The Devil in Paris, Chapter 3

May 23, 2022

The Devil in Paris, Chapter 3

May 23, 2022

CHAPTER THREE

A week later, John Garrett was shown into Madame’s apartment by an old servant. He glanced at the dark, wizened man and smelled brimstone.  Madame was known to choose her servants carefully. Life could be a subterranean maze in Paris. He knew other demons in the city and all were not friendly devils.

“Ah, John!  Bonjour!”  Madame was drinking tea with a young woman, one Garrett did not immediately recognize. 

“You remember Mlle. Luciern?  What changes we have wrought! Such an elegant young woman!  What man in his right mind could resist her! Could you, John?”

Ah, thought Garrett.  Madame is up to her old tricks.  She insists in making me part of her plans.

Madame’s eyes glittered as she turned to look at the young woman sitting across the tea table. Garrett bowed over the hand of Louise, and then stood back to look at Mlle. Luciern.

Madame had indeed worked her magic.  Mlle. was coifed and gowned like a young, elegant Parisian matron. He admired her hair, piled high on her head, with many curls and loops and one long thick sausage over her shoulder. At least Madame’s hairdresser had forgone the powder and her natural color was preserved. Mlle’s complexion was good but now she had some bloom in her cheeks.  He knew this was all art, for Louise was an expert with faces and makeup.  He saw Mlle. had only two black satin patches on her face, one near the left eye, and one near the mouth, to draw attention to her painted lips. Her lips did look alluring. Looked like they were stung by an amorous bee.

Garrett cocked his head to the side, his gaze traveling down her figure.  Her morning dress was light blue silk.  Ruffles framed her breast.  Garrett let his eyes linger only a second, but Mlle. did present a lovely bosom to onlookers.  He knew this was due to more of Madame’s magic – this time with pads in the corset.  Round, delicate mounds above and the merest of rouged nipples appeared like little mouse noses peeking over the tops of the corset.  Such was the fashion for seduction.  He wondered how far Madame had corrupted her student.

“No, Madame Gormosy, no man could resist such a beautiful young woman.”

Garrett was surprised to see Margot blush so deeply.  At least Madame’s instructions had not destroyed this vestige of virtue in the girl.

“Mlle. is a good student, John.  She learns fast and takes an interest in her future.  Her mother will be proud of her.  We will get her matched up with the proper husband soon enough.  But as I have told Mlle. Margot, there is plenty time for an engagement.  Now is to be given to sharpening her feminine skills. That way she will attract the best prospect for her future happiness. Mais bon Dieu!   She is still so young and innocent.  We must hone her wit and deportment.  Nothing like the polish upon an apple to attract the proper bites.”

Garrett stared at Madame Gormosy.  He could easily see through her designs, but of course, the young woman was too naïve to understand what was happening right under her nose. She was a pretty morsel, and it was hard to take his eyes from parts of her.  The swell of her breast, how gently they rose with an almost imperceptible movement. He could feast his eyes on those two tender pieces of flesh all morning. How much more alluring they would be if she were panting, he thought.  A sly smile appeared on his face.

Ah, Madame Gormosy was full of devilry this morning.

Louise Gormosy spoke with a tone of excitement.  “Today we will work on the great science of “coquetry”.  Non, M. Garrett, do not laugh, for women have their own science.  Let the men work with fire and chemicals.  We women have our own fire and it is called “Les Passions!”

Garrett winced and hoped Mlle. Margot would forgive the bad prose of her patroness.  But Madame would press her case.

“Surely Mlle. Margot has higher aspirations than to be a housewife to her husband. It is a most contemptible and unfashionable position for any women of breeding, and has no social standing except for a parson’s wife or a lowly farmer’s.  Ah Dieu!  Mlle. is made by nature for much finer things!”

Garrett wondered if the word “God” did not burn the inside of Madame’s mouth, but since she was an old devil, he imagined she would have a mouth immune to heat.  Still, he had heard this speech before, but he could not remember when.  Perhaps it was another time in another century, while attending Madame under similar circumstances, that she had used these same words.  They seemed familiar to him in any case. He heard her drone on.

