Forbidden Colors: Mishima's Symposium
This is an
exercise in Comparative Literature. It involves certain orders of
ignorance which I had just as well confess at the outset. I have
read very little Mishima in Japanese (struggled through the first chapter
of Shiosai with a Japanese friend, and then visited the island
described there with the friend's family), and, since I am currently reading
Japanese at about a page an hour, with question marks on passages that
take Japanese friends another hour to explain to me, reading the 530 pages
of Kinjiki would take me over 1000 hours (or half a year
of 40-hour weeks). I know the novel as Forbidden Colors,
in Alfred H. Marks' English translation. Moreover, I know very little
about the novel's textual history, and that is reasonably important to
my thesis, for part of the book was written just before Mishima made that
pilgrimage to a Greece that had come to possess his imagination the way
Whitman's "Passage to India" possesses mine, and part of it just after
he returned, so that what is generally acknowledged to be the major turning
point in Mishima's career came right in the middle of an extended literary
labor, that was published serially, and may very well have been extensively
revised later, but that I am dealing with as a single unit--for that is
the only way I know it. I have, in fact, read none of the Japanese
commentary on Mishima or his fiction, though it must, of course, be both
voluminous and fascinating on this novel. I have read a good bit
of what has been written about him in English, which, though considerably
more than has been written about any other Japanese author, is not much
help on this book.
|affair with the Platonic dialogues, particularly with
the Symposium. I have done a dramatic adaptation of
that work, of which, on three different occasions over the years, I have
directed readings. I feel that I almost know that dialogue by heart,
and like to think that I must be closer to Plato than any Japanese could
be--after all, Plato's thought is at the heart of Western civilization,
and I've spent my life in the study of Western literature. But, in
one sense, I'm no closer to Plato than I am to Mishima, for I have less
Greek than Shakespeare had in approaching North's translation of Plutarch's
Lives. I can't read Plato in the original language,
either--though evidently Yukio Mishima did. In her review of the
Nathan and Scott-Stokes biographies of Mishima in The New York Review
of Books, December 11, 1975, Hide Ishigiro describes Mishima's
meticulous line-for-line translation of Plato's Symposium
as having set the standard for the rest of the class at Tokyo University,
to which he had returned, again after that trip to Greece, to study Greek,
Plato, the Symposium. But, then, that must have been
just after he had finished writing Forbidden Colors.
It is clear from the English translation of that Japanese novel that he
knew the dialogue, but he must have known it in Japanese translation--so
perhaps I can claim to be about on a par with Mishima, back there in his
middle twenties, in the knowledge of Plato's classical statement of his
philosophy of Love.
At any rate, what I'm attempting to do, reaching out from my own ignorance, is make contact with a contemporary spirit, another man who lived in the same world I did, who was three years older than I was when he died, seven years ago this November 25th, who died the way he did in good part, I believe, to get his work translated, so I could read it before I died, and who was willing to meet me more than halfway, in Plato, by virtue of knowing more about my literature (if I can claim all European literature as mine) than I do about his. Critics writing in English have been inclined to dismiss Forbidden Colors as a curiosity, or a failure, but I consider it a very complex and provocative
|novel, a good index to where Mishima was in the early
50's, and, beyond that, think Mishima was doing in that novel essentially
what Plato was doing in the Symposium--searching for Love.
It is well known that Mishima was attracted by elements from the classical Greek tradition all of his life. He was oriented toward books from the time he was a small child, and, while he says "words" in Sun and Steel, he confesses himself a more normal child and says "pictures" in Confessions of a Mask, pictures in the books his father had brought home from Europe in which the images of male Greek beauty, idealized in Greek sculpture, captured his young imagination. He never lost a kind of obsession with that Greek ideal of masculine beauty, but his relationship to it changed, as defined by those autobiographical bookends to his career, from feminine-mode, passive worshiper of in Confessions of a Mask to masculine-mode, active embodiment of in Sun and Steel (and in all of those sculptured photographs of the Sun and Steel period). And Forbidden Colors comes right at the turning point, where he is coming to despise his Confessions of a Mask image, and the sentiment associated with it, the whole mystique of effete and ineffectual intellectual, and to determine to recreate himself in the image of the new masculine ideal. There is no question about the fact that in Forbidden Colors he projected that ideal in Yuichi. The first time that we, and Shunsuke, see Yuichi, in that scene that may indeed have been modeled directly on a scene in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice (though little else would seem to be--Mishima's old author, and his probable model, definitely being tuned to girls), he is presented as:
an amazingly beautiful young man. His body surpassed the sculptures of ancient Greece. It was like the Apollo molded in bronze by an artist of the Peloponnesus school. It overflowed with gentle beauty and carried such a noble column of a neck, such gently sloping shoulders, such a softly broad chest, such elegantly rounded wrists, such a rapidly tapering tightly filled trunk, such legs, stoutly filled out like a heroic sword. (21)
| Yuichi is
just as obviously not another autobiographical portrait, as I had expected
him to be when I first approached the novel, having heard somewhere that
it was grounded in the young Mishima's relationship to Kawabata--he is
"an abstraction," as Seidensticker remarked in his review, a projection
of that Greek ideal, as much as, near the end of Mishima's career, the
Isao of Runaway Horses will be an abstraction, the projection
of a related samurai ideal. In 1952, Yuichi might be seen as Mishima's
anti-type, in fact, the body beautiful, denying mind. As Mishima
describes him early in the novel, for "the eight years or so since puberty
Yuichi had set himself against sexual desire, which he detested.
