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From narrative to poetry

The Art of Quotation

Un art de la citation
Sumie Terada

Abstracts

The Tale of Genji played an important role in the development of renga, a genre in which vocabulary choice is critical to sequence formation. In the earliest phase of renga, poets used chapter titles as a linking device; from the fourteenth century on, they employed Genjikotoba, words or phrases taken from the Genji. The use of Genji kotoba in renga also reveals the essentially dynamic nature of this novel: the “Suma” chapter, much admired by poets, juxtaposes refinement (ga) and wildness and makes the hero a focal point for cosmic forces. Furthermore, Genji kotoba bring to light an ordering of the text based on reference to key expressions.

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Editor’s note

Original release: Sumie Terada, « Un art de la citation », Cipango, Hors-série, 2008, 133-155.
Sumie Terada, « Un art de la citation », Cipango [En ligne], Hors-série | 2008, mis en ligne le 24 février 2012, consulté le 13 avril 2015. URL : http://cipango.revues.org/597 ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.597.

Full text

The Tale of Genji in the Service of Renga

The Influence of Words

  • 1 See Sumie Terada, « la Prose dans le contexte de la poésie », in Josef A. Kyburz et al., eds., Élo (...)
  • 2 Composition is carried out collectively: each of the gathered participants in turn offers extempor (...)

1By the end of the twelfth century, roughly two hundred years after writing The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu was undeniably part of the pantheon of Japanese poets. Acknowledged as an undisputed reference, The Tale of Genji not only inspired other works of fiction, but from this time on was a model and source of inspiration for waka composition.1 The interest generated by the Genji increased with the emergence of renga (linked verse), a poetic genre characteristic of the medieval period (thirteenth through sixteenth centuries). Indeed, The Tale of Genji proved to be a major literary source during the formative period of long renga sequences, a singular verse form having continual change or discontinuity as its basic compositional principle.2 This concept, highly specialized in semantic processing from its inception, required an apparatus to justify and motivate the linking of verses. The procedure originally utilized for that purpose, fushimono 賦物 (an inserted topic), alternates two thematic word series. One particularly successful such series was the list of chapter titles from The Tale of Genji; when alternated with a list of the names of the provinces, it formed the framework for a hundred-verse sequence known as Genji kokumei renga 源氏国名連歌. Topics are generally embedded homophonically.

To make us feel the cold-is that
why the wind is blowing
                                                                             Musashi province

  • 3 Itai senku, Fu Genji kokumei renga daiichi 異体千句 賦源氏国名連歌 第一 (One thousand verses in unusual forms, f (...)

round the grass hut where
you lived, on the withered moor
where people are few3
                                                                                          “Suma”

Samusa shire to ya Kaze wa fuku ran
むさしれとや風は吹らむ
Suma-re-shi na Hitome kareno no Kusa no io
すまれしな人目かれ野ゝ草の庵

  • 4 For Yoshimoto’s statement, see Terada, p. 167.

2This thematic organization eventually exhausted its possibilities and fell into disuse in the early fourteenth century, at which point new devices were sought to ensure verse linkage. As faithful adherents of a poetic tradition strongly focused on words and their coded relations, renga poets explored all the acknowledged classics in search of expressions to enrich and vary their networks of associated words. This is attested to by Nijō Yoshimoto 二条良基 (1320-1388), a prominent courtier, outstanding amateur renga poet, and major theoretician of renga, who succeeded in raising it to a high art.4

  • 5 This renga session was organized no later than 1370. Participants included Yoshimoto and Kyūsei (G (...)

3The Tale of Genji again played an essential role. Lists of words, called Genji kotoba 源氏詞 or Genji yoriai 源氏寄合 (coded associations from the Genji), were compiled from the Genji for use in linking verses. The earliest example was an inventory titled Hikaru Genji ichibu renga yoriai 光源氏一部連歌寄合 (Coded associations from all the Shining Genji), compiled in 1365 on Yoshimoto’s initiative. An excerpt from a sequence called One Thousand Verses on the Violet Plain (Murasakinosenku 紫野千句) gives an idea of the way such vocabulary was used.5

Oh how slowly move the legs
of a very aged ox                      Shūa

Where the reaper goes
is toward the hill in back
as nighttime falls                        Seia

High meadows of Suma have
not so much as one village           Ichi

Seen from the bay
only the huts of salt makers
smoke rising from them               Kyūsei

Oi-taru ushi no    Ashi no ososa yo
老たる牛の足の遅さよ               周阿

Kusa-kari no    Iku wa ushiro no   Yama kurete
草かりの行はうしろの山くれて      成阿

Sumano Ueno wa    Hitozato mo nashi
すまのうへ野は人里もなし       市

Ura miyu-ru    Shioya   bakari ni  Tatsu kebuki
浦見ゆるしほやはかりにたつ烟      救済

  • 6 Several lists were compiled over time; the number and selection of words vary considerably dependi (...)

4The underlined words are Genji kotoba.6 They are taken from a passage in “Suma” in which Genji, though unhappily exiled in Suma, is nevertheless curious about his new surroundings:

Sometimes smoke would come rising very close to him. At first he had thought it was made by the fisherfolk burning salt; but it proved to be something called undergrowth, which was burned on the hill behind his dwelling.

