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Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. We only saw them when we went to the Farmers Market in downtown Los Angeles which we only did when relatives came to visit. The pussy willow branches came wrapped in plastic. When brought home and put in vases, they remained frozen in their fuzzy bud stage.

But on this tree, I saw all the stages in their development. First, tender milk-white buds. Bristling green catkins came next, which were gradually frosted with yellow pollen before dropping from the tree to litter the sidewalk in soggy clumps like so many used condoms. And, as I thought about it, I realized this tree was in a constant wave of orgasm as each little flower puffed out its pollen and then collapsed, spent. He looked upon the kind old man who had been his host, and left a purse of gold at his side as he slept. The maiden and her mother lay behind the screen.

Tomodata saddled and bridled his horse, and mounting, rode slowly away through the mist of the early morning. The storm was quite over and it was as still as Paradise. The green grass and the leaves shone with the wet. The sky was clear, and the path very bright with autumn flowers ; but Tomodata was sad. That night he lay in a deserted shrine, and the place was so holy that in spite of all he slept from midnight till the dawn. Then he rose, having it in his mind to wash himself in a cold stream that flowed near by, so as to go refreshed upon his journey ; but he was stopped upon the shrine's threshold.

There lay the Green Willow, prone upon the ground. A slender thing she lay, face downwards, with her black hair flung about her. He took her in his arms without a word, and soon he set her on his horse before him, and together they rode the livelong day. It was little they recked of the road they went, for all the while they looked into each other's eyes.

The heat and the cold were nothing to them. They felt not the sun nor the rain ; of truth or falsehood they thought nothing at all ; nor of filial piety, nor of the Lord of Noto's quest, nor of honour nor plighted word. They knew but the one thing. Alas, for the ways of love!

At last they came to an unknown city, where they stayed. Tomodata carried gold and jewels in his girdle, so they found a house built of white wood, spread with sweet white mats. In every dim room there could be heard the sound of the garden waterfall, whilst the swallow flitted across and across the paper lattice. Here they dwelt, knowing but the one thing. Here they dwelt three years of happy days, and for Tomodata and the Green Willow the years were like garlands of sweet flowers.

In the autumn of the third year it chanced that the two of them went forth into the garden at dusk, for they had a wish to see the round moon rise ; and as they watched, the Green Willow began to shake and shiver. Come in. You are but weary ; you are faint. He said : " What is it, my dear? Look up and live. Remember the Green Willow. In after years, when Tomodata was a holy man, he travelled from shrine to shrine, painfully upon his feet, and acquired much merit. Once, at nightfall, he found himself upon a lonely moor. On his right hand he beheld a little hill, and on it the sad ruins of a poor thatched cottage.

The door swung to and fro with broken latch and creaking hinge. Before it stood three old stumps of willow trees that had long since been cut down. Tomodata stood for a long time still and silent. Then he sang gently to himself: " Long-haired maiden, do you know That with the red dawn I must go? Cruel long-haired maiden, say- Long-haired maiden, if you know That with the red dawn I must go, Why, oh why, do you blush so? The gods forgive me. I should have recited the Holy Sutra for the Dead," said Tomodata.

His wife was a gentle and loving lady. To his secret grief, she bore him no sons. But a daughter she did give him, whom they called O'Yone, which, being interpreted, is " Rice in the ear. And the child grew up red and white, and long-eyed, straight and slender as the green bamboo.

When O'Yone was twelve years old, her mother drooped with the fall of the year, sickened, and pined, and ere the red had faded from the leaves of the maples she was dead and shrouded and laid in the earth. The husband was wild in his grief. He cried aloud, he beat his breast, he lay upon the ground and refused comfort, and for days he neither broke his fast nor slept.

The child was quite silent. Time passed by. The man perforce went about his business. The snows of winter fell and covered his wife's grave. In the spring-time he girded up his robe and went forth to see the cherry blossom, making merry enough, and writing a poem upon gilded paper, which he hung to a cherry-tree branch to flutter in the wind. The poem was in praise of the spring and of sake.

Later, he planted the orange lily of forgetfulness, and thought of his wife no more. But the child remembered. Before the year was out he brought a new bride home, a woman with a fair face and a black heart. But the man, poor fool, was happy, and commended his child to her, and believed that all was well. Now because her father loved O'Yone, her stepmother hated her with a jealous and deadly hatred, and every day she dealt cruelly by the child, whose gentle ways and patience only angered her the more.

