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 




OUR thoughts and emotions are only the continuation of the thoughts and emotions of our ancestors, which were often left hidden, unexpressed, happily for us, but always in existence, like the touch of air; while our thoughts may appear so sudden, frighteningly new, they have somewhere a link, sure like the stars, if you have eyes to see, with those of our progenitors. We value what the ancestors expressed, because we can read at the same time what they left unexpressed. I have no hesitation to say that the poets who sing like Byron or that golden-tongued Tennyson are admirable; but the good modern poets, no particular names mentioned, are unique at least on account of their inability (ability perhaps) in singing. It takes much talent to describe the outward beauty, and, true to say, even some original gift to appreciate it; but your real courage will be proved in your entire loss of desire of outward things. One can be taught by another how to see and understand the outward beauty, but there's hardly any guidance [<156] in the invisible matter, and you are your own guide, alone in the world, in your change from the visible to the spiritual. It is easy to change your dress and hat according to the season and style; but the outside attire, even the best kind, is of no avail for your spiritual change. It is natural course to enter the invisible from the visible, as you step into night from day ; but you must let it come after having enough satisfaction of the outward things. The mellow perfection of the night only comes after all the splendour of the sun.
    As for me, I have no strong love with the outward things, and always take a deep delight in the little inward world-the largest world perhaps-of my creation, and rarely sing the visible beauty. Is it because I am philosophical? Perhaps I am, without knowing it at all. Is it because I am somewhat logical? Perhaps I am, although people (I included) do not notice it. One thing I can say with much faith is that it takes a great energy to gain an assertion, and a tireless persistence to be content with the invisible things. You must fully understand the beauty of life, if you want to see the beauty of [<157] death; and life will be more beautiful from the reason of contrast with death. And death, again from the contrast with life, will be more tender in pathos, more subtle in rhythm. My song is always with the falling leaves and the dying day.
    I am not ready to say such is the poetry of modem Japanese [poets]; it is so at least with some of them. And it is a most striking contrast with the material civilisation of present Japan, which was brought at once from the West; the West strangely enough, sent us at the same time her spiritual literature under the arbitrary name of symbolism. Now, that symbolism is not a new thing at all; for us, it is a continuation, of course with much modification, of our old thoughts and emotions. It is interesting to note that it came here when we were much criticised as mate[r]ialists without capacity of understanding any spiritual beauty. As somebody says, the real modern civilisation of Japan is nothing but the old civilisation which has changed its form ; and I say that the true new literature is, indeed, the old literature, baptised in a Western temple. We have led, [<158] for a thousand years, our insular lives; we have been materially poor (many thanks for that poverty), and then we found it quite easy to commune with our minds. As the reality was never so splendid, we were obliged to seek satisfaction in dream; as we could not sing so well, we learned the art how to sing in silence, the art how to leave unsung. Poetry was never a criticism of life in Japan, as it was for one time in the West; but it was the words of adoration or love of nature and life. It is only the modern note to make the most of literature and life ; it is, I dare say, from the hidden desire to value the no-literature and death more than the literature and life themselves.
    We must not lose our insularity, although it needs a strength of consciousness ; what we want is intensiveness, the art of distillation of our thought, which only comes from the true pride and real economy of force. Universalism is often a weakness itself. We do not need, in our Japanese literature, any long epic and song, because they are touched more or less by pretention. Our song is a potted tree of a thousand years' growth ; our song is a Japanese [<159] tea-house—four mats and a half in all—where we burn the rarest incense which rises to the sky; our song is an opal with six colours that shine within.