Sotoba Komachi is a modern Noh play by Yukio Mishima (1925-1970). Mishima's play is based on an ancient work by Kan'ami Kiyotsugu (1333-1384). The first kanji means "stupa" (the dome of a shrine) while the second kanji means "belle" or "beautiful woman." So the title may be interpreted as something like "Beauty's Shrine" or "Shrine to Beauty." Kan'ami was the first playwright to incorporate the Kusemai song and dance style and Dengaku dances into plays. He founded a sarugaku theater group in the Kansai region of Honshu; the troupe later moved to Yamato and formed the Yuzaki theater company, which would become the school of Noh theater.
Excerpts from SOTOBA KOMACHI
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Priest of the Koyasan:
We who have built our homes on shallow slopes
now seek solitude in the heart's deep recesses.
This single thought possessed me:
How I might bring a single seed to flower,
the wisdom of Buddha, the locus of our salvation,
until in despair I donned this dark cassock.
Ono no Komachi:
Lately so severed,
like a root-cut reed,
if the river offered,
why not be freed?
I would gladly go,
but here no wave stirs ...
I was once full of pride
now fled with the years,
gone with dark tresses
and with lustrous locks;
I was lithe as a willow
in my springtime frocks;
I once sang like a nightingale
I was wild as the rose
when the skies shone blue ...
in those days before fall
when the long shadows grew.
But now I’ve grown loathsome
even to whores;
even urchins abhor me;
men treat me with scorn ...
Now I am nothing
but a poor, withered bough,
and yet there are wildflowers
in my heart, even now.
Only my body lingers, for my heart left this world long ago!
O, piteous, piteous!
Is this the once-fabled flower-bright Komachi,
Komachi the Beautiful,
whose dark brows bridged eyes like young moons;
her face whitest alabaster forever;
whose many damask robes filled cedar-scented closets?
Keywords/Tags: Ono no Komachi, Sotoba Komachi, Yukio Mishima, Kan'ami Kiyotsugu, Kan'ami, Kwanami, Noh play, Japan, Japanese, beauty, beautiful, river, heartbreak, heartbroken, poetess, geisha, courtesan, song, dance, girl
Copyright © Michael Burch | Year Posted 2021
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