  • 7 “Suma,” Genji monogatari, Shinpen Nihon koten bungaku zenshū (henceforth SNKBZ), Shōgakukan, vol. (...)

のいと近く時々立ち来るを、これや海人の塩焼くならむと思しわたるは、おはします背後(しろ)の山に柴といふものふすぶるなりけり。7

  • 8 This poem is analyzed by Michel Vieillard-Baron in his essay. See “New worlds: Matching and Recont (...)

5References to the Genji passage are made strictly on the basis of vocabulary, without a single allusion to events in the novel. The sequence begins with a country scene: a peasant leads an ox carrying a load of hay. A hill rises behind them in the dusk. The phrase ushiro no yama reminds the participants of a Genji passage, which leads to a link using another word from the list, “Suma.” This in turn is a clear call for a composition using Genji kotoba—a signal received by Kyūsei, whose link includes the words tatsu keburi. The toponym also permits a change of scene from the deserted countryside to an unobstructed view of a shore from which “smoke is rising.” The sequence is completely unrelated to Prince Genji’s exile as described in the novel or to his longing for the capital, a longing expressed in a poem shortly after the events described in the above passage.8

  • 9 Ichijō Kanera (1402-1481), who played an analogous role to that of his grandfather Yoshimoto, depl (...)

6Renga poets thus first employed the Genji in a manner wholly focused on words. It was, in this respect, a more sophisticated version of using Genji chapter titles.9 Yet the appearance of Genji kotoba at this point may have been due to the poets’ overarching need to establish impeccable references that would justify a link in everyone’s eyes and facilitate collective progression.

7It is a basic rule of renga that narrative development cannot exceed two verses. Hence this collective discourse, governed by contingency, lies at the opposite pole from that of narration based on a coherent vision of the whole. The reader moves from one fragment to another, savoring the constant disgressions. Because the exercise of pure contingency is both impossible and meaningless, however, several procedures were conceived in order to motivate linkage. These procedures were primarily dominated by combinatorial and thematic ideas: separating sequences that evoke the same season, restricting the use of certain words. . . The codification of Genji kotoba formed part of this strategy. We have just seen how linkage using expressions from The Tale of Genji is justified even when no consideration is given to the narrative line that brings the expressions together in the original work. The focus on fragmentary sequences produced a curious situation: a vocabulary was used, but the narrative dimension that gave rise to the vocabulary was eliminated. Words drawn from the novel are like golden threads woven randomly into a fabric to give it brilliance. The literary prestige the words confer is sufficient to justify their use.

8Genji kotoba often seem to be used, as above, purely to motivate linkage. Even in such cases, though, the words have the power to transport us into the world of the novel: the peasant leading his ox takes us back to the rough fishermen first encountered by the prince at Suma; a beach scene captured in a traveler’s gaze, to the prince’s view of the seascape. But the relationship remains tenuous, hindering the formation of a set of coherent images. In other words, such “fictional” word use creates a discourse on two levels: the story formed by two linked verses (in the final two verses of the sequence quoted above, a traveler comes upon a seascape after journeying through the remote countryside) and the recollection of the fictional episode suggested by the inserted vocabulary (Genji gazing at the rising smoke). The vague images produced in the participants’ minds by words from the novel are not directly integrated into the world of linked verse, which is by definition fragmentary. They float around it like mirages.

Narrative Dimension

9Renga poets were naturally interested in the narrative potential presented by The Tale of Genji. Shôhaku 肖柏 (1443-1527), one of the most gifted renga poets, responded to a verse about emotional attachment by composing one evoking the young Murasaki during Genji’s exile. In his absence, Murasaki is distressed by sights that remind her of him:

No matter when, no matter where
I cannot stop thinking of him

Against a cedar pillar,
resting on a cushion: nights
too I drench my sleeves

  • 10 Shunmusō chū, in Kaneko Kinjirō, ed., Renga kochūshaku shū (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1979), p. 289.

Tonikakuni tada Omoi wasure-zu
とにかくにたゝおもひ忘す
Maki-bashira Shitone ni yoru mo Sode nurete
槙はしらしとねによるも袖ぬれて10

Shôhaku’s verse is inspired by a passage in “Suma”:

She found it deeply depressing even to look at the places where he was wont to come and go, or the cedar pillar against which he used to lean.

  • 11 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 190.

出で入りたまひし方、寄りゐたまひし真木柱などを見たまふにも胸のみふたがりて11

10The narrative impact is apparent. Although there is no indication of the context, the heroine’s personality, or the place, they are nevertheless present. Rather than fix these elements by detailing them, Shôhaku liberates them into an imaginary space where poetry and fiction intersect.

11The following links, composed by Shinkei 心敬 (1406-1475), also illustrate the role of a narrative work in verse progression:

The sight of the old hermitage
is enough to make me weep

The orange tree is rotted
and the eaves of the roof
are leaning crazily

Few are those who come to call
in the endless summer rains

  • 12 Ōnin gannen natsu Shinkei dokugin yamanani hyakuin 応仁元年夏心敬独吟山何百韻 (One hundred solo verses by Shinke (...)

