317 B.C.E.: Philip III Arrhidaeus, who succeeded Alexander the Great 1944: Not Sim Kessel, Jewish boxer

1870: Kumoi Tatsuo

December 26th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1870, Japanese samurai Kumoi Tatuo was beheaded for attempting to topple the Meiji government.

Briefly a bureaucrat under the restored emperor, Tatsuo like many samurai grew disillusioned with the new state and its eclipse of the old ways.

Suspected of plotting an attack on senior government officials, he was arrested and beheaded with eleven others.

At death, I fear no dying;
In life embrace not living;
The brilliance of the sun
Is rivaled by integrity.
Execution has no terror,
Though it be a boiling cauldron;
But how insignificant my poor person,
Against the Great Wall!

-Kumoi Tatsuo

Tatsuo’s verse would later inspire the developing People’s Rights movement against the Meiji government’s authoritarianism, as well as nascent pan-Asianism.

Still, where art’s concerned, everyone is a critic. Japanese intellectual Shiga Shigetaka, addressing another young poet around the turn of the century, implored him to rise above Tatsuo.

You are only twenty-seven or -eight of age and your future is greatly promising. Above all, you must aim to be a great man in maturity and, without becoming content with temporary honor, work hard from this moment, striving to leave a name imperishable for a thousand years in the history of English literature. Tatsuo … has left nothing for the history of Japan, let alone for the history of the world. It is merely that because his poems are inept (they are, yes, inept when viewed in Chinese literature), because they meet the taste of those without a discerning eye as readers, a handful of students, who just want to feel good, recite them. You must draw your own conclusion from Tatsuo’s example.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Artists,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,Politicians,Power,Revolutionaries,Soldiers,Treason

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