But because of her father's presence she did not dare to do O'Yone any great ill ; therefore she waited, biding her time. The poor child passed her days and her nights in torment and horrible fear. But of these things she said not a word to her father.


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Such is the manner of children. Now, after some time, it chanced that the man was called away by his business to a distant city. Kioto was the name of the city, and from Yedo it is many days' journey on foot or on horseback. Howbeit, go the man needs must, and stay there three moons or more. Therefore he made ready, and equipped himself, and his servants that were to go with him, with all things needful ; and so ii THE FLUTE n came to the last night before his departure, which was to be very early in the morning. He called O'Yone to him and said : " Come here, then, my dear little daughter.

But she hung her head and did not answer. But she hid her face with her sleeves and cried as if her heart would break. And, " O father, father, father," she said, " do not go away do not go i away! Will you walk on your feet, my little pilgrim, or mount a pack-horse? And how would you fare in the inns of Kioto? Nay, my dear, stay ; it is but for a little time, and your kind mother will be with you.

But he would not heed it. Must he, a strong man grown, be swayed by a child's fancies? He put O'Yone gently from him, and she slipped away as silently as a shadow. But in the morning she came to him before sunrise with a little flute in her hand, fashioned of bamboo and smoothly polished. I made it for you. As you cannot take me with you, take the little flute, honourable father. Play on it sometimes, if you will, and think of me.

After this he departed and went his way, taking the road to Kioto. As he went he looked back thrice, and beheld his child, standing at the gate, looking after him. Then the road turned and he saw her no more.


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The city of Kioto was passing great and beautiful, and so the father of O'Yone found it. And what with his business during the day, which sped very well, and his pleasure in the evening, and his sound sleep at night, the time passed merrily, and small thought he gave to Yedo, to his home, or to his child. Two moons passed, and three, and he made no plans for return. One evening he was making ready to go forth to a great supper of his friends, and as he searched 13 THE FLUTE n in his chest for certain brave silken hakama which he intended to wear as an honour to the feast, he came upon the little flute, which had lain hidden all this time in the sleeve of his travelling dress.

He drew it forth from its red and white handker- chief, and as he did so, felt strangely cold with an icy chill that crept about his heart. He hung over the live charcoal of the hibachi as one in a dream. He put the flute to his lips, when there came from it a long-drawn wail. He dropped it hastily upon the mats and clapped his hands for his servant, and told him he would not go forth that night. He was not well, he would be alone. After a long time he reached out his hand for the flute. Again that long, melancholy cry. He shook from head to foot, but he blew into the flute.

A horrible foreboding now took possession of the man, and he was as one beside himself. He flung himself from the house and from the city, and journeyed day and night, denying himself sleep and food. So pale was he and wild that the people deemed him a madman and fled from him, or pitied him as the afflicted of the gods. At last he came to his journey's end, travel-stained from head to heel, with bleeding feet and half-dead of weariness. His wife met him in the gate. He said : " Where is the child? The woman laughed : " Nay, my lord, how should I know?

She is within at her books, or she is in the garden, or she is asleep, or mayhap she has gone forth with her playmates, or. Come, where is my child? And, " In the Bamboo Grove," she said, looking at him with wide eyes. There the man ran, and sought O'Yone among the green stems of the bamboos. But he did not find her.

He called, " Yone! Then he felt in his sleeve and brought forth the little flute, and very tenderly put it to his lips. There was a faint sighing sound. Then a voice spoke, thin and pitiful : " Father, dear father, my wicked stepmother killed me. Three moons since she killed me. She buried me in the clearing of the Bamboo Grove. You may find my bones. As for me, you will never see me any more you will never see me more.

Then he dressed himself in coarse white raiment, with a great rice- straw hat that shadowed his face. And he carried the little flute with him, in a fold of his garment, upon his breast. Now there were three things about this reverend man. First, he was wrapped up in meditations and observances and forms and doctrines. He was a great one for the Sacred Sutras, and knew strange and mystical things. Then he had a fine exquisite taste of his own, and nothing pleased him so much as the ancient tea ceremony of the Cha-no-yu ; and for the third thing about him, he knew both sides of a copper coin well enough and loved a bargain.

