Monday, January 10, 2011

The Pillow Book, by Sei Shonagon

Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), Courtesan seated smoking with an adolescent client (1799), Ukiyo-e, o-ban sheet: polychrome woodblock print on paper [Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle WA]

"A good lover will behave as elegantly at dawn as at any other time. He drags himself out of bed, with a look of dismay on his face. The lady urges him on: 'Come, my friend, it's getting light. You don't want anyone to find you here.' He gives a deep sigh, as if to say that the night has not been nearly long enough and that it is agony to leave. Once up, he does not instantly pull on his trousers. Instead he comes close to the lady and whispers whatever was left unsaid during the night. Even when he is dressed, he still lingers, vaguely pretending to be fastening his sash. 
Presently he raises the lattice, and the two lovers stand together by the side door while he tells her how he dreads the coming day, which will keep them apart; then he slips away. The lady watches him go, and this moment of parting will remain among her most charming memories."...

Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book 

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