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 





WE two Japanese went very well with the three Irish at a little café off Tottenham Court Road seven or eight years ago, although the balance often slanted as two of our foreign friends were ladies who, like Yeats' faeries, would ride upon the winds and tide and dance upon the mountain like a flame; they were wild, I remember well, over Yeats whose poetry was as in his own words:
    ". . . ever pacing on the verge of things,
    The phantom beauty in a mist of tears."
One of the ladies sang, or to say better, chanted "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," as she noticed that my mind did not match their enthusiasm; was it not, I wonder, her Irish tactics to make me a captive from a sudden awakening of home thought in my heart? When I made an unconditional surrender to Yeats at least in that song to the delight of all my Irish friends, I was hearing only a famous Japanese "lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore"; I can still recall my feeling of hearing [<110] it in my heart's deep core, while I hurried to my lodging late on that unforgettable night. And when I became better composed under the sympathetic light in my room, my mind like a ship on the waves deathless and timeless or freeborn leaves enraptured in the quiet of the skies, drifted slowly into the adventure of comparison-making between the literatures Oriental and Irish; Yeats' song on Innisfree made me at once think of T'ao Yuan-ming of the Tsin Dynasty of China (A. D. 365-427) whose famous ode, "Homeward Return" sounds in my opinion more Celtic than any other old Chinese poem. Celtic temperament in ancient China, you ask? Oh, yes, a good deal of it.  Not only the Saxons, but also the old Chinese, did indeed evoke poetry through the Celtic flames blown by the dove-gray wind, no matter where the Chinese got it; there is nothing strange to compare the ancient Oriental poetry with Yeats of the present time, because both of them are of the language very old and very new like the lonely face of a dream. I might say it was Yuan-ming's weakness that he was only able to find poetry in the emphasising of his own life, [<111] unlike Yeats and his Irish colleagues to whom Art or Imagination in another word was first, and Life followed after; "Homeward Return" would not have existed, I think, if Yuan-ming had not been obliged to appear in the regular robe proper to his rank of magistrate at a certain function, only to make his freedom-loving soul rebel and exclaim that "he could not crook the hinges of his back for five pecks of rice a day," and to resign his office at once after holding the post for only eighty-three days. Not only do I read in his resignation his misery of heart on seeing the speedy fall of his Tsin Dynasty and the gradual rise of the Liu Sung, but I see in his ode that he was after all a Chinese pessimist and not a Celt, whose pessimism always makes a desperate revolt under the peace and content, whose surrender to Nature is more to her fact itself than the mystery she inspires, when he finishes the famous ode as follows:
    I will whistle along the eastern hill,
    By the clear rivulet weave my song:
    Let my allotted span work its own way at will.
    I will enjoy my fate . . . Oh, how can I doubt it?"
My responsiveness to the modern Irish literature [<112] chiefly through Yeats and two or three others, the singers of the Unseen and Passionate Dreams, is from the sudden awakening of Celtic temperament in my Japanese mind. The comparative study of the Japanese poetical characteristics with those of the Irish people would be interesting, because it will make it clear how the spontaneity of the real Japanese hearts and imaginations, indeed quite Celtic, has been evoked and crooked and even ruined by the Chinese literature of the Toang and Sung dynasties sadly hardened by the moral finiteness, and also by the Buddhism whose despotic counsel often discouraged imagination, till we see to-day only the fragmentary remains, for instance, in the folk-songs which flow like a streaming flame upon the air. I know that all the Japanese poets ancient and modern went into a Celtic invocation, when they were alone with the sad melody of Nature and felt the intimacy of human destiny; take Saigyo at random, the wandering priest-poet of the early twelfth century, whose melancholy cry across the seas and time is most real, because, to use Matthew Arnold's phrase, of its "passionate, [<113] turbulent, indomitable reaction against the despotism of fact." Here is one of my beloved uta-poems of his which it is said he wrote at a certain shrine:
    "Know I not at all who is within,
    But from the heart of gratitude,
    My tears fall,
    Again my tears fall, . . ."
Although it may sound strange, it is true that Saigyo failed as a poet, in my opinion, through his hatred of life and the world (how many hundred Western poets fail through their love of the World and Life), because not from impulse and dream like Yeats, but I might say from the Buddhistic superstition and motive he looked upon the whisper and beauty far beyond time and winds. It was the Chinese classics and Buddhism that weakened our Japanese poetry in most cases; it is not difficult to see what we shall lose fundamentally from coming, as we have come to-day, face to face with the Western literature. When I admire the Irish literature as I do, it is in its independent aloofness from the others, sad but pleasing like an elegy heard across the seas of the infinite, with [<114] all the joys pointing to life that always glistens with the pain of destiny; in its telling of visions and numberless dreams, I see the passionate flame burning to Eternity and deathlessness, its wit and humour (Oh, that famous Irish characteristic) make me think that laughter or smile is certainly older, at least wiser than tears. How often I wonder at its insular energy objecting to the literary encroachment of a different element, oh, what a pure, proud, lonely, defiant spirit! I know that such a literary strength was gained perhaps at the heavy cost of the political sacrifice of the country; is it a piece of cynicism when we thank the English solidarity which had a great hand in the formation of the so-called Irish literature?
    It was, I confess, the very beauty of Yeats' work of poetry, "The Rose" with that song on the "Lake Isle of Innisfree," "The Wind Among the Reeds" with the simple fiddler of Dooney who set the people to "dance like a wave of the sea," that I wholly gave up, some eight years ago when I was in London, my plan to go to Ireland for my study of the Celtic [<115] characteristics, because William B. Yeats was, I thought, bigger than Ireland herself, and what I was afraid of was the disillusionment; it was not the immediate question with me to know how much Celtic would be left if Yeats were taken out from his poetry.  I read somewhere his words of discontent with his early poems as triviality or sentimentality; I have my opinion to feel only sorry for a poet who was sane and wise from the beginning. The time when one could act even silly would be doubly dear in one's after-reflection; Yeats' word of discontent may not be the exact word; what a pity even the poet, particularly when he is Irish, has had an occasion or two to play that sad art of criticism upon his own work. I see the sorrow at once universal, with no particular shape, commingled with the whisper and sigh of days and nature in quite a picturesque accentuation, in his early work, as if in my poetry of youth, at the moment when he might have thought, again as in my case, it was a spiritual flight to lose his own nationality, and that the imitation in the best sense or the joining to one indomitable general mood of [<116] youth was a poetical passport; it is excusable, I dare say, when we find his head in a cloud-land in many pieces of "The Rose," where he bartered his emotion for the intellect. I am glad to hear that he returned lately to the common thought of his people; it may be a gratification for his Irish patriotism if it served to remind him of Mangan and Davis. That patriotism is another link between the Irish and the Japanese. It was from the very sense of patriotism, in truth, that " Kathleen Ni Hoolihan" was thought to be actable even in Japan; but when it failed, it was from its general symbolism, because we Japanese are able to think of patriotism only physically. [<117]

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