The Tragedy of Kesa Gozen

The beautiful tragedy of Kesa Gozen has been familiar to me since the days of my early youth, when hand in hand I walked the school garden with Fumiko, my friend, and listened with the ardour of a romance-loving nature to the many stories of old Japan, and more especially of its heroines of antiquity, with which she loved to make me familiar.

Fumiko was the daughter of a naval officer, well versed in the literature of her own land, and a good English scholar. I had only just come to Japan, an Anglo-Japanese girl who had been brought up in England, knowing nothing of my fatherland. “Friendships are discovered, not made,” says a philosopher, and in our case this was true. In her delightful and sympathetic companionship I began to forget the heart-aching homesickness for my motherland, and to learn to accustom myself to the strange country to which fate and my father had brought me. There is nothing more pitiful than the abysmal loneliness and utter hopelessness of the young, cut off from those they love, and planted in antipodal surroundings; they have no experience to tell them that misery, like joy, is but a condition of time, and that both pass and alternate. Who can say what drew us together? Yet never was I happier than when she put her hand in mine and made me her confidante, and great was my sorrow when she married and left me to pace the garden alone and to the memory of all the stories she had told me. To her I owe my awakening to the beauty of Japanese romance and the love of those old tragedies.

Many years have passed since then, but when I was told that Danjiro was acting the drama of Kesa Gozen at the Kabukiza Theatre my mind flashed back to those convent-like days when Fumiko and I

Lo, as some innocent and eager maiden Leans o’er the wistful limit of the world,

Dreams of the glow and glory of the distance, Wonderful wooing and the grace of tears, Dreams with what eyes and what a sweet insistence Lovers are waiting in the hidden years,

stirred to life stories of love and duty, old as the dawn which first broke upon the island empire, yet ever new and living while hearts throb to the music of the ideal.

But I am long in coming to the story of Kesa Gozen. This beautiful and touching story of the Japanese ideal of woman’s character and morals is told in the drama called Nachi-No-Taki Chikai No Mongaku, “The Priest Mongaku at the Waterfall of Nachi” (it is characteristic of the Japanese that they have ignored the heroine in the title of the drama), which was acted by Danjiro Ichikawa, the star of the Japanese stage, at the Kabukiza Theatre during the month of October 1902. The heights of romance and tragedy are scaled, and the pathos of a woman’s unflinching and voluntary sacrifice of life, rends the heart. The heroine is not a Francesca da Rimini, caught up by the whirlwind of passion and blown whithersoever it listeth, but a woman who finds herself confronted by a vehement and determined love, out of the toils of which she sees no escape, and so, in the prime of youth and beauty, to save her husband’s name, her mother’s life, and her own virtue, she calmly arranges by stratagem to die by the hand of her impetuous and would-be lover.

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These tragic events took place in the year 1160, and a full account of them may be found in the “Gempei Seisuiki,” a record of the rise and fall of the two great rival clans, the Taira[1] and the Minamoto, whose struggles for supremacy disturbed Japan for many years, and find a parallel in the conflicts of the White and Red Roses in England.

What is known historically of the story is this. Kesa, the heroine, was the only child of a widowed mother called Koromogawa, after the place of her residence during her married life. The word “Koromo” means the vestments of a priest, and her daughter was consequently called “Kesa,” which means the “stole,” her real name being Atoma. Both her father and grandfather were knights. The mother and daughter led a secluded life, always bordering on poverty, and at times menaced by actual want.

Koromogawa took charge of an orphaned nephew, a boy, a few years older than Kesa, and the two young cousins grew up together, with the old-fashioned result that the lad fell in love with the lass. At the age of sixteen, Yendo Morito, called away probably on business connected with his clan, had to leave Kesa, just then budding into exquisite beauty. Before leaving he entreated his aunt to promise him Kesa in marriage. Koromogawa complied. Yendo did not return for five years, and in the meantime, Watanabe Wataru, a wealthy and handsome young warrior, proposed for the hand of Kesa. The mother, probably in consideration of the advantages of the match from a worldly point of view, neglected her promise to Yendo, and married Kesa to Wataru, who also was the girl’s cousin. After they have been married two years Yendo Morito returns and sees his lovely young cousin by accident. His boy’s love, cherished fondly during long years of absence, flames into a man’s overmastering passion at sight of her. He learns, to his despair, that she is married to another, and in his wrath determines to kill his aunt who, by her faithlessness to her promise, has made his life a misery. He rushes out and entering his aunt’s house draws his sword upon her. She, to gain time, weakly promises that he shall see Kesa that very evening. Yendo, fain to be content with this hope, retires, and Koromogawa summons her daughter by a letter.

