Season word: shigure(しぐれ), “early winter rain” (winter)
||Love feeling in old age;
He tries to let it drop ━
Early winter rain.
老が恋 わすれんとすれば しぐれかな
(Oi ga koi wasu ren to sure ba shigure kana)
||Next haiku ➘
The Poet had his preparatory note written, which goes:
Kito kai toza shigure (几董会 当座 時雨)
(At the meeting hosted by Kito. The seasonal topic is 'early winter rain'.)
(Translated by hokuto77)
The Poet wrote to Tairo(大魯) about the Haiku, on Sep. 23, 1774. It goes:
no ku, sejyo mina keiki nomi anji soro yue, hikichigae soraite itashimi soro.
[makuzu gahara no shigure] towa isasaka isho chigai soro. “---”
I composed the Haiku of 'early winter rain' from a different viewpoint
to the way in vogue to describe sceneries as exactly as they are before us.
I think the early winter rain in the Haiku is rather different, in its
device, from that of
‘Makuzugahara’. (Translated by hokuto77)
*Notes: 'Makuzugahara no shigure' is the expression in the next tanka poem created by Jien (慈円)
(1155-1225). It goes:
わが恋は 松を時雨の染めかねて 真葛ヶ原に 風騒ぐなり
(Waga koi wa matsu wo shigure no some kanete makuzugahara ni kaze sawagu nari)
My love unable to tint pines in early winter rain, in Makuzugahara the wind is blowing boisterously.
(Translated by hokuto77)
*makuzu=a sort of kudzu vine
*Makuzugahara’ is a name of the place where a sort of kudzu vines, eulaias, kaya, etc. used to grow thick and wide.
It is the place all over the piedmont of Higashiyama in Kyoto City.
There, today, you see Maruyama Park, the Chio-in
Shrine, the Sorin-ji Temple, and the like.
Judging from the letter to his disciple Tairo(大魯), the Poet wrote the Haiku in his imagination alone, even if it was not raining then.
Two interpretations are possible on the love feeling or affair in the Haiku.
One is a live and real feeling of love, or newly felt in an aged man, and
the other is a recollection of what he cherished years ago. Prof. Ogata adopts the latter. The feeling of love in the memory of the
aged man, though first faint, is now gradually making a fresh form.
It will be much more effective to identify the aged man with the Poet himself. The old man in the Haiku is a little confused by remembering a by-gone
feeling of love by chance, though he knows it will leave him in course
of time. Even so, he is trying to get it out of his mind. He knows well
that his age will not let him be indulged in it, and the time is early
winter. In his mind it has just started to rain, as if to make him feel
all the more desolate. The feeling of love, whether a live one or a mere recollected one by chance,
is doomed to be discarded.
Clearly we see a wide gap between the love in the Haiku and that in 'Makuzugara' by Jien (慈円):the former is a calmed, silent desire, while the latter is a burning,
uncontrollable passion. The distinction is true to the two early winter rains. The love in the Haiku is buried
in the early winter rain, while the one in the tanka poem is as furious
as if to disperse the rain into gale force winds.
In the letter to Tairo, the Poet adds, "Alll of these haiku are not good but I think that, unless I write them down, it will be rather bleak and desolate, or I will be careless about them." The Poet seemed to be unsatisfactory, though he dared to resist a then prevailing trend towards depicting sceneries faithfully in words. As we are more conscious of our own old ages, the desolateness felt by
the old man in the Haiku appears more real and gets universality. It penetrates
into our minds.
||Bagworm, hanging limp,
Lives its life leisurely ━
みのむしの ぶらと世にふる 時雨哉
(Minomushi no bura to
yonifuru shigure kana)
Season word: shigure(時雨), “early winter rain” (winter)
The Poet thinks a bag-worm leads its life leisurely by dangling limply from a twig all its life. It happens to begin raining in early winter and the
atmosphere is desolate. But the Poet thinks the bagworm remains as calm and composed as usual, in its silken case, quite safe from
early winter rain. The harm done on trees by bag-worms is the last thing in the mind of the Poet. He envies the worm its cool and distant attitude. He finds there a kind of freedom from worldly attachments, that is, a savor of zen, transcent meditation. Mr. Takahashi explains to us
that the Poet was depressed with the strong sense of uncertainty, facing the death of Tan Taigi(炭太祇)(1709-1771), and that the Poet identified himself with a bagworm. Mr. Takahashi says he reads there pathos and a sense of humor at the same time.
