restricted access Bun'iko
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173 BUN’IKŌ Kamo no Mabuchi | ca. 1764 [This is a short essay where Mabuchi instructs the reader that while poetry is something that comes from within the individual, literature “bun” occurs from without. He discusses the state of ancient literature before the defilement of foreign cultures caused a change. He lists four different traits that ancient literature demonstrated: masculinity, meekness, (the elegance in) festivals, and (the power of) auspicious words for the completion of a new dwelling.] PREFACE1 At present we [Mabuchi’s students] are busy publishing this and that of our master’s works. People pose various questions to me concerning my master ’s philosophy; needless to say, in reply, I try to show scholars of antiquity this work, Bun’ikō. From among the many of our master’s rough draft manuscripts , we have made one selection. This work is not complete, but it is a shame to publish just one manuscript [Kaikō], so we add this volume to where Kaikō left off. Tenth month of Kansei 12 [1800] Arakida Hisaoyu BUN’IKŌ People who lived in the divine age put their uncontrollable feelings within their hearts into expression through song. This is known as uta. When the eye witnessed something or the ear heard something, and the ancient Japanese could not keep his feelings to himself, he would thus string words together and vocalize these. These words are called words of praise. Later ages labeled this “literature.” Therefore, song occurs from within a person, and literature occurs from without.2 At certain times people in society mention these two, po1 . My translation is based on the popular manuscript. 2. That is, poetry occurs from emotions generated within, while literature is a representation of things occurring outside (or around) the person. 174 Views on Literature etry and literature, for poetry soothes one’s heart and comforts one’s mind, praising the works of the kami of heaven and earth, and becoming the vehicle for the imperial edicts. Because of this, there is nothing in the world that is lacking. Thus, ancient everyday speech was proper, so people composed poetry and literature with everyday words. From among these everyday usages, when the distinction of poetry and literature had evolved, the Japanese began to naturally add ornamental words, and these literary pursuits became beautiful. It is human nature to compose poetry extolling the beautiful color or fragrance of plants and trees and avoid poorly rhyming sounds like those produced from birds and insects. Any word that was pleasant or stirring was considered fitting for expression. Therefore, the act of expressing oneself is a fearful exercise.3 The kami of heaven adore beautifully spoken words of praise. Because the eternally brilliant,4 highly revered emperor also calms violent men through the lofty, splendid words of imperial edicts, what person who was born in the imperial country does not feel joy from these edicts? And in middle antiquity, central like one of three branches, our country imported written works from foreign countries. With Japan’s narrow view of the world, many of these works were easily taken in and accepted, and the common man lost the ability to comprehend the Way of our Imperial ruler, which conforms to heaven and earth. Because people did not study these ancient Japanese works, the Japanese forgot their own customs, and now there is not one person who writes in the ancient tradition. People rarely write in the ancient tradition, but they compose prose in imitation of these foreign works, or worse, they mix in Chinese characters, producing works that are neither truly Japanese nor Chinese, being incomplete representations of each. Then there have been people who have felt that this situation was unsatisfactory , but [their solution was to] use Japanese words in a literary style where this style is strictly forbidden, or they use phrases unaware of male and female literary nuances. Also, they put sentences together without any thought for the content or purpose of the work. Some people did not differentiate between ancient and later era word usages, but just strung them 3. This idea is grounded in the belief in kotodama. See note 2, p. 140. The idea that a word became an active entity once vocalized is quite old in Japan. Thus, praise had a wondrous effect, or a terrible result when used as a curse. 4. One of the idiosyncrasies of Mabuchi’s writing is an attempt to bring back the ancient custom of using epithets before certain nouns. The...


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