This is a passage taken from the diary of the Heian era
author, Lady Murasaki Shikibu
. This was written around the year 1008. For greater biographical information, just click the hard link.
My translation is unpolished but I hope it will do.
Having nothing excellent about me, I have passed my days without making any special impression
on any one. Especially the fact that I have no man who will look out for my future leaves me without comfort
I do not want to bury myself in such dreariness. Is it because of my worldly concerns that I feel lonely?
On moonlit nights in the autumn, when I am hopelessly sad, I often stand out on the balcony and look dreamily up at the moon. It makes me think of days gone by. People say that it is dangerous to look at the moon when alone, but something impels me, and sitting a little withdrawn I muse there.
In the evening’s cool breezes I play on the koto, though others may not care to hear it. I fear that my playing betrays my sorrow which then becomes more intense, and I become disgusted with myself, I am so foolish and miserable.
My room is ugly, blackened by smoke. I play on a thirteen or six-stringed koto, but I neglect to take away the bridges even in rainy weather, and I lean it up against the wall between the cabinet and the door jamb. On either side of the koto stands a biwa.
A pair of big bookcases are stuffed with all of the books they can hold. One of them is filled old poems and romances. They are the homes of worms which suddenly frighten us as we turn the pages, so no one ever wants to read them. As to the other cabinet, since the person (her late husband, a scholar of Chinese) put his own books there, not a hand has touched it. When I am bored to death I take out one or two of them; then my maids gather around me and say: "Your life will not be favoured with old age if you do such things. Why do you read Chinese? Not long ago even reading the sutras was not encouraged for women."
They rebuke me in the shadows (behind her back). I have heard it and wanted to say, "It is far from certain that he who does no forbidden thing enjoys a long life," but it would be a lack of reserve to say it. Our deeds vary with our age and deeds vary with the individual. Some are arrogant of learning, others only look over old cast-away writings because they are bored with having nothing to do. It would not be becoming for such a one to chatter away about religious thoughts, noisily shaking a rosary. I feel this, and before my women keep myself from doing what otherwise I could do easily.
But after all, when I was amongst the ladies of the Court I did not say what I wanted to say either, for it is useless to talk with those who do not understand one and troublesome to talk with those who criticize from a feeling of superiority. One-sided people are particularly annoying. Few are accomplished in many arts and most cling narrowly to their own opinion.
“Pretty but coy”, “too shrinking”, “unsociable”, “arrogant”, “fond of romances”, “vain and poetic”, “looking down upon others yet with a jealous eye”. These are the opinions of those who do not know me. But after seeing me they say, "You are wonderfully gentle to meet with; I cannot identify you with the one I pictured."
I see that I have been slighted, despised, and looked down upon as an old gossip. And I must bear it, for it is my destiny to be solitary.