“Now, Mlle. Margot, advice today is seen as ridiculous to be given, and even more ridiculous to be taken, but your dear maman would want you to listen to me very closely. Alors!  She has given you into my hands for more than to fluff your beautiful hair and plump your fine bosom.  It is her choicest desire to prepare you for entrance into the best of society and this is the path to catch the eyes of a husband.  Have you read Madame d’Effine’s letters? Non?  Pity.  But I can supply you a copy of her book.  Or better yet, I can give you the benefit of my long experience.”

Garrett could not stop a smile creeping across his face.  Mlle Margot would have no idea just how long that experience really was.  Yes, Mlle Luciern, it goes back a long way.  Whether Madame could read his mind, which was standard fare amongst devils, or she caught a glimpse of his sly smile, she turned around suddenly and gave Garrett a jaundiced look.  His face went neutral and he closed his eyes in compliance.  He would not interrupt her behavior.  Besides, it was an entertaining morning’s visit.

“Now, Mlle.Margot.  Virtue is all very fine and good, but to get a husband, or any admirer, a woman must use what attributes she has and more.  A fine voice, the ability to cut to the heart of a man’s desire just with the cast of your eyes, the flutter of your fan, ah!  There is so much to learn, but we will persist.  Now, M.Garrett, please attend to Mlle. and lead her around the room, s’il vous plait.

Garrett stood and offered his arm to Mlle. Margot.  They walked around the large salon, Mlle. Margot only standing as high as his chest.  He was a tall and well- built man, with broad shoulders, and Mlle. of course  petite next to him.  He observed her blush as she placed her hand on his and looked up into his face. 

Entertaining as Madame was, he was beginning to have his doubts about her plans.  He believed this young woman to be innocent.  He rarely, now that he thought of it, came across a woman so – uncorrupted, and certainly not in Paris. The thought crossed his mind: Quel dommage, as Madame liked to say.  Perhaps he would have his own plan for Mlle. Luciern.  What was a little competition between devils?  They had shared tender morsels before in their long history.

Eh bien! Attendezmoi!  John, give me the advantage of your eyes.  Tell me what you think are the best points of Mlle.’s figure.  Does that style of dress, the color suit her the best, mon ami?  Speak what her beau would say, and let us see how Mlle. reacts to such praise!”

Ah, it was clear what Madame’s plan was now! Madame was a terrible devil this morning, and she would have her fun at the expense of the painful blushes of Mlle. He decided to turn the game to his own advantage, and perhaps spare Mlle some pain.

At that very moment, the old devil servant of Madame Gormosy slipped into the room and approaching quickly, whispered into the ear of his mistress.  Madame cocked her head towards his mouth, and though she did not take her eyes from John Garrett and Mlle. Luciern, Garrett saw they grew dark with concern. Muttering some curses low under her breath, she rose and went with her servant from the room, forgetting her two guests.

Garrett took the time of Madame’s absence to lead Mlle. Luciern to a chair and to sit down across from her.  He observed Mlle. sink gratefully into her seat, and with a motion beneath her skirts, kick off one shoe.

“Ah, Mlle, does your foot hurt?”

“M.Garrett, I can not get used to these narrow shoes Madame makes me wear.  I am not used to this fashion.  And if you would know further, I am not used to these headaches. They are from my hair pulled from my head and pinned so tightly. And I can breathe only a little. Madame demands my corset be laced tight.”  Mlle. blushed, but Garrett could hear in the distress in her voice.

“Ah! I sympathize.  Perhaps you think what Madame does here is far off the mark?”

“I don’t understand what you mean, Monsieur.” Another sharp kick under her skirts and off came the other shoe.

“Mlle Luciern.  Forgive my blunt words, but Madame is an “old fogey” as we say in England.  She means well, but she is generations behind in her thinking.”

How many generations Mlle could never guess.

Tears formed in Mlle. Luciern’s eyes, and she shook her head. Garrett could only sympathize.