He kept his body pure. He involved himself in mathematics and sports--geometry
and calculus, high jumping and swimming. He did not realize particularly
that this . . . was a Greek option. . . ." (27) He is a kind of Hippolytus
If Mishima's attraction to the Greek begins and ends in pictures, in images of male physical beauty, it is also informed by elements of Greek myth and legend, which absolutely permeate the character-ization of Yuichi. This Hippolytus theme is picked up later, when Shunsuke identifies Yuichi with Hippolytus (or, evidently, with Racine's Hippolyte) in his conversation with the industrialist Kawada (246), who then names his yacht the Hippolyte (311). He becomes Endymion for the Mrs. Kaburagi who transcends sex to rescue him and carry him off for a an idyllic few days on Kashikojima (372). He is Alcibiades when it seems that what Kawada can offer him will lure him from his Shunsuke/Socrates (309). But, most of all, he is Narcissus, so much so that Anthony West entitled his review in the New Yorker "Narcissus and His Friends," and strikingly so in two of the most memorable and provocative passages in the novel: when Count Kaburagi first seduces Yuichi at Jackie's "Gei Pa-ti," by figuratively holding up the mirror to Yuichi's own beauty (158f), and incidentally providing a dramatic situation for Mishima's development of a conception of the function
|of the ideal that is close to Platonic (161-2); and,
at the major turning point in the novel, so far as Yuichi is concerned,
when he insists upon being present as Yasuko gives birth to their child,
at which time the Narcissus image he is looking through is repeatedly emphasized:
It was as if his feeling for humanity compelled him, even more deeply than the sympathy he felt with his wife's pain, to see, as he confronted this wordless scarlet flesh and looked at the wet surface of it, his own inimitable self. . . . this naked, scarlet flesh was not alone. It was related to the red flesh that indubitably existed within Yuichi; . . . Narcissus had forgotten his own face. His eyes had another object than the mirror. Looking at this awful ugliness had become the same as looking at himself. . . . This Narcissus . . . could even consider that his face did not exist. If, beside herself with pain, his wife had turned her face and opened her eyes, she would . . . have had no trouble seeing there the expression of one who lived in the same world as she. (292-3).This reflects the strong influence of the larger classical Greek tradition--its sculpture, its mythology, its drama--on Mishima as he was writing this novel, in the middle of writing which he had stood on the Acropolis (as I've also done once in my lifetime--Athens is almost exactly the same great circle distance from Topeka as from Tokyo, as they are from each other, on roughly the same parallel of latitude--with, I like to think, kindred emotions), but what about Plato, and the Symposium? In spite of the fact that there are Alcibiades echoes in the characterization of Yuichi, and much stronger Socrates echoes in the characterization of Shunsuke, it is true that the novel is not very Platonic. The Symposium was much in Mishima's mind, certainly, which is natural enough, since it is the classical affirmation of homosexual love. And there are passages where Shunsuke defines woman much as she is defined in the Symposium, as the medium for material, not spiritual, reproduction, as essentially without soul (19, 87, 140), and passages in which noble and ignoble motives for homosexual experience are discussed in much the same terms (232, 329), but the one passage in which there is direct allusion to first the Phaedrus then the Symposium points up the essential difference. Shunsuke is reflecting upon the fact that when he had taken Yuichi's place with Kyoko in the dark he had been
|most conscious of the contrast between them, that even
"in the moment the woman raised her moan of pleasure, he did not forget
his own ugliness" (271), and thinks to himself:
