly.

This is what he wrote to Fujitsubo:

“Briny our sleeves on the Suma strand; and yours

In the fisher cots of thatch at Matsushima?

“My eyes are dark as I think of what is gone and what is to come, and ‘the waters rise.’”

His letter to Oborozukiyo he sent as always to Chūnagon, as if it were a private matter between the two of them.” With nothing else to occupy me, I find memories of the past coming back.

“At Suma, unchastened, one longs for the deep-lying sea pine.

And she, the fisher lady burning salt?”

I shall leave the others, among them letters to his father-in-law and Yūgiri’s nurse, to the reader’s imagination. They reached their several destinations and gave rise to many sad and troubled thoughts.

Murasaki had taken to her bed Her women, doing everything they could think of to comfort her, feared that in her grief and longing she might fall into a fatal decline. Brooding over the familiar things he had left behind, the koto, the perfumed robes, she almost seemed on the point of departing the world. Her women were beside themselves. Shōnagon sent asking that the bishop, her uncle, pray for her. He did so, and to double purpose, that she be relieved of her present sorrows and that she one day be permitted a tranquil life with Genji.

She sent bedding and other supplies to Suma. The robes and trousers of stiff, unfigured white silk brought new pangs of sorrow, for they were unlike anything he had worn before. She kept always with her the mirror to which he had addressed his farewell poem, though it was not acquitting itself of the duty he had assigned to it. The door through which he had come and gone, the cypress pillar at his favorite seat — everything brought sad memories. So it is even for people hardened and seasoned by trials, and how much more for her, to whom he had been father and mother! “Grasses of forgetfulness” might have sprung up had he quite vanished from the earth; but he was at Suma, not so very far away, she had heard. She could not know when he would return.

For Fujitsubo, sorrow was added to uncertainty about her son. And how, at the thought of the fate that had joined them, could her feelings for Genji be of a bland and ordinary kind? Fearful of gossips, she had coldly turned away each small show of affection, she had become more and more cautious and secretive, and she had given him little sign that she sensed the depth of his affection. He had been uncommonly careful himself Gossips are cruelly attentive people (it was a fact she knew too well), but they seemed to have caught no suspicion of the affair. He had kept himself under tight control and preserved the most careful appearances. How then could she not, in this extremity, have fond thoughts for him?

Her reply was more affectionate than usual.

“The nun of Matsushima burns the brine

And fuels the fires with the logs of her lamenting,

now more than ever.”

Enclosed with Chūnagon’s letter was a brief reply from Oborozukiyo:

“The fisherwife burns salt and hides her fires

And strangles, for the smoke has no escape.

“I shall not write of things which at this late date need no saying.”

Chūnagon wrote in detail of her lady’s sorrows. There were tears in his eyes as he read her letter.

And Murasaki’s reply was of course deeply moving. There was this poem:

“Taking brine on that strand, let him compare

His dripping sleeves with these night sleeves of mine.”

The robes that came with it were beautifully dyed and tailored. She did everything so well. At Suma there were no silly and frivolous distractions, and it seemed a pity that they could not enjoy the quiet life together. Thoughts of her, day and night, became next to unbearable. Should he send for her in secret? But no: his task in this gloomy situation must be to make amends for past misdoings. He began a fast and spent his days in prayer and meditation.

There were also messages about his little boy, Yūgiri. They of course filled him with longing; but he would see the boy again one day, and in the meantime he was in good hands. Yet a father must, however he tries, “wander lost in thoughts upon his child.”

In the confusion I had forgotten: he had sent off a message to the Rokujō lady, and she on her own initiative had sent a messenger to seek out his place of exile. Her letter was replete with statements of the deepest affection. The style and the calligraphy, superior to those of anyone else he knew, showed unique breeding and cultivation.

”Having been told of the unthinkable place in which you find yourself, I feel as if I were wandering in an endless nightmare. I should imagine that you will be returning to the city before long, but it will be a very long time before I, so lost in sin, will be permitted to see you. ”Imagine, at Suma of the dripping brine,

The woman of Ise, gathering briny sea grass.

