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KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Lafcadio Hearn) online
I wonder what would be said if the city-government of Tokyo -- which is aggressively scientific and progressive -- were suddenly to command that all water-surfaces in the Buddhist cemeteries should be covered, at regular intervals, with a film of kerosene oil! How could the religion which prohibits the taking of any life -- even of invisible life -- yield to such a mandate? Would filial piety even dream of consenting to obey such an order? And then to think of the cost, in labor and time, of putting kerosene oil, every seven days, into the millions of mizutame, and the tens of millions of bamboo flower-cups, in the Tokyo graveyards!... Impossible! To free the city from mosquitoes it would be necessary to demolish the ancient graveyards;-- and that would signify the ruin of the Buddhist temples attached to them;-- and that would mean the disparition of so many charming gardens, with their lotus-ponds and Sanscrit-lettered monuments and humpy bridges and holy groves and weirdly-smiling Buddhas! So the extermination of the Culex fasciatus would involve the destruction of the poetry of the ancestral cult,-- surely too great a price to pay!...
Besides, I should like, when my time comes, to be laid away in some Buddhist graveyard of the ancient kind,-- so that my ghostly company should be ancient, caring nothing for the fashions and the changes and the disintegrations of Meiji (1). That old cemetery behind my garden would be a suitable place. Everything there is beautiful with a beauty of exceeding and startling queerness; each tree and stone has been shaped by some old, old ideal which no longer exists in any living brain; even the shadows are not of this time and sun, but of a world forgotten, that never knew steam or electricity or magnetism or -- kerosene oil! Also in the boom of the big bell there is a quaintness of tone which wakens feelings, so strangely far-away from all the nineteenth-century part of me, that the faint blind stirrings of them make me afraid,-- deliciously afraid. Never do I hear that billowing peal but I become aware of a striving and a fluttering in the abyssal part of my ghost,-- a sensation as of memories struggling to reach the light beyond the obscurations of a million million deaths and births. I hope to remain within hearing of that bell... And, considering the possibility of being doomed to the state of a Jiki-ketsu-gaki, I want to have my chance of being reborn in some bamboo flower-cup, or mizutame, whence I might issue softly, singing my thin and pungent song, to bite some people that I know.