The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu

Chapter 27

Flares

Everyone was talking about the minister’s new daughter from Omi, and most of the talk was not kind.

“I do not like it,” said Genji. “She should have been kept out of sight, and here for no reason at all he brings her grandly into his house and lets the whole world laugh at her. He has always been quick to take a stand, and he probably sent for her without finding out much of anything about her, and when he saw that she was not what he wanted he did what he has done. These things should be managed quietly.”

Tamakazura could see now that she had after all been lucky. Tō no Chūjō was her father, to be sure, but if she had gone to him as a stranger, quite ignorant of his thoughts and feelings over the years, she might have been subjected to similar humiliations. Ukon was of the same view, and said so. Genji did, it was true, show regrettable tendencies, but he kept himself under control and seemed to have become genuinely fond of Tamakazura. Her fright had left her and she had settled happily into life at Rokujō.

It was autumn. The first touch of the autumn breezes brought vague feelings of loneliness. Genji was always going off to Tamakazura’s northeast quarter and spending whole days there, large parts of them in music lessons.

The new moon was quick to set. The sky had clouded delicately over and the murmur of the rushes was sadder. They lay down side by side with their heads pillowed against the koto. He stayed very late, sighing and asking whether anywhere else in the world there were attachments quite like this one. Reluctantly, fearful of gossip, he was about to leave. Noticing that the flares in the garden were low, he sent a guards officer to stir and refuel them.

They had been set out, not too brightly, under a spindle tree that arched gracefully over the cool waters of the brook, far enough from the house so that they too seemed cool and gentle. In the soft light the lady was more beautiful than ever. The touch of her hair was coolly elegant, and a certain shyness and diffidence added to her charm. He did not want to leave.

“You should always have flares,” he said. “An unlighted garden on a moonless summer night can almost be frightening.

“They burn, these flares and my heart, and send off smoke.

The smoke from my heart refuses to be dispersed.

“For how long?”

Very strange, she was thinking.

“If from your heart and the flares the smoke is the same,

Then one might expect it to find a place in the heavens.

“I am sure that we are the subject of much curious comment.”

“You wish me to go?” But someone in the other wing had taken up a flute, someone who knew how to play, and there was a Chinese koto too. “Yūgiri is at it again with those inseparable companions of his. This one will be Kashiwagi.” He listened for a time. “There is no mistaking Kashiwagi.”

He sent over to say that the light of the flares, cool and hospitable, had kept him on. Yūgiri and two friends came immediately.

“I felt the autumn wind in your flute and had to ask you to join me.”

His touch on the koto was soft and delicate, and Yūgiri’s flute, in the banjiki mode, was wonderfully resonant. Kashiwagi could not be persuaded to sing for them.

“You must not keep us waiting.”

His brother, less shy, sang a strain and repeated it, keeping time with his fan, and one might have taken the low, rich tones for a bell cricket. Kashiwagi was now persuaded to play something on the koto. His touch was very little if at all inferior to his father’s.

“I believe there is someone inside with an ear for these things,” said Genji. “I must be abstemious. Old men have a way of saying things they regret when they drink too much.”

Tamakazura was indeed listening, and with complex feelings which the guests, her own brothers, could not have imagined. Kashiwagi was of the two the more strongly drawn to her. Indeed, he seemed in danger of falling in love with her. In his playing, however, there was not the smallest suggestion of disorder.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/murasaki-shikibu/tale-of-genji/chapter27.html

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