And what is to become of one, in a world where everything conspires to bring new sorrow?” It was a long letter.

”The tide recedes along the coast of Ise.

No hope, no promise in the empty shells.”

Laying down her brush as emotion overcame her and then beginning again, she finally sent off some four or five sheets of white Chinese paper. The gradations of ink were marvelous. He had been fond of her, and it had been wrong to make so much of that one incident. She had turned against him and presently left him. It all seemed such a waste. The letter itself and the occasion for it so moved him that he even felt a certain affection for the messenger, an intelligent young man in her daughter’s service. Detaining him for several days, he heard about life at Ise. The house being rather small, the messenger was able to observe Genji at close range. He was moved to tears of admiration by what he saw. The reader may be left to imagine Genji’s reply. He said among other things: “Had I known I was destined to leave the city, it would have been better, I tell myself in the tedium and loneliness here, to go off with you to Ise.

“With the lady of Ise I might have ridden small boats

That row the waves, and avoided dark sea tangles.

“How long, dripping brine on driftwood logs,

On logs of lament, must I gaze at this Suma coast?

“I cannot know when I will see you again.”

But at least his letters brought the comfort of knowing that he was well.

There came letters, sad and yet comforting, from the lady of the orange blossoms and her sister.

“Ferns of remembrance weigh our eaves ever more,

And heavily falls the dew upon our sleeves.”

There was no one, he feared, whom they might now ask to clear away the rank growth. Hearing that the long rains had damaged their garden walls, he sent off orders to the city that people from nearby manors see to repairs.

Oborozukiyo had delighted the scandalmongers, and she was now in very deep gloom. Her father, the minister, for she was his favorite daughter, sought to intercede on her behalf with the emperor and Kokiden. The emperor was moved to forgive her. She had been severely punished, it was true, for her grave offense, but not as severely as if she had been one of the companions of the royal bedchamber. In the Seventh Month she was permitted to return to court. She continued to long for Genji. Much of the emperor’s old love remained, and he chose to ignore criticism and keep her near him, now berating her and now making impassioned vows. He was a handsome man and he groomed himself well, and it was something of an affront that old memories should be so much with her.

“Things do not seem right now that he is gone,” he said one evening when they were at music together. “I am sure that there are many who feel the loss even more strongly than I do. I cannot put away the fear that I have gone against Father’s last wishes and that it is a dereliction for which I must one day suffer.” There were tears in his eyes and she too was weeping. “I have awakened to the stupidity of the world and I do not feel that I wish to remain in it much longer. And how would you feel if I were to die? I hate to think that you would grieve less for me gone forever than for him gone so briefly such a short distance away. The poet who said that we love while we live did not know a great deal about love.” Tears were streaming from Oborozukiyo’s eyes. “And whom might you be weeping for? It is sad that we have no children. I would like to follow Father’s instructions and adopt the crown prince, but people Will raise innumerable objections. It all seems very sad.”

There were some whose ideas of government did not accord with his own, but he was too young to impose his will. He Passed his days in helpless anger and sorrow.

At Suma, melancholy autumn winds were blowing. Genji’s house was some distance from the sea, but at night the wind that blew over the barriers, now as in Yukihira’s day, seemed to bring the surf to his bedside. Autumn was hushed and lonely at a place of exile. He had few companions. One night when they were all asleep be raised his head from his pillow and listened to the roar of the wind and of the waves, as if at his ear. Though he was unaware that he wept, his tears were enough to set his pillow afloat. He plucked a few notes on his koto, but the sound only made him sadder. “The waves on the strand, like moans of helpless longing.

The winds — like messengers from those who grieve?”

He had awakened the others. They sat up, and one by one they were in tears.