Furuki iori zo    Namida moyoosu
古き庵ぞ泪もよほす
Tachibana no     Ki mo kuchi noki mo     Katabukite
橘の木も朽ち軒もかたぶきて
Tou hito mare no     Samidare no naka
とふ人まれの五月雨の中12

  • 13 Kaneko Kinjirō, Shinkei no seikatsu to sakuhin (Tōkyō: Ôfūsha, 1982), pp. 315-316. Kaneko connects (...)

12Kaneko Kinjirō observes that the second verse specifies the neglected state of the hermitage introduced in the first verse. Kaneko believes that the purpose of the third verse in this unit is to evoke the scene in the rain. He finds the final link too dependent on the second, however: standing alone, the third verse does not communicate a distinct image of the place.13

13Kaneko may not have fully grasped the marks of fiction that connect the last two verses: the words tachibana and samidare. One of Genji’s less conspicuous lovers, the lady known by the sobriquet Hanachirusato (The village where flowers fall), is closely associated with orange blossoms because of a poem Genji composes on a visit to her in the rainy season (samidare).

  • 14 Edwin A. Cranston, trans., A Waka Anthology, Volume Two: Grasses of Remembrance, (Stanford CA: Sta (...)

    In nostalgia
For the scent of orange bloom
    The cuckoo comes,
Visiting with its inquiries
The village where flowers fall.14

  • 15 “Hana chiru sato,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 156.

Tachibana no     Ka o natsukashimi    Hototogisu
Hana chiru sato o     Tazunete zo tou15
橘の香をなつかしみほととぎす花散る里をたづねてぞとふ

14This lady relies solely on Genji for her support; after his departure for Suma she thus experiences material deprivation. Her residence deteriorates in the interminable rains:

  • 16 “They” refers to Hanachirusato and her sister, a minor consort of the late emperor, Genji’s father
  • 17 Cranston, trans., p. 762.

They wrote,16
All the while we gaze
At the ruin of our crumbling eaves,
Daily more fern-grown,
Oh, on these sleeves of longing
See how thickly clings the dew.17

Yes, he thought, the weeds in their garden would seem to be their only protector. Hearing that the long rains had caused the earthen walls around their house to collapse in places…

荒れまさる軒のしのぶをながめつつしげくも露のかかる袖かな

  • 18 “Hana chiru sato,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 196.

とあるを、げに葎よりほかの後見もなきさまにておはすらんと思しやりて、長雨に築地所どころ崩れてなむと聞きたまへば18

15Shinkei thus uses the image of Hanachirusato’s neglected house, borrowed from the novel, to transform his vision of a mountain hermitage. Pace Kaneko, the interest in the links lies precisely in their gliding from one place to another. The final verse specifies the moment (the rainy season) and the circumstance (seclusion) while leaving other narrative categories blank. The missing narrative elements, character and place in this instance, are tacitly supplied by Genji kotoba.

The Tale of Genji through the Mirror of Renga

The Popularity of “Suma”

  • 19 The Yakumomishō 八雲御抄 (A treatise on the divine clouds) contains a comment in its renga section on (...)
  • 20 Renga shinshiki tsuika narabi ni shinshiki kon’an tō 連歌新式追加竝新式今案等 (New renga rules, supplemented an (...)

16The Tale of Genji was not the sole object of interest for renga poets seeking out words in representative prose works, but it soon became essential, as we have seen. It is cited in the earliest treatises on the principles of renga composition.19 The Genji is the only prose work mentioned by name in an early sixteenth-century compilation of renga rules based on practices dating back to Yoshimoto’s day and adapted to the fashions of the time. In the compilation, Yoshimoto is quoted as advocating that the Genji be exempted from a basic rule. Ordinarily, allusions to famous poems and prose passages are limited to two verses, but in light of the length of The Tale of Genji, Yoshimoto states that a sequence alluding to it should continue for three verses.20

  • 21 Opinions evidently differed. This assertion is contradicted soon after by an addendum (Renga shins (...)

17The valorization of The Tale of Genji is readily grasped, given its quality and size. It was so important that poets referred to it not by name but as kano monogatari, “this [famous] novel.” This is understandable. What stands out, however, is the popularity enjoyed by “Suma.” Every Genji kotoba mentioned in the section on erroneous usage comes from this chapter. We read that “The lustrations at Suma fall on the first day of the Snake. They should be situated in spring,” and that “In Suma, the rainy season is in summer.”21 The brief comments suggest that these words were used often enough to require clarification. The hundred-verse (hyakuin) and thousand-verse (senku 千句) sequences composed during the medieval period attest to this trend: “Suma” is referred to much more frequently than other Genji chapters. Why was “Suma” singled out?

  • 22 On Teika’s interest in this chapter, see Terada, p. 156.

18First of all, the chapter was already greatly admired by waka poets including Fujiwara no Teika 藤原定家 (1162-1241), considered the preeminent master of poetry throughout the medieval period.22

  • 23 For a discussion of the rich poetic networks gravitating around this toponym, see Takada Hirohiko, (...)
  • 24 The word たび signified staying in a place other than one’s habitual dwelling.