None so pleased as he when he happened upon an ancient tea-kettle, lying rusty and dirty and half- forgotten in a corner of a poor shop in a back street of his town. I'll give you three rin for it. The priest turned it this way and that, and upside down, looked into it, tapped it with his finger-nail. He smiled. He set the kettle upon a box covered over with a purple cloth, and looked at it so long that first he was fain to rub his eyes many times, and then to close them altogether. His head dropped forward and he slept. And then, believe me, the wonderful thing happened. The tea-kettle moved, though no hand was near it.

A hairy head, with two bright eyes, looked out of the spout. The lid jumped up and down. Four brown and hairy paws appeared, and a fine bushy tail. In a minute the kettle was down from the box and going round and round looking at things. Pleased enough to find itself so well lodged, it soon began to dance and to caper nimbly and to sing at the top of its voice.

Three or four novices were studying in the next room. What can he be at? Heaven's mercy, the noise that the tea-kettle made! The novices soon stopped laughing. One of them slid aside the kara-kami and peeped through. The gods protect us from witch- craft, or for certain we shall be lost! A third laughed. So the lot of them left their books in a twinkling, and gave chase to the tea-kettle to catch it.

But could they come up with the tea- kettle? Not a bit of it. It danced and it leapt and it flew up into the air. The novices rushed here and there, slipping upon the mats. They grew hot. They grew breathless. Ha, ha! Presently the priest awoke, all rosy, the holy man. It was a badger, no less.

And the dance it has been giving us, you'd never believe! There it rests on its box, good quiet thing, just where I put it. It was the novices that looked foolish. That is easily to be understood by any man. But a kettle that turned into a badger no, no! To your books, my sons, and pray to be preserved from the perils of illusion. When the water began to boil " Ai! The heat of the Great Hell! A devil! Mercy on me! All the novices came running to see what was the matter. The tinker was a happy man and carried home the kettle.

He turned it this way and that, and upside down, and looked into it. He awoke at midnight and fell to looking at the kettle by the bright light of the moon. Presently it moved, though there was no hand near it. A hairy head, with two bright eyes, looked out of the kettle's spout. It came quite close to the tinker and laid a paw upon him. I am a badger tea-kettle. I couldn't stand it, you know. I am very fond of a pipe. I like rice to eat, and beans and sweet things. The night has turned a little chilly. The tinker and the tea-kettle became the best of friends.

They ate and talked together. The kettle knew a thing or two and was very good company. One day : " Are you poor? For a tea- kettle, I am out-of-the-way really very accom- plished. So they did. The tinker bought hangings for a theatre, and he called the show Bumbuku- Chagama. How the people flocked to see the fun! For the wonderful and most accomplished tea-kettle danced and sang, and walked the tight rope as to the manner born. It played such tricks and had such droll ways that the people laughed till their sides ached.

It was a treat to see the tea-kettle bow as gracefully as a lord and thank the people for their patience. The Bumbuku-Chagama was the talk of the country-side, and all the gentry came to see it as well as the commonalty. As for the tinker, he waved a fan and took the money. You may believe that he grew fat and rich. He even went to Court, where the great ladies and the royal princesses made much of the wonderful tea-kettle.

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At last the tinker retired from business, and to him the tea-kettle came with tears in its bright eyes. It never spoke or moved again. So the tinker presented it as a very sacred treasure to the temple, and the half of his wealth with it. And the tea-kettle was held in wondrous fame for many a long year. Some persons even worshipped it as a saint.

He was a samurai of the hatamoto, which is of all the ranks of samurai the most honourable. He possessed a noble figure and a very beautiful face, and was beloved of many a lady of Yedo, both openly and in secret. For himself, being yet very young, his thoughts turned to pleasure rather than to love, and morning, noon and night he was wont to disport himself with the gay youth of the city.

He was the prince and leader of joyous revels within doors and without, and would often parade the streets for long together with bands of his boon companions. One bright and wintry day during the Festival of the New Year he found himself with a company of laughing youths and maidens playing at battle- dore and shuttlecock. He had wandered far away from his own quarter of the city, and was now in a suburb quite the other side of Yedo, where the streets were empty, more or less, and the quiet houses stood in gardens.