“Here, Mlle. Let me do something for your comfort.  I will take all the blame, but tant pis!  I am an old friend of Madame’s and used to her ways.”

He stood and moved behind Mlle’s chair.  With practiced movements, he removed the pins from her hair and spread them from their high peaks down her back.  With gentle hands he massaged her temples and she groaned in relief.

“Ah! Bon Dieu, Monsieur.  That feels so good.  My poor head was about to explode. Madame means well, but she does not seem to suffer pain like the rest of us. I saw her put on a hat the other day and plunge a pin into her head. Mon Dieu!  She said she did not hit her skin but her hair, but to me, ah goodness!  To my eyes, it seemed to go through her head!”

Garrett smiled from behind Mlle’s chair. In fact, he had seen Madame do this before and other such things and had warned her if observed her game would be over.  Madame had laughed, she had been doing such tricks for centuries. Besides, the winds of Paris were strong and her hat would blow off if she didn’t get a good layer of skin beneath her long pin.

“Madame has a thick skull, Mlle. Luciern”, Garrett said drolly. “She is used to all sorts of torture for fashion.” 

Garrett looked down Mlle. Luciern’s bosom and watch the gentle curves rise and fall with her breathing.  Too bad his plans for Mlle. did not include a seduction.  He would like to savor those two young mounds in his mouth.  But it would be a passing fancy and his plans for Mlle. Luciern’s future did not include this fleeting pleasure.  He had a more lasting pleasure to savor.

And his good friend Louis would be the poorer for it.

“Some Tanka” (some from “The Kimono” published at Amazon.

May 19, 2022

“Some Tanka” (some from “The Kimono” published at Amazon.

May 19, 2022

Cranes wheeled in the sky
Their chiding cries fell to hard earth
Warm mid winter day
A pale half moon calls the birds
To stroke her face with soft wings.


Glimpse of a white wrist
Feel the pulse of blood beneath-
This is seduction!
But catch a wry, cunning smile
One learns all is artifice.

How could I forget
The beauty of the pale moon!
A face of sorrow
Growing thin upon the tide
Creates a desperation.

Thin, silken breezes
Float upon a green-ribbon
Of spring—pale season.
Scent of lilies, myrtle, plum
Arouse bees from slumber.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2022

The Devil in Paris, Part Two

May 16, 2022

The Devil in Paris, Part Two

May 16, 2022

CHAPTER TWO

John Garrett was standing at the window when he heard a servant knock.  He watched Louis cross his hands over his breast and shake his head violently.  Louis became Louise again.  Voila!  Her high coifed powdered hair, the satin dress, the tight corset and breasts returned.  As many times as he had witnessed the transformation, it always took him by surprise.  Louis was one tricky devil.  A snap of Louis’ fingers and the door unlocked.

Garrett watched Madame and Mlle. Luciern enter the room, Madame a clipper ship in full rig. She was a short, plump woman, middle- aged, with powdered hair now showing the effects of rain.  Her dark, plum satin gown was ten years out of fashion.  She wore little face powder. There were honest wrinkles and age-spots to signify Madame was no longer young. Kissing Louise on both cheeks she shook herself, rather like a hen ruffling her feathers.  Louise gestured for her to sit.

Garrett listened to Madame Luciern introduce her daughter to her hostess. Louise took the young woman’s hands in hers, studying her carefully and called for him to come be introduced.

Garrett bowed over Madame Luciern’s hand and watched her face color. She might be of middle age, no longer a beauty, but she still was a woman. Mlle Luciern had no such reaction. Her face remained expressionless.

Taking a chair across from Mlle., he listened to Louise Gormosy ask the mother questions about their trip from the countryside. The two older women were soon lost in chatter and he had a chance to observe the silent young woman.

