Wind in the Pines

The Noh Play: "Matsukaze"  or  "Pining Wind"

1. Brief  description and quotes.

2. Extended Introduction.


1. Matsukaze

By KWANAMI:  revised by ZEAMI

Lord Yukihira, brother of Narihira, was banished to the lonely shore of Suma. While he lived there he amused himself by helping two fisher girls to carry salt water from the sea to the salt-kilns on the shore. Their names were Matsukaze and Murasame.

At this time he wrote two famous poems; the first, while he was crossing the mountains on his way to Suma:

               'Through the traveller's dress

                The autumn wind blows with sudden chill.

                It is the shore-wind of Suma

                Blowing through the pass.'

When he had lived a little while at Suma, he sent to the Capital a poem which said:

               'If any should ask news,

               Tell him that upon the shore of Suma

                I drag the water-pails.'

Long afterwards Prince Genji was banished to the same place. The chapter of the Genji Monogatari called 'Suma' says:

'Although the sea was some way off, yet when the melancholy autumn wind came 'blowing through the pass' (the very wind of Yukihira's poem), the beating of the waves on the shore seemed near indeed.'

It is round these two poems and the prose passage quoted above that the play is written.

A wandering priest comes to the shore of Suma and sees a strange pine-tree standing alone. A 'person of the place' (in an interlude not printed in the usual texts) tells him that the tree was planted in memory of two fisher-girls, Matsukaze, and Murasame, and asks him to pray for them. While the priest prays it grows late and he announces that he intends to ask for shelter 'in that salt-kiln.' He goes to the 'waki's pillar' and waits there as if waiting for the master of the kiln to return.

Meanwhile Matsukaze and Murasame come on to the stage and perform the 'water-carrying' dance which culminates in the famous passage known as 'The moon in the water-pails.'

CHORUS (speaking for MURASAME).

There is a moon in my pail!


    Why into my pail too a moon has crept!

                             (Looking up at the sky.)

    One moon above...


    Two imaged moons below,

    So through the night each carries

    A moon on her water-truck,

    Drowned in the bucket's brim.

    Forgotten, in toil on this salt sea-road,

    The sadness of this world where souls cling!


Their work is over and they approach their huts, i.e., the 'waki's pillar,' where the priest is sitting waiting. After refusing for a long while to admit him 'because their hovel is too mean to receive him,' they give him shelter, and after the usual questioning, reveal their identities.

In the final ballet Matsukaze dresses in the 'court-hat and hunting cloak given her by Lord Yukihira" and dances, among other dances, the 'Broken Dance,' which also figures in Hagoromo.

The 'motif' of this part of the play is another famous poem by Yukihira, that by which he is represented in the Hyakuninisshu or 'Hundred Poems by a Hundred Poets':

    'When I am gone away,

     If I hear that like the pine-tree on Mount Inaba

     You are waiting for me,

     Even then I will come back to you.'

There is a play of words between matsu, 'wait,' and matsu, 'pine-tree'; Inaba, the name of the mountain, and inaba, 'if I go away.'

The play ends with the release of the girls' souls from the sh shin, 'heart-attachment,' which holds them to the earth.         


2.  INTRODUCTION: by Royall Tyler

Pining Wind is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful plays in the repertoire. Zeami himself seems to have felt deeply about it, since he mentioned it in his writings more often than any other. Matsukaze, the play's Japanese title, is a common word in poetry and means simply wind (kaze) in the pines (matsu). 'Pining wind', in contrast, is an unusual expression. It is made necessary by a problem of translation, because the play skilfully exploits a second meaning of matsu: 'to wait.' Thanks to the word 'pine' ('pine tree' and 'to pine'), a relatively faithful translation of this key poetic device is actually possible.

On the basis of remarks in Zeami's writings, Pining Wind was long held to be Zeami's revision of a play by Kan'ami, his father. However, meticulous analysis of these remarks and of the text itself (by Takemoto Mikio, supported by Omote Akira) suggests that Kan'ami can be connected only with the sashi-sageuta-ageuta sequence early in part one. This was probably an independent dance piece, with music by Kan'ami and words by someone unknown. Zeami was responsible for all the rest, although he took the rongi section ('Far away they haul their brine...') from another work that may or may not have been by him. These two passages from elsewhere contribute to the unusual variety of tone and mood in the first half of Pining Wind. The second half (which begins once the Monk enters the salt-house) is seamless and is one of the summits of Zeami's art.

