The Spring Lover And The Autumn Lover
: Japanese Fairy Tales
This is a story of the youth of Yamato, when the gods still walked upon
the Land of the Reed Plains and took pleasure in the fresh and waving
rice-ears of the country-side.
There was a lady having in her something of earth and something of
heaven. She was a king's daughter. She was augustly radiant and
renowned. She was called the Dear Delight of the World, the Greatly
Desired, the Fairest of the Fair. Sh
was slender and strong, at once
mysterious and gay, fickle yet faithful, gentle yet hard to please. The
gods loved her, but men worshipped her.
The coming of the Dear Delight was on this wise. Prince Ama Boko had a
red jewel of one of his enemies. The jewel was a peace-offering. Prince
Ama Boko set it in a casket upon a stand. He said, "This is a jewel of
price." Then the jewel was transformed into an exceeding fair lady. Her
name was the Lady of the Red Jewel, and Prince Ama Boko took her to
wife. There was born to them one only daughter, who was the Greatly
Desired, the Fairest of the Fair.
It is true that eighty men of name came to seek her hand. Princes they
were, and warriors, and deities. They came from near and they came from
far. Across the Sea Path they came in great ships, white sails or
creaking oars, with brave and lusty sailors. Through the forests dark
and dangerous they made their way to the Princess, the Greatly Desired;
or lightly, lightly they descended by way of the Floating Bridge in
garments of glamour and silver-shod. They brought their gifts with
them--gold, fair jewels upon a string, light garments of feathers,
singing birds, sweet things to eat, silk cocoons, oranges in a basket.
They brought minstrels and singers and dancers and tellers of tales to
entertain the Princess, the Greatly Desired.
As for the Princess, she sat still in her white bower with her maidens
about her. Passing rich was her robe, and ever and anon her maidens
spread it afresh over the mats, set out her deep sleeves, or combed her
long hair with a golden comb.
Round about the bower was a gallery of white wood, and here the suitors
came and knelt in the presence of their liege lady.
Many and many a time the carp leapt in the garden fish-pond. Many and
many a time a scarlet pomegranate flower fluttered and dropped from the
tree. Many and many a time the lady shook her head and a lover went his
way, sad and sorry.
Now it happened that the God of Autumn went to try his fortune with the
Princess. He was a brave young man indeed. Ardent were his eyes; the
colour flamed in his dark cheek. He was girded with a sword that ten men
could not lift. The chrysanthemums of autumn burned upon his coat in
cunning broidery. He came and bent his proud head to the very ground
before the Princess, then raised it and looked her full in the eyes. She
opened her sweet red lips--waited--said nothing--but shook her head.
So the God of Autumn went forth from her presence, blinded with his
He found his younger brother, the God of Spring.
"How fares it with you, my brother?" said the God of Spring.
"Ill, ill indeed, for she will not have me. She is the proud lady. Mine
is the broken heart."
"Ah, my brother!" said the God of Spring.
"You'd best come home with me, for all is over with us," said the God of
But the God of Spring said, "I stay here."
"What," cried his brother, "is it likely, then, that she will take you
if she'll have none of me? Will she love the smooth cheeks of a child
and flout the man full grown? Will you go to her, brother? She'll laugh
at you for your pains."
"Still I will go," said the God of Spring.
"A wager! A wager!" the God of Autumn cried. "I'll give you a cask of
sake if you win her--sake for the merry feast of your wedding. If
you lose her, the sake will be for me. I'll drown my grief in it."
"Well, brother," said the God of Spring, "I take the wager. You'll have
your sake like enough indeed."
"And so I think," said the God of Autumn, and went his ways.
Then the young God of Spring went to his mother, who loved him.
"Do you love me, my mother?" he said.
She answered, "More than a hundred existences."
"Mother," he said, "get me for my wife the Princess, the Fairest of the
Fair. She is called the Greatly Desired; greatly, oh, greatly, do I
"You love her, my son?" said his mother.
"More than a hundred existences," he said.
"Then lie down, my son, my best beloved, lie down and sleep, and I will
work for you."
So she spread a couch for him, and when he was asleep she looked on him.
"Your face," she said, "is the sweetest thing in the world."
There was no sleep for her the live-long night, but she went swiftly to
a place she knew of, where the wistaria drooped over a still pool. She
plucked her sprays and tendrils and brought home as much as she could
carry. The wistaria was white and purple, and you must know it was not
yet in flower, but hidden in the unopened bud. From it she wove
magically a robe. She fashioned sandals also, and a bow and arrows.
In the morning she waked the God of Spring.
"Come, my son," she said, "let me put this robe on you."
The God of Spring rubbed his eyes. "A sober suit for courting," he said.
But he did as his mother bade him. And he bound the sandals on his feet,
and slung the bow and the arrows in their quiver on his back.
"Will all be well, my mother?" he said.
"All will be well, beloved," she answered him.
So the God of Spring came before the Fairest of the Fair. And one of her
maidens laughed and said:
"See, mistress, there comes to woo you to-day only a little plain boy,
all in sober grey."
But the Fairest of the Fair lifted up her eyes and looked upon the God
of Spring. And in the same moment the wistaria with which he was clothed
burst into flower. He was sweet-scented, white and purple from head to
The Princess rose from the white mats.
"Lord," she said, "I am yours if you will have me."
Hand in hand they went together to the mother of the God of Spring.
"Ah, my mother," he said, "what shall I do now? My brother the God of
Autumn is angry with me. He will not give me the sake I have won from
him in a wager. Great is his rage. He will seek to take our lives."
"Be still, beloved," said his mother, "and fear not."
She took a cane of hollow bamboo, and in the hollow she put salt and
stones; and when she had wrapped the cane round with leaves, she hung it
in the smoke of the fire. She said:
"The green leaves fade and die. So you must do, my eldest born, the God
of Autumn. The stone sinks in the sea, so must you sink. You must sink,
you must fail, like the ebb tide."
Now the tale is told, and all the world knows why Spring is fresh and
merry and young, and Autumn the saddest thing that is.