A bag-worm is [injurious to trees, which builds as a
portable habitation a silken case or sac covered with little twigs and leaves.(OED)]
Here two quotations from OED. They go:
(1)1862 Congress. Globe Jan.232 On the
avenue and in the parks you will find the evergreen trees.. being destroyed by the bag-worm.
(2)1871 H.B. Stowe Oldtown Fireside Stories 158 The young Hokums was jest like bag-worms, the more they growed the more they eat.
(for Japanese high school students): was: were jest: just
growed: grew eat: ate
Seen from the excerpts of OED alone, there is a dramatic difference between the two viewpoints from which to look at bagworms. From Buson's viewpoint, bagworms are a part of himself, while in the quoted excerpts bagworms are objctively considered as just undesirable
insects. The one is an emotional approach to the insect, while the other rational.
He goes on fishing,
Early winter evening rain.
釣人の 情のこはさよ 夕しぐれ
(Tsuri bito no jyo no kowasa
yo yu shigure)
||Next haiku ⇒
Season word: yushigure(夕しぐれ), “early winter rain
in the evening” (winter)
It's early winter and has started drizzling on the desolate cold evening.
A man, who has been fishing, will not stop angling. His burning desire to continue
fishing, or a kind of
obstinacy, is such that the Poet is first astonished, then a lot moved and may give a smile at the scene. He guesses the angler may be aged and admires his stubbornness in pursuit of his own fishing style and he is much attracted to his calm and determined attitude of mind toward life.
||Waiting and waiting,
Footsteps faraway ━
待人の 足音遠き 落葉かな
(Machi bito no ashi oto toki ochiba kana)
|| Next haiku ☛
Season word: ochiba(落葉), “fallen leaves” (winter)
'Ashi oto toki'(足音遠き) has two meanings: one is, a sound is heard at a distance and the other
is, the expected person is taking a long time to turn up.
She has an expected visit from a person on
her mind. The person may be a man of her heart.
She has been waiting, but no footsteps have ever come near. Days have passed and autumnal leaves are
completely fallen and winter has already started. Her anxiety has gradually merged into loneliness. The Poet is afraid the arrival of winter is the suspension of love.
As you've read in Background, the Haiku has a deep psychological effect on us. Footsteps afar means that they won't readily come near and the sound of treading fallen leaves may be imaginary, or nothing but her auditory hallucination, and it has no reality. In the Haiku, as Mr. Takahashi says, the ’'sound' plays a crucial role in its depth. The original of the Haiku is so rhythmic and full of imaginary scenes that it stirs up deep emotions.
5. 落葉して 遠く飛去 鳥孤ッ
(Ochiba shite toku tobi saru tori hitotsu)
Season word: ochiba shite(落葉して), "falling of autumn leaves" (winter)
The last leaves of autumn just now fell and a bird has now deserted the tree and flown away. To the lingering sadness, the bird made a loud noise by
wings when it started off the tree. The Poet saw the figure of the bird flying away and away into the evening twilight
until it was completely out of sight. It’ll never fly back, he thought, to the tree till green shoots appear in March.
It appeared to him the mission of the last bird was to let him know that his favorite season completely left him by flying away to the falling of the last
The very thought increases the loneliness of the beginning of winter and
the Haiku seems to indicate the falling of leaves is the temporary discontinuance of all vivid human life till the coming of a new spring.
6. 蕭条として 石に日の入 枯野かな
(Shojyo to shite ishi ni hino iru kareno kana)
Season word: kareno(枯野), "desolate field" (winter)
The Poet views the three things at the same time; the sinking
sun, white stones and dreary bare field. He depicted them before us in a picture of words. By the picture he shows us something big enough to change the situation completely. I wonder what it is. Probably he
has made the sinking sun bigger and redder than usual. Everything belonging to autumn is gone. No other 'adjective' can be better fitting to the scene than 'desolate, dull, bleak, or dreary' .
