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Unformatted text preview: and responds to the shouts of
Naozane from the shore to return and fight like a true warrior. In the
ensuing clash, Atsumori is thrown from his horse and pinned to the
ground by Naozane, who tears off his helmet preparatory to taking his
head. Naozane, however, is astounded to see that his foe is a handsome The Canons of Medieval Taste 119 young man with teeth blackened in the courtier manner who reminds
him of his own son. Although he would spare Atsumori, Naozane must
kill him because other Minamoto partisans are riding toward them and
would surely treat Atsumori even more harshly than he. After taking
Atsumori’s head, Naozane discovers a flute in a pouch at his waist and
realizes that Atsumori was the one who played this instrument in the
Taira camp that morning. Marveling at this evidence of the courtliness
of the Taira, Naozane vows to devote himself thenceforth to praying for
In Atsumori, the waki who visits Ichinotani is none other than Kumagai Naozane, who has taken vows and the priestly name of Rensei. At
Ichinotani, Rensei encounters some reapers, one of whom is playing a
flute. After some questioning by Rensei, the flautist reveals that he is the
ghost of Atsumori, who is still torn by the anguish of his defeat and
death. In the final scene of the play, after Atsumori has threatened to kill
Rensei, the two are reconciled by prayers. Atsumori attains salvation and
he and Rensei become companions in Buddhism:
[Reliving the battle of Ichinotani,
Atsumori] looks behind him and sees
That Kumagai pursues him;
He cannot escape.
Then Atsumori turns his horse
Knee deep in the lashing waves,
And draws his sword.
Twice, three times he strikes; then, still saddled,
In close fight they twine; roll headlong together
Among the surf of the shore.
So Atsumori fell and was slain, but now the Wheel of Fate
Has turned and brought him back.
(atsumori r ises from the ground and advances toward the
priest with uplifted sword.)
“There is my enemy,” he cries, and would strike,
But the other is grown gentle
And calling on Buddha’s name
Has obtained salvation for his foe;
So that they...
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- Spring '13