mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Ha. The Flow does it again. In this case it does it retroactively about twenty years, which is kind of cool.

We all know Yoshitoshi's print of Hiromasa playing at the Suzaku Gate, that franzeska uses as her icon? This webpage gives some information about Hiromasa in connection with that print and mentions a story about his teacher:
He was the student of the most famous musician of the day, the blind Semimaru. The story of Hiromasa often standing outside Semimaru’s garden, listening and trying to discover the secret of his future teacher’s beautiful playing became a Noh dance.
(Though the play Semimaru is about something else entirely.)

I'd read the story in Yumemakura. As I recalled it, Hiromasa used to stand outside a flute player's house deep in the country, a blind man who'd been servant to a prince and who'd learned the prince's tunes by listening to them. Hiromasa hoped the man, who was growing old, would play two tunes of the prince's that no one else knew, so that Hiromasa could learn them before they got lost. I checked the English version in Tales of Times Now Past, which are selections from the Konjaku Monogatari translated by Marian Ury. There I was reminded that Semimaru was in fact a biwa player and the tunes Hiromasa wanted to learn were biwa tunes.

I have a couple of woodblock prints from the same series as the Hiromasa one- Yoshitoshi's Hundred Phases of the Moon- hanging on the wall by the stairs to the second floor. Mostly I bought them because they showed people I knew and liked: Heike Monogatari figures, by and large. And one I bought for the composition, with a vague notion that it was a Heike character who was some Emperor's blind grandson: couldn't quite place the story and never did bother to get it straight. I have it straight now.

The intro to this translation of the Noh play Semimaru says
The story of Semimaru, the blind biwa player -- the biwa is a kind of lute -- appears as early as the twelfth-century collection of tales, Konjaku Monogatari, but apparently has no historical basis. The Konjaku Monogatari version relates that Semimaru lived near the barrier of Osaka, between Kyoto and Lake Biwa. Once he had been in the service of a courtier, a famous biwa master, and learned to play by listening to his master. Minamoto Hakuga, (J note: the on-yomi for Hiromasa) the son of a prince, heard of Semimaru's skill and wished to bring him to the Capital. Semimaru, however, refused. So eager was he to hear Semimaru's biwa that Hakuga journeyed to Mt. Osaka, a wild and distant place in those days, though today a half-hour journey from Kyoto.

By the time of the writing of the Heike Monogatari, a century later, Semimaru had become known as the fourth son of the Emperor Daigo (r. 897-930). Like the Semimaru of the Konjaku Monogatari, he lived by a barrier, but it was the one at Shinomiya Kawara. A man named Hakuga no Sammi was so anxious to hear him play that he visited Semimaru's hut every day, rain or shine, for three years without fail.
I don't know if Yoshitoshi thought he was drawing Noh play Semimaru or Konjaku Semimaru, but I'm going to make it the latter. Since, y'know, I'll never be able to afford a print of Hiromasa at the Suzaku Gate, given what they're going for.
Tags: onmyouji

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