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The Singing Bird Of Heaven

from Japanese Fairy Tales





Ama Terassu, the Glorious, the Light of High Heaven, commanded, saying,
"His Augustness, my August Child, who is called the Conqueror, shall
descend to the land. For it is a Land of Luxuriant Reed Plains, a Land
of Fresh Rice Ears, a Land of a Thousand Autumns. So of this land he
shall be king."

Now his Augustness, the August Child, the Conqueror, stood upon the
Floating Bridge of Heaven and looked down, and he saw that there was a
great unquietness upon the Land of the Reed Plains. For earthly deities
made strife, and blood ran, and fearful sounds of war arose, even to
High Heaven. So the August Child, the heavenly born, turned back across
the Floating Bridge, and swore he would not descend to rule the land
until it should be cleansed.

And Ama Terassu, the Light of High Heaven, who had the sun set fast
between her eyes, bound her head with jewels, and gathered the deities
together in a divine assembly, to hold council in the Tranquil River
Bed. And she spoke and said, "Who shall subdue the land that I have
given to the August Child?"

And all the deities cried, "O Thine Augustness, send down the Lord of
Spears." Therefore the Lord of Spears went lightly down by the Floating
Bridge; and there were bound upon his back eight hundred spears.
Howbeit, he made a truce with the Lord of the Reed Plains and tarried
there; and for three years there was no report.

Therefore, once more the Queen of Heaven called him whom the gods name
Wonderful, and she called the Lord of Deep Thoughts, and likewise she
called every deity of Heaven, and they came to council in the Tranquil
River Bed, so that upon the sand there was left the print of their
august feet. And Ama Terassu said, "Behold now the Lord of Spears is
faithless. Whom shall we send to rule the land?" And the Young Prince
answered, "O Mother of Heaven, Thine Augustness, send me." And all the
deities assented with one accord and cried, "Send him, send him," till
there was a sound like thunder in the River Bed.

So the Young Prince bound on his sandals, and they brought to him the
great bow that stands in the Hall of High Heaven, and bestowed it upon
him, and they gave him many heavenly-feathered arrows. So they made him
ready, and they brought him to the Floating Bridge. And the Young Prince
descended lightly, while his garments shone with the glory of Heaven.
But when he touched the tops of the high hills, his heart beat fast and
his blood ran warm. Therefore he cut the fastening of his sandals and
cast them behind him, and he ran upon his bare feet, like an earthly
deity, and came to the palace upon the Reed Plains.

Now, at the door of the palace the Princess Undershining stood, like a
growing flower. So the Young Prince beheld her and loved her, and he
built him a dwelling upon the Reed Plains, and took the Princess for his
bride. And, because he loved her and her earthly children, he brought no
report to High Heaven, and he forgot the waiting deities. For Heaven was
vague to him as a dream.

But the gods were weary.

And Ama Terassu said, "Long, long tarries our messenger, and brings no
word again. My Lord, the August Child, waxes impatient; whom now shall
we send?" Thereupon, all the deities, and the Lord of Deep Thoughts,
replied, "Send down the Singing Bird, the beloved of High Heaven."

So Ama Terassu took the golden Singing Bird, and said, "Sweet music of
the divine gods, spread thou thy bright wings, and fly to the Land of
Reed Plains, and there search out the Young Prince, the messenger of
Heaven, and, when thou hast found him, sing in his ear this song: 'Ama
Terassu, the Goddess of the Sun, has sent me saying, How fares the quest
of High Heaven, and how fares the message? Where is the report of the
gods?'"

So the bird departed, singing. And she came to the Land of the Reed
Plains, and perched upon the branch of a fair cassia tree which grew
hard by the Young Prince's dwelling. Day and night, she sang, and the
gods in Heaven thought long for their sweet Singing Bird. Howbeit she
returned not again, but sat upon the branch of the cassia tree.

But the Young Prince gave no heed.

And She that Speaketh Evil heard the words that the bird sang. And she
whispered in the Young Prince's ear, "See now, my lord, this is an evil
bird, and evil is its cry; therefore take thou thine arrows and go forth
and slay it." So she urged continually, and, by glamour, she prevailed
upon him. Then the Young Prince arose, and took his bow and his
heavenly-feathered arrows, and he let fly an arrow into the branches of
the cassia tree. And suddenly the sweet sound of singing ceased, and the
golden bird fell dead, for the aim was true.

But the heavenly-feathered arrow took wing and pierced the floor of
Heaven, and reached the high place, where sat the Sun Goddess, together
with her August Counsellors, in the Tranquil River Bed of Heaven. And
the god called Wonderful took up the arrow, and beheld the blood upon
its feathers. And the Lord of Deep Thoughts said, "This is the arrow
that was given to the Young Prince," and he showed it to all the
deities. And he said, "If the Young Prince has shot this arrow at the
evil deities, according to our command, let it do him no hurt. But, if
his heart be not pure, then let the Young Prince perish by this arrow."
And he hurled the arrow back to earth.

Now the Young Prince lay upon a couch, sleeping. And the arrow fell,
and pierced his heart that he died.

Yet the sweet Singing Bird of Heaven returned no more; and the gods were
sorrowful.

Howbeit, the Young Prince lay dead upon his bed; and the wailing of his
spouse, the Princess Undershining, re-echoed in the wind, and was heard
in Heaven. So the Young Prince's father descended with cries and
lamentations, and there was built a mourning house upon the Land of Reed
Plains, and the Young Prince was laid there.

And there came to mourn for him the wild goose of the river, and the
pheasant, and the kingfisher. And they mourned for him eight days and
eight nights.





Next: The Cold Lady

Previous: The Robe Of Feathers



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