Hagiwara wielded his heavy battledore with great skill and grace, catching 25 THE PEONY LANTERN iv the gilded shuttlecock and tossing it lightly into the air ; but at length with a careless or an ill- judged stroke, he sent it flying over the heads of the players, and over the bamboo fence of a garden near by. Immediately he started after it. Then his companions cried, " Stay, Hagiwara ; here we have more than a dozen shuttlecocks. He scaled the bamboo fence and dropped into the garden which was upon the farther side.

Now he had marked the very spot where the shuttlecock should have fallen, but it was not there ; so he searched along the foot of the bamboo fence but no, he could not find it. Up and down he went, beating the bushes with his battledore, his eyes on the ground, drawing breath heavily as if he had lost his dearest treasure. His friends called him, but he did not come, and they grew tired and went to their own homes. The light of day began to fail. Hagiwara, the samurai, looked up and saw a girl standing a few yards away from him.

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She beckoned him with her right hand, and in her left she held a gilded shuttlecock with dove-coloured feathers. The samurai shouted joyfully and ran forward. The shuttlecock lured him, and he followed. So they went, the two of them, till they came to the house that was in the garden, and three stone steps that led up to it.

Beside the lowest step there grew a plum tree in blossom, and upon the highest step there stood a fair and very young lady. She was most splendidly attired in robes of high festival. Her kimono was of water-blue silk, with sleeves of ceremony so long that they touched the ground; her under-dress was scarlet, and her great girdle of brocade was stiff and heavy with gold.

In her hair were pins of gold and tortoiseshell and coral. When Hagiwara saw the lady, he knelt down forthwith and made her due obeisance, till his fore- head touched the ground. Then the lady spoke, smiling with pleasure like a child.

Under the Green Willow Tree (Illustrated)

My dear handmaiden, O'Yone, has brought you to me. Come in, Hagiwara Sama, samurai of the hatamoto ; for indeed I am glad to see you, and happy is this hour. Afterwards they set food before him, the red rice of the festival and sweet warm wine, and he ate and drank of the food they gave him. The samurai laughed. Death it will be for you and for me. There is no other way. The samurai went out into the night, being very much afraid.

Long, long he sought for his home and could not find it, wandering in the black darkness from end to end of the sleeping city. When at last he reached his familiar door the late dawn was almost come, and wearily he threw himself upon his bed. Then he laughed. The next day Hagiwara sat alone in his house from morning till evening. He had his hands before him ; and he thought, but did nothing more.

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At the end of the time he said, " It is a joke that a couple of geisha have sought to play on me. Excellent, in faith, but they shall not have me! His wit was ready, his spirits were wild. Then he said, " By the gods, I am deathly sick of this," and took to walking the streets of Yedo alone. From end to end of the great city he went. He wandered by day and he wandered by night, by street and alley he went, by hill and moat and castle wall, but he found not what he sought. He could not come upon the garden where his shuttle- cock was lost, nor yet upon the Lady of the Morning Dew.

His spirit had no rest. He fell sick and took to his bed, where he neither ate nor slept, but grew spectre-thin. This was about the third month. He looked neither to the right nor to the left. Straight forward he went, for he said to himself, " All roads lead past my love's house. Hagiwara laughed softly and scaled the fence.

He found the garden wild and overgrown. Moss covered the three stone steps. The house was still, its shutters were all closed, it was forlorn and deserted. The samurai grew cold as he stood and wondered, A soaking rain fell. There came an old man into the garden. He said to Hagiwara : " Sir, what do you do here? She lies in the graveyard on the hill, and O'Yone, her handmaid, lies by her side.

She could not suffer her mistress to wander alone through the long night of Yomi. For their sweet spirits' sake I would still tend this garden, but I am old and it is little that I can do. Oh, sir, they are dead indeed. The grass grows on their graves. He took a slip of pure white wood and he wrote upon it, in large fair characters, the dear name of his lady. This he set up, and burned before it incense and sweet odours, and made every offering that was meet, and did due observance, and all for the welfare of her departed spirit. Then drew near the Festival of Bon, the time of returning souls.

The good folk of Yedo took lanterns and visited their graves. Bringing food and flowers, they cared for their beloved dead. It was windless and dark. A cicala hidden in the heart of a pomegranate flower sang shrilly now and again. Now and again a carp leaped in the round pond.