His first impression of Mlle was favorable. She was slender, with an underdeveloped bosom, a fine complexion and a pretty mouth.   She did look like a bookworm, he thought with a chuckle.   She had a serious demeanor, with pale gray eyes and dark brows that did not arch in the necessary fashion.  Fine brown hair pulled into a simple unadorned bun exposed a slender neck.   He was curious. He had his fill of coquettes and fashionable young women in Paris.  They were of a general order, all schooled in manners to attract a man’s attention and hold it captive for an afternoon.  Their charms passed through him like water. How bored he had become with the women of Paris!

In Mlle. Luciern he saw something different.  Something intriguing and virginal, but virginity had little value in Paris.  He laughed to himself. Virtue was good for children but pointless in an attractive woman.  Already the gloom of his mood was lifting in the presence of this rather mysterious young woman.

The two older women were lost in conversation and twittering with laughter as old friends do.  Both her mother and Louise seemed to forget Mlle. Her face was politely blank, trained to assume a mask in company, but Garrett could see she was not empty of thought.  Her fine eyes narrowed as she listened to her mother and Louise rattle on and a pained look cracked the mask. 

“You have been in Paris before, my dear?”   Garrett’s voice was low enough to not disturb the chatter of the two older women. Mlle. Luciern turned her gray eyes to his and answered his question quietly, but with little interest in her voice.

Oui, Monsieur, I have visited Paris before, but not recently. I was a girl when I was last here.”  Her voice was almost husky, and the pitch of it surprised him.  Most young women were taught to have ‘musical’ voices in company, to laugh as affectedly as a tinkling bell.  Mlle Luciern was unspoiled by such affectations.

He did not have a chance to question her further, for the sound of Mlle’s voice made her mother remember her.

“M. Garrett”, said Madame with a bright smile.  “Margot-Elisabeth was a little girl the last time we were here, only about twelve.  She is now in her nineteenth year, and a stay with Madame Gormosy will bring some color to her cheeks and hopefully polish to her manners. Ah, Bon Dieu!  The countryside is good for virtue but there is little opportunity were we live to make her a wife!” 

Mlle Luciern’s face flashed distress at her mother’s words. Garrett saw how Madame Gormosy’s eyes glittered.

“Ah, my dear Marie,” Gormosy said to the mother.  “We will polish the apple and find her a mate.  She has promise, but is too pale in the face.  Perhaps a bit of rouge and the labors of my hairdresser?”

Madame Luciern laughed out loud at Gormosy.  “Bon chance, Louise!  I can barely get Margot-Elisabeth to brush her hair!”

Poor Mlle. Luciern blushed at her mother’s words and Garrett suppressed a smile. Margot meant ‘pearl’ and this one would need quite a bit of polish to catch a husband in Paris.

Garrett tried to make small conversation with Mlle. but she was now as shy as unpolished.  The two older women chatted away without stopping for breath and the conversation was all about Margot-Elisabeth, unconcerned with her growing discomfort.

Garrett heard the amount of funds pledged by Madame Luciern to Gormosy, and almost whistled aloud.  A dressmaker would be sent for immediately.

“Ah, Louise,” said Madame Luciern with a look of gratitude.  “You work your magic with Margot-Elisabeth.  In your competent hands I am sure she will bloom.”

 Garrett wondered how much ‘magic’ would be needed by Louise, and how her mother would react if she knew the source of Madame’s….ah….magic. 

How droll it was!  Mother Luciern to leave her precious daughter in the hands of a devil.  All the rosaries in France would not amount to a hill of shit once Louise got her claws into the prey.

 Garrett laughed to himself.  Tant pis!  The bargain was struck.  The Devil would have his due.

The Devil in Paris

May 13, 2022

The Devil in Paris

May 13, 2022

This is a short story in 4 parts: one of my first.

Madame Gormosy is a Devil. She can change her sex at will, from Louise Gormosy to Louis Gormosy. John Garret is also a Devil, (half of one but not so powerful.) They have known each other for centuries as devils generally do. The scene is Paris, in the 1770’s.

.

