Excerpts from The Pillow Book
... I set about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from
the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial
material. On the whole I concentrated on things and people I found charming
and splendid; my notes are also full of poems and observations. ... It
is written entirely for my own amusement and I put things down exactly
as they came to me. ... I am the kind of person who approves what others
abhor and detests the things they like.
THINGS THAT CANNOT BE COMPARED
Summer and winter. Night and day. Rain and sunshine. Youth and age.
A person's laughter and his anger. Black and white. Love and hatred.
THINGS THAT HAVE LOST THEIR POWER
A large boat which is high and dry in a creek at ebbtide.
A woman who has taken
off her false locks to comb the short hair that remains.
A large tree that has been
blown down in a gale and lies on its side with its roots in the air. ...
A man of
no importance reprimanding an attendant. (1)
One has been expecting someone, and ... there is a stealthy tapping at the door.
One sends a maid to see who it is, and lies waiting, with some slight flutter of
the breast. But the name one hears when she returns is that of someone completely
different, who does not concern one at all. Of all depressing experiences, this
is by far the worst. (2)
(1) First three excerpts from Ivan Morris, tr., The Pillow Book of
Sei Shônagon (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1971), 263-264, 88,
(2) "Stray Notes" from Donald Keene, Anthology of Japanese Literature
from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York: Grove Press,