. . . Even in that moment I could not believe that my interior beauty was consonant with Yuichi's exterior beauty. Socrates' prayer to the various gods of the place on that summer morning when he lay under the plane tree on the bank of the Ilissus River, chatting to the beautiful boy Phaedrus until the day cooled, seems to me the highest teaching on earth: "Pan, first, and all the gods that dwell in this place, grant that I may become fair within, and that such outward things as I have may be at peace with the spirit within me."The problem is that Mishima's Socrates is a cynic, a sophisticated modern intellectual who despises, among other things, his own work, and himself. He knows that he is ugly, though probably no uglier than Socrates, whom Plato and Alcibiades thought beautiful--and Mishima agrees with him. He cannot manage the Greek "power to look at internal beauty as if it were hewn from marble." And though Mishima became more Platonic--I think of the passages in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, written within a few years, in which the idea of the temple is identified with the idea of beauty as having greater reality that the physical temple that is burned down, or the concept of the emperor that dominates the last years of his life--but I am sure that he never came to accept the fact that Socrates was beautiful, that it is possible for a man who is physically ugly, or an old man, to be spiritually beautiful. As Donald Keene remarks in his Landscapes and Portraits essay,
In 1966 Mishima wrote, "Among my incurable convictions is the belief that the old are eternally ugly, the young eternally beautiful. The wisdom of the old is eternally murky, the actions of the young eternally transparent. The longer people live, the worse they become. Human life, in other words, is an upside-down process of decline and fall" (208)
| I believe
that this is true, that Mishima could read Kawabata's The Sound of
the Mountain, then look at Kawabata and see an ugly old man, where
Plato looking at Socrates saw a beautiful spirit. And, for Mishima,
it would be ugliness compounded if the man were an intellectual--again
Keene is quoting, "What an ugly thing an intellectual face is! What
an unseemly spectacle an intellectual human being makes!" (212), while
for Plato to become pure intellect would be the goal.
Yukio Mishima was still an idealist, however. He had an ideal conception of human beauty, but it was grounded in the physical and it was grounded in youth. He died still embracing that ideal, which had gone through a number of permutations before the formulation which he develops in Sun and Steel. I honor the idealist, but, while I respect the integrity of the ideal, consider it his greatest limitation that he was never really able to exorcise Narcissus and embrace Socrates (particularly since I intend to live to be a very old man, and to learn to drink tea from an empty cup).
It's difficult to be an idealist in the 20th century, and was particularly difficult for a young Japanese in the early 1950's. The Symposium, while written by a still relatively young Greek, after he had witnessed his city lose it great war and condemn its greatest man, his old teacher, to death, is set in the year 417 BC, when Agathon, Alcibiades, Athens, and Socrates all were riding high, just months before things began to fall apart, and Plato's skill in capturing the mood of that time, when he himself would have been about ten, is much admired. But Plato never lost the conception of the reality of the abstract idea, the Platonic Idea, which Socrates taught, and in terms of which Socrates died--that the Idea of the Law did not depend upon the laws being properly administered in Athens, that the Idea of the Republic did not depend upon the existence of Athens (or, as I say, that while, yes, Washburn University does depend upon the Idea of the University, fortunately, the Idea of the University does not depend upon Washburn's realizing it, is not affected in the least if Washburn is
|totally swept away by the next tornado), and, above all,
that the Idea of Love did not depend upon the existence of a young body,
male or female--which Socrates understood, but Alcibiades did not.
Forbidden Colors, on the other hand, is set in a fallen Tokyo, a city of lust, and is most praised for the realism of its picture of the homosexual underworld of that city in that period, a world which Mishima frequented before his symbolic trip to Greece (in search of, among other things, love where there was only lust), and, as I understand it, after that trip rejected for the gymnasium. There was no support system for an idealist, seeking the Idea of Love, or of Beauty, in that environment, next to none surviving from the Japanese tradition, none brought in by the American military. In that world Socrates was a cynic. And still Mishima was compelled to pursue the ideal, to try to find Love in the Inferno, which I find admirable, to set him apart from, say, Dazai.