The background of Pining Wind includes a play which is now lost, Shiokumi ('Gathering Brine') by the denaku actor Kiami, a near contemporary of Kan'ami. Shiokumi seems still to have been current when Zeami wrote Pining Wind (possibly c.1412). No doubt it evoked the lives and labours of salt-makers like the ones in Pining Wind. Otherwise Pining Wind has no obvious source, and the imaginative power it displays has been justly praised. The two sisters, Pining Wind and Autumn Rain, appear to be Zeami's inventions, and so, for all practical purposes, is their lover, Yukihira. However, Zeami drew on elements well known in the literary tradition. It is a pleasure to examine how he put these elements together, and to what effect. Many writers have discussed these topics, and the following account builds on their work.

Why did Zeami give the two sisters of Pining Wind the courtier Yukihira for a lover? It has been suggested ( by Takemoto Mikio) that Zeami chose Yukihira because his name appears in Kan'ami's dance piece, the original nucleus of the play.

Ariwara no Yukihira (818-893) was the elder brother of Narihira, who plays a similar role in The Well-Cradle. In his thirties, Yukihira was exiled (or found it prudent to retire) to Suma shore, the scene of Pining Wind; and there he wrote a poem that colours the beginning of Kan'ami's passage. However, it does so only because Prince Genji, the fictional hero of Genji monogatari ('The Tale of Genji '; early 11th c.), also lived in exile at Suma, and because shortly after his arrival, the sound of the waves reminded him of Yukihira's poem. The presence of Yukihira in Pining Wind is therefore inseparable from memories of Genji, and it is because of Genji that he figures in the play. The language of Pining Wind alludes constantly to the 'Suma' chapter of Genji monogatari. The only direct quotations from this chapter appear at the start of the passage associated with Kan'ami, but the rest of the play is filled with images drawn from medieval manuals on how to work material from the novel into linked verse.

The central motif of Pining Wind is that of the courtier who goes down to the provinces, becomes briefly involved with a woman there, then leaves her yearning for him forever more. The outstanding classical occurrence of this motif is in Genji Monogatari itself. While at Suma, Genji takes up with a lady of distinguished birth whose father has retired to Akashi, a stretch of shore west of Suma. By mentioning both place-names, the play's opening verse announces not only the appearance of the sisters at Suma, but the background presence of the Akashi lady.

After his three years of exile at Suma ( the same period as Yukihira's in the play), Genji returned to the capital, leaving the lady pregnant with their daughter. She gave him for his journey a 'hunting cloak' (a courtier's normal outer garment) that she had made for him. In return, he gave her his old one, fragrant with his scent. Later, when her thoughts lingered on him, she probably took it out to recall his presence. In Pining Wind, this cloak has become the one that Yukihira left the sisters, and Zeami has added to it a man's court hat. (The lady of The Well-Cradle has the same mementoes of her love, Narihira.) The hat completed the costume worn by a shiraby shi, a woman entertainer like Shizuka in Benkei Aboard Ship.

As Pining Wind dances in part two, wearing Yukihira's hat and cloak, she resembles a professional entertainer like the pining ladies in several Zeami plays. One of these is the y jo (singing-girl, prostitute) of Lady Han. Others are the y jo of Matsura and the shiraby shi of Higaki. Each longs for a gentleman from the capital who came to her briefly and then went away.

A different sort of woman, but with a similar preoccupation, figures in the legend of The Diver. Like Pining Wind, the shite in The Diver is a woman of the shore; and, like the Akashi lady, she bore a great lord's child. 'Seafolk' women (ama) enjoyed a romantic reputation in classical poetry, and resembled in some ways the shepherdesses of European letters. They could even be seen as a variety of singing-girl. One scholar (Abe Yasur ) cited a document dated 1297 that lists y jo shiraby shi and ama equally under the heading of 'entertainers'. A story about Yukihira in Senj sh  ( A Choice of Tales'; mid 13th c.) helps to explain why: - 

Of old, there was a man known as the Middle Counsellor Yukihira. Having misbehaved, he was sent down to Suma shore, where, the salt brine dripping from him [like his tears], he wandered along the beach. Among the divers on Eshima [an islet between Akashi and Awaji] there was one whom he found singularly attractive. Going up to her, he asked, 'Where do you live?' She replied [in verse]: 'No home have I of my own, for I, a diver's daughter, live beside white-breaking waves upon the ocean shore.' Then she slipped away. Yukihira, deeply moved, could not refrain from weeping. Amid the seas' thrust and ebb she dove into the waves, and although her aim was not to have the moon lodge on her sleeves [as it would have been had she been a poetically inclined courtier}, those sleeves of hers were lively indeed. Upon them, swept as they were by wave on wave, a dear face shone, illumined still more brightly by the moon. Alone, she spread her damp robe and lived aboard a boat among the divers. Yukihira was astonished to discover such a girl. Her poem was quite wonderful.

