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Out of the East
Reveries and Studies in New Japan
I. THE DREAM OF A SUMMER DAY
II. WITH KYŪSHŪ STUDENTS
III. AT HAKATA
IV. OF THE ETERNAL FEMININE
V. BITS OF LIFE AND DEATH
VI. THE STONE BUDDHA
VIII. THE RED BRIDAL
IX. A WISH FULFILLED
X. IN YOKOHAMA
XI. YUKO: A REMINISCENCE
The hotel seemed to me a paradise, and the maids thereof celestial beings. This was because I had just fled away from one of the Open Ports, where I had ventured to seek comfort in a European hotel, supplied with all "modern improvements." To find myself at ease once more in a yukata, seated upon cool, soft matting, waited upon by sweet-voiced girls, and surrounded by things of beauty, was therefore like a redemption from all the sorrows of the nineteenth century. Bamboo-shoots and lotus-bulbs were given me for breakfast, and a fan from heaven for a keepsake. The design upon that fan represented only the white rushing burst of one great wave on a beach, and sea-birds shooting in exultation through the blue overhead. But to behold it was worth all the trouble of the journey. It was a glory of light, a thunder of motion, a triumph of sea-wind,—all in one. It made me want to shout when I looked at it.
Between the cedarn balcony pillars I could see the course of the pretty gray town following the shore-sweep,—and yellow lazy junks asleep at anchor,—and the opening of the bay between enormous green cliffs,—and beyond it the blaze of summer to the horizon. In that horizon there were mountain shapes faint as old memories. And all things but the gray town, and the yellow junks, and the green cliffs, were blue.
Then a voice softly toned as a wind-bell began to tinkle words of courtesy into my reverie, and broke it; and I perceived that the mistress of the palace had come to thank me for the chadai, and I prostrated myself before her. She was very young, and more than pleasant to look upon,—like the moth-maidens, like the butterfly-women, of Kuni-sada. And I thought at once of death;—for the beautiful is sometimes a sorrow of anticipation.
She asked whither I honorably intended to go, that she might order a kuruma for me. And I made answer:—
"To Kumamoto. But the name of your house I much wish to know, that I may always remember it."
"My guest-rooms," she said, "are augustly insignificant, and my maidens honorably rude. But the house is called the House of Urashima. And now I go to order a kuruma."
The music of her voice passed; and I felt enchantment falling all about me,—like the thrilling of a ghostly web. For the name was the name of the story of a song that bewitches men.
 A little gift of money, always made to a hotel by the guest shortly after his arrival.
Once you hear the story, you will never be able to forget it. Every summer when I find myself on the coast,—especially of very soft, still days,—it haunts me most persistently. There are many native versions of it which have been the inspiration for countless works of art. But the most impressive and the most ancient is found in the "Manyefushifu," a collection of poems dating from the fifth to the ninth century. From this ancient version the great scholar Aston translated it into prose, and the great scholar Chamberlain into both prose and verse. But for English readers I think the most charming form of it is Chamberlain's version written for children, in the "Japanese Fairy-Tale Series,"—because of the delicious colored pictures by native artists. With that little book before me, I shall try to tell the legend over again in my own words.
Fourteen hundred and sixteen years ago, the fisher-boy Urashima Taro left the shore of Suminoyé in his boat.
Summer days were then as now,—all drowsy and tender blue, with only some light, pure white clouds hanging over the mirror of the sea. Then, too, were the hills the same,—far blue soft shapes melting into the blue sky. And the winds were lazy.
And presently the boy, also lazy, let his boat drift as he fished. It was a queer boat, unpainted and rudderless, of a shape you probably never saw. But still, after fourteen hundred years, there are such boats to be seen in front of the ancient fishing-hamlets of the coast of the Sea of Japan.
After long waiting, Urashima caught something, and drew it up to him. But he found it was only a tortoise.
Now a tortoise is sacred to the Dragon God of the Sea, and the period of its natural life is a thousand—some say ten thousand—years. So that to kill it is very wrong. The boy gently unfastened the creature from his line, and set it free, with a prayer to the gods.
