The Old Pine Tree, and Other Noh Plays

The Old Pine Tree, and Other Noh Plays

The Old Pine Tree, and Other Noh Plays

The Old Pine Tree, and Other Noh Plays

Excerpt

In preparing this little volume I had two motives. One was to introduce some of the finest Noh plays to the English-speaking world for the first time; the other was to arrange these plays in the orthodox order of performance and give them artistic unity as a whole. Perhaps the second point needs some explanation, but first a few words must be said about the nature of the Noh in general.

The Japanese Noh drama has been attracting increasing interest in the West since it was first introduced early in this century. Ezra Pound was fascinated with it and edited some of its earliest English translations; Yeats wrote at least ten plays using the Noh as a model; and it attained an even greater popularity when Arthur Waley published his superb translations in the early twenties. Today it appears in almost every anthology of world literature that includes any Oriental writings at all.

The Noh's popularity is in large part due to its strange, mysterious outlook. This medieval Japanese drama, subtle, remote, and symbolic, offers something quite foreign to the tradition of Sophocles, Shakespeare, Molière, and Ibsen. The world of the Noh is inhabited by gods, spirits, and monsters; if there are any human beings they are priests, travelers, and children who have scarcely any individuality. By and large it is a timeless, superhuman world where no man of flesh and blood is likely to dwell. It is a world of night rather than of day, of dreams rather than empirical reality, since it deals with issues incapable of solution by a reasoned analysis.

In comparing the Orientals with the Westerners, it is often argued that in their attempts to grasp the truth of life the former are generally intuitive while the latter are discursive. Within its limited validity the generalization seems to be true of the Noh drama: compare the Noh with the works of the . . .

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