The bleak white stones in the desolate
field are sharply silhouetted against the setting big red sun. Usually it's the beginning of a brilliant afterglow
of early winter. The sun does not merely make our wintery feelings the deeper for its faint beam but directly rouses some of us to desire the coming of spring
, and if we think a little deeper, it rouses others of us to wish for the spiritual fullness and the Pure Land in the West after death. As for the Poet himself, Mr.
Takahashi says the essence of the Haiku is that the Poet does not tell us what he means by using as a the pretext the setting sun
behind the stones in the desolate field.
||Autumn is gone
Ears of dried pampas grass.
||The day has come
When autumn is over;
Ears of dead pampas grass.
|Next hIku ➨
||7. 秋去て いく日になりぬ 枯尾花
(Aki sari te ikuka ni narinu kare obana)
Season word: kare obana(枯尾花) , "ears of dried pampas grass" (winter)
*Mr. Takahash suggests we interpret the Haiku two ways. He says
it is due to the expression 'ikuka'(いく日). If we interpret it as 'how many days' we will have a translation like (1), and if as 'the day when it goes', like (2). The ground of his suggestion is that '(go)' can be pronounced two ways; one is 'yuku', and the other is 'iku'. Both pronunciations have long been used from of old. His argument is quite reasonable.
If we take up the interpretation (1), the Poet counts the days
since autumn has gone, viewing pampas grass completely decayed and he realizes autumn is far away and long ago, overcome with deep emotion. During the passage of
days his daily lives must have been common without any
touching event, physically and mentally.
The interpretation (2) will give us quite a different impression from that of (1). The day is the final day of his dear autumn. The Poet is unwillingly
conscious that he is on the threshold of winter and he is still trying to be attached to autumn but pampas grass is dried up.
In spite of himself, he finds no sign of autumn left in the decayed grass and in Nature all around him. He understands after all he has to give up his
attachment to autumn. Prof. Ogata adopts the interpretation of (1).
In both cases, autumn captivates the Poet, and dead pampas grass is a bridge between the two seasons ━ autumn and winter.
Season word: kare obana(枯尾花), "ears of dead pampas grass" (winter)
As if to catch fire;
Ears of dried pampas grass!
狐火の 燃つくばかり 枯尾花
(Kitsune bi no moe tsuku bakari kare obana)
||Next hiaku ➩
The Poet, in his letter to his disciple Tairo(大魯), wrote his own
comment on the Haiku. It goes:
(Kore wa shio karaki sama nare domo, itasa neba naranu koto nite
soro. Go/On kansatsu kuda saru beku soro.)
Note: According to Prof. Ogata, ’Shio karaki’ is a jargon among Kabuki actors, which means an old acting style.
The Haiku reads like an old artistic style but
I must use the style. I beg you to read it with as much attention as possible. (Translated by hokuto77)
Prof. Ogata comments that the Poet used
an old metaphor to express something weird and ghostly there is about the ears of dead Japanese pampas
*'Kitsunebi'(狐火) , which is derived
from a popular belief that a fox breathes a fire from his mouth, is a mysterious light, seen in fields or mountains on a moonless night. It appears in an ancient literature of ‘Joruri’ and ‘tokiwazu ’ ballad' of the Joruri. Joruri is a type of dramatic recitation, accompanied by a samisen, which is associated with the Japanese puppet theater.
OED defines and supplements 'ignis fatuus' (kitsunebi:狐火) as follows;
Ignis fatuus [med. or mod L=foolish fire] A phosphorescent light seen
hovering or flitting over marshy ground, and supposed to be due to the spontaneous combustion of an inflammable gas (phosphuretted hydrogen) derived from decaying organic
matter; popularly called will-o’-the-wisp,
It seems to have been formerly a common phenomenon; but is now
exceedingly rare. When approached, the
ignis fatuus appeared to recede, and finally to vanish, sometimes reappearing in another direction. This led to the notion thatit
was the work of a mischievous sprite, intentionally
leading benighted travelers astray. Hence the term is commonly used allusively or figuratively for any delusive guiding
principle, hope, aim, etc.
