(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Sea of Fertility: A Cycle of Four Novels is a tetralogy whose title is taken from a name on the surface of the moon. It suggests both the fertile sea of earthly life and the arid sea of the cosmic moon—being and nothingness. Mishima said that he put everything he knew about life into these four novels; the very last words of the final book were written and submitted to his publisher on the day that he died.

Spring Snow is Mishima’s version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (pr. c. 1595-1596, pb. 1597). A story of star-crossed lovers, Kiyo Matsugae and Satoko Ayakura, the novel is romantic, poignant, and tragic. As the title suggests, spring is the season of love, while snow is the cold, life-covering element of death, and this novel combines the two. Satoko, the daughter of a nobleman, is engaged by imperial decree to a prince of the court, while Kiyo, also from a noble family, is a student at Peers’ School who falls in love with her. By doing so, however, he challenges the emperor himself. The lovers meet secretly, love passionately, and take terrible risks. Emotionally weak and immature, Kiyo tries to distance himself from Satoko, who becomes pregnant, gets an abortion, and, in disgrace, isolates herself in a nunnery. Kiyo, guilty and desperately ill, comes daily to see the cloistered Satoko and eventually dies for love.

Two minor characters in Spring Snow figure prominently in the second novel of the cycle, Runaway Horses. Before Kiyo dies, he tells his school friend, Shigekuni Honda, of a dream in which he sees his friend Honda again, beneath a waterfall. Another minor character, Kiyo’s tutor, Shikeyuki Iinuma, also reappears in the second novel, which takes place some eighteen years after Kiyo’s death. Honda, now an associate judge in the saka Court of Appeals, meets Isao Iinuma, son of Kiyo’s tutor, who is now headmaster of his own academy. When Honda sees the boy bathing beneath a waterfall near the shrine, he notices three small moles on the left side of the boy’s breast—the same three moles that Kiyo had. He concludes that the boy is Kiyo reincarnated, the incarnation of Kiyo’s earlier dream.


(The entire section is 906 words.)