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204                  CURIOSITIES OF MUSIC
The Japanese ladies not only play the various instruments, but study singing, assiduously. The language is well adapted to vocal efforts, being one of the most melodious and soft of the East; it approaches the Italian in its smoothness; it is monosyllabic,* but not varying with the pitch of the voice, as the Chinese does. (The written characters have been derived from the Chinese.) The very alphabet, or the nearest Japanese approach to it, is converted into a short song, which is characteristic of the materialistic views of the people.
The poetic setting of the "Irova" (as this is called) runs thus: —
" Color and light pass away In our world nothing is permanent The present day has disappeared In the profound abyss of nothingness. It was but the pale image of a dream; It causes in our bosoms no regret."f
Nothing can give a stronger picture of the philosophy of Buddhism and its influence upon the Japanese mind.
Buddhism was so well suited to the temper of the people, that upon its introduction into the country (A. D. 552) it almost absorbed the ancient style of worship (Sintuism), and has, at the present time, so altered that superstition, that the prevailing aspiration of one branch, even of that creed, is an escape from trouble into nothingness. The mode
•Or more properly, agglutinate. ♦ Humbert, Japan, p. 42.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III