But he caught nothing more. And the day was very warm; and sea and air and all things were very, very silent. And a great drowsiness grew upon him,—and he slept in his drifting boat.
Then out of the dreaming of the sea rose up a beautiful girl,—just as you can see her in the picture to Professor Chamberlain's "Urashima,"—robed in crimson and blue, with long black hair flowing down her back even to her feet, after the fashion of a prince's daughter fourteen hundred years ago.
Gliding over the waters she came, softly as air; and she stood above the sleeping boy in the boat, and woke him with a light touch, and said:—
"Do not be surprised. My father, the Dragon King of the Sea, sent me to you, because of your kind heart. For to-day you set free a tortoise. And now we will go to my father's palace in the island where summer never dies; and I will be your flower-wife if you wish; and we shall live there happily forever."
And Urashima wondered more and more as he looked upon her; for she was more beautiful than any human being, and he could not but love her. Then he took one oar, and he took another, and they rowed away together,—just as you may still see, off the far western coast, wife and husband rowing together, when the fishing-boats flit into the evening gold.
They rowed away softly and swiftly over the silent blue water down into the south,—till they came to the island where summer never dies,—and to the palace of the Dragon King of the Sea.
[Here the text of the little book suddenly shrinks away as you read, and faint blue ripplings flood the page; and beyond them in a fairy horizon you can see the long low soft shore of the island, and peaked roofs rising through evergreen foliage—the roofs of the Sea God's palace—like the palace of the Mikado Yuriaku, fourteen hundred and sixteen years ago.]
There strange servitors came to receive them in robes of ceremony—creatures of the Sea, who paid greeting to Urashima as the son-in-law of the Dragon King.
So the Sea God's daughter became the bride of Urashima; and it was a bridal of wondrous splendor; and in the Dragon Palace there was great rejoicing.
And each day for Urashima there were new wonders and new pleasures:—wonders of the deepest deep brought up by the servants of the Ocean God;—pleasures of that enchanted land where summer never dies. And so three years passed.
But in spite of all these things, the fisher-boy felt always a heaviness at his heart when he thought of his parents waiting alone. So that at last he prayed his bride to let him go home for a little while only, just to say one word to his father and mother,—after which he would hasten hack to her.
At these words she began to weep; and for a long time she continued to weep silently. Then she said to him: "Since you wish to go, of course you must go. I fear your going very much; I fear we shall never see each other again. But I will give you a little box to take with you. It will help you to come hack to me if you will do what I tell you. Do not open it. Above all things, do not open it,—no matter what may happen! Because, if you open it, you will never be able to come hack, and you will never see me again."
Then she gave him a little lacquered box tied about with a silken cord. [And that box can be seen unto this day in the temple of Kanagawa, by the seashore; and the priests there also keep Urashima Tarō's fishing line, and some strange jewels which he brought back with him from the realm of the Dragon King.]
But Urashima comforted his bride, and promised her never, never to open the box—never even to loosen the silken string. Then he passed away through the summer light over the ever-sleeping sea;—and the shape of the island where summer never dies faded behind him like a dream;—and he saw again before him the blue mountains of Japan, sharpening in the white glow of the northern horizon.
Again at last he glided into his native bay;—again he stood upon its beach. But as he looked, there came upon him a great bewilderment,—a weird doubt.
For the place was at once the same, and yet not the same. The cottage of his fathers had disappeared. There was a village; but the shapes of the houses were all strange, and the trees were strange, and the fields, and even the faces of the people. Nearly all remembered landmarks were gone;—the Shintō temple appeared to have been rebuilt in a new place; the woods had vanished from the neighboring slopes. Only the voice of the little stream flowing through the settlement, and the forms of the mountains, were still the same. All else was unfamiliar and new. In vain he tried to find the dwelling of his parents; and the fisherfolk stared wonderingly at him; and he could not remember having ever seen any of those faces before.
There came along a very old man, leaning on a stick, and Urashima asked him the way to the house of the Urashima family. But the old man looked quite astonished, and made him repeat the question many times, and then cried out:—
"Urashima Tarō! Where do you come from that you do not know the story? Urashima Tarō! Why, it is more than four hundred years since he was drowned, and a monument is erected to his memory in the graveyard. The graves of all his people are in that graveyard,—the old graveyard which is not now used any more. Urashima Tarō! How can you he so foolish as to ask where his house is?" And the old man hobbled on, laughing at the simplicity of his questioner.
