3 days ago
The Rabbit in the Moon
by Burton Watson
It took place in a world long long ago they say:
a monkey, a rabbit,
and a fox struck up a friendship,
mornings frolicking field and hill,
evenings coming home to the forest,
living thus while the years went by,
when Indra, sovereign of the skies,
hearing of this, curious to know if it was true,
turned himself into an old man, tottering along,
made his way to where they were.
“You three,” he said, “are of separate species, yet I'm told play together with a single heart.
If what I've heard is true, pray save an old man who's hungry!”
then he set his staff aside, sat down to rest.
Simple enough, they said, and presently the monkey appeared from the grove behind bearing nuts he'd gathered there,
and the fox returned from the rivulet in front, clamped in his jaws a fish he'd caught.
But the rabbit, though he hopped and hopped everywhere couldn't find anything at all,
while the others cursed him because his heart was not like theirs.
Miserable me! he thought and then he said, “Monkey, go cut me firewood! Fox, build me a fire with it!”
And when they'd done what he asked, he flung himself into the midst of the flames, made himself an offering for an unknown old man.
When the old man saw this his heart withered.
He looked up to the sky,
cried aloud, then sank to the ground, and in a while, beating his breast, said to the others,
“Each of you three friends has done his best, but what the rabbit did touches me most!” Then he made the rabbit whole again and gathering the dead body up in his arms,
took it and laid it to rest
in the palace of the moon.
From that time till now
the story's been told,
this tale of how the rabbit came to be in the moon, and even I when I hear it find the tears
soaking the sleeve of my robe.
Author of original: Ryokan.