19Several aspects of the chapter would have appealed to sensibilities shaped by the poetic tradition. Suma is one of the poetic toponyms (utamakura 歌枕), a vocabulary favored in waka composition. The place name itself is exceptionally evocative.23 Moreover, the chapter has an abundance of moving episodes on the major poetic themes of the seasons, travel, and love. Apart from summer, which is rather neglected, the central waka theme of the seasons is well represented in “Suma.” Faithful to waka aesthetics, the chapter presents a series of scenes privileging cherry blossoms in spring and the moon in autumn. Genji’s exile associates him with travel24 and its attendant feelings of vulnerability. Unhappy love, the preeminent waka emotion, is experienced by all the principal characters in “Suma” because of Genji’s exile and the consequent enforced separation.

20Renga, based on an aesthetic of diversity, is partial to movement and travel. We have seen that toponyms are used as a practical means of introducing a change of place. Seasonal variety facilitates temporal change. For all these reasons, “Suma” is a precious source of inspiration for renga verses.

21“Suma” also owed its success to one more characteristic. As Takada Hirohiko points out in “Suma, à la croisée du lyrisme et du destin” [Suma, at the junction of lyricism and destiny], Suma is the boundary between land under direct imperial control and the western provinces capable of casting it off. Suma may constitute more than a politico-geographical boundary, however: Genji’s very presence in this remote area creates a boundary with people as well as nature. For the first time Genji, the incarnation of refinement, comes in direct contact with the world outside court culture. The text repeatedly emphasizes the diminishing distance between the two worlds:

So wretched was Genji’s dwelling that even such a man [a messenger carrying a letter to Genji from Ise] was permitted to approach him.

  • 25 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 195.

かくあはれなる御住まひなれば、かやうの人もおのづからもの遠からで. . . 25

Awakening alone, he raised his head from the pillow to listen to the storm raging in every direction. It seemed as if the waves would reach his very bedside…

  • 26 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 199.

独り目をさまして、枕をそばだてて四方の嵐を聞きたまふに、波ただここもとに立ちくる心地して26

The moon shone bright into the makeshift shelter that was his residence, illuminating it completely. From his bed he could see [through holes in the roof] the late-night sky.

  • 27 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 266.

月いと明うさし入りて、はかなき旅の御座所は奥まで隈なし。床の上に、夜深き空も見ゆ。27

The items intended for his personal use were crudely made; his room was open for all to see. […] Fisherfolk came bringing shellfish from their latest catch. Summoning them for a closer look, he asked them about the years they had spent on the bay, and they told him the sorrows of their precarious lives. They rambled on in their incomprehensible dialect; yet our hearts, Genji thought, are all drawn to the same things, and why should it be otherwise? He gazed at them, deeply moved.

  • 28 “Suma,SNKBZ, vol. 2, pp. 213-214.

取り使ひたまへる調度どもかりそめにしなして、御座所もあらはに見入れらる。[. . . ] 海人ども漁りして、貝つ物持て参れるを召し出でてご覧ず。浦に年経るさまなど問はせたまふに、さまざま安げなき身の愁へを申す。そこはかとなくさへづるも、心の行く方は同じこと、何かことなるとあはれに見たまふ。28

  • 29 In Japanese poetry, ga (noble, refined) represents the orthodox waka aesthetic while zoku (low, fa (...)

22The prince is excessively exposed to the gaze of men and the forces of nature. His room is no longer in a luxurious residence surrounded by walls. His private life is visible from the outside. The refined world he represents has shrunk to the dimensions of his own person, and he is put in direct relationship with a population he would never have encountered under other circumstances. The two faces of nature—one smiling and refined, represented by the garden Genji plants at Suma, and the other wild, represented by the ocean breakers—are juxtaposed without transition. The chapter is, in this sense, a classic example of ga 雅 (the elevated style) coexisting with zoku 俗 (the low style29), a characteristic of the new aaesthetic distinguishing renga from waka. “Yūgao” (“Evening Faces”) and “Yomogiu” (“The Wormwood Patch”) were popular with renga poets for similar reasons. Yet the episodes in these two chapters describe mere escapades, while Genji’s time in Suma shapes his destiny and sets the course of the story.

23“Suma” was also popular because of its simple narrative. Genji performs no significant activities after he has arrived at Suma: he simply endures isolation in a rustic environment. The narrative simplicity of “Suma” would have facilitated reference to the chapter on occasions when participants with disparate cultural backgrounds were present at a gathering.

The Mythological Dimension

  • 30 All the places mentioned above are highly symbolic. Matsushima, representing eastern Japan, could (...)

24“Suma” can be summarized as an episode about Genji in exile; yet in reading this apparently simple text we enter a complex space. As the hero settles into immobility, the world around him springs into action: it is as if Genji’s inaction has a catalytic power. In fact, the movement is triggered by Genji himself. Before leaving the capital he makes several farewell visits; these scenes, repeated in quick succession, create a mirror effect. At Suma they are replaced by the coming and going of messengers. The novelist introduces scenes set in the capital, and the opposing locations often intersect. More precisely, because Genji is at Suma, a peripheral place is gradually transformed into a nexus of movement: a messenger from Ise comes to Suma, as does the senior assistant governor-general of Kyūshū on his way to the capital, and Genji’s friend who comes from the capital to visit him.30

25But the principal actor is nature, which unleashes its power at the end of the chapter. Genji’s residence is destroyed when a storm strikes Suma; the same storm, at its height, rages in the very heart of the capital, eliminating the distance between the two locations.