The bulk of Forbidden Colors is an analysis of lust, of "the expense of spirit in a waste of shame," of the hell of undisciplined homosexual passion. In this sense it can be read as a bildungsroman, the story of a young man's disillusionment in his search for love. The world that has Rudon's and Jackie's as its poles is clearly presented as hollow and synthetic, where prostitution mixes with greed and raw appetite--no charioteer here. Intrude the Idea of Beauty into that world and all it can do with it is debase it. Yuichi's encounters with other homosexuals range from the attempted rape by the "American of German ancestry" (307), to the one-night stands with dozens of pretty boys, to the extended affair with Count Kaburagi, which more or less ends with Yuichi rejecting him as he kisses Yuichi's shoes in an alley (241), to the relationship with Kawada, who has character enough to know that it is best for both of them to break it off before it leads to "moral ruin" (380). Yuichi loves none of these--he lusts after some, for a time. They, pretty generally, lust after him, the pin-up boy of the crowd. None of these relationships is developed in terms of the romantic self-sacrifice
|associated with genuine homosexual love, in the Greek
tradition in the West (unto Mary Renault's The Charioteer,
1959) or the samurai tradition in Japan. Tokyo in the early 1950's
won't sustain it. The closest thing to homosexual "love" in the book,
if we except Shunsuke for the moment, is the love of Minoru, who "used
countless old tales as the material of a dream of Yuichi" (327), and Yuichi
rejects this love as being what it is obviously presented as being, immature
romanticism, as out of touch with reality as Tom Sawyer's ideas of adventure
in Huckleberry Finn. Mishima would have to repossess
those traditions of homosexual love before he could die with Morita in
terms of them; the homosexual lust of Forbidden Colors would
not have been sufficient.
The main plot of the novel is not generally seen to be shaped by Yuichi's homosexual adventures, however, but to be that imposed by Shunsuke Hinoki--the Revenge on the Three Women. Shunsuke is definitely heterosexual in his lust, and I find him a fascinating figure, a kind of inversion of the Socrates Mishima was finally unable to follow. First he reaches for that which he comes to know his ugliness denies him, the physical love of beautiful women (I'd like to read a good biography of Socrates in his middle years), and then he becomes bitterly misogynistic, determined to get even with the enemy. He uses their lust for the beautiful young man who cannot love women as the perfect weapon against them, and has his revenge in each case--marries one woman to this young man who is incapable of loving her, reduces the second to the state of shock in which she flees the discovery of the young man's homosexuality, and uses the young man to seduce the third unto his own consummation. But he finds no satisfaction in any of this, as he should have been wise enough to know, only the taste of ashes, the increased awareness of his own ugliness.
In the course of all of this, set off against an action dominated by revenge, and an environment dominated by lust, there are three love stories, however--and they are the best things in the book.
|I wish that I could sketch them as recapitulating the
argument of the Symposium--that love transcends lust, that
love of man for man transcends love of man for woman, that love of spirit
transcends love of body, that the final goal is the love of the immutable
Idea reflected in all of these lower orders of attraction--or identify
the first with appetite, the second with spirit, the third with reason--or
the first lover with Alcibiades, the second with Diotima, the third with
Socrates. But that is not quite what we get in Mishima's dialogue
on Love, unfortunately.
The first is the story of a man who falls in love with his wife--Yuichi coming to love Yasuko--and it is definitely grounded in the flesh, in Yuichi's seeing his flesh in hers, his pain in hers, when she is turned inside out giving birth to their child. Ironically, this love has to do with reproduction, but has nothing to do with sexual appetite. This is a very fundamental kind of love and I believe in it, the compassion of one human being for another in whose struggle he sees his own, flesh for flesh. Mishima uses the experience, as we noted in the quotation above, as the turning point for Yuichi, when he sees through his Narcissus-complex into his common humanity, and Mishima closes the chapter with a picture of Yasuko--but not as the beautiful, desirable female whom her husband was unable to love:
She lay silently with her eyes open. Her eyes did not seem to see her husband or the child that had been brought forth. If she saw them, she did not smile. The impassive expression, properly an animal's expression, was one that human beings are rarely able to achieve. Compared with that expression, thought the man in Yuichi, all human expressions of tragicomic pathos were little more than masks (294).This is perceptive on Mishima's part, at least five years before his own marriage, six years before the birth of his first child. It may be true that much of what Yuichi does later in the novel is not consistent with that revelation, with his falling in love with his wife's "wordless scarlet flesh" (which is one of the problems with a character who is essentially an abstraction), but, through all of the other complications of the book, he continues to affirm that he loves his wife, and I assume he
|would as he is getting his shoes shined at the end.