But Urashima went to the village graveyard,—the old graveyard that was not used any more,—and there he found his own tombstone, and the tombstones of his father and his mother and his kindred, and the tombstones of many others he had known. So old they were, so moss-eaten, that it was very hard to read the names upon them.
Then he knew himself the victim of some strange illusion, and he took his way hack to the beach,—always carrying in his hand the box, the gift of the Sea God's daughter. But what was this illusion? And what could be in that box? Or might not that which was in the box be the cause of the illusion? Doubt mastered faith. Recklessly he broke the promise made to his beloved;—he loosened the silken cord;—he opened the box!
Instantly, without any sound, there burst from it a white cold spectral vapor that rose in air like a summer cloud, and began to drift away swiftly into the south, over the silent sea. There was nothing else in the box.
And Urashima then knew that he had destroyed his own happiness,—that he could never again return to his beloved, the daughter of the Ocean King. So that he wept and cried out bitterly in his despair.
Yet for a moment only. In another, he himself was changed. An icy chill shot through all his blood;—his teeth fell out; his face shriveled; his hair turned white as snow; his limbs withered; his strength ebbed; he sank down lifeless on the sand, crushed by the weight of four hundred winters.
Now in the official annals of the Emperors it is written that "in the twenty-first year of the Mikado Yuriaku, the boy Urashima of Midzunoyé, in the district of Yosa, in the province of Tango, a descendant of the divinity Shimanemi, went to Elysium [Hōraï] in a fishing-boat." After this there is no more news of Urashima during the reigns of thirty-one emperors and empresses—that is, from the fifth until the ninth century. And then the annals announce that "in the second year of Tenchiyō, in the reign of the Mikado Go-Junwa, the boy Urashima returned, and presently departed again, none knew whither."
The fairy mistress came back to tell me that everything was ready, and tried to lift my valise in her slender hands,—which I prevented her from doing, because it was heavy. Then she laughed, but would not suffer that I should carry it myself, and summoned a sea-creature with Chinese characters upon his back. I made obeisance to her; and she prayed me to remember the unworthy house despite the rudeness of the maidens. "And you will pay the kurumaya," she said, "only seventy-five sen."
Then I slipped into the vehicle; and in a few minutes the little gray town had vanished behind a curve. I was rolling along a white road overlooking the shore. To the right were pale brown cliffs; to the left only space and sea.
Mile after mile I rolled along that shore, looking into the infinite light. All was steeped in blue,—a marvelous blue, like that which comes and goes in the heart of a great shell. Glowing blue sea met hollow blue sky in a brightness of electric fusion; and vast blue apparitions—the mountains of Higo—angled up through the blaze, like masses of amethyst. What a blue transparency! The universal color was broken only by the dazzling white of a few high summer clouds, motionlessly curled above one phantom peak in the offing. They threw down upon the water snowy tremulous lights. Midges of ships creeping far away seemed to pull long threads after them,—the only sharp lines in all that hazy glory. But what divine clouds! White purified spirits of clouds, resting on their way to the beatitude of Nirvana? Or perhaps the mists escaped from Urashima's box a thousand years ago?
The gnat of the soul of me flitted out into that dream of blue, 'twixt sea and sun,—hummed back to the shore of Suminoyé through the luminous ghosts of fourteen hundred summers. Vaguely I felt beneath me the drifting of a keel. It was the time of the Mikado Yuriaku. And the Daughter of the Dragon King said tinklingly,—"Now we will go to my father's palace where it is always blue." "Why always blue?" I asked. "Because," she said, "I put all the clouds into the Box." "But I must go home," I answered resolutely. "Then," she said, "you will pay the kurumaya only seventy-five sen."