THE DEVIL IN PARIS

CHAPTER ONE

Madame Louise Gormosy stood by the tall window, looking at the rain-slicked street. Paris was cold and dreary this spring. Wood had gone up in price, and a timely delivery was a matter of bribes. That should be the concern of her steward, but he had disappeared. Already her servants were breaking up small cabinets and chairs to burn in the main salon and kitchen. She could hear the smashing of wood somewhere in the large apartment.

Madame shivered for the room was chilly. Ah, she thought, if ever I see him again, I will make him pay with his life for my discomfort. I will tear his stomach open with my nails and eat his liver.

She had a visitor, a sullen-looking Englishman, now with his large frame stretched across her settee. John Garrett was a friend of many years. He was an easy-going devil and good company when in proper temper. She cast her eyes towards him, a smile forming on her painted lips. Patting her high-dressed hair and smoothing the gray satin front of her gown, she wondered what had put him in such a mood. She remembered he was quite a wit when not bothered with serious thought. She hoped he would reform his manners, for she wanted nothing to spoil the afternoon. The rain could not be helped.

“John Garrett!” Madame’s natural voice was low pitched but now showed her exasperation with a rise in key. “Are you going to continue your gloom and sour my day?”

Garrett, his eyes drawn slowly from the low burning flames, looked up at her. He stared for a long minute, a sneer forming on his handsome face.

“We are alone,” Garrett said quietly. “I know you better as “Louis”. Why behave this way amongst friends? “

Madame did not answer. She walked to the double door, locked it and threw the key into his lap. For a moment she stood there, with her head cocked to the side, an elegant older woman, dressed in the latest fashion and only a sharp rise in the middle of her skirt gave warning of what was to happen.

In an instant, “Louise Gormosy” was “Louis Gormosy”. Gone were Madame’s satin overdress, the high coifed and perfumed hair. A bit of makeup remained, but it was the current fashion among Parisian men. Louis laughed at the expression on Garrett’s face. He now was a slight-figured man, above middle age, with powdered hair and white silk stockings that sagged around thin calves.

John Garrett shuddered slightly. He knew his friend was not just any man in Paris. He was a demon, an important one– the Archduke Demon of Lust, with sixty legions under his command.

Louis Gormosy had ridden out of Hell on a white camel and long tormented the earth. It could not be helped; it was his nature. It was his ‘calling’.

Ah, Louis thought, I miss my camel… along with my legions, but tant pis! Paris’ cobblestones were hard on her aging hooves.

His guest, John Garrett, was also a demon, but not of the same stature. Louis Gormosy was not sure of Garrett’s actual position in Hell, but knew him to have the patronage of the powerful Archduke Abigor, close to the throne. With friends like that, even the powerful Demon of Lust had to watch his hoof.

Louis Gormosy chuckled at his guest’s expression. “Oh come, John, surely you are getting used to my little trick? Non? Well then, I have another reason to invite you here, besides parlor tricks. This evening I am expecting some guests, and I have reason for you to meet them.”

John Garrett sat up, stretching his legs. “Are you planning a little entertainment this evening? You know, Louis, one never can tell with you.”

Louis Gormosy lay a finger aside his nose and winked. “You have come at a good time, John. I expect a young woman, a girl actually. She is the daughter of a neighbor in the country. She is around eighteen and her mother is anxious to have her married.”

“I am almost afraid to ask, Louis. What part do you play? ”

John Garrett looked at his friend from half-closed lids, like a cat settling in for a long story.

Monsieur Gormosy walked to the window and looked out at the still pouring rain. He turned his head slightly and gave Garrett a nervous smile before peering down at the street, watching for a carriage to stop at his door.

“Madame Luciern is a silly woman, a bit more stupid than usual. She has a daughter on her hands she complains is a ‘bookworm’. Ah! Bon Dieu! So the young woman will educate herself with novels and newsprint. Tant pis!”

Louis Gormosy threw up his hands in disgust. The words “Good God” had a strange sound in his mouth, just shy of a gurgle.

“You still don’t tell me what your part is in this affair.”

Gormosy turned and looked at his friend. “Better you ask me what your part is.”

John Garrett sucked his breath in sharply, and let out with a soft “Oh no, Louis!”

