Writers: Zeami Motokiyo


To shidai music, Rensho enters, carrying a rosary. He

stands in the shite spot, facing the rear of the stage.


The world is all a dream, and he who wakes

the world is all a dream, and he who wakes,

casting it from him, may yet know the real.

( Turns to audience .)

You have before you one who in his time was Kumagai no Jiro Naozane, a warrior from Musashi Province. Now I have renounced the world, and Rensho is my name. It was I, you understand, who struck Atsumori down; and the great sorrow of this deed moved me to become the monk you see. Now I am setting out for Ichi-no-tani, to comfort Atsumori and guide his spirit toward enlightenment.

The wandering moon,

issuing from among the Ninefold Clouds,

issuing from among the Ninefold Clouds,

( Mimes walking .)

swings southward by Yodo and Yamazaki,

past Koya Pond and the lkuta River,

and Suma shore, loud with pounding waves,

to Ichi-no-tani, where I have arrived,

to Ichi-no-tani, where I have arrived.

Having come so swiftly, I have reached Ichinotani in the province of Settsu. Ah, the past returns to mind as though it were before me now. But what is this? I hear a flute from that upper field. I will wait for the player to come by and question him about what happened here.

Sits below the witness pillar. To shidai music, the Youth and Companions enter. Each carries a split bamboo pole with a bunch of mown grass secured in the cleft. They face each other at the front.


The sweet music of the mower's flute,

the sweet music of the mower's flute

floats, windborne, far across the fields.

Youth :

Those who gather grass on yonder hill

now start for home, for twilight is at hand.


They too head back to Suma, by the sea,

and their way, like mine, is hardly long.

Back and forth I ply, from hill to shore;

heart heavy with the cares of thankless toil.

Yes, should one perchance ask after me,

my reply would speak of lonely grief.

On Suma shore

the salty drops fall fast, though were I known,

the salty drops fall fast, though were I known,

I myself might hope to have a friend.

Yet, having sunk so low, I am forlorn,

and those whom I once loved are strangers now.

While chanting these lines, Youth goes to stand in the shite spot, Companions in front of the chorus.

But I resign myself to what life brings,

and accept what griefs are mine to bear,

and accept what griefs are mine to bear.

 Rensho rises .

RENSHO : Excuse me, mowers, but I have a question for you.

Youth : For us, reverend sir? What is it, then?

RENSHO : Was it one of you I just heard playing the flute?

Youth : Yes, it was one of us.

RENSHO : How touching! For people such as you, that is a remarkably elegant thing to do! Oh yes, it is very touching.

Youth : It is a remarkably elegant thing, you say, for people like us to do? The proverb puts the matter well: " Envy none above you, despise none below. " Besides,

the woodman's songs and the mower's flute


are called " sylvan lays " and " pastoral airs " :

they nourish, too, many a poet's work,

and ring out very bravely through the world.

You need not wonder, then, to hear me play.


I do not doubt that what you say is right.

Then, " sylvan lays " or " pastoral airs "

Youth :

mean the mower's flute,


the woodman's songs:

Youth :

music to ease all the sad trials of life,



Youth :



fluting ---

Youth :

all these pleasures

Youth begins to move and gesture in consonance with the text .


are pastimes not unworthy of those

who care to seek out beauty: for bamboo,

who care to seek out beauty: for bamboo,

washed up by the sea, yields Little Branch,

Cicada Wing, and other famous flutes;

while this one, that the mower blows,

could be Greenleaf, as you will agree.

Perhaps upon the beach at Sumiyoshi,

one might expect instead a Koma flute;

but this is Suma. Imagine, if you will,

a flute of wood left from saltmakers' fires

a flute of wood left from saltmakers' fires.

Exeunt Companions. Youth, in the shite spot, turns to Rensho .

RENSHO : How strange! While the other mowers have gone home, you have stayed on, alone. Why is this?

Youth : You ask why have I stayed behind? A voice called me here, chanting the Name. O be kind and grant me the Ten Invocations!

RENSHO : Very gladly. I will give you Ten Invocations, as you ask. But then tell me who you are.

Youth : In truth, I am someone with a tie to Atsumori.


One with a tie to Atsumori?

Ah, the name recalls such memories! ( Presses his palms together in prayer over his rosary .)

" Namu Amida Butsu, " I chant in prayer:

Youth goes down on one knee and presses his palms together .


"If I at last become a Buddha,

then all sentient beings who call my Name

in all the worlds, in the ten directions,

will find welcome in Me, for I abandon none. "


Then, O monk, do not abandon me!

One calling of the Name should be enough,

but you have comforted me by night and day ---

a most precious gift! As to my name,

no silence I might keep could quite conceal

the one you pray for always, dawn and dusk;

( Youth rises .)

that name is my own. And, having spoken,

he fades away and is lost to view,

he fades away and is lost to view. Exit Youth .


Villager passes by and, in response to Rensho's

request for information, describes how Atsumori was defeated

by Kumagai on this very coast. He expresses deep sympathy for

the former and a fierce hatred for the latter. Rensho reveals his

identity. Greatly surprised, the Villager apologizes for his

previous indignation, advises Rensho to pray for the peace of

Atsumori's spirit, and exits .