Wherewith I woke into Doyō, or the Period of Greatest Heat, in the twenty-sixth year of Meiji—and saw proof of the era in a line of telegraph poles reaching out of sight on the land side of the way. The kuruma was still fleeing by the shore, before the same blue vision of sky, peak, and sea; but the white clouds were gone!—and there were no more cliffs close to the road, but fields of rice and of barley stretching to far-off hills. The telegraph lines absorbed my attention for a moment, because on the top wire, and only on the top wire, hosts of little birds were perched, all with their heads to the road, and nowise disturbed by our coming. They remained quite still, looking down upon us as mere passing phenomena. There were hundreds and hundreds in rank, for miles and miles. And I could not see one having its tail turned to the road. Why they sat thus, and what they were watching or waiting for, I could not guess. At intervals I waved my hat and shouted, to startle the ranks. Whereupon a few would rise up fluttering and chippering, and drop back again upon the wire in the same position as before. The vast majority refused to take me seriously.
The sharp rattle of the wheels was drowned by a deep booming; and as we whirled past a village I caught sight of an immense drum under an open shed, beaten by naked men.
"O kurumaya!" I shouted—"that—what is it?"
He, without stopping, shouted back:—- "Everywhere now the same thing is. Much time-in rain has not been: so the gods-to prayers are made, and drums are beaten." We flashed through other villages; and I saw and heard more drums of various sizes, and from hamlets invisible, over miles of parching rice-fields, yet other drums, like echoings, responded.
 See The Classical Poetry of the Japanese, by Professor Chamberlain, in Trübner's Oriental Series. According to Western chronology, Urashima went fishing in 477 A.D., and returned in 825.
Then I began to think about Urashima again. I thought of the pictures and poems and proverbs recording the influence of the legend upon the imagination of a race. I thought of an Izumo dancing-girl I saw at a banquet acting the part of Urashima, with a little lacquered box whence there issued at the tragical minute a mist of Kyōto incense. I thought about the antiquity of the beautiful dance,—and therefore about vanished generations of dancing-girls,—and therefore about dust in the abstract; which, again, led me to think of dust in the concrete, as bestirred by the sandals of the kurumaya to whom I was to pay only seventy-five sen. And I wondered how much of it might be old human dust, and whether in the eternal order of things the motion of hearts might be of more consequence than the motion of dust. Then my ancestral morality took alarm; and I tried to persuade myself that a story which had lived for a thousand years, gaining fresher charm with the passing of every century, could only have survived by virtue of some truth in it. But what truth? For the time being I could find no answer to this question.
The heat had become very great; and I cried,—
"O kurumaya! The throat of Selfishness is dry; water desirable is."
He, still running, answered:—
"The Village of the Long Beach inside of—not far—a great gush-water is. There pure august water will be given."
I cried again:—
"O kurumaya!—those little birds as-for, why this way always facing?"
He, running still more swiftly, responded:—"All birds wind-to facing sit."
I laughed first at my own simplicity; then at my forgetfulness,—remembering I had been told the same thing, somewhere or other, when a boy. Perhaps the mystery of Urashima might also have been created by forgetfulness.
I thought again about Urashima. I saw the Daughter of the Dragon King waiting vainly in the palace made beautiful for his welcome,—and the pitiless return of the Cloud, announcing what had happened,—and the loving uncouth sea-creatures, in their garments of great ceremony, trying to comfort her. But in the real story there was nothing of all this; and the pity of the people seemed to be all for Urashima. And I began to discourse with myself thus:—
Is it right to pity Urashima at all? Of course he was bewildered by the gods. But who is not bewildered by the gods? What is Life itself but a bewilderment? And Urashima in his bewilderment doubted the purpose of the gods, and opened the box. Then he died without any trouble, and the people built a shrine to him as Urashima Miō-jin. Why, then, so much pity?
Things are quite differently managed in the West. After disobeying Western gods, we have still to remain alive and to learn the height and the breadth and the depth of superlative sorrow. We are not allowed to die quite comfortably just at the best possible time: much less are we suffered to become after death small gods in our own right. How can we pity the folly of Urashima after he had lived so long alone with visible gods.
Perhaps the fact that we do may answer the riddle. This pity must be self-pity; wherefore the legend may be the legend of a myriad souls. The thought of it comes just at a particular time of blue light and soft wind,—and always like an old reproach. It has too intimate relation to a season and the feeling of a season not to be also related to something real in one's life, or in the lives of one's ancestors. But what was that real something? Who was the Daughter of the Dragon King? Where was the island of unending summer? And what was the cloud in the box?