Louis gestured with his hands outward, all Gallic charm, and continued his appeal.

“What is a little fun amongst devils, neh? You have certain…ah…attributes that I unfortunately, do not have.”

“The starch issue again, Louis?” Garrett’s words rattled Louis and he winced.

“Quell dommage! I don’t know if this is a little trick of Heaven or Hell, John…but it persists. I begin the attack, a few thrusts with the sword, and even with one parry, I wilt.”

And, thought Louis sadly, it always came down to what devil had more ‘reach’. It always came down to a measurement. Here on earth the length of the cock, and in Hell, the amount of control.

“So, what is your plan and why should I care?”

Monsieur sucked on the side of his thumb, thinking how to present his case.

“I have not seen the young woman. Her mother keeps her well hidden in the house. If she is a bookworm as the mother says, perhaps any attempt here in Paris to marry her off will be impossible. Perhaps she is ugly!”

“Or perhaps she has no bosom,” said Garrett from his seat, eyes wandering back to the fire.

“Or perhaps she has a harelip!” said Gormosy. “What do I know? I have not seen the poor girl.”

With a grimace, Gormosy shook out his hand. He had bitten deeply into his flesh, and blood spurted from his thumb.

Garrett asked, “Does she have a good fortune?”

“Non, unfortunately not. Madame Luciern is a widow and her estate is lessened with the behavior of her oldest son. That young man has no sense at cards…and worse luck! I would give him some pointers in faro, but I do not cheat at cards.”

What a lie, thought Louis, laughing silently. There was honor amongst devils but not at cards. What was the worse that could happen? A duel, you die, you come back fresh and new, with another chance to cheat life. And at cards.

“But!” continued Louis, raising a finger into the air for dramatic emphasis. “She has an honorable name! That is worth something, I think.”

“Hah,” said Garrett. “Perhaps of worth to mortals. But it is something.”

The blood continued to spurt from Gormosy’s thumb. “Merde”. He pulled a sooty handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped his thumb.

“So, what do you intend to do with Mademoiselle? Do you have a cuckold in mind?”

“Why would he be a cuckold, mon ami? I have all intention of marrying her to someone worthy and with a good fortune.”

“And if she is not marriageable due to this harelip or flat bosom? What do you intend then for Mademoiselle?” asked Garrett.

“I intend to make her a whore.”

There. It was out, thought Gormosy. Let him chew on that. There was profit to be made here, and he, Louis, would take the advantage.

“Why do you need me?” John Garrett’s eyes half closed again as he looked at his friend who was grinning broadly.

“If I can not obtain an acceptable offer, I will need your –ah, efforts, John.”

“Meaning? Come Louis, do not make me beat it out of you.”

“You will seduce her. You will make her more pliable for her gentleman callers…I, of course, will revert back to Madame, for this is all her mother knows of me, and you will play…”

“Hold on, Louis. Do you or don’t you intend to get her a husband?”

“How should I know?” Louis Gormosy shrugged his shoulders and presented his palms upward.

“I don’t know if she has a harelip or an unfortunate bosom. We both, my old friend, will find out this evening.”

“From the great Manyoshu”

May 7, 2022

“Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems From The Man’youshu”…and a recommendation of books.

Manyoshu image
Man'yoshu image II

A while ago, I was asked by a poetry group to do a short presentation on the Man’yoshu. This is a collection of poems from the 8th century. They are gorgeous poems, some startling erotic.

I have at least five different editions of the Man’yoshu, each giving a different translation and perspective on these poems. One of my favorite versions is “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu, Selections from a Japanese Classic”, with illustrations by Miyata Masayuki, Commentary by Ooka Makoto, Translations by Ian Hideo Levy and with an essay by Donald Keene. Published in Japan by Lodansha International.

This is an incredibly beautiful book. The cut-out illustrations by the great Miyata Masayuki, powerfully and exquisitely erotic, give a visual insight into the sexuality of these poems. I did not expect this when I held this beautiful book in my hand. The paper, the colors, the commentary, everything about this book is a delight.