One imagines Yukihira discovering the two sisters of Pining Wind in rather the same way, and perhaps Zeami did, too. Though not a singing-girl, this diver had beauty, wit and mystery. Perhaps these same qualities captivated the courtier who actually took a diver back with him to the capital and married her (Shasekish , a Collection of Sand and Pebbles', 1287). If this is what a young ama could do to a gentleman from Miyako, some ama may have cultivated the effect professionally.

The diver-girl in the Senj sh  story resembles Pining Wind, but as a poetic figure she also resembles the Akashi lady. This lady is no ama by birth, but she assumes the persona of an ama on her poetic exchanges with Genji, and in these poems, her preoccupations (loneliness, longing) are those of Pining Wind. Yukihira himself, in a poem that is important in the play ('Should one perchance ask after me ...'), had assumed the persona of the male ama. He had addressed this poem to someone in the capital. Genji, too, assumed this persona in poems he addressed from Suma to ladies in the capital. Ama being the characteristic inhabitants of the shore, any lord or lady at Suma was found, poetically, to be an ama too. Furthermore, by calling themselves ama, Yukihira and Genji not only elicited sympathy but also took a suitably humble stance for men no longer welcome at court.

However, Genji is no ama in relation to the Akashi lady. He is of far higher rank than she, and he is only a visitor to her shore. Soon, he will leave her and return to Miyako. To her, he is as Yukihira is to the girl in the Senj sh story. In other words, his poetic role is that of Yukihira. In contrast, that the Akashi lady should address Genji as an ama accords both with poetic practice and her own situation. Her poetic role is that of Pining Wind. The relationship between the two is deeply romantic, yet — as in the play — always imperfectly fulfilled.

Why, when there is only one Akashi lady, are there two sisters in Pining Wind? The initial clue can be found in a passage of Ise monogatari ('Tales of Ise', 10th C), one of the canonical texts of the literary tradition. In the opening episode, a very young man from the capital, out hunting on one of his estates near Nara, spies two beautiful sisters who throw his heart into hopeless confusion. In Zeami's time, this young man was assumed to be Narihira, Yukihira's brother. An authoritative commentator (Takeoka Masao) has suggested that the presence of the two girls in the story is meant precisely to heighten his romantic bemusement. Narihira knows he will have to make a choice, but he would much rather have both sisters at once; hence his excitement and confusion. The 'Uji chapters' of Genji Monogatari evoke a young nobleman's inability to choose between two sisters who live in a country setting very like this one. Yukihira's involvement with two girls at Suma seems therefore to be a transposition of the first episode of Ise Monogatari.

Since Zeami himself called the play Pining Wind and Autumn Rain (Matsukaze Murasame), he may have seen the two women as roughly equal; and in his time, Autumn Rain probably took more lines of the text than she does now. Her Japanese name, Murasame, means the kind of rain that falls hard, then gently, in fits and starts. In poetry, it evokes particularly the cold rains of the late Autumn. Medieval linked verse manuals taught that a mention of murasame could properly be followed up by a mention of matsukaze. Pining Wind and Autumn Rain therefore turn out to be not only sisters, but paired poetic images.

The difference between these images is developed in the play. When Pining Wind, at the climactic moment, sees Yukihira instead of the pine tree, Autumn Rain rushes to her, objecting that 'Yukihira is not there.' Autumn Rain loves Yukihira too, but she, unlike her sister, has forgotten his promise to return. She even says so.

In the complementary qualities of the sisters, one discerns the presence of the Akashi lady. This is not because she somehow embodies those qualities, but because she is a superb musician. Genji met her through her music, and, in the novel, music is the heart of their love. The sisters are the complementary qualities of this music.