Then it is well: to guide and comfort him,

then it is well: to guide and comfort him,

I shall do holy rites, and through the night

call aloud the Name for Atsumori,

praying that he reach enlightenment,

praying that he reach enlightenment.

To issei music, Atsumori enters, in the costume of a warrior. He

stops in the shite spot .


Across to Awaji the plovers fly,

while the Suma barrier guard sleeps on;

yet one, I see, keeps night-long vigil here.

O keeper of the pass, tell me your name.

Behold, Rensho: I am Atsumori.


Strange! As I chant aloud the Name,

beating out the rhythm on this gong,

and wakeful as ever in broad day,

I see Atsumori come before me.

The sight can only be a dream.


Why need you take it for a dream?

For I have come so far to be with you

in order to clear karma that is real.


I do not understand you: for the Name

has power to clear away all trace of sin.

Call once upon the name of Amida

and your countless sins will be no more:

so the sutra promises. As for me,

I have always called the Name for you.

How could sinful karma afflict you still?


Deep as the sea it runs. O lift me up,


that I too may come to buddhahood!


Let each assure the other's life to come,


for we, once enemies,


are now become,


in very truth,


fast friends in the Law.

Below, Atsumori moves and gestures in consonance with the text .


Now I understand!

"Leave the company of an evil friend,

cleave to the foe you judge a good man" :

and that good man is you! O I am grateful!

How can I thank you as you deserve?

Then I will make confession of my tale,

and pass the night recounting it to you,

and pass the night recounting it to you.

( Atsumori sits on a stool at the center, facing the audience .)

The flowers of spring rise up and deck the trees

to urge all upward to illumination;

the autumn moon plumbs the waters' depths

to show grace from on high saving all beings.


Rows of Taira mansions lined the streets:

we were the leafy branches on the trees.


Like the rose of Sharon, we flowered one day;

but as the Teaching that enjoins the Good

is seldom found, birth in the human realm

quickly ends, like a spark from a flint.

This we never knew, nor understood

that vigor is followed by decline.


Lords of the land we were, but caused much grief;


blinded by wealth, we never knew our pride.

( Atsumori rises now and dances through the kuse passage below .)

Yes, the house of Taira ruled the world

twenty years and more: a generation

that passed by as swiftly as a dream.

Then came the Juei years, and one sad fall,

when storms stripped the trees of all their leaves

and scattered them to the four directions,

we took to our fragile, leaflike ships,

and tossed in restless sleep upon the waves.

Our very dreams foretold no return.

We were like caged birds that miss the clouds,

or homing geese that have lost their way.

We never lingered long under one sky,

but traveled on for days, and months, and years,

till at last spring came round again,

and we camped here, at Ichinotani.

So we stayed on, hard by Suma shore,


while winds swept down upon us off the hills.


The fields were bitterly cold. At the sea's edge

our ships huddled close, while day and night

the plovers cried, and our own poor sleeves

wilted in the spray that drenched the beach.

Together in the seafolk's huts we slept,

till we ourselves joined these villagers,

bent to their life like the wind-bent pines.

The evening smoke rose from our cooking fires

while we sat about on heaps of sticks

piled upon the beach, and thought and thought

of how we were at Suma, in the wilds,

and we ourselves belonged to Suma now,

even as we wept for all our clan.

Atsumori stands in front of the drums .


Then came the sixth night of the Second Month.

My father, Tsunemori, summoned us

to play and dance, and sing imayo .


Why, that was the music I remember!

A flute was playing so sweetly in their camp!

We, the attackers, heard it well enough.


It was Atsumori's flute, you see:

the one I took with me to my death


and that you wished to play this final time,


while from every throat


rose songs and poems


sung in chorus to a lively beat.

( Dance : chu-no-mai)

Atsumori performs a lively chu-no-mai, ending in the shite spot. Below, he continues dancing and miming in consonance with the text .


Then, in time, His Majesty's ship sailed,


with the whole clan behind him in their own.

Anxious to be aboard, I sought the shore,

but all the warships and the imperial barge

stood already far, far out to sea.


I was stranded. Reining in my horse,

I halted, at a loss for what to do.


There came then, galloping behind me,

Kumagai no Jiro Naozane,

shouting, " You will not escape my arm! "

At this Atsumori wheeled his mount

and swiftly, all undaunted, drew his sword.

We first exchanged a few rapid blows,

then, still on horseback, closed to grapple, fell,

and wrestled on, upon the wave-washed strand.

But you had bested me, and I was slain.

Now karma brings us face to face again.

" You are my foe! " Atsumori shouts,

( Brandishes sword .)

lifting his sword to strike; but Kumagai

( He drops to one knee .)

with kindness has repaid old enmity,

( Rises, retreats .)

calling the Name to give the spirit peace.

They at last shall be reborn together

upon one lotus throne in paradise.

Rensho, you were no enemy of mine.

( He drops his sword and, in the shite spot, turns to Rensho with

palms pressed together .)

Pray for me, O pray for my release!

Pray for me, O pray for my release!

Facing right center from the shite spot, stamps the final beat .