26Medieval commentaries were the first to note the presence of supernatural and mythological elements in “Suma.” In addition to the mythological references mentioned above, this characteristic is apparent in the valorization of nature as narrative lever. The storm breaks down the wall between the human and supernatural worlds. An apparition begins to haunt the prince’s dreams, and contours blur.

A messenger came from Nijō [Murasaki’s residence] at great personal danger; he was a strange sight, soaked to the skin. Were Genji to have encountered this lowborn man on the road, he would have wondered if he were human, and his men would have driven him away. The warmth and sympathy he now felt for him made Genji realize with horror the depths to which his spirits had sunk.

  • 31 “Akashi,” p. 224. The stormy commencement of the “Akashi” chapter presages the essentially mytholo (...)

二条院よりぞ、あながちに、あやしき姿にてそぼち参れる。道交ひてだに、人か何ぞとご覧じわくべきもあらず、まず追ひ払ひつべき賎の男の睦ましうあはれに思さるるも、我ながらかたじけなく屈しにける心のほど思ひ知らる。31

27The eruption of chaos, in the form of the storm, eliminates all boundaries. The natural violence is triggered by both the lustration ceremony and Genji’s presence in this place. His destiny is so closely connected to the laws of the universe that the two seem to comprise a single entity. The essentially mythological character of “Suma” is inscribed in this cosmic dimension which, at the end of the chapter, is abruptly revealed as one of the hero’s defining features.

Two Ecritures32

  • 32Écriture” here refers to a concept of literary language in which style is seen as inseparable fro (...)

28In seeking to identify the contributions made by renga poets to reading The Tale of Genji, we have so far examined the work in terms of narrative content. But the poets’ labors can also shed light on the specific nature of its écriture. A useful point of departure in this regard may be the practice of distortion in renga composition.

29Distortion is generally carried out by drastically compressing the work. The longest list of words in the Hikaru Genji ichibu renga yoriai catalogue, for example, comes from the “Suma” chapter; yet even here the entire chapter is reduced to a little over seventy words. The same is true for the Genji kokagami 源氏小鑑 (A little mirror of the Genji), a renga manual thought to be roughly contemporary and of similar provenance. The Kokagami explicates each chapter title in order and gives a list of words found in each chapter, followed by a description of the context in which the words appear. Synopses are very brief and often selective. Roughly half of “Suma” is taken up with events prior to Genji’s departure from the capital. Aside from a few lines on the prince’s visit to his father’s tomb, however, this substantial section is represented in the Kokagami only by the famous scene of Genji contemplating his emaciated face in a mirror with a tearful young Murasaki at his side. This typical example of compression valorizes a few isolated scenes at the expense of the plot.

  • 33 It will be recalled that Sōgi was the preeminent Genji scholar of his time.

30The same tendency, albeit far less pronounced, is found in the Shijingushō 紫塵愚抄 (Unworthy excerpts of purple dust), a collection of Genji extracts compiled by Sōgi around 1485, about a century after the Kokagami. The work is more than a collection of beautiful passages: informed by a remarkable critical sense,33 Sōgi draws our attention to the subtle yet dynamic organization of the novel. In the case of “Suma,” Sōgi chose forty passages of various lengths.

31A different perspective is provided by a manual intended for a different purpose. The Genji monogatari ekotoba 源氏物語絵詞, a reference work for artists interested in using The Tale of Genji as subject matter for paintings, was probably composed in the second half of the sixteenth century, one hundred years after Sōgi’s compilation. The work, the most complete of its kind, contains information on certain scenes (time, characters represented, circumstances, etc.) and extracts from the novel.

  • 34 Virtual in that their gaze is suggested rather than explicitly mentioned in the text.

32Comparing quotations from these works enables us to identify three levels of écriture. The Ekotoba is mindful of the narrative dimension, situates a scene in the sequence of events, and places Genji in his social context. On the eve of his departure Genji is visited by his brother, Prince Hotaru, and his best friend, Tō no Chūjō. Genji is dressed in a plain (mumon 無紋) robe (nōshi), a sign of the disgrace imposed on him by the court. In the Ekotoba, then, Genji’s image is first established through the visitors’ virtual gaze34 and given a dimension beyond the prince’s personal life. Nor is this all. By quoting the mirror scene in its entirety, the Ekotoba captures the characters through another kind of gaze, one that is reflexive and inward-looking. This is Genji’s view of his own reflection in the mirror, followed by that of the tearful lady who watches him. Thanks to the careful treatment of narrative elements, the Ekotoba succeeds in identifying the opposition between the two types of gaze and emphasizes the solitude of the two characters.