This would not do. Because of him they had been swept into exile, leaving families from whom they had never before been parted. It must be very difficult for them, and his own gloom could scarcely be making things easier. So he set about cheering them. During the day he would invent games and make jokes, and set down this and that poem on multicolored patchwork, and paint pictures on fine specimens of figured Chinese silk. Some of his larger paintings were masterpieces. He had long ago been told of this Suma coast and these hills and had formed a picture of them in his mind, and he found now that his imagination had fallen short of the actuality. What a pity, said his men, that they could not summon Tsunenori and Chieda and other famous painters of the day to add colors to Genji’s monochromes. This resolute cheerfulness had the proper effect. His men, four or five of whom were always with him, would not have dreamed of leaving him. There was a profusion of flowers in the garden. Genji came out, when the evening colors were at their best, to a gallery from which he had a good view of the coast. His men felt chills of apprehension as they watched him, for the loneliness of the setting made him seem like a visitor from another world. In a dark robe tied loosely over singlets of figured white and aster-colored trousers, he announced himself as “a disciple of the Buddha” and slowly intoned a sutra, and his men thought that they had never heard a finer voice. From offshore came the voices of fishermen raised in song. The barely visible boats were like little seafowl on an utterly lonely sea, and as he brushed away a tear induced by the splashing of oars and the calls of wild geese overhead, the white of his hand against the jet black of his rosary was enough to bring comfort to men who had left their families behind.

“Might they be companions of those I long for?

Their cries ring sadly through the sky of their journey.”

This was Yoshikiyo’s reply:

“I know not why they bring these thoughts of old,

These wandering geese. They were not then my comrades.”

And Koremitsu’s:

“No colleagues of mine, these geese beyond the clouds.

They chose to leave their homes, and I did dot.”

And that of the guards officer who had cut such a proud figure on the day of the Kamo lustration:

“Sad are their cries as they wing their way from home.

They still find solace, for they still have comrades.

It is cruel to lose one’s comrades.”

His father had been posted to Hitachi, but he himself had come with Genji. He contrived, for all that must have been on his mind, to seem cheerful.

A radiant moon had come out. They were reminded that it was the harvest full moon. Genji could not take his. eyes from it. On other such nights there had been concerts at court, and perhaps they of whom he was thinking would be gazing at this same moon and thinking of him.

“My thoughts are of you, old friend,” he sang, “two thousand leagues away.” His men were in tears.

His longing was intense at the memory of Fujitsubo’s farewell poem, and as other memories came back, one after another, he had to turn away to hide his tears. It was very late, said his men, but still he did not come inside.

“So long as I look upon it I find comfort,

The moon which comes again to the distant city.”

He thought of the emperor and how much he had resembled their father, that last night when they had talked so fondly of old times. “I still have with me the robe which my lord gave me,” he whispered, going inside. He did in fact have a robe that was a gift from the emperor, and he kept it always beside him.

“Not bitter thoughts alone does this singlet bring.

Its sleeves are damp with tears of affection too.”

The assistant viceroy of Kyushu was returning to the capital. He had a large family and was especially well provided with daughters, and since progress by land would have been difficult he had sent his wife and the daughters by boat. They proceeded by easy stages, putting in here and there along the coast. The scenery at Suma was especially pleasing, and the news that Genji was in residence produced blushes and sighs far out at sea. The Gosechi dancer would have liked to cut the tow rope and drift ashore. The sound of a koto came faint from the distance, the sadness of it joined to a sad setting and sad memories. The more sensitive members of the party were in tears.

The assistant viceroy sent a message. “I had hoped to call on you immediately upon returning to the city from my distant post, and when, to my surprise, I found myself passing your house, I was filled with the most intense feelings of sorrow and regret. Various acquaintances who might have been expected to come from the city have done so, and our party has become so numerous that it would be out of the question to call on you. I shall hope to do so soon.”

His son, the governor of Chikuzen, brought the message. Genji had taken notice of the youth and obtained an appointment for him in the imperial secretariat. He was sad to see his patron in such straits, but people were watching and had a way of talking, and he stayed only briefly.

“It was kind of you to come,” said Genji. “I do not often see old friends these days.”