The Poet is so affected by the weird breath of air dried pampas grass gives out
which he sees in the growing dusk, that he imagines the ears of the grass lure a will-o'-the-wisp, as if to catch fire from it. I think this is the core of the Haiku from both the Poet's comment in the letter to Tairo and Prof. Ogata's on the Haiku. I agree to Prof. Ogata's remark and suppose that, driven by his unavoidable artistic necessity, the Poet decided he use an old-fashioned metaphor.
Once presented to us, every haiku gets various meanings and values, according to our own literary sentiments and responses, regardless of the intention
of its writer. In this respect, to increase the value, the will-o'-the-wisp in the Haiku is not accepted as only
a product of his imagination. If so, the Haiku will lack its vividness and won't give us
much poetic emotion.
It gets dark far more quickly in early winter than in autumn. It's doubtful
whether the sudden appearance of a will-o'-the-wisp earlier than the complete merger of a dead pampas grass into the winter
night darkness. I think it better to suppose he saw a will-o'-the-wisp and a dead pampas grass at the same time, and the latter as a season word, play the starring role and the former does a refined supporting one.
Even today there is something felt weird about ears of a dead psmpas grass
swaying in the wind of gathering dusk. The sight of a will-o'-the- wisp would have
sent a chill down our spines and made us paralyzed. But
here the Poet takes a will-o'-the-wisp objectively and he is more attracted to ears of a dried pampas grass. Through the expression 'catch fire', the will-o'-the wisp makes him feel worried and afraid catching fire will become a reality, while in his feelings the weirdness of ears of decayed pampas grass changes into something precious and dear.
|Let's read some excerpts from OED:
1563 W.Fulke Meteors(1640)11b, This
impression seene on the land, is called in Latine, Ignis fatuus, foolish
fire, that hurteth not, but only fearth fooles.
1813 Sir H.Davy Agric.Chem.i.(1814) 26 To avoid
being led astray by the ignis fatuus the most secure method is to carry a lamp.
The followings are figuratively used.
1777 J. Adams in Fam. Lett.
an ignis fatuus this ambition is?
1808 Byron To youthful friend xvii, An ignis-fatuus gleam of love.
Dk. Argyll Philos. Belief Pref. 7
That ignis fatuus of the time ━ uniformity of Worship throughout the three kingdoms.
The expression will-o'-the-wisp has quite a few figurative uses, in the
case of misleading simple, honest people.
9. 山おろし 一二の銛の 幟かな
(Yama oroshi ichini no
mori no nobori kana)
Season word: ichi mori(一銛), “the first harpoon” (winter)
The first to shoot harpoon and the second both of them used to flutter
their own flags on the whale boat. The two were stars of Japanese traditional whaling.
Japan has a long history of commercial whaling. In the Edo period(1603-1868), eating meat was psychologically prohibited under the Confucian influence, but people were able to enjoy fish without a pang of guilt. Whales were regarded as fish, not mammals, and they came up near the coast of Japan. They were precious protein-rich food for the Japanese of those times.
Naturally, whaling was prosperous alongside
the Japanese coast. Nations, especially, members of the International Whaling Commission who raise objections against commercial whaling, should not despise the
Japanese as a savage nation for whaling. I am afraid their objections are based on selfish
feelings. Killing cattle for food was no less savage behaviors to the Japanese in the Edo period. Once a female English vegetarian answered me that all animals have hearts. Cattle as well as whales have hearts. What she told me is logical. One
who is, though not a vegetarian, against whaling could not escape being illogical, isn’t he? And won’t it be against nature to prohibit the commercial whaling
done within the permissible level of environmental protection? 'Moby Dick'
by Herman Melville (1819-1891) must have been rejected long ago by those who openly express the disapproval of whaling. So will be this essay of mine. If you have any time to spare, I hope you’ll visit Misuzu Poetry.
According to the newspaper, IWC adopted the declaration of permitting commercial whaling in June,2006. But it's quite doubtful whether Japan’s demand
of opening whale fishery
will be accepted.
Accidentally, the wind blowing from the mountain flutters banners at the
stem. Their fluttering symbolizes the impatience with which the men are waiting
for the chance to plant harpoons into a whale. The description made
by the Poet has a few concrete expressions such as a mountain wind and banners or flags at the head. It may be uncertain whether the
Poet actually saw the whale fishery scene in the Haiku or not, but I think the
atmosphere of whaling that will give them the expectation to catch a whale is fully expressed
by the two concrete nouns.