33In the Kokagami and the Shijin, the quotations chosen by their poet-compilers amplify the second part, the mirror scene. The Kokagami passage focuses solely on Genji; its only reference to the young Murasaki is in the expression hashira gakure (“in the shadow of a pillar”). The Shijin is even more condensed. By omitting all events prior to Genji’s exchange of poems with Murasaki, its quotation resembles a kotoba-gaki 詞書, a brief text giving the circumstances of composition of a poem. Unlike the Kokagami, however, the Shijin text balances the respective weight of the two protagonists in the scene by focusing on their exchange of gazes and poems.

34In all cases, the poem exchange is never overlooked. The three quotations make up a concentric configuration that affirms the privileged place occupied by poetry in the reception and transmission of The Tale of Genji. The eminently subjective nature of waka must be emphasized in this regard: waka presents a moment of existence in all its density while detaching it from the spatio-temporal course of events. As we move from the Ekotoba to the Shijin by way of the Kokagami, actions are gradually detached from their narrative contexts. The Kokagami deletes the motivation for Genji’s act—looking in the mirror because he is about to receive visitors—specified in the Ekotoba. The Shijin goes even farther by deleting the very act of Genji looking in the mirror to arrange his hair—an act retained in the Kokagami quotation. Instead, the Shijin has only Genji’s reflection in the mirror, a reflection represented as an effect without purpose or source.

  • 35 “Suma,” SNKBZ, p. 173.

  御子は、あはれなる御物語聞こえたまひて、暮るるほどに帰りたまひぬ。35

  • 36 Cranston, trans., p. 754.
  • 37 Ibid.

Princ;e Hotaru and Tō no Chūjō came to call. He put on casual clothes to receive them. As he no longer held rank or office, he wore a plain robe which was oddly becoming: his unassuming dress made him all the more attractive. [[ He went to the mirror-stand to comb his hair. He found the thin face reflected there most refined and handsome. “How my looks have suffered!” he exclaimed. [“Am I really as thin as I look in the mirror? What a pity!” The lady watched him, her eyes filled with tears. Finding this hard to bear, he said to her,
    Though in this fashion
Have been exiled flesh and blood,
    My shadow-image
In the mirror at your side
Shall never depart where you dwell
.36
And she:
    If although we part
Something of you yet remains,
    A shadow-image,
Then indeed I’ll find solace
By looking in my mirror
.] 37

Seated behind a pillar, she tried to conceal her tears. He watched her, aware that there was really no one like her.]] After an affectionate conversation, the prince left at dusk.

  • 38 On this point, see Jacqueline Pigeot, « Autour du waka », in Questions de poétique japonaise (Pari (...)

35Although the above analysis is somewhat schematic and deserves a more in-depth treatment, it enables us to observe that the superimposition of the three extracts reveals two écritures underlying the text of the novel: the poem-tale (歌物語), a fuller form of the kotoba-gaki; and the illustrated story. These two forms of écriture share a preference for the scene, a representative mode based on expanding time and centered on an array of poetry—in this case, waka, the subjective expression par excellence.38

  • 39 See, for example, the passage discussed by Takada, pp. 50-58.

36The originality of The Tale of Genji stems from its redefinition of prose as a waka-like space for the growth of pure subjectivity,39 instead of following the example of a great many poem-tales and simply framing the poetry. As Takada rightly observes, however, the true originality of this work stems from écriture based on a solid narrative apparatus. Just as a painter’s creation needs tangible elements, the Ekotoba relies on narrative. Thanks to its quotation, we know why Genji looks in the mirror: he is preparing to receive visitors, including his brother Prince Hotaru. In other words, while Genji is adjusting his hair and exchanging poems with Murasaki, his brother is politely waiting for him, a fact glossed over by the Kokagami and the Shijin. The latter two works focus on the enchanting effect of the image, thereby further accentuating the hypertrophy peculiar to the scene.

37The passage of time is unequal in all narration. It is slowed by description and accelerated by ellipsis in the configuration of events. What is striking in this Genji passage is the juxtaposition of two opposed écritures linked without any perspective. The scene, based on expanding time, is carried forward without transition by a neutral écriture that contracts time: “After an affectionate conversation, the prince…” The discrepancy between these two times, between expansion and contraction, strengthens the power of the image. We have seen that two elements, the mirror scene and the prince’s visit, are closely associated in the story plan: the mirror is mentioned because there is a visit. The écriture is thus based on a strong narrative framework that also disseminates more or less autonomous scenes. Overall, the text maintains an equilibrium between the two levels of representation, either by juxtaposing them, as in this example, or by grounding them in a single écriture, as in the passage describing Genji’s visit to Hanachirusato before his departure for Suma. That scene, set on a lovely moonlit night, discloses Hanachirusato’s uncertain circumstances while foreshadowing Genji’s life in exile.

For years his protection had enabled them to make ends meet. The house and grounds will become even more neglected, he thought. It was utterly silent inside the hall.

  • 40 The layout of the translation emphasizes the structure of the original text. Unlike in the princip (...)

A misty moon rose. Feeling forlorn, he gazed at the large pond and the dense grove of trees on the hill, and imagined the distant place among the crags where he would soon be living.40

  • 41 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 174.

