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Ichikawa Ebizō V (市川海老蔵) as the Shōgun Tarō Yoshikado (将軍太郎良門) and Yamashita Kinsaku III (山下金作) as Hashidate (橋立), wife of Yasumasa (保昌)

Identifier: 1825c Kunisada Ebizo Kinsaku

This diptych, conceivably part of a triptych, based on a kabuki performance is related to a play originally composed by Chikimatsu in the 18th century, The Tethered Steed (Kwan-Hasshū Tsunagi Uma). Here we have the translation of Asataro Miyamori which was revised by Robert Nichols. It states:

"In February of the second year of the Eien era (A.D. 988), during the reign of the Emperor Ichijō the sixty-sixth monarch, Minamoto-no-Yorimitsu the Shogun, attended by his brave retainers Watanabé-no-Tsuna and Sakata-no-Kintoki, proceeded to the palace in response to an Imperial summons occasioned by the daily apparition of a goblin horse within the Imperial precincts. Particulars of the creature were supplied by Fujiwara- no-Kanéié, the Regent. The Shogun and his retainers, after fitting preparations for its destruction, awaited the phenomenon.

Noon was come when, on a sudden, precisely at the Hour of the Horse, the sky became overcast, a storm accompanied by thunder and lightning arose, and there appeared in the gardens a black charger of powerful build, having a flowing mane rugged as the ridges of a mountain range, towering ears great as conches, and eyes bright as polished mirrors of copper. Right loudly he snorted; terribly he neighed; hither and thither he raged. Black clouds of dust sprang from beneath his hoofs as he trampled the lawns and dashed between the trees. Into the air he leapt and made as if to wing his way into the palace. Tsuna and Kintoki, hurling themselves upon him from right and left, exerted their superhuman might to stay him. But, in a moment shaking them off, the beast raged to and fro the more furiously. Perceiving the apparition to be beyond the power even of his retainers Yorimitsu, when he had thrice in a loud voice declared, “I am Minamoto-no-Yorimitsu the Shogun, the Lord of Settsu and a descendant of the of the august Emperor Seiwa!”—set an arrow to his great bow, bent the bow to its utmost extent, and shot. Pierced through the muzzle, the phantom gave one loud groan and crashed to earth. Next instant the beast beast had vanished and, to the admiration and boundless joy of the Regent and his courtiers, the storm ceased.

When the Regent Kanéié had made an end of praising the exploit of. Yorimitsu and his retainers, he summoned to his presence a famous doctor of divination, for he wished to ascertain the whereabouts of the goblin. The doctor consulted an occult volume and presently it became known that the hiding-place of the monster lay south-east of the palace. Yorimitsu, his retainers and the courtiers, assisted by lower officials, made their way to an ancient treasure-house standing upon the spot indicated and subjected it to a prolonged search. Extreme was their surprise to discover therein an ancient coffer in which the Shogun's arrow had buried itself up to half its length. Upon the lid of the coffer no inscription was to be found save the brief words "March of the third year of Tengyō era". Terror seized the entire party, but after some reflection Yorimitsu slapped his thigh and exclaimed, “I have it! That was the date on which the rebel Taira-no-Masakado was overthrown during the reign of the Emperor Shujaku. This was his crime — by pretending to be a Prince Imperial he succeeded in raising an army in raising an army in the Eastern Provinces, to the end that he might usurp the throne, only at last to suffer death at the hands of the Royal army. One night, so the story goes, a sinister star fell into his stable and transformed itself into a swift steed. The rebel deemed it an omen tokening success to the enterprises of his villainous ambition. He set up the horse as a god of war, worshipped it, and adopted as the crest upon the curtains of his pavilion a tethered steed. This coffer, I feel sure, contains the curtain of his pavilion which Fujiwara-no-Hidésato, commander-in-chief of the Royal troops, brought back as trophy when he returned victorious. I have received a report that Yoshikado, the youngest son of the deceased traitor, now grown to manhood, has gathered a band of malcontents about him and is busy amassing treasure by pillaging villages, a sure sign of a proposed rebellion. We may suppose that the evil spirit of the vindictive Masakado has been transmitted to his son and has breathed a soul into the steed upon his pavilion curtain, with the result that we have seen the cursed goblin." On this mysterious coffer, tightly locked though it was, was opened in the presence of the Emperor and the Regent. Its contents proved to be exactly such as Yorimitsu had indicated. The Emperor, struck with profound admiration at the doughty deed and at the sagacity of the Shogun, graciously bestowed upon him a beautiful wine-cup, together with a mandate entrusting to him the management of all affairs of state, and directed him soon to appoint an heir to the office and possessions. The Emperor also commanded Lord Ebumi, the Prime Minister, to take custody of the pavilion curtain."


By clicking on the image you will find that you can enlarge these two prints to a remarkable size. Focus on the image of the black horse on the white fabric. By making it a bit large you will notice that it is tethered.

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