Tuesday, December 12

Song Overheard

There is a scene in Tamenaga Shunsui's Shunshoku umegoyomi (The Spring-colored Plum Calendar, 1833), in which erstwhile gang-leader Oyoshi, who has just discovered that the man she loves has been involved with her younger sister, the geisha Yonehachi, overhears a girl next door singing a popular song:
梅に鶯アレきかしやんせ すゐなゆかりとわれながら、我つま琴を掻きならす、思ひの丈の尺八も、一夜ぎりとはきにかゝる 凧の糸目も花の邪广
'Cuckoo in the pines, let me hear that one again. "What a strange attraction, despite myself I'm strumming my lute, my flute the length of my desire, one night is not enough." The kite string is only in the flowers way.'     Hearing this song, she wondered if it were an omen, a sign to break the "kite string" of her relationship with Tobei, and thus keep the flowers from scattering, as it were.
Nakamura Yukihiko suggests in his commentary that this song is lifted from an 1816 jōruri called "Sono kouta yume mo Yoshiwara" 其小唄夢廓 (more commonly referred to as Gonpachi, after the name of the protagonist). The passage is at the beginning of part two, where Gonpachi is troubled by a dream he's had of sharing a last drink with the geisha Komurasaki before his own execution:
間夫といふも廓の名、客といふも廓の名、嘘と誠の分隔て それも鳴く音の鶯も梅に三浦の小紫、粋な由縁と我ながら我がつま琴とかき鳴らす思ひのたけの尺八も 恋慕流しは権八が一節切とは気にかゝり
Lover is just a quarter name, and customer is just a quarter name, the difference is in lies and truth. And singing this the cuckoo in the pines, Komurasaki of Miura. What a strange attraction, despite myself I'm strumming my lute, my flute the length of my desire. Surging with longing, for Gonpachi one night is not enough.
On this sight you can view an image of the historical Gonpachi's grave. He was the son of a Tottori samurai, who killed one of his father's comrades and became a bandit in Edo, but eventually turned himself in and was executed. Komurasaki, who committed suicide over his grave, is buried next to him.
    If you're curious, there's an excellent translation of part of Shunshoku umegoyomi in the Columbia Early Modern Japanese Literature anthology.


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