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When Kesa arrives she finds that her mother has made all arrangements to kill herself, and on learning the circumstances she undertakes to see her cousin, and quiets her distressed parent. Then she interviews Morito and tells him that she has always loved him, but before she can be his he must first put her husband out of the way. To this he willingly consents. She bids him come that night to the house, where she will make her husband wash his hair and drink wine so that he may sleep soundly. Yendo is to steal in at midnight and, by feeling for the damp hair, find and slay his rival. Kesa returns home, washes her own hair, and sleeps in the room she has pointed out to Yendo, having carefully put her husband to sleep in an inner room.

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This is an interesting psychological point, and is perhaps obscure to the Western reader. The ethical training of a Japanese woman teaches her that in any great crisis she is the one to be sacrificed. Kesa, rather than be the cause of a quarrel which would involve her husband and her mother in a blood-feud with Yendo, puts herself out of the way, and by doing so not only saves the lives of all concerned, but preaches a silent and moving sermon to her kinsman, whose ungoverned conduct is contrary to the teaching of all Japanese moralists.

The mad and reckless lover comes, but when he thinks to gaze with triumph on the severed head of his hated rival he is stricken with horror to find that he has murdered the woman he loved so passionately. He confesses his crime to the husband and they both become monks. Years after, from the obscurity of the monastery, having survived a long interval of austere life and self-inflicted penances, there rises into the prominence of political life a monk called Mongaku, who is the friend and counsellor of the great Shogun, Yoritomo, the head of the Minamoto clan.

Mongaku, the monk, is the knight Yendo Morito.

It is the opinion of some that Kesa really loved Yendo, but her filial obedience obliged her to marry the man whom her mother chose for her. Then, when she found how great was her cousin’s love for her, and knowing that in her heart she returned his love, but that she could not be his without sin, she went gladly to her death, rejoicing, doubtless, that it was by the sword of her beloved she should perish.[2]

This version is the more beautiful and tragic, for we have a woman triumphant in the face of the strongest temptation that can ever beat against a human heart. The invincible yearning of the flesh must have been there, but the soul battled bravely and won. The power of beauty, the joy of conquest in love, these are hers; but Kesa, remaining faithful to duty, by her death places the honour of the family beyond all danger of blemish through her.

The present drama does not recognize this latter version, but is founded on the former. The tragedy is epic from beginning to end, and “is lifted from the outset into the high region of things predestined.” Fate, like some dread spider, weaves her fatal web of love and doom, and Kesa is caught in the meshes. The grand simplicity of the play and the purity of purpose of the heroine recall the Greek drama and the Roman tragedy of Lucretia. Kesa allows herself no petty, despicable dalliance with admiration; vanity lures her not from the narrow path of right. She sees that nothing will swerve Yendo from his irresistible passion, and she resolves to die. “Fear in the face of danger dies,” and having quickly made up her mind she never vacillates nor looks back, but moves forward with the dignity of sublime reserve to pre-determined and self-imposed death. And Kesa was only seventeen years of age. Think of it!

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Act I.

The play begins with a scene in the open air. A new bridge has been built near the town of Osaka, which can be seen with the hills and pine-trees in the distance. Numbers of Buddhist priests appear in gorgeous robes and offer prayers for the safety of the new bridge.

Some village officials, a retainer of Yendo Morito, who is superintendent of the works, and Watanabe Kaoru, a brother-in-law to Kesa, the heroine, appear, and the young knight tells those present that his brother’s wife Kesa is coming to see the opening of the new bridge.

In a few minutes Kesa, the picture of youth and grace, in lovely crêpe robes, her face hidden by a gossamer gown held over her head with both hands (an ancient custom resembling the Turkish yashmak), comes fluttering over the bridge like some radiant moth, followed by two attendants, Tamakoto and Otose. Before saluting her brother-in-law Kaoru, she removes the gauze veil and reveals to all a face of surpassing loveliness—gracefully oval in shape, a complexion white as the lily, lips crimson as the bud of the peach blossom, and long almond eyes, surmounted by eyebrows like the crescent of the new moon. She speaks to her brother-in-law, who tells her that he is going to see her cousin, Yendo Morito, the superintendent of the new bridge. Kesa then prepares to retire and, donning the gauze-robe yashmak, her attendants helping, she turns to go home. As she moves away Yendo Morito, on horseback, crosses the bridge and, catching sight of the beautiful woman, watches her disappear into the distance. The priest and officials bow in polite salutation, but he is oblivious to everything near him, for his gaze is riveted on the retreating figure of Kesa. He thrills with rapturous emotion at the sight, and happy memories of their childhood and early youth rush over him.