His reply to the assistant viceroy was in a similar vein. Everyone in the Kyushu party and in the party newly arrived from the city as well was deeply moved by the governor’s description of what he had seen. The tears of sympathy almost seemed to invite worse misfortunes.

The Gosechi dancer contrived to send him a note.

“Now taut, now slack, like my unruly heart,

The tow rope is suddenly still at the sound of a koto.

“Scolding will not improve me.”

He smiled, so handsome a smile that his men felt rather inadequate.

“Why, if indeed your heart is like the tow rope,

Unheeding must you pass this strand of Suma?

“I had not expected to leave you for these wilds.”

There once was a man who, passing Akashi on his way into exile, brought pleasure into an innkeeper’s life with an impromptu Chinese poem. For the Gosechi dancer the pleasure was such that she would have liked to make Suma her home.

As time passed, the people back in the city, and even the emperor himself, found that Genji was more and more in their thoughts. The crown prince was the saddest of all. His nurse and Omyōbu would find him weeping in a corner and search helplessly for ways to comfort him. Once so fearful of rumors and their possible effect on this child of hers and Genji’s, Fujitsubo now grieved that Genji must be away.

In the early days of his exile he corresponded with his brothers and with important friends at court. Some of his Chinese poems were widely praised.

Kokiden flew into a rage. “A man out of favor with His Majesty is expected to have trouble feeding himself. And here he is living in a fine stylish house and saying awful things about all of us. No doubt the grovelers around him are assuring him that a deer is a horse.

And so writing to Genji came to be rather too much to ask of people, and letters stopped coming.

The months went by, and Murasaki was never really happy. All the women from the other wings of the house were now in her service. They had been of the view that she was beneath their notice, but as they came to observe her gentleness, her magnanimity in household matters, her thoughtfulness, they changed their minds, and not one of them departed her service. Among them were women of good family. A glimpse of her was enough to make them admit that she deserved Genji’s altogether remarkable affection.

And as time went by at Suma, Genji began to feel that he could bear to be away from her no longer. But he dismissed the thought of sending for her: this cruel punishment was for himself alone. He was seeing a little of plebeian life, and he thought it very odd and, he must say, rather dirty. The smoke near at hand would, he supposed, be the smoke of the salt burners’ fires. In fact, someone was trying to light wet kindling just behind the house.

“Over and over the rural ones light fires.

Not so unflagging the urban ones with their visits.”

It was winter, and the snowy skies were wild. He beguiled the tedium with music, playing the koto himself and setting Koremitsu to the flute, with Yoshikiyo to sing for them. When he lost himself in a particularly moving strain the others would fall silent, tears in their eyes.

He thought of the lady the Chinese emperor sent off to the Huns. How must the emperor have felt, how would Genji himself feel, in so disposing of a beautiful lady? He shuddered, as if some such task might be approaching, “at the end of a frosty night’s dream.”

A bright moon flooded in, lighting the shallow-eaved cottage to the farthest corners. He was able to imitate the poet’s feat of looking up at the night sky without going to the veranda. There was a weird sadness in the setting moon. “The moon goes always to the west,” he whispered.

“All aimless is my journey through the clouds.

It shames me that the unswerving moon should see me.”

He recited it silently to himself. Sleepless as always, he heard the sad calls of the plovers in the dawn and (the others were not yet awake) repeated several times to himself:

“Cries of plovers in the dawn bring comfort

To one who awakens in a lonely bed.”

His practice of going through his prayers and ablutions in the deep of night seemed strange and wonderful to his men. Far from being tempted to leave him, they did not return even for brief visits to their families.

The Akashi coast was a very short distance away. Yoshikiyo remembered the daughter of the former governor, now a monk, and wrote to her. She did not answer.

“I would like to see you for a few moments sometime at your convenience,” came a note from her father. “There is something I want to ask you.

Yoshikiyo was not encouraged. He would look very silly if he went to Akashi only to be turned away. He did not go.

The former governor was an extremely proud and intractable man. The incumbent governor was all-powerful in the province, but the eccentric old man had no wish to marry his daughter to such an upstart. He learned of Genji’s presence at Suma.

