You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Friday, August 6, 2010


Last week I used footnotes from Kumio Yamagita's The Legends of Tono for a blog entry.

Kumio's book is difficult to leave behind, and I want to quote extensively from it for Potato Weather.

Kumio's book contains 119 legends, seldom more than a couple of paragraphs long, each numbered for bibliographical reference. Some serve merely as transitional material, such as the following:

119. For a long time in the Tono district there has been a song that accompanies the Dance of the Deer. There are slight variations in the song depending upon the village, but I have written below what I heard. This version can be found in a document over a hundred years old.

(The following are my selections from Song for the Dance of the Deer.)

Blessing the Bridge

Come, look at the bridge!
What important person first crossed it?
Cross this way and that.
Look at the horse-riding area!
We can see the Great Gate of Sugihara.

Blessing the Gate

Come, look at the gate!
The gate is made of hinoki and sawara wood.
This is an auspicious silver gate.
Push open the doors and look!
Oh, what a wonderful new era!
Come see the Main Hall of the Buddhist Temple!
What carpenter built it?
Long ago a skilled carpenter built it.
He built it with his own hands!

Blessing the Town

Come, look at this town!
It is sixty by twenty-eight kilometers.
It is really bustling!

The Last Party of the Year

Hearing a good singer in the garden,
I'm ashamed to sing.
The fine edges of the flowered straw mats in the garden,
The splendid wine cup on a gold and silver tray,
Let's move it to the garden.
The seventeen-year-old girl pours wine from a jug.
The garden brightens with joy.
Drink a cup of this wine,
And you will live long and prosper.
With the wine goes sea-bream and sea-bass fish,
And the famous karu-ume [plums] of China.
To say we are good is impossible!
Forgive us, let us bow and be going.

From The Legends of Tono(1910) by Kumio Yanagita
Translated by Ronald A. Morse
100th Anniversary Edition published by Lexington Books

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