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   Chapter 10 SAKASA-BASHIRA

The Romance of the Milky Way, and Other Studies & Stories By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2622

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The term Sakasa-bashira (in these kyōka often shortened into saka-bashira) literally means "upside-down post." A wooden post or pillar, especially a house-post, should be set up according to the original position of the tree from which it was hewn,-that is to say, with the part nearest to the roots downward. To erect a house-post in the contrary way is thought to be unlucky;-formerly such a blunder was believed to involve unpleasant consequences of a ghostly kind, because an "upside-down" pillar would do malignant things. It would moan and groan in the night, and move all its cracks like mouths, and open all its knots like eyes. Moreover, the spirit of it (for every house-post has a spirit) would detach its long body from the timber, and wander about the rooms, head-downwards, making faces at people. Nor was this all. A Sakasa-bashira knew how to make all the affairs of a household go wrong,-how to foment domestic quarrels,-how to contrive misfortune for each of the family and the servants,-how to render existence almost insupportable until such time as the carpenter's blunder should be discovered and remedied.

Saka-bashira

Tatéshi wa tazo ya?

Kokoro ni mo

Fushi aru hito no

Shiwaza naruran.

[Who set the house-pillar upside-down? Surely that must have been the work of a man

with a knot in his heart.]

Hidayama we

Kiri-kité tatéshi

Saka-bashira-

Nanno takumi51 no

Shiwaza naruran?

[That house-pillar hewn in the mountains of Hida, and thence brought here and erected upside-down-what carpenter's work can it be? (or, "for what evil design can this deed have been done?")]

U? shita wo

Chiga?té tatéshi

Hashira ni wa

Sakasama-goto no

Uré? aranan.

[As for that house-pillar mistakenly planted upside-down, it will certainly cause adversity and sorrow.52]

Kabé ni mimi

Arité, kiké to ka?

Sakashima ni

Tateshi hashira ni

Yanari suru oto!

[O Ears that be in the wall!53 listen, will ye? to the groaning and the creaking of the house-post that was planted upside-down!]

Uri-iyé no

Aruji we to?ba,

Oto arité:

Waré mé ga kuchi wo

Aku saka-bashira.

[When I inquired for the master of the house that was for sale, there came to me only a strange sound by way of reply,-the sound of the upside-down house-post opening its eyes and mouth!54 (i.e. its cracks).]

Omo?kiya!

Sakasa-bashira no

Hashira-kaké

Kakinishit uta mo

Yamai ari to wa!

[Who could have thought it!-even the poem inscribed upon the pillar-tablet, attached to the pillar which was planted upside-down, has taken the same (ghostly) sickness.55]

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