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The tragedy begins here. Yendo Morito, after several years’ absence, sees his cousin for the first time and, shaken with a mighty love, now learns that she, who was promised to him in his boyhood, is already the wife of another—of his kinsman, Watanabe Wataru.

Act II.

The curtain is pulled aside upon the maternal home of Kesa, a small thatched cottage in the country near Kyoto. The whole aspect of the little home denotes genteel poverty, tranquil retirement, and spotless cleanliness. The two ladies who accompanied Kesa in the first Act, Tamakoto and Otose, are discovered in the little sitting-room discoursing. Koromogawa, an old lady with flowing grey hair, comes out from an inner room and receives her two visitors. In the course of conversation they ask her to tell them the reason why she has lived so long in such a remote place as the province of Mutsu. In compliance with their request, Koromogawa says:

“I am the daughter of a knight who held the province in tenure for his services to his feudal lord. My husband was a retainer of the Governor of Mutsu, and so when we were married we went and lived at Koromogawa. My daughter Kesa was born to me there. Soon after my husband died, and I went back with my child to my old home, and have since lived a quiet and humble life. On my return the people of this neighbourhood called me after the place, Koromogawa, where my married life had been spent, and my daughter was called Kesa, though her real name is Atoma. She grew up here and married Watanabe Wataru.”

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At this point an official named Gorokuro, who seems to be on friendly terms with the old lady, comes in and sits by the charcoal hearth and makes a cup of tea for every one present. The hearth is square, sunk in the floor, and the kettle hangs, gipsy fashion, over the fire, as is the way in the houses of the poorer classes. While serving tea Gorokuro complains of the behaviour of Yendo Morito during the building of the bridge. This young and impetuous knight treated the workmen in such a rigorous manner that insubordination resulted, and he, Gorokuro, had great trouble in controlling them. This incident gives the key to the young knight’s character. Koromogawa apologizes to Gorokuro for the trouble her nephew Yendo has given him.

While this conversation proceeds, Kesa, accompanied by one of her husband’s retainers, Kisoda by name, arrives. Having dropped her sandals on the stepping-stone to the veranda, she removes her veiling robe, enters the house, and greets the old lady with low bows. She says that, whilst on her way home from visiting a temple with her husband, she has come to see her mother. In a little while the two ladies, Tamakoto and Otose, take their leave, and Kesa and her mother retire to an inner room.

Yendo Morito is now seen approaching the house along the hana-michi, and announces himself at the gate. Koromogawa, in answer to the call, comes out to receive him and asks his business. He replies that his business is private and that he must speak with her in secret. Koromogawa then ushers her nephew into a back room, and the passing of the daylight is marked by the lighting of a candle. As he enters the house he starts at the sight of a woman’s sandals on the steps, and evidently guesses that Kesa is near at hand. Little dreaming of the storm that is brewing, the old lady asks her nephew to be seated. He ominously remains standing with his hand upon his sword. Suddenly the young knight’s eyes flash, he snatches the sword from its sheath, and seizing his astonished aunt, his pent-up sense of injury and the misery of his thwarted hopes find vent in these words:

“Prepare to die at once! You are my enemy, and I am of the Watanabe clan, who never allow their enemies to live even for a day.”

“What wrong have I done you that you should wish to kill me?” exclaims the terrified woman.

“Five years ago, before I went away, you promised to give me Kesa in marriage. I come back, and at the opening of the Watanabe bridge I see her, but only as the wife of another. I have always loved Kesa, and now I am bitterly disappointed and sick—sick with hopeless love and despair. It is true no correspondence has passed between us, but that has nothing to do with your promise. Ever since I last saw Kesa I have been ill, and I cannot and will not live without her. This is all your fault. You are my enemy, you shall die! and I will then kill myself. We will die together—prepare yourself!”

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“Wait a moment!” shrieks the terrified mother. “I did not mean to break my promise, but Wataru compelled me to give her to him. If you really still love her I will get her back somehow or other. Only calm yourself and listen to reason.”

