Upon receiving the ceremony of initiation into

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Unformatted text preview: of how quickly the years had gone by, each with the same unsatisfied longing. The old, inexhaustible sadness came back, and I went through the rites for my ancestors, but absent-mindedly. In the very next, and last, line of the book, however, we are told that “Late on the eve of the new year there was a pounding outside . . .” and realize that Kaneie’s interest in the mother of Michitsuna is not entirely exhausted.12 Another type of contemporary literature very similar to the private diary was the poem-tale (uta-monogatari), the most celebrated of which is The Tales of Ise (Ise Monogatari), compiled sometime in the early tenth The Court at Its Zenith 64 century. The Tales of Ise consists of 125 passages or episodes of varying length, loosely grouped together, and each containing one or more poems. Most of the poems deal with love, and particularly with the romantic adventures of a great court lover and poet of the previous century, Ariwara no Narihira (825–80). Quite likely The Tales of Ise was compiled by one or more persons who gathered a collection of poems, most of them by Narihira, and then placed them in narrative contexts by drawing on biographical information concerning Narihira’s life. To the foreigner, The Tales of Ise is apt to seem like a light and even insignificant work, but it has been venerated by the Japanese through the centuries as one of the greatest masterpieces in their literature. A typical passage from The Tales of Ise goes like this: In former times there lived a young nobleman named Narihira. Upon receiving the ceremony of initiation into manhood, he set forth upon a ceremonial falconry excursion, to review his estates at the village of Kasuga, near the former capital of Nara. In the village there dwelt alone two young sisters possessed of a disturbing beauty. The young nobleman gazed at the two secretly from the shade of the enclosure around their house. It filled his heart with longing that in this rustic village he should have found so unexpectedly such lovely maidens. Removing the wide sleeve from the silk cloak he was wearing, Narihira...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.

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