From The Gate (1910) by Natsume Sōseki, translated by William F. Sibley (2013):

In any case, the two of them had come this far without either sitting in a church pew or passing through a temple gate. At length they had found peace through that simple blessing of nature: the balm of time. Even as they continued to suffer pangs of conscience on occasion, these increasingly seemed to come from somewhere far away, too faint, too weak, and too disconnected from flesh-and-blood passions to qualify as either terrifying or excruciating. Finally, then, not having found God or encountered the Buddha, they focused their faith on each other. Their spirits locked together in an embrace, they began to form a protective circle around themselves. It was in this state of isolation that they had managed to find peace. Their lonely peace was complemented by a certain sweet sense of pathos. As much as they came to revel in their pathos, they were far enough removed from the realms of philosophers and poets to harbor any self-conscious need to proclaim aloud their good fortune in having achieved it. Their experience was therefore unalloyed in comparison to that of the writers and thinkers who must strive to describe states of this nature. Such had been the couple’s inner life up until the seventh day of this New Year, when Sōsuke was invited to the Sakais’ and heard the news about Yasui.

I do not get the meaning of "self-conscious need" and the whole phrase clearly.

Does the whole sentence mean "As much as they came to revel in their pathos they could not came over their worrying feelings about how people think about them to be able to proclaim aloud their good fortune like something that is written in books of philosophers or poets"

  • 1
    for "came over", do you mean overcome? a self-conscious need can a need that might cause embarassment.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 26 at 19:28
  • Yes I mean "overcome" Commented Apr 26 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


Sōseki is contrasting how the couple experiences their own feelings, with how poets or philosophers would experience or view those feelings.

If a poet or a philosopher feels something out of the realm of ordinary experience, the poet or philosopher has the drive to talk about it: to write a poem reflecting this feeling, or an essay discussing it. This means that such writers are always somewhat self-conscious, or at least self-aware: they regard the feeling from the outside, as it were. Somewhere in their mind there is a faculty that says, I am undergoing this particular emotional state.

The couple here do not have any such drive to externalize what they are feeling so that they can poetize or philosophize about it. So their experience is unalloyed: they feel this "sweet sense of pathos" without simultaneously regarding it and themselves self-consciously. Sōseki says that because poets and philosophers have this self-consciousness, this need to describe their feeling as or to an observer even while they experience it, they cannot lose themselves in the feeling in the way that this couple can do and has done.

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