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 




IT is the Japanese imagination to make the world-large laughter of flowers out of the December snow; it is our fire of imagination that we build a land of Spring fairies already in Winter's heart of frost, and of wind too solemn even for speech. We flatly object to recognise the existence of Winter ; we are happy to think that we have only three seasons in the year. I always think the Japanese mind is most wonderful where it leaves behind the Chinese thought, finite, hard, like the Greek thought, whose consciousness to ethics ever thought a Vision frivolous; and we thank the Buddhism which encouraged our appreciation of Nature as having a big share of moral life.. We read in our literature the record of a long fight of those two thoughts, Chinese and Japanese. It is originally a Chinese thought to praise and moralize over the plum-blossom ; and the nightingale, speaking generally, is more a Chinese bird, or, we might say, a Greek bird, like Keats' nightingale, than a Japanese bird ; but the nightingale, also the [<34] plum-blossom, became quite Japanese things when we found in them a most feverish outburst of our desire towards Spring. We hardly think of truth and beauty as the ending words for a song on the nightingale as in Keats' ode ; our mind goes straight to the irresistible impulse of the bird in leaving the deeper hills to hunt after Spring and sunlight. It is a great moment among many others when we show we are much related with the Celtic temperament; there is nothing like our Spring thought, often turbulent, ever so passionate, that we express most forcibly one of the clear national characteristics.

Outside the sky is ashen and dumb, as it is usually at the end of December; the maple-leaves sang a month ago their last farewell of glory written in blood. (What a patience and strength they saved only to reach that tragic end!) Within my room the Spring air already foods. The Chinese daffodils, aged but happy, bloom on the tokonoma, the holy dais, where Spring always begins first to smile ; a most appropriate picture is hanged on its wall, ready to greet the approach of the New Year [<35]  in a gorgeous attire of old fashion. The fire burns in the hibachi, or fire-box, whispering a far-off forest story and the rustic humanity which is the best. What a country-like love in the charcoal fire ! Awhile ago my servant boy returned home from the market where he bought the proper decoration for New Year's Day, made of straw, sea-weed, lobster (it is a Japanese allegory to have a humorous side, as, for instance, with this lobster, which represents agelessness in its very old shape of crooked back) ; I told him that a big pair of pine trees should be put up at the entrance of my house to create the house, of evergreen Eternity. I already hear outside the merry music of lion-dancers, who make havoc among the children, whose suspicious eyes wish to know where Happy New Year ever comes. We will soon see what a great part a fan plays in our Japanese li fe, which will be carried by each person going round to scatter good wishes among the people known or unknown.
    I will stay within the shut doors, or live in the Spring air of my creation after much cost, and wait for the outside Nature to burst [<36] out in jollity; I know that then my moods will never be disturbed even when the doors of my house swing open, and the air within and without communicate with one another in equal terms. I shall see the low sky with the sfiu lower clouds of cherry-blossoms by a stream (what a picture to please the Tosa school of artists!), and again the cherry-blossom with lanterns and jolly people in dance, which would be a subject for a Hokusai or Hiroshige. When a poet sings Spring to frighten from him the Invisible or Unseen, it is from his desire to make the affair sudden and strange, to make a mysterious world with laughter and tears arm in arm.
    My Spring thought, which started more objectively, slowly entered in subjective appreciation, and my Psychical quality of mind is strangely evolving in April, when I see not each shape of Spring, but the one big Vision or Imagination of all Spring now appearing, now disappearing, as one big mist, into whose seen or unknown breath- my own existence will be lost; by losing myself I know I shall get a greatest joy of life. My desire will soon be [<37] exhausted when it is filled. And I will rest in reverie.
    The season, too, will rest in rain before getting another pang of force. Nature, who began as strong and objective as a Chinese art, and then turned as voluptuous and quite real as the Shijo art, more as our beloved Ukiyoe art, is now becoming the art of Korin design in the season of iris and wistaria, great Korin's favorite subjects. The Japanese nature of May is most decorative.