There are many books about the Man’yoshu. However, an older one that (1965) is plainly called “The Manyoshu’ One Thousand Poems, published by Columbia University Press. The Foreword is by Donald Keene, the much decorated translator and interpreter of Japanese literature. This book is worth obtaining just for the writing of Keene.

Lady Nyo


“Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems from the Man’yoshu”

“Thick and fast stream my thoughts of you
Like the layers
Of endlessly falling snow
Upon the cedars.
Come to me at night, my man.”
—– from the Man’yoshu

It was the first golden age of Japanese civilization. In the eighth century appeared the great metropolis of Nara, (the imperial capital) its broad avenues lined with magnificent temples. Culture rushed in from Korea, China and over the Silk Road, from as far away as Persia, and even from Venice.

We think of Japan in isolation, as it was to become centuries later, but in the 7th to the 10th centuries (approximately) the cultural influences were vast and wide and foreign.

In the 8th century, Japan found it’s first voice, a clear and powerful voice to become one of the most impressive, sophisticated and frank compilations of poetry the world has ever seen. (There are other earlier and then later collections of poetry, but the Man’yoshu is considered to be the best of the poetry collections. There are many reasons (cultural and court changes, etc) but this is a long study and can’t be done in this short presentation.

There are not 10,000 poems (leaves) but over 4,500. Most of these are love poems, where lovers speak with disarming frankness and clarity, speak to us across 1300 years as if they were us. Actually, the poems express a decided lack of neurosis that we have come to view sex in the last few centuries. There is nothing of barriers when it comes to the human heart, longing, emotions and sexuality in these poems. Many of them are openly, expressly erotic.

The authors or contributors of these poems extended from Emperors, Empresses, courtesans, samurai, priests, beggars, fishermen, peasants: a cross section of remarkable variety. A truly democratic endeavor. This was never again to happen in Japan, not at least to this extent.

Otomo No Yakamochi (718-785) is considered to be the main complier of the Man’yoshu. These poems actually span a 130 year history, from around 630 AD to 759 AD.

There are three basic divisions of the poetry in the Man’yoshu.
Banka: elegy on the death of an Emperor or a loved one.
Somon: mutual exchanges of love or longing poetry.
Zoka: Poems of Nature, hunting, etc.
This short presentation will focus only on the Somon form.

Generally the Man’yoshu poetry is considered to be declarative rather than introspective, imagistic rather than abstract. There is an incredible freshness to it all.

There are basically two forms of poetry in the Man’yoshu: choka (long poem, 5-7-5-7-5-7, etc. ending in 7-7) and tanka. (5-7-5-7-7). The ‘long poem’, choka (which isn’t very long by our modern and Western standards) died out of fashion, and tanka became the predominant form of Japanese poetry for the next 1200 years.

Although one would think so, there isn’t a lot of Buddhist influence in the poems. If any religion, there is more Shinto influence especially in the Zoka form, but even that isn’t large. This may seem strange to us, with our notions of culture in Japan, but even centuries later, with the Priest-Poet Saigyo, there is little Buddhist thought within his poems. Religion just doesn’t play such a dominant role in most Japanese poetry, especially at this time.

“Going over the fields of murasaki grass
That shimmer crimson,
Going over the fields marked as imperial domain,
Will the guardian of the fields not see you
As you wave your sleeves at me?”
====Princess Nukata

This poem is considered by many to be one of the greatest poems in the Man’yoshu. It is presented near the beginning of the collection, giving it prominence. The answer by her former husband (she is now married to the Emperor) Prince Oama, (his brother) is a beautiful poem in its own right.

“If I despised you, who are as beautiful
As the murasaki grass,
Would I be longing for you like this,
Though you are another man’s wife?”
===Prince Oama

“Do not let men find out
By smiling at me so apparently,
Like the clouds that clearly cross
Over the verdant mountains.”
—–Lady Otomo Sakanoue

There are more poems by this poet than any other woman in the Man’yoshu. What is remarkable are the amount of women poets included in the Man’yoshu. This is only possible because the Confucian philosophy was not prominent yet in Japan. When it became influential, women lost much status: before they were allowed to own property, title, name, divorce, to keep custody of their children. After, they were relegated to indoors, stripped of much power and status.