I am not just sure where that leaves Yasuko, or what it bodes for their
future, but it is an order of love, found where more superficial kinds
are often lost.
The second love story is the story of Yuichi and Mrs. Kaburagi. Yuichi proclaims his love for her after reading the long confessional letter in which she reaffirms her love for him, in spite of having seen him in homosexual embrace with her husband, on the grounds that "there was no greater meeting of minds than in the absolute, incontrovertible humiliation that lay in the identity of their feelings when she saw him and he was seen by her" (214). This moral identification is a higher order of love than that of flesh for flesh--works best at a distance, in fact. But it is not Yuichi who is developed as the lover in this case. It is Mrs. Kaburagi, a woman who has seen and done almost everything in this corrupt world--and come to a kind of wisdom. She is called upon when Yuichi needs her, to save him with a lie, and the profundity comes in the fact that the lie is a kind of truth--he hasn't really loved any of the boys, beyond his mirror image, but has loved this other woman, with no impulse to physical consummation. The climax of Mrs. Kaburagi's love story comes in that moment when she almost kisses her sleeping Endymion, but doesn't, thinking, "If our lips so much as touched . . . something would leave with a flutter of wings, never to return. If I wish to maintain between this youth and me something like music that never ends, I must not move a finger" (372). I find this true to my own under-standing of love, too, and as having little to do with sex. The other passage in literature of which it most reminds me is the passage in Catcher in the Rye describing the emotions of the teacher over the sleeping Holden Caulfield. I find Mrs. Kaburabi an absolutely consistent character from beginning to end--I believe in the love shining through her cynicism (think the little story about her giving herself to the soldier leaving for battle--the only place where she's an abstraction--is priceless), and I like her. But she is, finally, the Earth Mother, not Diotima.
| The last love
story is the best of all--the love of Shunsuke Hinoki for Yuichi Minami.
It can be seen as really providing the main plot of the novel, working
itself out from the time the old novelist first sees the beautiful young
man, and incidentally decides to use him in his revenge against women,
until he finally commits suicide, leaving everything to a Yuichi who doesn't
understand what he has been left. It is a story of genuine homosexual
love, for, while Shunsuke does worry the problem of just how he loves Yuichi,
and wonders at times whether it may have a component of sexual desire (230),
the appraisal given earlier holds, that "Shunsuke, while noting the various
charms of the boys who consorted with him, was not sexually excited by
any of them. . . . Whenever he thought of Yuichi alone, the old man's heart
palpitated somewhat, although without sexual overtones" (138) In
lust Shunsuke is heterosexual; in love he is homosexual. He loves
the Idea of the Beautiful Young Man, in Greek terms, as becomes clear in
the last chapter. He is envious of it, certainly, of the power of
its beauty in the face of his ugliness--as Socrates explains in the Symposium,
Love desires what it does not have. The elements of the Idea are
eclectically drawn from many literary sources, so that Shunsuke loves in
a more sophisticated version of the way the boy Minoru loves--when Yuichi
enters in the last chapter "it seemed as if he had appeared out of all
the books Shunsuke had been poring over" (395)--but they all come back
to the Greek center. And he talks to the Idea, not to Yuichi, who,
as always, pays very little attention to him, wondering,
Who is this old man talking to? To me? . . . If I didn't know better I'd be breaking my head trying to figure out Hinoki's crazy theories. . . . Unconsciously, Yuichi's eyes moved to a dark corner of the room. The old author seemed to be talking to another person behind Yuichi. . . . that wasn't directed at me, Yuichi thought, in terror. . . . Another Yuichi who is not me is in this room. . . . He felt as if, close by, the sculpture of the beautiful youth was listening. . . . In the room the miracle had already occurred. . . . As they sat thus, the presence of another person in the study made itself evident. Yuichi looked over his shoulder several times toward the invisible statue that was observing the moves of the chessmen (397-401).
| Shunsuke has
idealized his love, a love that is absolutely unrequited, which makes it
as spiritual an exercise as the love of a Renaissance sonneteer for his
mistress, or Socrates for Alcibiades. And Shunsuke himself, in this
last chapter, just before his death, compares Socrates' relationship to
Phaedrus to his own relationship to Yuichi, remarking:
. . . Socrates listened to the cicada's voice and in the morning by the little stream lectured to the beautiful boy Phaedrus. Socrates asked questions and answered them himself. . . . But you'll never get a question from absolute beauty in a natural body. Questions and answers can only be exchanged between things in the same category. Spirit and body can never engage in dialogue. . . . There you are, beautiful nature. Here I am, ugly spirit. This is the eternal schema. . . . But, Yuichi, my boy, love--at least my love--doesn't have even the hope of Socrates' love. Love is born from nothing less than hopelessness (397).Then he commits suicide. As I have remarked, Shunsuke is a kind of anti-Socrates. He is an idealist, and that is Socratic, but his Idea of Beauty is tied to the physical, and the physical without mind, and that is not. He dies with Socratic serenity, but without hope, and after articulating a theory of suicidal death as the ultimate action, the moment of truth, that Mishima certainly derived from another source.