ただこの御蔭に隠れて過ぐいたまへる年月、いとど荒れまさらむほど思しやられて、殿の内いとかすかなり。月おぼろにさし出でて、池広く山木深きわたり、心細げに見ゆるにも、住み離れたらむ巌の中思しやらる。41

38The Genji kotoba and the quoted passages tend to magnify the hypertrophy of the scene. At the same time, however, their excesses indirectly shed light on the duality of écriture in the Genji, a feature which may have been invented by this extraordinary novelist.

An Ecriture of Dissemination

  • 42 See Takada, pp. 50-57, for an analysis of the passage.

39A remarkable feature of this écriture is the paradoxical behavior of the more or less autonomous scene, one part of the dual structure just discussed: the scene disrupts narrative continuity but also enhances it in an imaginative fashion. The Genji kotoba accentuate this complex structure. For example, the phrase yomo no arashi 四面の嵐 (the storm raging in every direction) appears in a famous passage in “Suma” depicting Genji’s solitude and distress.42 This striking expression, listed as a Genji kotoba, draws our attention when it occurs elsewhere in the narrative. It appears in a poem in “Sakaki” (“The Sacred Tree”), a chapter preceding “Suma” and separated from it only by “Hanachirusato”—which is itself an interlude incorporating the motif of a lonely landscape, a motif we have just seen taken up in “Suma.”

40While on retreat at a temple, Genji sends the poem to the young Murasaki, left alone in the capital:

  • 43 Cranston, trans., pp. 746-747.

    Among shallow reeds
In the dwelling of the dew
    I left you to come
To where circumambient storms
Leave me no peace in my heart.43

  • 44 “Sakaki,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 118.

浅茅生の露のやどりに君をおきて四方の嵐ぞ静心なき44

41In “Suma” the exiled Genji considers resuming the life of a Buddhist devotee which he had experienced at the monastery and left so reluctantly. This is one reason why he has decided not to bring Murasaki with him into exile: they live apart during that period. The yomo no arashi passage from “The Sacred Tree” thus foreshadows the circumstances in “Suma.” The storm unleashed at the end of “Suma” has already made its presence known in “The Sacred Tree.”

42The mechanism of referential expressions imparts a lyrical texture to the story while structuring it according to a system that might be characterized as dissemination. Reading The Tale of Genji sometimes gives the impression that key expressions are so distributed as to respond to all narrative contexts. At the same time, as the example of the “the storm raging in every direction” shows, these salient features bind the episodes together with an invisible thread at a level below narrative configuration. The Genji kotoba aid us in understanding this formidably flexible and efficient writing. They teach us that the Genji text is both a cluster of paths going in multiple directions and a focal point where many paths converge.

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Notes

1 See Sumie Terada, « la Prose dans le contexte de la poésie », in Josef A. Kyburz et al., eds., Éloge des sources (Arles: Editions Philippe Picquier, 2004), pp. 141-175.

2 Composition is carried out collectively: each of the gathered participants in turn offers extemporaneous verses for, usually, a hyakuin 百韻 or hundred-verse sequence. Each verse in this linkage has a dual function, continuous and discontinuous: a verse forms a coherent unity with the preceding verse while disassociating it from the succeeding verse.

3 Itai senku, Fu Genji kokumei renga daiichi 異体千句 賦源氏国名連歌 第一 (One thousand verses in unusual forms, first hundred-verse sequence [hyakuin], topics: The Tale of Genji and names of the provinces), verses 64 and 65, Senku renga shū 3, in the Koten bunko series, Shimazu Tadao et al., eds., 1981, p. 228. This thousand-verse sequence was composed in 1456 by Kanisawa Gen’i 金(蟹)沢下野守入道源意, a warrior who had taken monastic vows. This Yamana vassal and governor of Shimotsuke Province was influenced by old poetic practices that had recently come back into fashion. [Unless otherwise noted, all translations from quoted texts are mine.—Trans.]

4 For Yoshimoto’s statement, see Terada, p. 167.

5 This renga session was organized no later than 1370. Participants included Yoshimoto and Kyūsei (Gusai) 救済 (1282?-1376?), one of the greatest fourteenth-century renga poets. The verses quoted are nos. 76-79 in the fifth hundred-poem sequence. Senku renga shū 1, in Shimazu Tadao et al., eds., Koten bunko 1978, p. 108.

6 Several lists were compiled over time; the number and selection of words vary considerably depending on the list. This passage follows the list in the Hikaru Genji ichi-bu renga yoriai. Dotted underlines indicate either expressions not in the list or words in the list that refer to other Genji passages.

7 “Suma,” Genji monogatari, Shinpen Nihon koten bungaku zenshū (henceforth SNKBZ), Shōgakukan, vol. 2, 1995, pp. 207-208.

8 This poem is analyzed by Michel Vieillard-Baron in his essay. See “New worlds: Matching and Recontextualizing Poetry Excerpted from Fiction in the Monogatari nwhyakuban outaawase”, paragraphs 12-14.

9 Ichijō Kanera (1402-1481), who played an analogous role to that of his grandfather Yoshimoto, deplores the persistent, indiscriminate use of Genji kotoba whenever a verse is linked to another with a Genji chapter title. Cited by Ii Haruki, “Renju gappeki shū ni mi-rareru Genji yoriai—Genji kokagami, Hikaru Genji ichibu renga yoriai, Genji monogatari nai renga tsukeai nado to no kanren,” in Inaga Keiji, ed., Renga to sono shūhen (Hiroshima: Hiroshima Chūsei Bungaku Kenkyūkai, 1967), p. 426.