But the young knight is reckless to madness; the old woman’s pleading is lost upon him and, perhaps guessing that Kesa is in the next room, he determines to appeal to her filial piety so as to make her appear. He raises his sword and seizes his aunt again, but he has no time to strike: the sliding of a screen, the rustle of a woman’s silken garments, and between Yendo and the victim of his vengeance there darts the lovely Kesa—his arm is stayed by her small hand, and, tremulous with agitation, a voice he has longed to hear for many lonely years says: “Spare my poor old mother!”

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The mother throws herself between Kesa and Yendo, crying: “I am ready to die. You must not sacrifice your virtue to save me.”

Yendo draws his sword, when between him and the victim of his vengeance there darts the lovely Kesa
Yendo draws his sword, when between him and the victim of his vengeance there darts the lovely Kesa

Kesa again intervenes between her lover and her mother; again the mother throws herself in an agony of dread between them; but at last Kesa persuades the old woman to retire and to leave all to her discretion. Koromogawa then goes into the next room. The knight fixes his gaze upon his beautiful cousin, he trembles with emotion, and the resolve to possess her strengthens within his storm-tossed soul. She belongs to him by prior right. He had asked for her, and she had been promised to him before Wataru thought of her; what right had her mother to give her to Wataru? Anger sweeps away all remembrance of the past and of what he owes his aunt. Jealousy and desire, and hatred of the one whom he thinks has wronged him, alone remain. In vain Kesa gently pleads and expostulates. As if impatient of the delay of his vengeance, Yendo once more seizes his sword and rushes towards the inner room. Then Kesa wheels round upon him, and with her cheek close to his, her gorgeous crêpe draperies touching him and her hand upon his arm, she whispers in his ear:

“I have always loved you, Yendo. If you really love me as you say, you must first put my husband out of the way, and I am yours.”

“How can I kill him?” whispers the determined man.

“Come to-morrow night and steal into the bedroom of my husband. I shall make him drunk with wine. You can identify him by touching his hair, for I shall induce him to wash it before retiring, and you will find the locks wet.”

As Kesa whispers her plan the tense figure of the desperate knight relaxes from its stern purpose of murder.

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Thrilling with hope and passion, he turns to her, and in the attitude of her abandonment and yielding to his will he sees the vision of their united happiness—the gratification of his passionate desires. Little does his wild and lawless nature dream of the escape which the noble woman will force out of the toils fast closing round her. The picture as the two stand together is intensely dramatic, and vibrates with the portent of a mighty crisis.

Act III

opens upon the fine residence of Watanabe Wataru, the husband of Kesa. The gleaming cream wood of the veranda and the posts, the fineness of the matting, the dainty white and gold of the walls and screens are all part of the exquisite refinements of a wealthy Japanese home. Kesa and her husband are discovered sitting side by side in a room opening on the garden. A large slab of granite forms the stepping-stone from the veranda and a line of irregular slabs makes a pathway to the bamboo gate which shuts off the outer garden. The whole arrangement and the atmosphere are realistic of a Japanese home.

The young people, both magnificently robed, have only just retired to their sitting-room, for they have been entertaining guests at a banquet. The only furniture in the room is a sword-stand, on which the knight places his long weapon, the insignia of samurai honour. Before them is a small low table[3] (sambo) of white wood, on which stands a white wine-jar and her husband’s drinking-cup. Kesa dismisses the two servants in attendance, and then proceeds to pour out some wine for her husband. Wataru little dreams that it is the last cup his wife will ever drink with him, though to her, knowing her premeditated and self-arranged doom, the little ceremony has not only a sacrificial symbolism, but the appalling pathos and irrevocable pitilessness of a last love rite.

Wataru little dreams that it is the last cup his wife will ever drink with him
Wataru little dreams that it is the last cup his wife will ever drink with him

Wataru drains the wine-cup and, handing it to Kesa, pours the wine out for her. Kesa drinks, and then, overcome at last by a sadness which her husband does not understand, turns away and weeps. She explains that her tears spring from the thought of the unchangeable love between husband and wife, which would last even after death. He replies that the knowledge of their mutual faithfulness should be a joy and not a grief. While thus conversing in the hush of night, the deep mellow tone of a temple bell announces the hour of midnight. Kesa persuades her husband to retire to her own bedroom this night. On her knees she pushes aside the screens leading to an inner room, and as he passes in she bows with her head to the floor, and then closes them after him. Never will she see her husband again, yet her self-control is so great that she gives no sign of the emotion which must have surged over her at that moment. She knows that it is an eternal farewell, yet she allows Wataru to pass from her sight with only the usual greeting.

