Excerpt from Kusamakura by Natsume Soseki. though it is, a thin thread of sound is pulsing faintly in the sleepy spring night. Strangely, it’s not only the melody that comes to me; when I concentrate, I can also make out the song’s words, though catching them from such distant singing would seem impossible. They are repeating over and over the song of the Nagara maiden:
Small, low voice
As the autumn’s dew
that lies a moment on the tips
of the seeding grass,
so do I know that I too must
fade and be gone from this brief world.
At first the voice sounds quite close to the balcony, but it grows gradually fainter and more distant. When a thing finishes abruptly, you register the abruptness of its ending, and the loss is not deeply moving to you. A voice that breaks off decisively will produce a decisive feeling of completion in the listener. But when a phenomenon fades naturally away toward nothing with no real pause or break, the listening heart shrinks with each dwindling minute and each waning second to a thinner forlornness. Like the beloved dying husband who yet does not die, the guttering flame that still flickers on, this song racks my heart with anticipation of its end and holds within its melody all the bitter sorrows of the world’s transient springs.
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