Houses of Sleep
Willow Woman
East West
Decline of Taste
Note on Yeats
Oscar Wilde
Again on Hokku
On Poetry
Again on Poetry
Morning Fancy
Ink Slab 




CERTAINLY it was Korin's adventurous turn of artistic mind to strikingly introduce the morning-glory, the blushing flower lasses by the bamboo fences of the countryside almost too shy to call attention, into the six-folded screen of gold (what an aristocratic world) in pigments of red, white, purple and green; while, far from deeming Korin a true artist of flowers, I always agree with him in the point of his emphasising, let me say, the greatness of little thin-s. Through the virtue of such an Oriental attitude of philosophy which serves as moral geometry, defining our sense of proportion to the universe, we have made the morning-glory gain its floral distinction of to-day from the state of nameless weed of long ages ago which a certain Obaku temple priest of Uji brought from China. What a change in the public estimate!
    I love the months of summer, because I can commune more intimately then with the nature from whose heart of imagination and peace, unlike that of spring too fanciful and defiant, again unlike that of autumn too philosophical [<78] and real, I will build a little dream and slowly wear away my soul as if a cicada fired after a heartful song; I love them as I find in them quite a celtic infinitude which is commingled twilight and weariness. Hear the nocturnal song of the summer nights in the flashes of fireflies and lanterns swinging as ff the spirits from another world, which shall be, long before reaching the climax, interrupted by the early dawn (how short are the summer nights!). when my heart at once opens wide as the morning-glory; I am an early riser then, in spite of my being a late riser in other seasons, with that morning-glory whose floral beauty or flame is born out of dews and sunlight, the colour of transparency itself out of whose heart, as it seems to me, whether it be blue or purple, red or white, all the colour has been taken. How the flower stands in relation to the breath or odour of the summer dawn would be exactly the same problem as how I stand towards it; I am glad to read myself through their presence, my own strength of impulse towards nature and song. What a stretch of vines of the morning-glory, what force of theirs [<79]  hardly conceivable as belonging to the vegetable kind, what a sensitiveness more than human; there's no wonder when one can read every change of the hour and even minute of the day in their look and attitude. I often ask myself why they do not speak a word of grief or joy, when they fade away with their spirits of flight across the seas of the unknowable ; perhaps they do speak it, although my ears seem not to hear it at all.
    When Kaga no Chiyo, the lady hokkushi or seventeen-syllable poetess of some two hundred years ago, wrote—
Asagawo ni
Tsurube torarete
Morai mizu."
I see at once, not the moral teaching, although the commentator wishes to bring it out first, but one beautiful emotion of accident realised by the morning-glory and her heart with the summer dawn as a background. But where Sir Edwin Arnold translated Chiyo's poem into the following English:
"The morning-glory
Her leaves and bells has bound [<80]
My bucket-handle round.
I could not break the bands
Of those soft hands.
The bucket and the well to her left,
'Let me some water, for I come bereft."'
I see that the lyrical gleam of the original has turned, alas! to prosaic formality : I almost cry that it is hopeless if the poet has to put in two lines (the fourth and fifth) which the original has not (in fact, the translation has ten times more than the original, and spiritually ten times less), and wonder at the poetical possibility of the English mind. And how those rhymes bother my Japanese mind in love with irregularity !
    It might be proper to thank, if thank one must, our Japanese moralists for their tireless propagation in popularising the morning-glory, as they find them to be the things fittest for encouraging the habit of early-rising; it seems they do not quite understand how the word simplicity sounds to our modern minds, whose passion, is more Psychical, when those good old moralists wish to solve all the questions of the morning-glory with the power of that one [<81] word. I agree with them in calling them plebeian or democratic on account of the little cost of raising them ; I see frequently they are blooming as beautifully as in any millionaire's garden upon the dangerous roof of tile or badly kept bamboo porch for people who cannot well afford to have even a few yards of ground in crowded cities. It is surprising to find out that the flowers which were raised under such conditions of privation always get the distinguished medals at the general exhibition. I am told that the chrysanthemums are often the true cause of a man's poverty; but the morning-glories will never invite such a reproach when they only entreat you to rise early (but, remember, with plenty of love), and, when you have company, suggest you to offer a cup of tea.
    Putting aside all sentimentality, the whole credit, I think, should go to our horticulturists, who, as with the chrysanthemum, have raised the morning-glory from a weed into a floral wonder as we see it to-day, of such a variety of shapes, from a dragon's moustache to the hanging bell ; of such a variety of colour, from [<82] the foam of the sea or frozen moonlight to the purple sky or striped shade of a cascade ; of such a variety of size, from half a foot in ,diameter to star-like smallness. There is no other flower like the morning-glory, so sensitive to our human love, and, let me say, horticultural art. I have only to wonder whether the human beings and the morning-glory are not born from the same old heart of mystery in Japan.