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For a little time she stands like one dazed; then, recollecting herself, she disappears for a few minutes and returns along the veranda. Now, for the first time, those that do not know the story divine the tragic end. Her long black hair streams, wet and heavy, over her shoulders, and she feels it as she moves along to make sure that it is quite wet. On her arm she carries one of her husband’s kimono and his ceremonial cap, all necessary for the deception of Yendo. Her aspect expresses hopeless grief and resignation. Twice in her slow progress to the outer room she stops and weeps. She looks out upon the still garden, and the coolness of the fragrant air and the soothing silence of the autumn night must seem to mock her woe. At the second outburst of grief it seems for a moment as if her resolution has failed her. She lays her cheek, in a passion of yearning and tenderness, on the robe she carries, and her tears fall fast at the thought of her happy wedded life, so soon to be cut short by the lawless desire of another man. There will be no one to pray for her old mother when she dies—it should be a daughter’s duty to offer the daily incense to a mother’s departed spirit; she can never know the pride of bearing a son to preserve the name of her husband’s family. Oh! the pity of it—the pity of it! These, and more than these, must have been her sad thoughts. That she was loth to leave the world we learn by the poem, written in these moments of anguish, which she left with her farewell letter to her mother. She raises her head at last and comes forward. Her husband’s honour, her mother’s life, and her own purity are at stake; the weakness of sorrow vanishes—there is no other way than this. Her beauty is the sin, for it has roused Yendo’s passion: her beauty must pay the penalty—her life is the sacrifice.

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To-night—as she planned when she rushed in upon the tumultuous scene between her mother and Yendo—she will sleep in her husband’s room, and when Yendo her cousin comes, instead of killing her husband, his sword will cut off her own head. She lifts the bamboo curtain which hangs before the room at the end of the veranda and passes to her doom. The stage is darkened and empty. An impressive interval of silence and inaction follows. The audience throbs with the sustained sense of impending catastrophe and fatality hanging over the house. The awful pregnancy of the situation is intensely realistic, and its contrasts are strikingly dramatic. In the inner room—his wife’s room, their happy bridal chamber—lies the husband, wrapt in peaceful sleep, pitifully unconscious of the tragedy which is being enacted within a few feet of him. In the outer room the young wife lies waiting in the lonely dark for the sword of her lover. Who can realize the tension of those last minutes, stretched to eternity by the agony of suspense? If by any chance her plan fails, her husband or her cousin will be killed, or both. What if Wataru, roused by some slight noise, come out to find Yendo approaching the room where she has arranged to sleep; what construction must he put upon these circumstances. And then, her senses sharpened by suffering and by the unutterable loneliness of the awful situation, she thinks that she catches the first faint sound of Yendo’s stealthy footsteps. She counts them as they draw near, and as the bamboo curtain is raised and the swish of the sword falls upon her in the dark, she smiles to think that the struggle is over, that she has triumphed, and thus she faces death with the magnificent courage with which she had planned it.

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Yendo Morito arrives. His long sleeves are looped back, ready for his dreadful work, and in his hand he carries a drawn sword. Swiftly and noiselessly he moves along the veranda; pauses for a few moments outside the room where lies asleep, as he imagines, the only obstacle between him and the woman he loves—loves so passionately, madly, and blindly that he is willing to use the murder of his kinsman as a stepping-stone to reach her. He enters.

The stage revolves. The courtyard of a temple is the next scene, surrounded by a wall with stone steps leading up to the outer court. The murderer is seen coming out upon the top of the steps into the moonlight: he carries something covered under his arm. Turning towards the flood of moonlight with a fierce and unholy joy at the thought of gazing on his rival’s head, he uncovers what he carries. To his unspeakable horror and amazement the moonlight reveals the head of Kesa—his love—not that of Wataru, whom it was his purpose to kill. Unable to believe his eyes, he raises the head by the wet hair once more into the full light of the moon. There is no mistake. He recoils in a great revulsion of feeling as the truth forces itself upon his unwilling, shrinking mind, all his strength goes from him, he reels and staggers like a drunken man, and gasping for breath, he falls upon the steps overcome with uttermost anguish and remorse. In that awful moment he sees the hideousness of his crime and the wickedness of his heart in its true light. The cloud of darkness, as the Japanese say, rolls back from his soul, and he is smitten to earth with the sense of his guilt and misery.

To his unspeakable horror and amazement the moonlight reveals the head of Kesa—his love!
To his unspeakable horror and amazement the moonlight reveals the head of Kesa—his love!

