A Japanese Poet

[Arthur Symons]

"From the Eastern Sea."  By Yone Noguchi.  London: 151 Brixton Road.  1902.  2s.

A strange little pamphlet, printed entirely on brown paper, has reached us from a Japanese poet who appears to be living in London, and who writes in English.  The English is a very Eastern English, the verse is no more than rhythmical prose, but there is genuine poetic feeling struggling through, and occasionally, for a few lines together, expressing itself in a new, personal way, which seems to bring some actual message or fragrance to us from the East.  "The woman whispered in the voice that roses have lost" is like a line of Mallarmé; "The lamp-lights of web-like streets bathed in opiate fogs" has all the precision of a French impressionist; both have come straight from Japan.  Sometimes the impressionism becomes as violent as it can become even in Paris:

"The life of a bird was the life of a brook,

With crimson gossips and passions";

but, here even, is not a definite sensation trying to find significant words for itself?  "The sweet mystery of indolence" allures this poet of half-inarticulate dreams:

                "I, with lips apart,

With the large mindless eyes, stood

As one fresh from a fairy dream:

The ecstasy of the dream was not yet dry

On my face. The strangest stillness,

As exquisite as if all the winds

Were dead, surrounded me...

                                            I had

No sorrow of mortal heart: my sorrow

Was one given before the human sorrows

Were given me. Mortal speech died

From me: my speech was one spoken before

God bestowed on me human speech.

.    .    .    .    .    .    .

What a bird

Dreams in the moonlight is my dream:

What a rose sings is my song."

If Mr. Noguchi can learn the technique of English verse as well as he has learnt to write the English language, he will certainly not be without something to say or sing.  One piece, called "Apparition" has a kind of achieved merit, more within limits than any of the other pieces, in which from time to time words seem to fail altogether, or to render but a treacherous service.  But it is through these very incoherencies that we seem to see what is most significant in this scarcely to be apprehended personality, which goes, like Eastern music, right through harmony to what lies nearest silence on the other side.  In a vision of the valley of peace, the birds are first heard singing, then "the birds did not trouble with songs", because "angels of whitest silence" had mingled with them; "the heard song of the winds was melodious", but the melody increases after the winds have ceased singing with their voices, "singing on in voicelessness."  Mr. Noguchi is perhaps trying to render what can never be rendered, even with the best aid of words; but his brave attempt, in a language not his own, is full of interest.