How cold and unfeeling!
In a florist’s tub
A second bloom
こゝろなき 花屋が桶に 帰花
(Kokoro naki hanaya ga oke ni kaeribana)
|Next haiku →
Season word: kaeribana(帰花), “a second bloom” (winter)
It's not so often that we see a flower bloom a second time in the year.
It's so rare that second blooms are cherished or treated as much carefully as first flowers. Kindhearted people would try to protect them from harsh weather, for example cold rains, snowy winds etc and especially from cold and heartless people.The Poet deplores the harshness with
which the second bloom is put in a tub with fseasonal flowers proper to the winter months. None but a person full of warm, poetic heart would feel great sympahty
for off-season flowers in that tub. He
disapproves of the lack of sensitivity not only on the side of the florist but the person who picked and
sold it off.
Blew out all;
秋風に 吹つくさせて 帰花
(Akikaze ni fuki tsuku sase te kaeri bana)
||Next haiku ⇒
Season word: kaeribana(帰花), “a second bloom” (winter)
Prof. Ogata says autumn winds blew off everything in the
fields, and there was nothing left but a re-flowering. The Poet is attracted to the event held by Nature and it means much to him. All are already in winter, but re-flowering, though figuratively, stands for a recovery of decayed, fallen existence, or a restoration, or
re-growth of failure. The recovery is not merely restricted to plants.
As Mr. Takahashi hints, it's probable that the Poet might have an image of recovery of a failed person who is one of his acquaintances. The Poet observes Nature carefully as it changes and as I said before, something human is involved in his Nature, that is, in his haiku. We hardly read his haiku but we find in it some humanity or other working as a subtle flavor.
A branch blows off,
Blossoms scattering, leaves falling;
ひとつ枝に 飛花落葉や 冬ざくら
(Hitotsu e ni hika rakuyo
ya fuyu zakura)
||Next haiku →
Season word: fuyu zakura(冬ざくら), “winter cherry blossoms” (winter)
Winter cherry blossom’ in the Haiku is a second bloom.
In the spring wind cherry blossoms scatter as if they were
snowflakes and leaves of cherry trees are flown on the ground in the late colorless autumn winds. But in the Haiku their leaves and blossoms are seen scattering at the same time in the early
winter. The Haiku is not an imaginary one. The Poet must have seen the scene in person at some time or other in early winter. It was composed at a haiku meeting on the 10th of October in the lunar calendar, 1783.
We cannot help but marvel at the Poet's observant eye for detail. Then we realize, as Prof. Ogata and Mr. Takahashi comment, Scattering of flowers and falling of leaves, both are firmly related
the sense of uncertainty, which is all the more emphasized by the happening on a branch at a time.
And we finally come to be aware of the mysterious power of Nature.
13. いばりせし ふとんほしたり 須磨の里
(Ibari seshi futon hoshi tari sumano sato)
Season word: a futon(布団・ふとん), “futon” (winter)
*"The village of Suma (須磨の里)"is one of the places famed in the realm of classical Japanese poetry, or tanka poems and Prof. Ogata says the expression stands for 'grief' experienced by Heian nobles(794-1192).
*Suma(須磨) is a place of natural beauty. It is the scene where Hikaru Genji, hero of the Tale of Genji, stayed like an exile and
met a girl named Akashi and had a daughter from her. Then he brought them to Kyoto and let them live
|*In the Heian period, Yukihira Ariwara (818-893),a tanka poet, retired to Suma and had romances with Matsukaze and her sister Murasame, both of whom were among the workers who took water from the sea. Suma was originally a fishing village.
A child wets its bed at night even in such a nice spot for sightseeing as
Suma. The Poet was always attracted to the scene of daily lives of common people. The futon wetted at night is in the foreground in broad daylight and Suma of scenic beauty in the background. It's not a mere landscape painting but haiku
poetry, literatuere. The Poet values human activities rather than the beautiful scenery. Yet, through
it Suma is all the more impressive to us.