“Whose words are these,
Spoken to the wife of another?
Whose words are these,
That bade me untie
The sash of my robe?”
—-Anonymous

Many of the poems in the Man’yoshu were folk songs, or parts of folk songs. And this repeated interest in ‘the wife of another’ was an object of male desire; the Man’yoshu is full of this theme.

“As I turn my gaze upward
And see the crescent moon,
I am reminded
Of the trailing eyebrows
Of the woman I saw but once.”
—-Otomo Yakamochi
This was written by Otomo at the age of 16!

“I have fallen into a yearning
With no requite,
For a girl who, when night comes
Sleeps pillowed in another’s arms.
—-Anonymous

“If men can touch
Even the untouchable sacred tree,
Why can I not touch you
Simply because you are another’s wife?”
—-Otomo Yasumaro

To finish with some anonymous poems:

“The flowers of the plum,
Were covered with fallen snow
Which I wrapped up
But when I tried to have you see
It was melting in my hands.”

“This body of mine
Has crossed the mountain barrier
And is here indeed!
But this heart of mine remains
Drawing closer to my wife.”

“The moon crossed the sky
And I saw him only once
In its pale light
Yet, the person whom I saw
Does appear to me in dreams.”

“I shall not take a brush
To this hair that lies
Disheveled in the morning,
For it retains the touch
Of my dear lord’s arms that pillowed me.”
—-Anonymous

For 1200 years, the Man’yoshu has inspired poets to write their own poetry based on these poems. Below are a few of mine inspired with readings of this classical document. The Man’yoshu poetry can be startling frank and seem to avoid modern day sexual neurosis.

Come to me
If even only in my dreams
Where my head rests upon my arm
And not yours–
Let this veiled moon
Above and these dark, brooding pines below
Be witness to our love, my man.”

Come to me,
When the rocks have disappeared
Under sheets of snow,
The moon appears through tattered clouds.
I will be
Listening for the sound of
Your footfall in the dark.

Come to me, my man,
Part the blinds and come into my arms,
Snuggle against my warm breast
And let my belly
Warm your soul.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
(aka Lady Nyo)

11_17_7

Share this: ldad

Lady Nyo Forgives Her Husband

May 4, 2022

Lady Nyo (from “The Kimono”) has developed her own story: she is a poet, and drives her patient husband up a tree at times. I wrote a four part cycle of her poems…first starting with haiku, then tanka in form. What I am posting below is from the part: “Lady Nyo Forgives Her Husband”. I’m not sure what actually happened between them, but there were some hurt feelings, and Lady Nyo isn’t allowing her dear husband to get away clean from any guilt and responsibility. She breaks the stereotype of “long suffering”. She is better at nagging.

LADY NYO FORGIVES HER HUSBAND

1.

Stop tickling me!

Yes, I forgive you,

but you take such liberties!

Your hands are not clean from

previous crimes.

Go wash them in the snow of

last year’s falling.

Then I will reconsider your request.

2.

Look! There is a cardinal,

red as blood and as cocky

as a lord.

See his mate?

She is dull, but has her lipstick

on this morning.

3.

Off you go,

and don’t look back.

If you turn, you will see serenity.

But behind this mask,

is a well of longing.

4.

Last night I thought of you.

My face still bears the blushes.

You thought it was good health?

No, just reflects the liberty

of dreams.

5.

You came with a mouthful of ‘sorry’

and leave now with other parts eased.

Never mind.

Your coming and going has served a dual purpose.

6.

(My mind is still shattered

And my heart still sore.)

But I put on a fresh face

full of smiles and polite manner.

It would shock our friends if

they knew the turmoil of

my heart.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009-2011

Like

Comment

Share

0 Comments

%d bloggers like this: