Tuesday, 3 February 2009

From The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Trans. Meredith McKinney.

A man comes calling, perhaps for some intimate conversation, or maybe he's simply turned up when there's a gathering of ladies talking together behind the screen, so he settles down and joins them. Time passes, and still he shows no sign of going home. The man or youth who's accompanied him peers anxiously in from time to time, muttering glumly, "I'll be waiting till the very axe rots at this rate." He heaves a great yawn, and says aloud, apparently on the innocent assumption that no one will overhear, "Oh me, oh my, the sorrows and sufferings I go through! Will the night never end?" This is horrible enough under normal circumstances, but of course it's quite horrible when the gentleman is there to call on the woman he loves. Not that you care one way or the other about this person himself, but his words cast a sudden pall over your impression of the gentleman who's seemed so engaging till now.


It's also horrible to overhear someone waiting beyond the lattice fence remark, "It looks like rain."


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