I shall await you with a sprig of blossoming chrysanthemum and poor saké

From Ueda Akinari’s The Chrysanthemum Vow in his Tales of Moonlight and Rain.  Mine is the Anthony Chambers translation from Columbia Univ. Press in 2007.  I cried like a man at this story and tested a new cocktail to settle the spirits.

During this time, thinking what a good friend he had found, Samon spent his days and nights with Akana. As they talked together, Akana began to speak hesitantly of various Chinese thinkers, regarding whom his questions and understanding were exceptional, and on military theory he spoke with authority. Finding that their thoughts and feelings were in harmony on every subject, the two were filled with mutual admiration and joy, and finally they pledged their brotherhood. Being the elder by five years, Akana, in the role of older brother, accepted Samon’s expressions of respect and said to him, “Many years have passed since I lost my father and mother. Your aged mother is now my mother, and I should like to pay my respects to her anew. I wonder if she will take pity on me and agree to my childish wish.” Samon was overjoyed: “My mother has always lamented that I was alone. Your heartfelt words will give her a new lease on life when I convey them to her.” With this, he took Akana to his house, where his mother greeted them joyfully: “My son lacks talent, his studies are out of step with the times, and so he has missed his chance to advance in the world. I pray that you do not abandon him, but guide him as his elder brother.” Akana bowed deeply and said, “A man of character values what is right. Fame and fortune are not worthy of mention. Blessed with my honored mother’s love, and receiving the respect of my wise younger brother—what more could I desire?” Rejoicing, he stayed for some time.

Although they had flowered, it seemed, only yesterday or today, the cherry blossoms at Onoe had scattered, and waves rising with a refreshing breeze proclaimed that early summer had arrived. Akana said to Samon and his mother, “Since it was to see how things stand in Izumo that I escaped from Ōmi, I should like to go down there briefly and then come back to repay your kindness humbly as a servant living on bean gruel and water. Please allow me to take my leave for a time.” Samon said, “If it must be so, my brother, when will you return?” Akana said, “The months and days will pass quickly. At the latest, I shall return before the end of this autumn.” Samon said, “On what day of autumn shall I expect you? I beg you to appoint the time.” Akana said, “Let us decide, then, that the Chrysanthemum Festival, the ninth day of the Ninth Month, shall be the day of my return.” Samon said, “Please be certain not to mistake the day. I shall await you with a sprig of blossoming chrysanthemum and poor saké.” Mutually they pledged their reunion and lamented their separation, and Akana returned to the west.

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