The fourth scene of this Act represents the front gate of Wataru’s house. It is the morning following the last scene. Outside stand numerous tradesmen—the rice-man, the fishmonger, and some samurai—all unable to effect an entrance, for, though late in the morning, the house is still closed. After repeated knocking, Kisoda and Otose appear and tell them that, on account of an unfortunate event which has occurred in the house, they must be asked to withdraw for the day. The tradesmen then go grumbling away.

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The next scene represents the familiar chamber where Wataru and Kesa sat together the evening before. In the middle of the room lies an ominous pile of quilts covering the remains of Kesa, splendidly dead by her own will. Before the corpse of his young wife sits the husband, the picture of mute and stoic grief. Opposite him is Koromogawa.

Behind her again are Tamakoto and Otose. Wataru tells them that last night he slept in his wife’s room in compliance with her wish, while she retired to his room. That in the morning he found her killed and her head carried away, and that no clue or trace of the murderer can be discovered. He says he can hardly speak for grief at the loss of Kesa and the disgrace his knighthood has suffered.

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An attendant here rushes in and says that Yendo insists on seeing Wataru. Wataru sends a message to say that he cannot receive him now. The servant returns to say that Yendo is forcing his way into the house, and that it is impossible to check him. Yendo rushes in like a whirlwind and seats himself outside the room, on the veranda. He lays the head down before them all and confesses his crime, with all the circumstances relating to it. Then comes the most heart-rending part of the tragedy. The old mother tenderly unwraps the head and, folding it to her bosom, gives way to a loud and long paroxysm of grief. Wail after wail bursts from her. She rocks herself in wild abandonment to the poignancy of an overwhelming and totally unexpected sorrow. The samurai stoicism of the husband avails him not in this hour of bitter trial. He wipes his slow tears furtively away. Tamakoto brings out a letter of Kesa’s found in the room where she was killed. Yendo snatches up the letter, spreads it out before him, and reads it aloud. It is addressed to her mother, and may be rendered into English as follows:

“I have always heard [this is a humble form of expression which women are supposed to use—they must never assert a fact] that woman is a sinful creature [because of her beauty, which lures men to sin]. I fear that many people [meaning her mother, husband, and admirer] are in danger of their lives because of me. Mother, I know that you will sorrow much if I die, and I am sorrowful, thinking of the grief which I must cause you. I intend to expiate my sin [meaning the sin of being beautiful, which has caused Yendo to love her] by death. Weep not for me, and though it should be my place to pray for you, I beseech you to pray for the rest of my soul when I have departed on the journey of death. I can understand your sorrow, and this is the only anxiety I feel at this moment.”

Morito now presents his sword to Wataru and requests him to take life for life, and to behead him in order to avenge his wife’s death. Wataru replies that he has no wish to kill him, since he has confessed and repented of his crime. “Let us forsake this worldly life and become followers of Buddha, and spend the rest of our lives in praying for Kesa.”

Then and there the two knights, first Wataru and then Yendo, take their swords and cut off their queues of hair.[4] Tamakoto brings in a low table, and on this Koromogawa places the head of Kesa. A tray with an incense-burner is now placed before the ghastly presence. The stricken mother, having set the incense burning, takes her rosary and bows her head in prayer to the brave departed spirit. Wataru now moves towards the extempore shrine, and worships with his face hidden.

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In the presence of transcendent virtue and sublimely unselfish heroism, the sinner is forgotten. The silent scene of woe and desolation is too much for the penitent Yendo; he rises, and with one last-lingering look turns to go into his lifelong retreat from the world. Thus the stupendous tragedy, from the pitch of distraction and calamity, is brought to a quiet and reconciling close.

NOTE.—The title of the play, The Priest Mongaku at the Waterfall of Nachi, is taken from the last scene, which represents the monk Mongaku undergoing his self-inflicted penance of sitting under this famous waterfall where he would have died had not two Buddhist deities descended from Heaven to rescue him. This I have omitted as I considered it an anti-climax. It is an historical fact, however, that Mongaku, to purge himself of his sins, did undergo these terrible austerities and sufferings.

His grandfather had been a retainer of Ota Dokan ... and had committed suicide when his lord fell in battle
His grandfather had been a retainer of Ota Dokan … and had committed suicide when his lord fell in battle

Footnotes

[1] The writer’s father traces his descent from Taira no Kiyomori, the clan’s chieftain.

[2] This is the interpretation that the writer and her friend put upon the heroine’s conduct.

[3] These simple white utensils are always used in Shinto ceremonies.

[4] Buddhist priests shave their heads.

The Tragedy of Kesa Gozen – Romances of Old Japan

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