Mishima does not present Shunsuke as a very attractive character, in the revenge he spitefully takes upon women and his general misogyny, or in his denial of the value of his own life's work and general cynicism, and he repudiates most of what Shunsuke represents--the old, the ugly, the intellectual--but the interesting thing is that he shares his Love, affirms Shunsuke's Idea of Beauty, not Socrates', and came to do so more and more strongly throughout the remainder of his life.
Mishima evidently came back from Greece determined to transform himself into what he loved, to lift himself out of the sordid environment of Tokyo, 1953, out of a 20th century that can't abide a noble conception of man, and recreate his being in the image of his Idea of the Beautiful--to escape the fate of Shunsuke Hinoki. He remained dedicated to that Idea until the end of his life. I honor that, and feel there is no better place to turn for the ideals for that task than classical Greece.
| I also honor
Mishima's synthesis of this ideal with elements drawn from the native samurai
tradition--so that he becomes a kendo master through his work in the gymnasium,
and strikes poses as Apollo with a samurai sword. I admire even more
his love of the samurai spirit, as projected in "Patriotism" and Runaway
Horses--though I certainly have trouble with that appetite for
seppuku. I even admire his conception of the divinity of the
emperor, as Donald Keene explains it:
Mishima's emperor-worship was not, however, a worship of the present emperor. Indeed, in Eirei no Koe the ghosts of the heroes of the February 26 incident and the kamikaze pilots of 1945 reproach the emperor bitterly for having betrayed them by declaring he was not a god. The men know, of course, that the emperor is an ordinary human being with ordinary human weaknesses, but in his capacity as emperor he must be a god. . . . The emperor, in his capacity as a god, is the incarnation of Japanese tradition, the unique repository of the experience of the Japanese people. To protect the emperor was thus for Mishima to protect Japan itself (219-20).I like to think of the US presidency in some such idealized terms, reducing Richard Nixon to a mere accident, and, not only the Catholics of Keene's analogy, but anyone who believes in the incarnation of the divine principle is idealist, is Platonist, enough to deplore the environment in which the incumbent does not believe in the principle of his being.
As I reflect on the relationship of Mishima to the young men in the Tatenokai, particularly on his relationship to Masakatsu Morita, I would like to believe that genuine homosexual love, of the kind affirmed in the Symposium, held the group together. But I am very skeptical, for two reasons, involving two themes Shunsuke stresses in that last chapter in Forbidden Colors. First, Mishima was so enamored of the beauty of suicidal death, a strain drawn from the dark side of the Japanese tradition, that also goes back to Confessions of a Mask, is given expression as part of Shunsuke's swan song, and is even more strongly emphasized in Sun and Steel. That seems to me to be an order of lust, which I cannot claim to understand at all, and see as absolutely alien to Greek unto Socratic
|idealism. It seems to me that there is an indulgence
of sensuous appetite in Mishima's suicide that would make Shunsuke's death
much closer to Socrates'. Second, I suspect that Mishima loved himself
more than he loved those young men who stood with him, or the Idea of the
Emperor, or Japan, or Beauty--that he took the wrong turn when he decided
to become the Beautiful Young Man incarnate, which came to involve a regression
to the Narcissus-complex from which he had extricated Yuichi so traumatically.
In this case, both Yuichi and Shunsuke would have the advantage on him
in the abstraction of, the idealization of, their Love.
I should not close on that negative note, however, a note so obviously reflecting some of my own prejudices and limitations. I respect Mishima as a genuine idealist, and know too little about the condition of his ideals in the last years of his life, am just confused by much in Sun and Steel, for example, and by most of the analyses of his death. I would like to believe that he continued to pursue a Platonic impulse beyond Shunsuke toward Socrates. I would really like to know if he ever discussed the Symposium with the young men in the Tatenokai--and will ask some of them if I ever get the chance.