Takasago 2002



by Motokiyo

TTS 9ll. Ms. statement on the title page: “Noh plays from the Fenollosa mss/ edited by Ezra Pound."



This play “TAKASAGO” might be called the very core of the “Noh.” Because of its flawless structure it is called “Shin no issei,” the “Most Correct” and other Noh plays are held to vary from it as from a norm. It is a “Shugen” or congratulatory piece and as such it is the hardest sort of Noh play for an occidental to fathom. These “Shugen” (vide “The Drama” for May 1915, p.208) are used at the beginning and end of the full Noh programme, and this very ending on the opening note is a sort of symbol of perpetuity.

“TAKASAGO” is not a dogmatic statement, it is, or it “e<x>presses,” a sense of past time in the present. Or if you are to speak like a Japanese trying to talk English “It is the Pine, it is eternity.”

Umewaka Minoru, or possibly some other of Prof. Fenollosa’s friends, in trying to explain it has used these words, which I take verbatim from the note book. “The old man and woman say: we are symbol. In heart of young men is many dusts, old men must help allay them. When one does not sweep his dirt heaps away, he will be buried in the dust.”

<If> The first half [of] the play , in this translation is stiff and prosaic but it does get the reader primed, as it were, intellectually prepared to feel the last half, <The play> is nearly intranslatable and is fairly incomprehensible until you get the clue, first to the “sense of past time in the present,” second, to the symbolism of Takasago (the past age) and Sumiyoshi (the present).

When I say it is perfect in construction I do not refer to anything like occidental “dramatic construction.” <In> Takasago the various parts of a Noh play: the speech telling the names, the speech saying: we have arrived, the issei, or hero’s voice raised for the first time “very powerful, just as it could pierce,” the sashi koye or “flow-along tune” and the various other divisions of Noh, are by authorities held to be each in its proper position.







The Cast

The Waki, the wandering priest, Tomonari

The Shite, an old man

The Tsure, an old woman




I am Tomonari, priest of <the> Shinto temple at Aso, in the province of Hijo in Kinshu. I have never seen the capital before and I am now coming thither. I shall visit Takasago by the way.

I have sailed over the calm spring sea, and Takasago, which I thought to be very distant in the clouds, is before me.


OLD MAN and TSURE together

The spring winds blow over the pine trees of Takasago. And it is twilight now. The bell of Onoye rings.


TSURE. <old Woman>

The waves are hidden in mist.



The sound alone says ‘tis full tide.



Whom shall I make my friend? Even the pine does not know me. The past days are like snows gathered and gathering, and I am like an old stork left on the bare nest at dawn. Even in the cold evenings of spring I have heard only the wind on the pine trees. My heart is my only friend.

(They sing together)

O, we will ask the pine trees for tidings of the world. We will sweep dust under their shade and stand in the fallen pine-needles here together, in Takasago.

The pine tree of Onoye is older, the waves of age are upon us, and we have lived through and lived through, piling the fallen needles beneath the boughs of this pine, how long shall we last out? How long? As long as the life of this pine here?



I was waiting in the village and I saw this old man and old woman. I have something to ask the old man.



He means me. What’s the matter?



Which tree is the great tree of Takasago?



This tree under which we are sweeping.



Well why do they call it “Ai-oi?” Why do they call all the pines in Takasago and in Suminoye “Ai-oi?” the two places are very far distant, and the word means “growing together.”



Yes I know anyone can read in the preface of Kokin that “It seems the pine trees of Takasago and Suminoye grow together” but I am a man of Sumiyoshi, of Tau No Kumi, so you had better ask the old woman, she’s of this place.



What, I see the old pair here together and yet he says they live apart, he says he is of Sumiyoshi!



That’s a stupid thing you are saying. Though the mountain and river lie between us we are near in the ways of love.



Think a little.



The pine trees of Takasago and Suminoye have no breathing life and they call them “growing together.” Yet we who are from Sumiyoshi have long life in these pine trees.



Yes, but what is the story that you are half telling?



As men have said in the old times, “It’s a sign of the happier reign.”



Takasago means the old age of the emperor Manyoshu.



Sumiyoshi means our own time in Engi.



The pine needles are like inexhaustible words.



Their glory is the same through all seasons.



They are symbols to honour the reign.



My doubt goes like a spring day’s cloud at hearing your story.



The light is smooth on the water.



It is surely smooth on the western sea there, out towards Suminoye.



And here in Takasago.



The colour of the pine–trees grows deeper.



The spring sky…



… being calm…



The waves of the whole sea are quiet,

The whole country well governed

The wind does not even rustle through the branches,

It is surely a happy reign.

As happy as are pines growing together

Indeed it is an age that we can look up to

And that we can not show forth in words,

A kindly deed of the gods.



Tell me the full tale, if it please you.

The full story of Takasago.



Though grass and trees have no mind

They have their time of blossoming and bearing their fruit, they have the virtue of bright spring and their blossoms come out first on the southern branches.



And the look of this pine is eternal

Its needles and cones have one season.

<They are all out on the one bough Together.>



And so for all the four seasons

The green of a thousand years is deep against the snow, they say the pine is in blossom but once in a thousand years.



It was that I was wanting,

It was that I would learn from the pine-trees.



The gems of dew on the pine boughs

Burnish my heart.



O All-who-have-life



Come near to the Shikishima.

Come near to the island of verses

Like a light skiff on the wave

Chaio, the bard, said in the days of Ichijo:

The voice of all things,

The voices of every living heart

Will come to the isle of verses,

The voices of all things that have heart.

           There will be grass and the trees and the sand and the soil together and the winds and the sounds of water, they have all of them heart for verses. And the forest waving with spring wind from the Eastward, the crickets and small things of autumn that whirr in the northern dew, these are all the form of our verses, and the pine tree is over them all. It is the dress of the eighteen princes, the green of a thousand autumns lasting forever. The <emperor> Shiko decreed that it was noble, all countries acknowledged its rite.



A bell sounds over Takasago, the bell of Onoye.



At dawn frost comes on the branches

The leaves retain their one green,

And every morning and evening

We sweep the shed flakes

We clear this space beneath boughs.

There is no end to the falling. Yet now they have ceased to scatter, the colour grows deeper and deeper, as a sign of the lasting reign. The pine-tree is known for its glory. The pine is the giver of joy, how splendid are all the pine-trees growing together.




Motokiyo. Takasago. Trans. Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa. The Letters of Ezra Pound to Alice Corbin Henderson. Ed. Ira Nadel. Austin: U of Texas P, 1993. 110-116.



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