S. Foster Damon
Kiri no Meijiyama: A Noh-Drama in Japanese Syllabics (1920)
I am Kiri no Meijiyama, who was travelling to Senako when in a useless storm my boat was lost, buried in wave-flowers. The storm has vanished, the evening is pleasant, and I have sauntered out, accompanied only by my ancestral swords, to savour the delicious melancholy of the autumn moon.
the field of heaven the clouds bow their heads,
CHORUS (waving their fans):
KIRI: The mist is troublesome. I cannot find the path.
CHORUS: My head is confused with the thick brightness.
KIRI: Strange! to see fireflies in the mist!
What is this, all surrounded
KIRI: I was not sure, but it seems to be a small hut. The moon—
—silhouettes the bamboo leaves
KIRI: But here, where I saw the fireflies, is a little old man. Kind sir, I am lost in the mist, and seek a lodging for the night.
THE OLD MAN (suddenly moves and bows): Our miserable hut is unworthy a guest with two swords.
KIRI: Surely you can find space.
THE OLD MAN: Old woman! Prepare saki, for we have a guest.
it a winter snow-drift
THE OLD WOMAN (suddenly moves and bows): May the guest be welcome! I will prepare.
KIRI: Pray do not trouble yourself.
THE OLD MAN: Pray be pleased to step over our miserable threshold.
KIRI: How dark the hut is! I can see nothing. But what is that? Are there fireflies in the hut? No, for they do not move . . . My hand is on my sword.
THE OLD MAN (holding an imaginary lamp): Pray please to be lighted.
KIRI: What a beautiful girl!
CHORUS (softly): Outside, the trees exhibit
KIRI: —unexpected delight! Pray pardon my rudeness. (He stumbles) The sun has blinded me. What is your name?
THE GIRL: Peach-flower is my over-worthy name. Pray be welcome.
KIRI: Surely her eyes flared at me, like pale gold. Shoki, protect me, if there be need! But she is too lovely.
THE OLD WOMAN: Honourable sir, pray to taste of our miserable rice-wine. (He drinks a small cupful.)
KIRI: Hot wine is pleasant on an autumn evening.
KIRI (to the girl): Is not the science of flowers known to one dwelling here in the midst of nature?
THE GIRL: Autumn flowers are miserable; spring is the time to study flowers.
the humming bird
THE GIRL: The
the humming bird
THE OLD WOMAN (approaching): This final cup of special wine will make the night warm and full of dreams.
CHORUS (fluttering their fans):
KIRI: If the girl drinks, then I also dare drink.
THE OLD WOMAN (singing outside):
KIRI: The moon-flower is mute, gazing at itself in the pool; the twin flowers are thrice beautiful.
winged with delight
THE GIRL (faintly): When the flower has fallen
folded bosom bears an aureole
THE GIRL: Since
I have known you,
CHORUS (two waving their fans with slow movements, the
other two holding their fans closed):
KIRI: The saki was strong; I slept against my will. How fair the moonlight falls across her body! Ah, moulded bosom! now unmoving . . . Her arm is chilled that was my pillow!— Peach-flower!—Aah! . . .
CHORUS (rapidly): Serpents of ice embrace him!
KIRI: But I, whose ancestors carried steel fans into battle, I will avenge this insult. My swords ate here, safe beside me. Where is the old man? Her kiss is not yet cold! Where is the old woman?
CHORUS: His hungry strides shake the house,
KIRI: If it be robbers—
flame of my sword
KIRI: There is surely noise of voices outside the door.
steels to the door.
KIRI: I see no one. But no! There—
CHORUS: There on the pine branch
KIRI: Horrible! horrible! These are goblins, these are angry ghosts, that suck the blood of the innocent guest! How fortunate that I did not drink the last cup of wine. I will go destroy their bodies, for then they must die.
CHORUS: Eyes of hollow gleam against the moon
THE OLD MAN: No, no! Now is the time. My bowels are thirsty and dry. They must be swollen with good rich blood.