In part two of Tsunemasa ( a play which may be by Zeami), the music of a lute calls down what sounds like a shower of rain, but proves to be only a gust of wind in the pines. The text then quotes two lines from a famous poem on the lute (biwa) by Po Chü-i (772-846): 'The great string is loud like autumn rain; the little string is urgent like the whisperings of lovers.' Next, it works in some even more famous lines from a poem on the kin, a kind of zither related to the Japanese koto. Po Chü-i likened the sound of the lower strings of the ch'in to wind gusting through pines, and of the higher strings to the voice of a caged crane, crying in the night for its children. Pining Wind and Autumn Rain are therefore, among other things, these two voices of music: one loud but intermittent, the other softer but constant and urgent with longing. The couplet on the lute fits them particularly well. The sound of the great string is Autumn Rain, that of the little string Pining Wind. The Akashi lady played both koto and lute.

Pining Wind's vision of Yukihira is a fascinating moment. What really happens when she sees him instead of the pine? Is Autumn Rain right when she tries to recall her to her senses, or does Pining Wind, having stood fast, then open her sister's eyes to a higher truth? The passage is so highly charged and so abstract (because stripped of nearly all anecdotal detail) that it invites comment.

The chief understanding of Pining Wind's feelings and vision speaks of attachment, delusion, and madness. The sisters' phantoms cling to the world they once knew because they cannot give up their love. That is why, near the end of part one, Pining Wind is happy to learn that their visitor is a monk: she hopes he will help them towards release. That is also why she tells her story in part two. Confessions like hers figure in many plays and are connected with the Buddhist practice of zange: 'confession' to exhaust attachment. Instead, however, her telling of the tale overwhelms her with memories, until she actually puts on Yukihira's hat and cloak. Now, in her derangement, she sees him before her. Autumn Rain is right. Pining Wind is mad and Yukihira is not there, even if Autumn Rain herself soon succumbs.

Within the Noh tradition, the Pining Wind who sees Yukihira is clearly a monogurui: a madwoman. Many plays are centred on monogurui, either male or female. In those days, the ravings of the mad were scarcely distinguished from the antics of entertainers, and monogurui often are entertainers. It was Zeami (according to Yamanaka Reiko) who gave his female monogurui such depth that the pretext of their being entertainers dropped away. They became simply women in acute distress.

The oldest manuscripts of Pining Wind date from the early sixteenth century, some sixty to eighty years after Zeami's death. Whatever Zeami's own practice may have been, the play by then (according to Nakamura Itaru) was being performed in a style that emphasized this distress. Into the seventeenth century, Pining Wind wore the Fukai mask (the face of a woman of about forty), and the dances of the play evoked her disturbed state much more explicitly than at present. Thus the play was interpreted just as The Well-Cradle was in the same period.

Since then, conceptions of Pining Wind, as of The Well-Cradle, have become more elevated. For example, an authority on folk theatre and festivals (Honda Yasuji) wrote in 1941 that when Pining Wind dons the hat and cloak, she recalls a medium calling down a spirit; but that once the spirit (Yukihira) has appeared, she should dance with the pure serenity of one who watches the moon in the sky. Others, too, are impressed above all with the purity and beauty of the sisters' emotion. Still Pining Wind generally remains a monogurui, however attenuated. Her vision, and Autumn Rain's subsequent attunement to it, at least require a break with common reality. Yet there persists a feeling that, somehow, the truly sane one should be Pining Wind, not Autumn Rain. One writer versed in French literature (Tashiro Keiichir ) acknowledged this feeling when he likened Pining Wind's longing to 'religious passion'.

If her passion is 'religious', then the Yukihira of her vision must be less an amorous young courtier than a god. The idea has a certain appeal because, in the poetic imagination, courtiers were indeed god-like. They inhabited the heights (Miyako) of an island mountain, the shores of which were peopled by male and female ama. From this mountain, the emperor's divine virtue (in which the courtiers shared) bestowed blessings on the world. The God of Sumiyoshi, in Takasago, displays this virtue in the form of a 'god pine' on the ocean shore. Why, then, should Yukihira too not be a god?

Japanese religious lore recognizes the pine as a link between the higher and lower realms. Gods 'descend' through pine trees, like lightening down a wire. The back wall of every n  stage illustrates this idea, since the pine painted on it is called the 'pine of the divine manifestation' (y g  no matsu).Other — real — pines in temple or shrine grounds throughout Japan bear the same name. No wonder one scholar (Honda Yasuji) caught, in Pining Wind, echoes of a rite of divine possession. They are there.