I cannot answer all those questions. I know this only,—which is not at all new:—
I have memory of a place and a magical time in which the Sun and the Moon were larger and brighter than now. Whether it was of this life or of some life before I cannot tell. But I know the sky was very much more blue, and nearer to the world,—almost as it seems to become above the masts of a steamer steaming into equatorial summer. The sea was alive, and used to talk,—and the Wind made me cry out for joy when it touched me. Once or twice during other years, in divine days lived among the peaks, I have dreamed just for a moment that the same wind was blowing,—but it was only a remembrance.
Also in that place the clouds were wonderful, and of colors for which there are no names at all,—colors that used to make me hungry and thirsty. I remember, too, that the days were ever so much longer than these days,—and that every day there were new wonders and new pleasures for me. And all that country and time were softly ruled by One who thought only of ways to make me happy. Sometimes I would refuse to be made happy, and that always caused her pain, although she was divine;—and I remember that I tried very hard to be sorry. When day was done, and there fell the great hush of the light before moonrise, she would tell me stories that made me tingle from head to foot with pleasure. I have never heard any other stories half so beautiful. And when the pleasure became too great, she would sing a weird little song which always brought sleep. At last there came a parting day; and she wept, and told me of a charm she had given that I must never, never lose, because it would keep me young, and give me power to return. But I never returned. And the years went; and one day I knew that I had lost the charm, and had become ridiculously old.
The Village of the Long Beach is at the foot of a green cliff near the road, and consists of a dozen thatched cottages clustered about a rocky pool, shaded by pines. The basin overflows with cold water, supplied by a stream that leaps straight from the heart of the cliff,—just as folks imagine that a poem ought to spring straight from the heart of a poet. It was evidently a favorite halting-place, judging by the number of kuruma and of people resting. There were benches under the trees; and, after having allayed thirst, I sat down to smoke and to look at the women washing clothes and the travelers refreshing themselves at the pool,—while my kurumaya stripped, and proceeded to dash buckets of cold water over his body. Then tea was brought me by a young man with a baby on his back; and I tried to play with the baby, which said "Ah, bah!"
Such are the first sounds uttered by a Japanese babe. But they are purely Oriental; and in Itomaji should be written Aba. And, as an utterance untaught, Aba is interesting. It is in Japanese child-speech the word for "good-by,"—precisely the last we would expect an infant to pronounce on entering into this world of illusion. To whom or to what is the little soul saying good-by?—to friends in a previous state of existence still freshly remembered?—to comrades of its shadowy journey from nobody—knows—where? Such theorizing is tolerably safe, from a pious point of view, since the child can never decide for us. What its thoughts were at that mysterious moment of first speech, it will have forgotten long before it has become able to answer questions.
Unexpectedly, a queer recollection came to me,—resurrected, perhaps, by the sight of the young man with the baby,—perhaps by the song of the water in the cliff: the recollection of a story:—
Long, long ago there lived somewhere among the mountains a poor wood-cutter and his wife. They were very old, and had no children. Every day the husband went alone to the forest to cut wood, while the wife sat weaving at home.
One day the old man went farther into the forest than was his custom, to seek a certain kind of wood; and he suddenly found himself at the edge of a little spring he had never seen before. The water was strangely clear and cold, and he was thirsty; for the day was hot, and he had been working hard. So he doffed his great straw hat, knelt down, and took a long drink. That water seemed to refresh him in a most extraordinary way. Then he caught sight of his own face in the spring, and started back. It was certainly his own face, but not at all as he was accustomed to see it in the old mirror at home. It was the face of a very young man! He could not believe his eyes. He put up both hands to his head, which had been quite bald only a moment before. It was covered with thick black hair. And his face had become smooth as a boy's; every wrinkle was gone. At the same moment he discovered himself full of new strength. He stared in astonishment at the limbs that had been so long withered by age; they were now shapely and hard with dense young muscle. Unknowingly he had drunk at the Fountain of Youth; and that draught had transformed him.
