japonisme: Minamoto no Yoritomo releasing Cranes

04 December 2007

Minamoto no Yoritomo releasing Cranes

THE PELICAN CHORUS

King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
No other Birds so grand we see!
None but we have feet like fins!
With lovely leathery throats and chins!
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

We live on the Nile. The Nile we love.
By night we sleep on the cliffs above;
By day we fish, and at eve we stand
On long bare islands of yellow sand.
And when the sun sinks slowly down
And the great rock walls grow dark and brown,
When the purple river rolls fast and dim
And the Ivory Ibis starlike skim,
Wing to wing we dance around,—
Stamping our feet with a flumpy sound,—
Opening our mouths as Pelicans ought,
And this is the song we nightly snort;—
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

Last year came out our Daughter, Dell;
And all the Birds received her well.
To do her honour, a feast we made
For every bird that can swim or wade.
Herons and Gulls, and Cormorants black,
Cranes, and Flamingos with scarlet back,
Plovers and Storks, and Geese in clouds,
Swans and Dilberry Ducks in crowds.
Thousands of Birds in wondrous flight!
They ate and drank and danced all night,
And echoing back from the rocks you heard
Multitude-echoes from Bird and Bird,—
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

Yes, they came; and among the rest,
The King of the Cranes all grandly dressed.
Such a lovely tail! Its feathers float
Between the ends of his blue dress-coat;
With pea-green trowsers all so neat,
And a delicate frill to hide his feet,—
(For though no one speaks of it, every one knows,
He has got no webs between his toes!)

As soon as he saw our Daughter Dell,
In violent love that Crane King fell,—
On seeing her waddling form so fair,
With a wreath of shrimps in her short white hair.
And before the end of the next long day,
Our Dell had given her heart away;
For the King of the Cranes had won that heart,
With a Crocodile's egg and a large fish-tart.
She vowed to marry the King of the Cranes,
Leaving the Nile for stranger plains;
And away they flew in a gathering crowd
Of endless birds in a lengthening cloud.
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

And far away in the twilight sky,
We heard them singing a lessening cry,—
Farther and farther till out of sight,
And we stood alone in the silent night!
Often since, in the nights of June,
We sit on the sand and watch the moon;—
She has gone to the great Gromboolian plain,
And we probably never shall meet again!
Oft, in the long still nights of June,
We sit on the rocks and watch the moon;—
—She dwells by the streams of the Chankly Bore,
And we probably never shall see her more.
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

Edward Lear

Lear, Edward. "Pelican Chorus, The." The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry.

these last two images are called 'parodies.' likely meant by this is either the reworking of commonly known themes, or the capture of a reenactment. in 1927, barbara hall wrote that the first shogun, yoritomo, as a form of his own amusement, and as a way to earn buddhist merit points, 'freed the cranes.'

"for this event the people brought cranes from all directions as longevity offerings to express their felicitations. but before the shogun liberated them, date-bearing metal tags were attached to their feet to act as an aid in determining their age should they be recaptured. it is claimed that some of these birds were found several centuries after yoritomo's death, proving them to be capable of attaining great length of life."

In some depictions of this scene, "yoritomo is shown under a great umbrella, held by a female attendant. the substitution of women figures for those of men was white common to most of the ukiyo-e designers in order to please the courtesans who were the principal buyers of the coloured prints."

animal motifs in asian art

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Murasaki said...

Have you read Thousand Cranes by Kawabata? It is amazing how he manages to combine wild passion and such refined simplicity. Happy to read you again.

06 December, 2007 15:11  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hi murasaki--nice to see you again. no, i haven't read it but i saw it referred to a lot while i was researching this post.

thanks for the recommendation--i'll check it out. i love how you describe it.

06 December, 2007 19:24  
Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

I can almost here the 'flapping of the cranes' wings' . Thanks for sharing .

08 December, 2007 17:06  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i spoke with someone the other day who grew up along iowa's platte river, where the american sandhill crane migration is strong, and he said it was overwhelming.

08 December, 2007 19:01  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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