For the rest it was still, and never a leaf stirred. About the hour of the Ox, Hagiwara heard the sound of footsteps in the lane that lay beyond his garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. He knew them by the hollow echoing noise. Looking over his rose hedge, he saw two slender women come out of the dimness hand in hand.

One of them carried a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to the handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of the Bon in the service of the dead. It swung as the two women walked, casting an uncertain light. As they came abreast of the samurai upon the other side of the hedge, they turned their faces to him. He knew them at once, and gave one great cry. The girl with the peony lantern held it up so that the light fell upon him.

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Why, lord, we were told that you were dead. We have daily recited the Nembutsu for your soul these many moons! Can it be my lady? Oh, my love! But the Lady of the Morning Dew held up her sleeve to hide her face. We were suffered to take nothing with us there, and we are grown very poor. With grief and want my mistress is become pale. He said never a word. She drooped. He lost not an instant, but rose and went forth, and immediately made his way through Yedo to the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill.

Here he inquired for the house of the Lady of the Morning Dew, but no one could direct him. High and low he searched fruitlessly. His way led him through the grounds of a certain temple, and as he went he marked two graves that were side by side. One was little and obscure, but the other was marked by a fair monument, like the tomb of some great one.

Before the monument there hung a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to its handle. It was such a lantern as is used at the time of Bon in the service of the dead. Long, long did the samurai stand as one in a dream. Then he smiled a little and said : " ' We have moved to a little house. We have loved for the space of ten existences, leave me not now. His faithful servant met him and cried : " Now what ails you, master?

I was never merrier. Fair weather or foul was the same to them. They came at the hour of the Ox. By the strong bond of illusion the living and the dead were bound together. On the seventh night the servant of the samurai, wakeful with fear and sorrow, made bold to peer into his lord's room through a crack in the wooden shutters. His hair stood on end and his blood ran cold to see Hagiwara in the arms of a fearful thing, smiling up at the horror that was its face, stroking its dank green robe with languid fingers. With daylight the servant made his way to a holy man of his acquaintance.

When he had told his tale he asked, " Is there any hope for Hagiwara Sama? Nevertheless, there is a little hope. Before nightfall, this one had set a sacred text above every door and window-place of his master's house, and he had rolled in the silk of his master's girdle a golden emblem of the Tathagata. When these things were done, Hagiwara being drawn two ways became him- self as weak as water. And his servant took him in his arms, laid him upon his bed and covered him lightly, and saw him fall into a deep sleep.

At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane, without the garden hedge. They grew slow and stopped. See the Holy Writing over every door and window-place. The next night it was quite the same. Hagiwara slept in his weakness ; his servant watched ; the wraiths came and departed in sobbing despair. The third day, when Hagiwara went to the bath, a thief stole the emblem, the golden emblem of the Tathagata, from his girdle.

Hagiwara did not mark it. But that night he lay awake. It was his servant that slept, worn out with watching. Presently a great rain fell and Hagiwara, waking, heard the sound of it upon the roof. The heavens were opened and for hours the rain fell. And it tore the holy text from over the round window in Hagiwara's chamber. At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane without the garden hedge. Think of the love of ten existences. Great is the power of Karma. There must be a way. Thus we suffer for the sins of a former life. But O'Yone took her hand.

Hand in hand the two rose lightly from the earth. Like vapour they passed through the unguarded window. The samurai called, " Come to me, beloved," for the third time. He was answered, " Lord, I come. At his feet stood the peony lantern burning with a weird yellow flame. The servant shivered, took up the lantern and blew out the light ; for " I cannot bear it," he said. Prince Rice-Ear-Ruddy-Plenty loved a beautiful and royal maiden, and made her his bride. And the lady was called Princess Blossoming-Brightly- as-the-Flowers-of-the-Trees, so sweetly fair was she.

But her father was augustly wrath at her betrothal, for his Augustness, Prince Rice-Ear- Ruddy-Plenty, had put aside her elder sister, the Princess of the Rocks and, indeed, this lady was not fair , for he loved only Princess Blossoming- Brightly. So the old King said, " Because of this, the offspring of these heavenly deities shall be frail, fading and falling like the flowers of the trees.

At this day, the lives of their Augustnesses, the Heavenly Sovereigns, are not long. Prince Fire Flash was a fisherman, who got his luck upon the wide sea, and ran upon the shore with his august garments girded. And again, he tarried all the night in his boat, upon the high wave-crests.