10 Shunmusō chū, in Kaneko Kinjirō, ed., Renga kochūshaku shū (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1979), p. 289.

11 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 190.

12 Ōnin gannen natsu Shinkei dokugin yamanani hyakuin 応仁元年夏心敬独吟山何百韻 (One hundred solo verses by Shinkei with words containing “mountain” as inserted topics; composed in the summer of the first year of the Ōnin era [1467]), verses 88-90. Shinkei’s compositions, together with those of Sōgi 宗祇 (1421-1501; the most famous renga poet and Shōhaku’s master), are emblematic of medieval poetry. By Shinkei’s time the inserted topic (fushimono) had become an ancillary device applied only to the first few verses.

13 Kaneko Kinjirō, Shinkei no seikatsu to sakuhin (Tōkyō: Ôfūsha, 1982), pp. 315-316. Kaneko connects “tachibana” to episode 11 of Tsurezure gusa 徒然草.

14 Edwin A. Cranston, trans., A Waka Anthology, Volume Two: Grasses of Remembrance, (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), p. 753.

15 “Hana chiru sato,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 156.

16 “They” refers to Hanachirusato and her sister, a minor consort of the late emperor, Genji’s father.

17 Cranston, trans., p. 762.

18 “Hana chiru sato,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 196.

19 The Yakumomishō 八雲御抄 (A treatise on the divine clouds) contains a comment in its renga section on the use of a chapter title from the Genji as an inserted topic. Emperor Juntoku 順徳 (1197-1242) wrote most of this monumental work on Japanese poetry in the 1220’s and completed it in exile. Kyūsojin Hitaku, ed., Nihon kagaku taikei, supp. vol. 3 (Tōkyō: Kazama Shobō, 1972), p. 205.

20 Renga shinshiki tsuika narabi ni shinshiki kon’an tō 連歌新式追加竝新式今案等 (New renga rules, supplemented and adapted) was compiled in 1501 by Shōhaku, who was not himself convinced of the validity of this special treatment (Kawamata Seiichi, ed., Shinkō gunsho ruijū (Tōkyō: Meicho Fukyūkai, 1929, rpt. 1977), vol. 13, kan 306, p. 714).

21 Opinions evidently differed. This assertion is contradicted soon after by an addendum (Renga shinshiki, p. 719).

22 On Teika’s interest in this chapter, see Terada, p. 156.

23 For a discussion of the rich poetic networks gravitating around this toponym, see Takada Hirohiko, “Suma, à la croisée du lyrisme et du destin,” Cipango (special number: Autour du Genji monogatari, 2008), p. 41-68.

24 The word たび signified staying in a place other than one’s habitual dwelling.

25 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 195.

26 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 199.

27 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 266.

28 “Suma,SNKBZ, vol. 2, pp. 213-214.

29 In Japanese poetry, ga (noble, refined) represents the orthodox waka aesthetic while zoku (low, familiar, mundane, or common) refers to everything excluded from this elevated vision of poetry. Renga initially evolved as a light, amusement-oriented genre; it employed elements rejected by waka, including everyday vocabulary (zokugo) and the Sino-Japanese compounds known as haigon 俳言.

30 All the places mentioned above are highly symbolic. Matsushima, representing eastern Japan, could be added to the list. This toponym appears in poems exchanged between Genji and Fujitsubo, his late father’s consort, with whom Genji has a clandestine love affair.

31 “Akashi,” p. 224. The stormy commencement of the “Akashi” chapter presages the essentially mythological nature of the episodes linked to this locale.

32Écriture” here refers to a concept of literary language in which style is seen as inseparable from the content of the discourse.

33 It will be recalled that Sōgi was the preeminent Genji scholar of his time.

34 Virtual in that their gaze is suggested rather than explicitly mentioned in the text.

35 “Suma,” SNKBZ, p. 173.

36 Cranston, trans., p. 754.

37 Ibid.

38 On this point, see Jacqueline Pigeot, « Autour du waka », in Questions de poétique japonaise (Paris: Puf, 1997), pp. 1-8, and Sumie Terada, « la Prose dans les anthologies de poèmes », in Anthologie poétique en Chine et au Japon, Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident 25 (2003), pp. 99-119.

39 See, for example, the passage discussed by Takada, pp. 50-58.

40 The layout of the translation emphasizes the structure of the original text. Unlike in the principal modern Japanese editions, here the passage is separated into two distinct parts, with the second beginning on a new line. The first part is purely narrative, while the second is dominated by a description of the landscape.

41 “Suma,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 174.

42 See Takada, pp. 50-57, for an analysis of the passage.

43 Cranston, trans., pp. 746-747.

44 “Sakaki,” SNKBZ, vol. 2, p. 118.

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References

Electronic reference

Sumie Terada, « The Art of Quotation », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 3 | 2014, Online since 20 November 2015, connection on 26 August 2016. URL : http://cjs.revues.org/539 ; DOI : 10.4000/cjs.539

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Sumie Terada

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