However, they are only echoes. The play is art, not shamantic rite, Pining Wind is not a medium, nor does a medium feel 'religious passion'. Pining Wind's sole thought is love. If her passion is 'religious', then her love is divine and Autumn Rain, when she tries to stop her sister, is blind. Yukihira's farewell poem — a promise to come should the sisters pine for him — is then a divine promise, and his appearance is a god's compassionate response to the cries of his devotee. Is this possible?

Alas, no. Contemplation was certainly known in medieval Japan, but the rapture of divine love is not a motif in the religion of the time, and no divinities, native or Buddhist, were so conceived as to encourage it. Yukihira's appearance in response to Pining Wind's desire cannot be a religious event. Besides, he and the sisters are equally phantoms. Pining Wind is not flesh calling down spirit. Her yearning for Yukihira, although situated on a high imaginative plane, has nothing to do with transcendence. It is the quintessence of human love.

Human love returns one's thoughts to Genji and the Akashi lady. In his parting poem, Yukihira promised to come again should the sisters pine for him. Genji, on the night before his return to the capital, gave the lady a Chinese koto to remember him by, and she replied with a poem about its endless music being her own, ceaseless weeping. Genji's answer asked her never to re-tune the 'middle string', and promised that before she should need to, they would meet again.

Genji felt deeply for this lady. In her alone, among his varied loves, he found a personal distinction comparable to that of his wife, Murasaki. After their daughter was born, Genji urged the lady to come up to Miyako, but for a long time she refused, fearing many troubles and slights should she give in. At last, however, she moved to a property of her father's. The house stood by the wide reach of a river just west of the capital, in a grove of pines. As the novel observes repeatedly, the place resembled Akashi itself. One moonlit evening when Genji came visiting, the lady took out the koto he had given her there. The middle string was as it had been, and he spoke a poem about how, like this string, his own feelings had remained unchanged. 'Trusting in your promise to be true,' she replied, 'I added my own weeping music to the music of the pines.' Of course, Genji soon had to leave, his home being elsewhere— with Murasaki, in the heart of Miyako. The chapter that tells this story is called 'Matsukaze', or 'Wind in the Pines'.

To hear in part two of Pining Wind overtones of the Akashi lady's 'weeping music', and of the sad solace, it must rarely have brought her, is to re-emerge from the play's tense, distracted vision into the more open world of the great novel. In her villa by the river the lady could see Genji now and again, but his nearness only made him seem the more distant and her longing remained. She could not have him for her own. Murasaki was (for her) the shadow between them. For Genji, these two loves perhaps resembled the sisters who so troubled Narihira's heart in Ise Monogatari. Genji Monogatari itself intimates that they are a pair, since it was when Genji first spied the child Murasaki that he also first heard tell of the beauty of Akashi, of the eccentric official who had retired there, and of that official's only daughter. These two ladies' rival claims surely distressed Genji, but their perilously paired love must have had, for him, a rare, exalting beauty.

Not that Pining Wind and Autumn Rain are really the Akashi lady and Murasaki; not at all. They and Yukihira describe an essential pattern of which the novel offers only one example, and in any case, they are not actually people. To the extent that they have human form, one can talk about attachment and derangement, or even, in modern terms, character and psychology. However, they do not properly have a 'psychology'; nor are they Jungian archetypes. They are purified essences of human feeling, refined through centuries of the classical literary tradition. They are the twin voices of the music of longing. Genji heard both in the Akashi lady's playing. One starts and stops, the other murmurs for ever. When the dream of the sisters is over and day dawns, only the murmuring voice remains. The other voice was the concert, and the play.

A little Matsukaze and Murasame Chapel now stands about half a kilometre from the sea, in one corner of the playground on the western outskirts of K be. This is where Yukihira is said to have lived, and the sisters after him. A structure beside it shelters the ancient stump of the 'wind-bent pine'. A few kilometres away, in the hills, at a spot called Tai-no-hata, one finds 'the grave of Matsukaze and Murasame'. A scholar (Kanai Kiyomitsu) has noted that ritually pure young women from this locality used to go down to the shore and make salt to offer at their village shrine. On a plot in the village, surrounded by houses, stand stone funerary monuments large and small. Among them, a stele bears the two names of the sisters. Two gravestones, beside it, bear one name each. The names on the gravestones face towards Miyako.


This illuminating introduction comes from JAPANESE N  DRAMAS, edited and translated by Royall Tyler, published in Penguin Classics, where the complete text of this beautifully translated play can also be found.

ISBN: 0-14-044539-0 @ £7.99 (when I bought it in 1990!)



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