“I hear that the shining Genji is out of favor,” he said to his wife, “and that he has come to Suma. What a rare stroke of luck — the chance we have been waiting for. We must offer our girl.”

“Completely out of the question. People from the city tell me that he has any number of fine ladies of his own and that he has reached out for one of the emperor’s. That is why the scandal. What interest can he possibly take in a country lump like her?”

“You don’t understand the first thing about it. My own views couldn’t be more different. We must make our plans. We must watch for a chance to bring him here.” His mind was quite made up, and he had the look of someone whose plans were not easily changed. The finery which he had lavished upon house and daughter quite dazzled the eye.

“He may be ever so grand a grand gentleman,” persisted the mother, “but it hardly seems the right and sensible thing to choose of all people a man who has been sent into exile for a serious crime. It might just possibly be different if he were likely to look at her — but no. You must be joking.”

“A serious crime! Why in China too exactly this sort of thing happens to every single person who has remarkable talents and stands out from the crowd. And who do you think he is? His late mother was the daughter of my uncle, the Lord Inspector. She had talent and made a name for herself, and when there wasn’t enough of the royal love to go around, the others were jealous, and finally they killed her. But she left behind a son who was a royal joy and comfort. Ladies should have pride and high ambitions. I may be a bumpkin myself, but I doubt that he will think her entirely beneath contempt.”

Though the girl was no great beauty, she was intelligent and sensitive and had a gentle grace of which someone of far higher rank would have been proud. She was reconciled to her sad lot. No one among the great persons of the land was likely to think her worth a glance. The prospect of marrying someone nearer her station in life revolted her. If she was left behind by those on whom she depended, she would become a nun, or perhaps throw herself into the sea.

Her father had done everything for her. He sent her twice a gear to the Sumiyoshi Shrine, hoping that the god might be persuaded to notice her.

The New Year came to Suma, the days were longer, and time went by slowly. The sapling cherry Genji had planted the year before sent out a scattering of blossoms, the air was soft and warm, and memories flooded back, bringing him often to tears. He thought longingly of the ladies for whom he had wept when, toward the end of the Second Month the year before, he had prepared to depart the city. The cherries would now be in bloom before the Grand Hall. He thought of that memorable cherry-blossom festival, and his father, and the extraordinarily handsome figure his brother, now the emperor, had presented, and he remembered how his brother had favored him by reciting his Chinese poem.

A Japanese poem formed in his mind:

“Fond thoughts I have of the noble ones on high,

And the day of the flowered caps has come again.”

Tō no Chūjō was now a councillor. He was a man of such fine charac- ter that everyone wished him well, but he was not happy. Everything made him think of Genji. Finally he decided that he did not care what rumors might arise and what misdeeds he might be accused of and hurried off to Suma. The sight of Genji brought tears of joy and sadness. Genji’s house seemed very strange and exotic. The surroundings were such that he would have liked to paint them. The fence was of plaited bamboo and the pillars were of pine and the stairs of stone. It was a rustic, provincial sort of dwelling, and very interesting.

Genji’s dress too was somewhat rustic. Over a singlet dyed lightly in a yellowish color denoting no rank or office he wore a hunting robe and trousers of greenish gray. It was plain garb and intentionally countrified, but it so became the wearer as to bring an immediate smile of pleasure to his friend’s lips. Genji’s personal utensils and accessories were of a make-shift nature, and his room was open to anyone who wished to look in. The gaming boards and stones were also of rustic make. The religious objects that lay about told of earnest devotion. The food was very palatable and very much in the local taste. For his friend’s amusement, Genji had fishermen bring fish and shells. Tō no Chūjō had them questioned about their maritime life, and learned of perils and tribulations. Their speech was as incomprehensible as the chirping of birds, but no doubt their feelings were like his own. He brightened their lives with clothes and other gifts. The stables being nearby, fodder was brought from a granary or something of the sort beyond, and the feeding process was as novel and interesting as everything else. Tō no Chūjō hummed the passage from “The Well of Asuka” about the well-fed horses.

