A conscious and willing victim [Bushido] 武士の忠節

武士道』The Duty of Loyalty(忠節)

The story is of one of the purest characters in our history, Michizane, who, falling a victim to jealousy and calumny, is exiled from the capital.

其物語(菅原伝授手習鑑)は我国史を飾れる清廉高義の人格、菅原道真を寓せるものなり。道真は嫉妬 讒誣の餌となり、都を逐はれて流人の身となりけるが、

Not content with this, his unrelenting enemies are now bent upon the extinction of his family.


Strict search for his son -not yet grown- reveals the fact of his being secreted in a village school kept by one Genzo, a former vassal of Michizane.


When orders are dispatched to the schoolmaster to deliver the head of the juvenile offender on a certain day.


His first idea is to find a suitable substitute for it. He ponders over his school-list, scrutinizes with careful eyes all the boys, as they stroll into the class-room.


But none among the children born of the soil bears the least resemblance to his protege.


His despair, however, is but for a moment; for, behold, a new scholar is announced.


A comely boy of the same age as his master's son, escorted by a mother of noble mien.


No less conscious of the resemblance between infant lord and infant retainer, were the mother and the boy himself.

幼君と幼 臣、其面差の紛ふばかりなるは、母固より之を知り、子も亦知れり。

In the privacy of home both had laid themselves upon the alter; the one his life, the other her heart, yet without sign to the outer world.


Unwitting of what had passed between them, it is the teacher from whom comes the suggestion.


Here, then, is the scape-goat!


The rest of the narrative may be briefly told.

On the day appointed, arrives the officer commissioned to identify and receive the head of the youth.


Will he be deceived by the false head?


The poor Genzo's hand is on the hilt of the sword, ready to strike a blow either at the man or at himself, should the examination defeat his scheme.


The officer takes up the gruesome object before him, goes calmly over each feature, and in a deliberate, business-like tone, pronounces it genuine.


That evening in a lonely home awaits the mother we saw in the school.

Does she know the fate of her child?


It is not for his return that she watches with eagerness for the opening of the wicket.


Her father-in-law has been for a long time a recipient of Michizane's bounties, but since his banishment circumstances have forced her husband to follow the service of the enemy of his family's benefactor.


He himself could not be untrue to his own cruel master; but his son could serve the cause of the grandsire's lord.

主は残忍なりとても、 臣として背くべきにあらず。

As one acquainted with the exile's family, it was he who had been entrusted with the task of identifying the boy's head.


Now the day's -yea, the life's- hard work is done, he returns home and as he crosses its threshold, he accosts his wife, saying:


"Rejoice, my wife, our darling son has proved of service to his load!"


"What an atrocious story!"

I hear my readers exclaim,

"Parents deliberately sacrificing their own innocent child to save the life of another man's."



But this child was a conscious and willing victim: 


It is a story of vicarious death -as significant as, and not more revolting than, the story of Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac.


In both cases it was obedience to the call of duty, utter submission to the command of a higher voice, whether given by a visible or an invisible angel, or heard by an outward or an inward ear.


But I abstain from preaching.


The individualism of the West, which recognizes separate interests for father and son, husband and wife, necessarily brings into strong relief the duties owed by one to the other.


But Bushido held that the interest for the family and of the members thereof is intact, -one and inseparable. This interest it bound up with affection -natural, instinctive, irresistible.


Hence, if we die for one we love with natural love (which animals themselves possess), what is that?


"For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?"


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