Japan: The Faery Robe

This story comes from the Noh drama Hagoromo, which is the name of the feathered cloak of the tennin, the celestial fairy. You can read more at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Japanese Mythology unit. Story source: Romance of Old Japan, Part I: Mythology and Legend by E. W. Champney and F. Champney (1917).

The Faery Robe

‘Tis dawn on lone Suruga’s pine-clad land
And, save the lap of wavelets on the strand,
All silence is, and, redolent of spring,
The pendant branches ‘neath the zephyrs sway,
And cloud of fragrant bloom endues the day
With weft of snowy flakes on filmy wing.

(A lone fisherman speaks:)

“But hark! methought I heard a far-off roar
Of rushing waters, midst the wailing pine.
Ethereal strains of melodies divine
Float to mine ear along the foam-fringed shore.

“But nay! no tempest frets the slumbrous seas,
Nor mars the cradle-song the waters sing.
‘Tis but the gentle voice of Mother Spring
That softly croons within the vibrant trees.”

Then from the crest of Fujiyama grand,
Fluttered to earth a cloudlet fleecy-fair,
Hovered a moment o’er the pine-clad strand,
Then melted in the silent azure air.

’Tired in a stainless robe of feathers white,
A fairy stood beside the smiling sea,
Touching a dulcimer with fingers light,
The while she chanted most enchantingly.

Then laughingly laid down her idle lute,
Hung her bright robe upon a branch of pine,
And, while the fisher gazed with wonder mute,
Plunged like a mermaid in the silvery brine.

The fisher spied the robe upon the tree,
Light as the plumes of some celestial dove.
“A garment of the gods!” he laughed in glee;
“Twill bring me fortune, happiness and love.”

Then from the ocean swift the fairy came,
And thus the fisher-lad she did implore:
“Pray, give me back my robe of winged flame,
Or ne’er again may I to cloudland soar.”

Whereat the crafty fisher made reply:
“Nay, that I will not, else, before you fly,
You trip for me upon the grassy ground
The dance that makes the very Moon go round.”

“First give me back my robe, and I will tread
That mystic measure of the days of yore.”
But still the cruel fisher shook his head,
“Dance first and I thy wings will straight restore.”

“Fie on thee, evil man!” exclaimed the fay,
“To doubt the promise of a heavenly sprite.
I cannot dance reft of my plumage bright.
Dear Fisher, give it back to me I pray!”

Then, moved by pity, love, and sudden shame,
The fisher plucked the plumage from the tree
And gave unto the maid her robe of flame —
“Now take thy pinions, Fairy, and be free!”

And now the fairy dons her rainbow wings;
Touching again her lute with fingers light,
A merry madrigal she blithely sings
And trips a measure frolicsome and bright.

The fair celestial dance that moved to mirth
The myriad gods by sweet Uzume’s wile
And lured their glorious goddess back to earth,
Fore’er to greet us with her wondrous smile.

The fisher gazed with love-entranced eyes,
Ravished with untold wonder and delight.
Beseemed a blossom born of Paradise
Was this frail fay, too fair for mortal sight.

Waving her rainbow raiment to the breeze,
She skims the surface of the slumbrous seas,
Then flutters from the maz├Ęd fisher’s sight
Into the realms of air, with laughter light.

On pinions swift she circles, swoops, and veers,
Cloud-soaring to the sun, till suddenly,
O’er Fujiyama’s crest, she disappears,
Whence erst she came into the azure sky.

Again on lone Suruga’s pine-clad land
All silence is, upon the slumbrous seas,
Save lap of wavelets on the silver strand
And moan of voices in the vibrant trees.

(600 words)

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