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K A T S U N O R I Y A M A Z A T O University of the Ryukyus A Note onJapanese Allusions in Gary Snyder’s Poetry Recent criticism of the poetry of Gary Snyder has focused on the poet’s use of allusions.1 While Buddhist and Chinese allusions have gradually been identified and explicated, the equally important Japanese allusions in Snyder’s poetry have attracted little attention. Reflecting the poet’s Japa­ nese years (1956-1968), these allusions range widely over such subjects as classical Japanese literature, folklore, religion, and the Japanese way of life in general. The allusions to the Japanese subjects indeed are so varied that a coherent discussion of them would require a much longer study than the present one. Instead of attempting an exhaustive discussion of Snyder’s Japanese allusions, then, I would like to narrow my focus and discuss a few representative examples. In poem 4 in the “Logging” section in Myths & Texts, Snyder alludes to a Noh play, Takasago, written by Zeami (or Seami) Motokiyo (13631443 ). Snyder juxtaposes the allusion to the play with scenes from “log­ ging,” the mindless destruction of nature the poet has witnessed at the early stage of his poetic career: 1See Ekbert Faas, ed., Towards a New American Poetics: Essays and Interviews (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1978), p. 140; Anthony Hunt, “Bubbs Creek Haircut: Gary Snyder’s ‘Great Departure’ in Mountains and Rivers Without End," Western American Literature, 15 (1980), 163-75; Dan McLeod, “Some Images of China in the Works of Gary Snyder,” Tamkang Review, 10 (1980), 369-83. 144 Western American Literature Pines, under pines, Seami Motokiyo The Doer stamps his foot. A thousand board-feet Bucked, skidded, loaded — (Takasago, Ise) float in a mill pond; A thousand years dancing Flies in the saw kerf.2 The first three lines in the passage cited allude to the stage setting and the author of Takasago. In the Noh play, two pine trees appear on the stage, symbolizing both prosperity and longevity. “The Doer” (or the principal actor; shite in Japanese) is the spirit of one of the pine trees who in the shape of an old man engages in a conversation with a travelling priest.3 The characteristic Noh movement of the Doer (“The Doer stamps his foot” ) triggers an ironic shift to the next three lines, a metonymic repre­ sentation of the destruction of nature. The embedded flashback to Taka­ sago and Ise suggests that even the sacred pine trees at these places are not totally free from the destructive attitude toward nature.4“A thousand years dancing” alludes to the celebrated longevity of the pine tree at Takasago: Among them all, this pine Surpasses all other trees, Attired in the princely robe Of green of [a] thousand autumns, Timeless fresh forever. By Shiko a court rank Bestowed, the superb tree, Overseas and in the land alike Byall isloved and admired.5 Takasago ends with the pine god’s dance, kamimai, which gives blessing to the land; and the whole play is usually construed as a hymn to the sacred 2Myths & Texts (NewYork: Totem Press, 1960;rpt. NewYork: New Directions, 1978), p. 6. 3For the details of Takasago, see Chifumi Shimazaki, trans., The Noh (Tokyo: Hinoki Shoten, 1972), I, 112-39. 4Cf. “The most renowned of pine-trees are the two at Takasago, whose genii are said to appear often in the moonlight, like a white haired man and his wife, clearing with besoms the ground strewn with pine-needles.” Masaharu Anesaki, Japanese Mythology, Vol. V III of The Mythology of All Races (Boston: Marchall Jones, 1937), p. 340. Snyder was familiar with this book while writing his B.A. thesis at Reed College. 'Shimazaki, p. 128. Shiko is the Japanese pronunciation of Shih Huangti, the first Emperor of Ch’in (259-210 B . C . ) . Katsunori Yamazato 145 pines which are the symbols of prosperity and longevity. Instead of cele­ brating nature, however, Snyder shows us its destruction in our time: “A thousand years dancing / Flies in the saw kerf.” The dramatic vision in Takasago presents a harmonious interaction between the gods of the sacred pine trees and the travellers, and, needless to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 143-148
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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