Abbildungen der Seite

with the exercise of a spiritual authority much easier to wield. Theoretically they remained absolute masters of the land and its inhabitants. But habits of luxury, love of art and their acceptance of the Buddhist religion, combined to enervate them. Men beheld the divine descendants of the Sun burning incense on the altars of the atheistic Cakya-Mouni; or else, moved by the vague intoxication of Hindoo mysticism, quitting the palace for the cloister to forget among the lotusflowers both the glories of their celestial ancestors and their own divinity.

This was the moment at which Japan, newly opened to the light of China, but still bearing the impress of her own primitive rusticity, fixed forever in the memory of mankind what will probably remain the most exquisite image of her own genius. Woman, clad by some of the elder traditions in victorious armor, and never excluded from the throne by any Salic law, found at its foot a demi-royalty more adapted to her humor than that of nominal sovereign. Woman shares with the Buddhist priest the honor of having provided Japan with a literature. While the pundit and the courtier were clothing their thought in Chinese forms, and bowing under the tyrannous yoke of that Asiatic Latin, she remained the depository of the national idiom, refining, subtilizing, enriching and transmitting as it had been the very life of the race. If the Chinese code affected the old Japanese customs, by infusing instincts of cruelty not previously present there, Buddhism, on the other hand, shed over the hearts of all its breath of universal pity. To quote but a single example: Toward the end of the tenth century the blind became the objects of very special solicitude. They were educated, and installed on the hills of Kioto in a richly endowed convent overlooking Lake

Biwa. Before their sightless eyes was unrolled one of the loveliest and most radiant of earthly landscapes, in the hope that its beauty and radiance might steal into their souls, like perfumes in the night. They were even entrusted with the government of certain provinces, and history does not say that these provinces were the worse ruled.

It is in the old tales and romances that a description must be sought of the court life, its festivals, its amorous adventures and innocent intrigues. It was a dainty society, detaching itself more and more each day from the sombre mass of the people; an Arcady of graceful gestures, artless amusements, astonishing fancies and magnificent clothes. The freedom of its manners borrowed from nature, of which it was the spontaneous expression, a world of unconscious grace. A line was drawn once for all in the Japanese mind between the needs of natural and of social life. The former cannot be refined. Its lodging will remain a primitive hut, enlarged, indeed, as occasion may require and constructed of the kind of wood which experience has shown to be the best. Its bed will be a soldier's pallet; its nourishment, consisting of fish often eaten raw, salted vegetables and rice boiled in water, is not in the least savory or suggestive of a cultivated palate. Sexual pleasure courts no concealment and feels no shame; and if it is true that the gods who made Japan in the first instance sprang from a pair of birds, their gambols are marked by a frank immodesty which never shrinks from light and air. The nudity which art has never idealized is not indecent, a convenience for the exigencies of life and labor, it is offered to the eye without malice and without shame.

But upon this basis of an almost infantile naturalism, an ideal is super

imposed which carries to an almost insane excess the taste for what is rare and artificial. Punctilious in their ceremonial, carried away by weird images and fantastic rites, the Japanese proceed to evolve a complicated etiquette, a code of politeness, whose forms develop independently of the ideas that they invest. It really seems as though the sole result here of Buddhism-that stupendous effort of a people to escape from the bounds of its own naturehad been the regulation of attitudes and the transformation of a code of mundane morals into a learned and pompous liturgy.

But it had a deeper influence, and in that fanciful court of the mikados, composed of languid patriarchs who surrounded themselves with women and priests, and revelled in flowery festivals, of those princes of celestial blood-the Kuge-and of those princesses who were drawn about in great ox-carts under the blossoming cherrytrees of spring or the red maples of autumn, it was Buddhism which called up the spirits of the dead, arranged for spiritual communications, attached no end of superstitions to places where three and four ways met, above all which allured the soul to renunciation as a source of new felicity.

Often that renunciation was eminently superficial. The wielder of power has but the anxieties which attend it, that is to say, the painful illusion of power. Let him delegate the shining phantom, retaining only the shadow thereof, and in that he will find reality. Did not the great Cakya preach to men the truth, that they must get clear of phenomena before they can control them? In like manner it is only by withdrawing himself from the false light of this world that the Emperor, stripped of his imperial insignia and clad in the robe of a bonze, can really govern his realm. Truly Buddha was an astute politician! This doctrine of

the inkyo-which means literally the act of withdrawal-which flattered the greed of power in exact proportion as it relieved from the responsibility thereof, quite captivated the fancy of the Japanese. Their emperors abdicated, some out of mere fatigue and for convenience' sake; others, that they might wield under cover of a darkling piety an absolute authority, which must needs have been limited under the broad light of open day.

