Marie Stopes

To Japan

Land that mused while the world was striving!
Land that dreamed while the nations fought!
Truth with thy dreamers had forgathered,
Peace, in thine isles enclosed, had taught
Her secret laws of Beauty to thy sons.
Then men spent hours beneath the cherry trees,
Or watched the pointed Iris pierce the ground.
They cultivated Wisdom on their knees
And regulated life in ways profound.
Then thy fair daughters ministered to men,
Subduing and subdued their graceful form.
Dreamland of Beauty, girt by glowing seas!
Thou didst appear unfitted for the storm
That broke upon thee from the lowering West.
Yet thou hast risen and conquered.
Thou dost stand, armed as a modern People
In the front rank—and yet I say, alas!
Who could have wished, in waking thou would spurn
The wondrous rightness of thy sheltered past?
To be as others are thou seem’st to yearn,
And for mere useful ugliness dost cast
For ever from thee beauties unsurpassed.
True, thou hast beaten them on their own ground,
The Goths and Vandals whom as foes were found,
Yet I would rather see thee still apart
Than soiling thy traditions in the mart.
Wouldst thou not weep if thy sweet cherry tree
Dropped its light blooms to bear the hard rice grains?
O cherry flower of lands! I weep to see
Thy falling blossoms. The whole World’s loss, thy “gains.”




Marie Stopes (1880-1958) was a botanist and geologist by training, but is best remembered as an untiring advocate of birth control and founder of the United Kingdom’s first instructional clinic for contraception. In widely influential books such as Married Love (1918), Wise Parenthood (1918), A Letter to Working Mothers (1919) and many others she revolutionaized public understanding of sexuality, parenting, and the roles of women in society, and contributed instrumentally to the gradual lessening of prohibition on contraception. Lesser known is that Stopes was also an accomplished poet, playwright, and novelist, or that in 1907 and 1908 she conducted research in Japan and produced as a result three books, A Journal from Japan: A Daily Record of Life as Seen by a Scientist (1910, in which ‘To Japan’ serves as a prelude), the novel Love Letters of a Japanese (1911, under the pen name G. N. Mortlake), and, with Jôji Sakurai, the first monograph on the nô in English, Plays of Old Japan: The ‘Nô’ (1913). See the Bibliography D23 for notes about Stopes’s relation with Japan and the effects of this in the work of Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, and others.

The Thoemmes Library of Social Thought has kept several Stopes titles in print, including a volume titled Japan, which is available in the UK here.

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