Weeping and laughing, they talked of all that had happened over the months.

“Yūgiri quite rips the house to pieces, and Father worries and worries about him.”

Genji was of course sorry to hear it; but since I am not capable of recording the whole of the long conversation, I should perhaps refrain from recording any part of it. They composed Chinese poetry all through the night. Tō no Chūjō had come in defiance of the gossips and slanderers, but they intimidated him all the same. His stay was a brief one.

Wine was brought in, and their toast was from Po Chü-i:

“Sad topers we. Our springtime cups flow with tears.”

The tears were general, for it had been too brief a meeting.

A line of geese flew over in the dawn sky.

“In what spring tide will I see again my old village?

I envy the geese, returning whence they came.”

Sorrier than ever that he must go, Tō no Chūjō replied:

“Sad are the geese to leave their winter’s lodging.

Dark my way of return to the flowery city.”

He had brought gifts from the city, both elegant and practical. Genji gave him in return a black pony, a proper gift for a traveler.

“Considering its origins, you may fear that it will bring bad luck; but you will find that it neighs into the northern winds.”

It was a fine beast.

“To remember me by,” said Tō no Chūjō, giving in return what was recognized to be a very fine flute. The situation demanded a certain reticence in the giving of gifts.

The sun was high, and Tō no Chūjō‘s men were becoming restive. He looked back and looked back, and Genji almost felt that no visit at all would have been better than such a brief one.

“And when will we meet again? It is impossible to believe that you will be here forever.”

“Look down upon me, cranes who skim the clouds,

And see me unsullied as this cloudless day.

“Yes, I do hope to go back, someday. But when I think how difficult it has been for even the most remarkable men to pick up their old lives, I am no longer sure that I want to see the city again.”

“Lonely the voice of the crane among the clouds.

Gone the comrade that once flew at its side.

“I have been closer to you than ever I have deserved. My regrets for what has happened are bitter.”

They scarcely felt that they had had time to renew their friendship. For Genji the loneliness was unrelieved after his friend’s departure.

It was the day of the serpent, the first such day in the Third Month.

“The day when a man who has worries goes down and washes them away,” said one of his men, admirably informed, it would seem, in all the annual observances.

Wishing to have a look at the seashore, Genji set forth. Plain, rough curtains were strung up among the trees, and a soothsayer who was doing the circuit of the province was summoned to perform the lustration.

Genji thought he could see something of himself in the rather large doll being cast off to sea, bearing away sins and tribulations.

“Cast away to drift on an alien vastness,

I grieve for more than a doll cast out to sea.”

The bright, open seashore showed him to wonderful advantage. The sea stretched placid into measureless distances. He thought of all that had happened to him, and all that was still to come.

“You eight hundred myriad gods must surely help me,

For well you know that blameless I stand before you.”

Suddenly a wind came up and even before the services were finished the sky was black. Genji’s men rushed about in confusion. Rain came pouring down, completely without warning. Though the obvious course would have been to return straightway to the house, there had been no time to send for umbrellas. The wind was now a howling tempest, everything that had not been tied down was scuttling off across the beach. The surf was biting at their feet. The sea was white, as if spread over with white linen. Fearful every moment of being struck down, they finally made their way back to the house.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, “ said one of the men. “Winds do come up from time to time, but not without warning. It is all very strange and very terrible.”

The lightning and thunder seemed to announce the end of the world, and the rain to beat its way into the ground; and Genji sat calmly reading a sutra. The thunder subsided in the evening, but the wind went on through the night.

“Our prayers seem to have been answered. A little more and we would have been carried off. I’ve heard that tidal waves do carry people off before they know what is happening to them, but I’ve not seen anything like this.”

Towards dawn sleep was at length possible. A man whom he did not recognize came to Genji in a dream.

“The court summons you.” He seemed to be reaching for Genji. “Why do you not go?”

It would be the king of the sea, who was known to have a partiality for handsome men. Genji decided that he could stay no longer at Suma.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09