The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu

As the autumn season approaches the Tsuchimikado becomes inexpressibly smile-giving. The tree-tops near the pond, the bushes near the stream, are dyed in varying tints whose colours grow deeper in the mellow light of evening. The murmuring sound of waters mingles all the night through with the never-ceasing recitation of sutras which appeal more to one's heart as the breezes grow cooler. The ladies waiting upon her honoured presence are talking idly. The Queen hears them; she must find them annoying, but she conceals it calmly. Her beauty needs no words of mine to praise it, but I cannot help feeling that to be near so beautiful a queen will be the only relief from my sorrow. So in spite of my better desires [for a religious life] I am here. Nothing else dispels my grief  –it is wonderful!

It is still the dead of night, the moon is dim and darkness lies under the trees. We hear an officer call, "The outer doors of the Queen's apartment must be opened. The maids-of-honour are not yet come–let the Queen's secretaries come forward! " While this order is being given the three-o'clock bell resounds, startling the air. Immediately the prayers at the five altars begin. The voices of the priests in loud recitation, vying with each other far and near, are solemn indeed. The Abbot of the Kanon-in Temple, accompanied by twenty priests, comes from the eastern side building to pray. Even their footsteps along the gallery which sound to'-do-ro to'-do-ro are sacred. The head priest of the Hoju Temple goes to the mansion near the race-track, the prior of the Henji Temple goes to the library. I follow with my eyes when the holy figures in pure white robes cross the stately Chinese bridge and walk along the broad path. Even Azaliah Saisa bends the body in reverence before the deity Daiitoku. The maids-of-honour arrive at dawn.

I can see the garden from my room beside the entrance to the gallery. The air is misty, the dew is still on the leaves. The Lord Prime Minister is walking there; he orders his men to cleanse the brook. He breaks off a stalk of omenaishi [flower maiden] which is in full bloom by the south end of the bridge. He peeps in over my screen! His noble appearance embarrasses us, and I am ashamed of my morning [not yet painted and powdered] face. He says, "Your poem on this! If you delay so much the fun is gone!" [] 


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