14. めしつぶで 紙子の破れ ふたぎけり
(Memeshi tsubu de kamiko no
yabure futagi keri)
Season word: kamiko(紙子), “a Japanese paper robe” (winter)
* Kamiko(紙子) is a kind of winter clothes made of paper of superior quality. The paper was tanned to be made strong. It might have played a role of protecting people from cold winds. It took time to produce but it was fairly cheap, so that later poor commoners regularly wore on cold days.
Grains of boiled rice were very precious for poor common people. But cloth was too expensive for them to get as oten as they wished to. Poverty, at any time,
makes people inventive and
ingenuous in their daily lives, which The Poet never misses. Such a scene as we see in the Haiku arises both a sense of
humor and deep pathos. Mr.
Takahashi says he can read a positive, forward-looking attitude to poverty between the
lines. I think the Poet composed the Haiku in praise of a great zest for life that poor common
people always entertained.
I bought leeks,
And came home
Under bare trees.
葱買て 枯木の中を 帰りけり
(Nebuka kote kareki no naka wo kaeri keri)
||Next hiaku ➩
Season word: nebuka(葱), “a leek” (winter)
The Haiku in the
original has seven k-sounds in it. It should be regarded as not accidental but intentional, as Mr.Takahashi and other critics say. The comment
is surely much to the point. By the successive repetition of k sound, I imagine
fallen leaves on the wintry path under dead trees rustling as the Poet took his steps one by one with leeks in
I hear, as if in my mind’s ear, his paces somewhat brisk. It will be interesting to suppose what makes him walk so lightly in his gait.
It is uncertain whether by coldness through the leafless trees or by something
of psychological concern or by both these. The sequence of time of the two verbs, 'bought' and 'csme home' is past.
It seems to be an essential point in appreciating the Haiku properly.
The Haiku is said to be one
of the Poet’s representative ones and very popular. Mr. Takahashi informs us that some critics say color contrast in the Haiku is the key and that others say the key is the family who are waiting eagerly for
his return with fresh leeks.
First, let’s think of the number of the colors that the Haiku contains; one is that of a leek and the other of bare trees. A leek is of two colors, green and white. Bare trees are dark brown or colorless. It seems to me the color contrast is not what the
Poet intended. He bought leeks out of necessity and probably he did take the trouble to
choose walking along a path through leafless trees, which was not necessarily a short cut.
Second, what about the unexpressed family? I think it doubtful whether his family members were impatient for his return or not. If they had been waiting in such a zealous state of mind, passing through leafless trees would not have been so impressive to him. He might have hurried home, occasionally looking at leeks, and paid little
attention to the scenery on the way. It would have roused him another poetic emotion.
I think the clue to understand the Haiku is to grasp what the two concrete things ━ leeks and bare trees ━ symbolize. It is the symbolic world made by the two that consists of the essence of the Haiku. The Poet did not compose the Haiku, either conscious of the color contrast or urged by his unspoken family waiting for the leeks.
Leeks are nourishing vegetables. If they are chopped into large pieces
and added to miso soup, *a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called “dashi” into which is dissolved softened miso, the miso soup is called 'nebuka jiru' meaning ‘leek soup’. The soup has been a favorite of commoners
and royalty alike for many centuries. To buy leeks means to get nutritional enhancement and feel the energy of life by eating them. In the Haiku, by
buying leeks, the Poet is subconsciously expecting the coming of vital spring.Wither-
ed trees in winter and their leafless colors through which the Poet is walking home represent dreariness of life. He surely has such
loneliness of nature as Basho did, whom he has
adored all his life. He identifies with the leafless trees and gets stirred by deep emotion. The Haiku contrasts energy of life and dreariness in his nature. And the one is emphasized by the other or vice versa, not in their colors but in what
each of them symbolizes respectively. *Italics in Impression are from Wikipedia free
16.うら町に 葱うる声や 宵の月
(Ura machi ni negi uru koe ya yoino tsuki)
Season word: negi(葱), “a leek” (winter)
Cries of a leek peddler shouting "Leeks, leeks, don’t you want leeks? ・・・" resound through the backstreet. They sound cheerful or gloomy, according to conditions of listeners. Generally people along the backstreets live poor. And the moon in the winter sky makes people feel even colder. As it rises higher, the cries sound fainter and linger. The Poet is sensitive to the cries sounding high and low, low and high through
poor streets and feels a lot of warm-hearted sympathy for the lives of
common people and leek peddlers
17. 口切や 北も召れて 四畳半
(Kuchikiri ya kita mo yobare te yojo han)
Season word: 'Kuchi kiri'(口切); “having a tea ceremony by opening an airtight tea jar” (winter)
*'Kuchi kiri'(口切) means to open in early winter the jar in which picked tea has kept airtight for several months and have a happy tea ceremony with the fresh
*To the 'kuchi kiri' tea ceremony, actors of Noh schools used to be invited. There are five schools: Kanze(観世), Hosho(宝生), Konbaru(金春), Kongo(金剛), and Kita (喜多) in the art of Noh. In the Edo period (1603-1868) it was probably thought that Kita
a minor one.