First, he leaped high and shouted for joy; then he ran home faster than he had ever run before in his life. When he entered his house his wife was frightened,—because she took him for a stranger; and when he told her the wonder, she could not at once believe him. But after a long time he was able to convince her that the young man she now saw before her was really her husband; and he told her where the spring was, and asked her to go there with him.
Then she said: "You have become so handsome and so young that you cannot continue to love an old woman;—so I must drink some of that water immediately. But it will never do for both of us to be away from the house at the same time. Do you wait here while I go." And she ran to the woods all by herself.
She found the spring and knelt down, and began to drink. Oh! how cool and sweet that water was! She drank and drank and drank, and stopped for breath only to begin again.
Her husband waited for her impatiently; he expected to see her come back changed into a pretty slender girl. But she did not come back at all. He got anxious, shut up the house, and went to look for her.
When he reached the spring, he could not see her. He was just on the point of returning when he heard a little wail in the high grass near the spring. He searched there and discovered his wife's clothes and a baby,—a very small baby, perhaps six months old!
For the old woman had drunk too deeply of the magical water; she had drunk herself far back beyond the time of youth into the period of speechless infancy.
He took up the child in his arms. It looked at him in a sad, wondering way. He carried it home,—murmuring to it,—thinking strange, melancholy thoughts.
In that hour, after my reverie about Urashima, the moral of this story seemed less satisfactory than in former time. Because by drinking too deeply of life we do not become young.
Naked and cool my kurumaya returned, and said that because of the heat he could not finish the promised run of twenty-five miles, but that he had found another runner to take me the rest of the way. For so much as he himself had done, he wanted fifty-five sen.
It was really very hot—more than 100° I afterwards learned; and far away there throbbed continually, like a pulsation of the beat itself, the sound of great drums beating for rain. And I thought of the Daughter of the Dragon King.
"Seventy-five sen, she told me," I observed;—"and that promised to be done has not been done. Nevertheless, seventy-five sen to you shall be given,—because I am afraid of the gods."
And behind a yet unwearied runner I fled away into the enormous blaze—in the direction of the great drums.
The students of the Government College, or Higher Middle School, can scarcely be called boys; their ages ranging from the average of eighteen, for the lowest class, to that of twenty-five for the highest. Perhaps the course is too long. The best pupil can hardly hope to reach the Imperial University before his twenty-third year, and will require for his entrance thereinto a mastery of written Chinese as well as a good practical knowledge of either English and German, or of English and French. Thus he is obliged to learn three languages besides all that relates to the elegant literature of his own; and the weight of his task cannot be understood without knowledge of the fact that his study of Chinese alone is equal to the labor of acquiring six European tongues.
The impression produced upon me by the Kumamoto students was very different from that received on my first acquaintance with my Izumo pupils. This was not only because the former had left well behind them the delightfully amiable period of Japanese boyhood, and had developed into earnest, taciturn men, but also because they represented to a marked degree what is called Kyūshū character. Kyūshū still remains, as of yore, the most conservative part of Japan, and Kumamoto, its chief city, the centre of conservative feeling. This conservatism is, however, both rational and practical. Kyūshū was not slow in adopting railroads, improved methods of agriculture, applications of science to certain industries; but remains of all districts of the Empire the least inclined to imitation of Western manners and customs. The ancient samurai spirit still lives on; and that spirit in Kyūshū was for centuries one that exacted severe simplicity in habits of life. Sumptuary laws against extravagance in dress and other forms of luxury used to be rigidly enforced; and though the laws themselves have been obsolete for a generation, their influence continues to appear in the very simple attire and the plain, direct manners of the people. Kumamoto folk are also said to be characterized by their adherence to traditions of conduct which have been almost forgotten elsewhere, and by a certain independent frankness in speech and action, difficult for any foreigner to define, but immediately apparent to an educated Japanese. And here, too, under the shadow of Kiyomasa's mighty fortress,—now occupied by an immense garrison,—national sentiment is declared to be stronger than in the very capital itself,—the spirit of loyalty and the love of country. Kumamoto is proud of all these things, and boasts of her traditions. Indeed, she has nothing else to boast of. A vast, straggling, dull, unsightly town is