THE TALE OF GENJI ( and St. Andrew of Crete)
Perhaps a link between the Tale of Genji, the first of great novels
and bythe lady Murasaki Shikibu in 11th century Japan, and the cycle
of poetic prayers called The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete read
in the eastern churches in the first and fifth weeks of lent. But I
will propose one of sorts.
What a joy to ,in returning to the Tale of Genji , having read it as
a very young man and not since, is to find myself feeling myself in the
presence of a master writer ,one of the few who can do with words something
of what Mozart did with music... I am reading in the Waley translation but
intend to dip into the Seidensticker too. since it is just one of the things
I am intending to read in lent ,I may only read a part to be sure.
I will give a couple of quotes found online but first this thought on what
the story is about.
The title character prince Genji, lost his mother who died when he was only
three. This is behind a lifelong quest for her through many women he will
love. The society portrayed ,that of the court of Heian Era Japan, seems
static and as fixed as"in a gold mosaic on the wall"(Yeats phrase on Byazantium).
But for the individual time passes ... All things are flowing and transient.
Where to seek resolution and peace? One way is through abandonment of the
'floating world'(ukiyo in Japanese), this is not Genji's path but rather that
other way which leads to seeking to find peace in the present moment.
Such a remote society and yet a universal theme, consciously or not underlying
so much of literature and may we say of philosophy and theology?
These words from St.Andrew's Great Canon come to mind--are they a middle ay?
"Pass through the flowing nature of time, like the Ark of old, and take
possession of the Land of Promise, my soul: It is God's command. "
without developing that let us three quotes from the Tale of Genji.
I think they will repay attention ,the second being the most complex.
“You that in far-off countries of the sky can dwell secure, look back upon me
here; for I am weary of this frail world's decay.”
"We are not told of things that happened to specific people exactly as they
happened; but the beginning is when there are good things and bad things,
things that happen in this life which one never tires of seeing and hearing
about, things which one cannot bear not to tell of and must pass on for
all generations. If the storyteller wishes to speak well, then he chooses
the good things; and if he wishes to hold the reader’s attention he
chooses bad things, extraordinarily bad things. Good things and bad things
alike, they are things of this world and no other.Writers in other countries
approach the matter differently. Old stories in our own are different
from new. There are differences in the degree of seriousness. But to
dismiss them as lies is itself to depart from the truth. Even in the
writ which the Buddha drew from his noble heart are parables, devices
for pointing obliquely at the truth.
To the ignorant they may seem to operate at cross purposes. The Greater
Vehicle is full of them, but the general burden is always the same.
The difference between enlightenment and confusion is of about the same
order as the difference between the good and the bad in a romance.
If one takes the generous view,
then nothing is empty and useless.”
"in the mountains the cherry trees were in full bloom, and the farther he
went, the lovelier the veils of mist became, until for him, whose rank so
restricted travel that all this was new, the landscape became a source
― Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji:
chose an illustration by Hokusai of much later period than Genji but