Abdication became a law which operated downward from the throne upon the ministers, the shoguns, the lesser officials and private individuals. Even the small merchant of Japan retires from business while still in his prime, and hands over the shop to his son. The consequences of this custom were extremely serious. It threw thousands of active men out of employment and abbreviated their social life. Withdrawn from affairs to which they contributed only the counsels of a still unripe experience, these recluses who, however, had neither ingratitude nor disrespect to fear, ceased to act, ceased even to think and were overrun by a kind of rust, at once venerable and fatal. This it was which gave to the civilization of Japan that character of immaturity which often makes its sons appear like superannuated children. A broken column should be their emblem. On the other hand the inkyo teaches men to draw a distinction between the power which demands adoration and that which exacts obedience; and, since the two are seldom found united in one person, and if the former is displayed the latter lurks in concealment, there grew up a universal habit of suspicion engendered by invisible masters. The spirit of mistrust spread from man to man. Anxiety was hidden within the folds of a smile, and souls enlarged the solitude about them that their tremulousness might not be detected. For ages the government of

Japan was anonymous and irresponsible. Its potentates, whether emperors or shoguns-all save the two or three original founders of each dynasty-pass along the frescoes of history like a procession of hieratic figures of which the aureoles only are clearly discernible. Shadowy figures they are, yet they dazzle the eye. Not one of them attains to positive individuality nor has the audacity to resemble no one but himself.

The inkyo has confiscated their real power, for the benefit of some abbot among the monks or some mother superior among the nuns or bonzes, or else of some particular family or clan.

Their spontaneity is a dead letter. They have been cramped by bandages and embalmed in veneration. Even when they do not abdicate, their personality remains none the less a simulacrum. We see infants of two years named emperors or shoguns, and abdicating at the age of five; and these gods in swaddling clothes, these generals at the breast, count for just as much as their predecessors or their heirs, whose dream of empire may be protracted through thirty tranquil years.

Thus, in the tenth century, the equivoque of Buddhism has already disorganized authority and thrown it off its balance; so that when avarice and jealousy impel the military chieftains to attack the shogunate, the emperor has become but a vain idol, whose smiles are for the stronger. But attenuated creature though he be, his nominal authority does not perish in the storm. Japan transmits from revolution to revolution the line of its emperors, and its own faith in their divinity. It matters the less that this inheritance should have been occasionally superstitious and often irregular, because in the scheme of things Japanese, adoption, even posthumous, is employed to correct the mistakes and supply the shortcomings of nature. The

extraordinary part of it is that this people has always desired to rule over it a male or female child-a poor creature claiming to be a descendant of the Sun-and that among all the crowd of vassals athirst for murder and glory, not one has ever usurped the title of Mikado. With the exception of the Catholic Church I do not think there is another instance anywhere of a similar institution two thousand years old. Emperors without empire, emperors besieged, ruined, hunted, impoverished, starved, sumptuous or sordid manikins-the institution which they represent survives eternally, and its continuity is but the more amazing for their frequent penury and distress. The more the emperors are insulted and degraded, the more I marvel at the endurance of the empire. The miracle is doubtless due to the invincible faith of the Japanese in their celestial origin. Neither the ungovernable ambition of their condottieri nor the triumphs of lawless violence, nor the debilitating fascination of a strange religion, nor atheism itself could ever impair that faith. The mikados lived on because they were emanations of the people; their divinity ascended from the masses. In the worst of times the divine name of that ruler whose mere human personality was so tragically tossed about, quarrelled over and submerged kept always afloat. The twinkle of its pale radiance pierces the darkest night. Sometimes it seems to be absorbed in the focal splendor of the court of the shoguns where the arts revive during an interval of peace and flourish gloriously. But new storms arise and Japan beholds once more the sinister fire of Saint Elmo playing about the cracks in her masts. But the captain who appeals to the courage of his pilots no more, still assures the crew that there survives in the midst of catastrophe a something that will not perish. Amid the hurtling


of unchained instincts he symbolizes Japanese even now not to forget that the intangible predominance of mind in the gloomiest passages of their his over matter. And it behooves the tory, such was their sole ideal. Revue des Deux Mondes.

André Bellesort.

(To be continued.)




