THOUGHTS ON LEAVING JAPAN

Changing medley of insistent sounds,
Like broken airs played on a samisen,
Pursues me, as the waves blot out the shore.
The trot of wooden heels; the warning cry
Of patient runners; laughter, and strange words
Of children, children, children everywhere.
The clap of reverent hands before some shrine;
And over all the haunting temple bells,
Waking, in silent chambers of the soul,
Dim memories of long-forgotten lives.

But, oh! the sorrow of the undertone,
The wail of hopeless weeping in the dawn
From lips that smiled through gilded bars at night.*

Brave little people of large aims, you bow
Too often, and too low, before the Past;
You sit too long in worship of the dead.
Yet have you risen, open eyed, to greet
The great material Present; now salute
The greater Future, blazing its bold trail
Through old traditions.  Leave your dead to sleep
In quiet peace with God.  Let your concern
Be with the living and the yet unborn;
Bestow on them your thoughts, and waste no time
In costly honors to insensate dust.
Unlock the doors of usefulness, and lead
Your lovely daughters forth to larger fields,
Away from jungles of the ancient sin.

For, oh! the sorrow of that understone
The wail of hopeless weeping in the dawn
From lips that smiled through gilded bars at night.

*There is no secrecy in the "White Slave" market of
Japan.  It is an open trade, legalized by custom and
law.  One of the remarkable sights of the world is the
Yoshiwara district of Tokio.  In that city of sixty thousand
souls, two thousand girls dedicated to immorality as
a profession are to be seen every evening after candle-
light, disporting themselves, for the approval of customers,
behind the gilded bars of small houses resembling cages.
A parent or guardian is obliged to sign written consent
befoer a girl enters the life.  Two localities in Japan send
large numbers of girls to the Yoshiwara district.  Fathers
often sell one or more daughters to this life for a period
of years; yet in Japan women are considered more or
less "unsexed" who seek education and self-supporting
occupations.  On April 9th a large part of this district
was destroyed by fire, and many thousands of the inmates
were made homeless.
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Cosmopolitan 51 (June 1911): 115.


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