THE OLD WOMAN: You fasten on his neck and I on his belly.
THE GIRL: I beg you, give me but one night more. To-morrow he will stay, for he is enamoured.
THE OLD MAN: No, no! Now is the time!
THE OLD WOMAN: You fasten on his arm.
THE GIRL: He will stay, he will stay, I tell you!
stands above her body.
THE THREE: Aie! Aie! Our bodies are moved; the man is gone! Seek him in the house, seek him in the forest!
KIRI: Beautiful body, even to save your soul, I must destroy you. But I, Kiri no Meijiyama, I, flourisher of two swords, have I the strength?
THE THREE: Kill! Kill him! Kill! Aah!!
quick! They seek you!
KIRI: Hark! Their cries rouse me from a delicate torpor.
I must seek shelter in the wood, and then gain the nearest town.
are they weaving
KIRI: They are deep in the forest now; I will venture out. I follow the path to the nearest town.
THE GIRL (re-entering): Kiri, where is my body?
CHORUS: What is this sound in the dawn?
THE GIRL: Kiri! What have you done with my body? For I shall die without it . . .
KIRI: I cannot give you your body. The peach-flower’s petals are shrivelled.
THE GIRL: Kiri, last night you loved me.
KIRI: The moon vanished with the coming of day. Leave me, Peach-flower. Your body is destroyed. Leave me, let me pass.
CHORUS: Ah! What a wail! She sinks down
THE GIRL: Kiri, last night I loved you; and I even dared my parents’ wrath when I tried to save you. You have destroyed me. Kiri, embrace me.
KIRI: My blood is too precious.
THE GIRL: Kiri, embrace me in your arms. A last time, that I may have a memory for eternity. . . . Kiri, embrace me!
KIRI: I have a sword.
CHORUS: Fly, fly! you have angered her.
no, Kiri stands firmly.
KIRI: I cannot loosen her from my sleeve. What will people
think, seeing this? Ah, golden eyes, closed at last! Why did you not remain,
my mistress in the moonlight? The night opened a hundred dawns in my eyes,
the autumn unfolded a thousand springs in my breast.
THE PRIEST: Who are you, young man, that sits weeping by the roadside, holding a girl’s head in your sleeve? I fear there has been a misdeed!
KIRI: Sir, this was an angry spirit, that attacked me, and I cannot rid myself of her. I beg you to say a prayer or so over her, that she may rest without suffering.
THE PRIEST: Gladly, gladly, young sir, if your words be true.
CHORUS (The girl, at first expressing anger and amazement,
leaves the stage, with the last words of the chorus, in ecstasy):
THE PRIEST: Your words, sir, were true. But cannot I be of more assistance? For there have been strange tales around here recently of strong men shrivelled in a night; and it seems that you might possess knowledge to open the mystery.
KIRI: There were three that invited me to their hut in last night’s mist; and they planned to suck my blood, but I escaped. Here is the spot, but I do not see the hut.
THE PRIEST: There was no mist last night, but a clear moon. There is nothing here but an old tomb fallen in ruins. O marvel! for the inscription says that two centuries ago were buried here a father, mother, and daughter, all executed . . .
father loved the daughter;
THE PRIEST: Let us say prayers for the peaceful progress of their unfortunate souls. For their passions survived their bodies; they were incarnated as shushin. And now, at last, they have escaped by you surely the torments of this monstrous existence.
CHORUS: Let us pray for those bound to the wheel of anguish,
After teaching at Harvard University and Radcliffe College S(amuel) Foster Damon (1892-1971) settled into a long career as professor of English Literature at Brown University. He was a frequent contributor of poems and essays to journals such as the New York Bookman, Century, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and Dial, in which ‘Kiri no Meijiyama’ appeared, but is best remembered as a biographer, particularly for William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1924) and Amy Lowell: A Chronicle with Extracts from Her Correspondence (BI29, Houghton Mifflin, 1935). For notes about ‘Kiri no Meijiyama’ see the Bibliography CA8.