Kumamoto: there are no quaint, pretty streets, no great temples, no wonderful gardens. Burnt to the ground in the civil war of the tenth Meiji, the place still gives you the impression of a wilderness of flimsy shelters erected in haste almost before the soil had ceased to smoke. There are no remarkable places to visit (not, at least, within city limits),—no sights,—few amusements. For this very reason the college is thought to be well located: there are neither temptations nor distractions for its inmates. But for another reason, also, rich men far away in the capital try to send their sons to Kumamoto. It is considered desirable that a young man should be imbued with what is called "the Kyūshū spirit," and should acquire what might be termed the Kyūshū "tone." The students of Kumamoto are said to be the most peculiar students in the Empire by reason of this "tone." I have never been able to learn enough about it to define it well; but it is evidently a something akin to the deportment of the old Kyūshū samurai. Certainly the students sent from Tokyo or Kyoto to Kyūshū have to adapt themselves to a very different milieu. The Kumamoto, and also the Kagoshima youths,—whenever not obliged to don military uniform for drill-hours and other special occasions,—still cling to a costume somewhat resembling that of the ancient bushi, and therefore celebrated in sword-songs—-the short robe and hakama reaching a little below the knee, and sandals. The material of the dress is cheap, coarse, and sober in color; cleft stockings (tabi) are seldom worn, except in very cold weather, or during long marches, to keep the sandal-thongs from cutting into the flesh. Without being rough, the manners are not soft; and the lads seem to cultivate a certain outward hardness of character. They can preserve an imperturbable exterior under quite extraordinary circumstances, but under this self-control there is a fiery consciousness of strength which will show itself in a menacing form on rare occasions. They deserve to be termed rugged men, too, in their own Oriental way. Some I know, who, though born to comparative wealth, find no pleasure so keen as that of trying how much physical hardship they can endure. The greater number would certainly give up their lives without hesitation rather than their high principles. And a rumor of national danger would instantly transform the whole four hundred into a body of iron soldiery. But their outward demeanor is usually impassive to a degree that is difficult even to understand.
For a long time I used to wonder in vain what feelings, sentiments, ideas might be hidden beneath all that unsmiling placidity. The native teachers, de facto government officials, did not appear to be on intimate terms with any of their pupils: there was no trace of that affectionate familiarity I had seen in Izumo; the relation between instructors and instructed seemed to begin and end with the bugle-calls by which classes were assembled and dismissed. In this I afterwards found myself partly mistaken; still such relations as actually existed were for the most part formal rather than natural, and quite unlike those old-fashioned, loving sympathies of which the memory had always remained with me since my departure from the Province of the Gods.
But later on, at frequent intervals, there came to me suggestions of an inner life much more attractive than this outward seeming,—hints of emotional individuality. A few I obtained in casual conversations, but the most remarkable in written themes. Subjects given for composition occasionally coaxed out some totally unexpected blossoming of thoughts and feelings. A very pleasing fact was the total absence of any false shyness, or indeed shyness of any sort: the young men were not ashamed to write exactly what they felt or hoped. They would write about their homes, about their reverential love to their parents, about happy experiences of their childhood, about their friendships, about their adventures during the holidays; and this often in a way I thought beautiful, because of its artless, absolute sincerity. After a number of such surprises, I learned to regret keenly that I had not from the outset kept notes upon all the remarkable compositions received. Once a week I used to read aloud and correct in class a selection from the best handed in, correcting the remainder at home. The very best I could not always presume to read aloud and criticise for the general benefit, because treating of matters too sacred to be methodically commented upon, as the following examples may show.
I had given as a subject for English composition this question: "What do men remember longest?" One student answered that we remember our happiest moments longer than we remember all other experiences, because it is in the nature of every rational being to try to forget what is disagreeable or painful as soon as possible. I received many still more ingenious answers,—some of which gave proof of a really keen psychological study of the question. But I liked best of all the simple reply of one who thought that painful events are longest remembered. He wrote exactly what follows: I found it needless to alter a single word:—
"What do men remember longest? I think men remember longest that which they hear or see under painful circumstances.