It has been observed more than once that I am particularly nervous about my luggage when I am travelling by train. It has also been observed that I exhibit more anxiety as to the identity of my goods than as to their safety, and that I am always especially careful lest I should carry off something belonging to another passenger. This peculiarity of mine has been ascribed to my natural eccentricity, and to the influence of advancing age. In justice to myself I am forced to show that it has quite another foundation.

It will be remembered that the loss of the Lenstoi Jewels was the sensation of the evening papers one day last year, and that the whole affair was completely hushed up by the press of the following morning. I am about to relate the whole history of this business; and it will be found a sufficient explanation of my nervousness with regard to luggage. I also relate the story because a garbled version of my adventure has already been circulated, and I am anxious to clear my name from the unworthy slanders which have been connected with it.

For many years I had been a lecturer on classical subjects at the Croxhampton University College; but just recently an unexpected legacy had enabled me to resign, and to devote myself to

my favorite literary pursuits. I may say that my work has not been fruitless, and that I am regarded as something of an authority in more than one direction. This accounted for an invitation which I received at this time to visit Leachester, for the purpose of addressing the Carlyle Society in that city.

Leachester was an interesting literary centre, and the Carlyle Society there was one of the best. Moreover, my untiring researches had resulted in the discovery of certain private Carlyle letters, which threw a curious sidelight upon several phases of the prophet's work and home-life. Here was a chance of laying my discovery before a sympathetic audience ere I could make it public through the reviews. I gladly accepted the invitation, and prepared my lecture.

Both Croxhampton and Leachester are on the main line from London to Boltport, with little more than an hour's journey between them. On the day before the date agreed upon, I wrote to engage a room at the Leachester Royal Hotel, my somewhat nervous disposition making me unwilling to accept the private hospitality which had been offered. On the following day I caught an afternoon train and took a second class compartment. In one corner of this was a young woman with a child about twelve months


[ocr errors]

old, and in another sat a stout man reading a newspaper. I took my seat facing him, and placed my bag in the rack above.

It may be said here that I have no liking for very young children, and always avoid them as much as possible. Their actions are not sufficiently regulated by reason to make them agreeable fellow-passengers. My fears in this case proved to be well founded, for from the moment of my appearance that child continued to stare at me in the most irritating manner. He had wide gray eyes, which were peculiarly vacant in expression; and my recollections are still vivid of the annoyance and discomfort I soon began to experience. My annoyance increased when I saw that the other passenger was watching the scene furtively from behind his newspaper.

Presently the child's mother seemed to notice my displeasure, and tried to divert his attention. Failing in this, she addressed herself to me.

"Shake your head at him, sir," she said, in a loud whisper.

"I beg your pardon?" I asked, angrily.

She repeated her words, with an explanation.

"Shake your head at him, sir. He'll be all right then. He is very much attracted by spectacles."

It was an absurd and ridiculous position to be in. I could not have shaken my head at that moment to save my life. Some of my mingled emotions, however, might have appeared in my face too plainly, for the child gave a sudden scream and turned away.

"Oh!" said the woman, most unreasonably, "now you have frightened him. I am sure there was no need to glare like that;" and she turned to the task of soothing him again in a manner which combined pity for her boy with resentment towards me. I felt heartily sorry that I had not been more careful

in my choice of a carriage; but at that point the other passenger came to my assistance. He had been watching throughout the incident, and evidently sympathized with me. Leaning forward he spoke in a low tone, gravely: "Shocking nuisance, children!" "Yes," I said, "they are. I have always thought so."

"Of course," he went on, "the world cannot exactly do without them. But I do think they ought to be kept out of the way as much as possible. In trayelling, they ought to have carriages to themselves."

"I felt that this was a reasonable idea and we were soon in perfect agreement. During the conversation that followed I tried to form some opinion as to the stranger's quality and position. His appearance was comfortable and substantial, and his manner free almost to the point of coarseness, but he had travelled a good deal in this country and could observe with shrewdness. He had a blonde-bearded, rather good-natured face, and I came to the conclusion that he was a well-to-do business


It is my habit to learn as much as possible about the people I meet. This does not arise from any vulgar inquisitiveness, but rather, I hope, from a wish to know my fellow-creatures. Their affairs are always interesting to me; and I have often stumbled upon information in this way which I have found very useful later. But for this custom of mine I should never have discovered those Carlyle letters.

I began, therefore, to make inquiries, and soon learned that my fellow-passenger was a commercial traveller, that he belonged in Boltport and that he represented a firm called Fillottsons. I also learned that Fillottsons had something to do with jewelry; and that was all I could gather. The man was silent as to what had been his business in London, meeting my inquiries in

« ZurückWeiter »