*'Yojohan'(四畳半) is sometimes used as
another name of a tea room. Its area is four-and-half-mat, that is, about three square meters and four-and-half-mat
room is a traditional standard size.
|| During the Muromachi period (1338-1560), tea ceremonies were prevalent among the common people (especially
in the latter part)—but for 'official tea ceremonies' highly-valued tea implements and expensive wares of Chinese origin (known as karamono・唐物) were used.
The 'Kuchi kiri' ceremony used to be held in a dignified way, as it is today, in solemn manners, and sometime even in haughty or extravagant manners. In
the Edo period (1603-1868), the common people were quite unrelated to official tea ceremonies using expensive 'tea-things', as if left in the dark of Hell.
happy event as it was, Kita(喜多) too was
invited to the ceremony. The ceremony in the Haiku is viewed from the viewpoint of common people and
it brings about a touch of wry humor. The
four-and-half-mat room was too small for five persons at the same time. The Poet felt sympathy for it but he knew Kita was half-jokingly regarded as a half, not a whole, according as the school was unfairly estimated in the Era.
The Poet made figurative use of the undesirable trend and indirectly emphasized the importance of the 'Kuchikiri' ceremony. 'Yojohan' in the Haiku is a metaphor of 'four and a half' Noh schools, to say nothing of' a standard sized tea room' and it clearly indicates
that Kita is not a major Noh school but a minor one. It's uncertain whether the
Poet positively adopted one of the basics of 'senryu' (川柳) , but it seems to me that a
touch of dark humor in the form of a kind of teasing is the core of the Haiku.
Season word: kangetsu(寒月), "winter moon" (winter)
Under the moon a temple assistant is chopping wood for firewood. The sound, piercing the stillness, is carrying far into the clear, cold moon-lit winter
night. Prof. Ogata says the sound might be issued from the cold light of winter
moon. I think his comment creates a sweet illusion of music in outer space and
entices us to wander into a fairy world. The comment is excellently attractive. The visible and the audible, they lead us with
the Poet himself, to the world of awe and the strong sense of living in this world.
High over a temple
The gate ruined.
寒月や 門なき寺の 天高し
(Kangetsu ya mon naki
terano ten takashi)
||Next hiaku ➤
Season word: kangetsu(寒月), “winter moon”(winter)
The winter moon is bright high over a temple.
The temple is so old that its gate is ruined and no trace of the original shape remains. Empty, the appearance feels cold. The Poet is chilled in the weird winter night scene. Then, gradually cheering up, bathed in the brilliant moonlight in cold vast sky, he gets a solid sense of living as human. Through glittering constellations in the winter night sky, he is into big outer cosmos, to the world of 'endless emptiness' or eternity, which the Poet sees through the pitch dark beyond stars. The Haiku sends resonant notes out to
anyone who reads it.
20. 銭湯に 魚屋入しよ 冬の月
ni uoya irishi yo fuyuno tsuki)
Season word: fuyu no tsu ki(冬の月), “winter moon” (winter)
A fish peddler, who cried his fish around all day in the cold wind, so
tired from his day’s work and the cold, entered a bath-house under the winter moon to warm himself. Common workers outside used to take a bath after their daily
work. The scene in the Haiku is not so rare, nor uncommon. The fish peddler
may take a bath in the same bath-house in other seasons. Mr. Takahashi asserts that the Haiku is based on his imagination, not on the fact he saw.
But I am doubtful about his comment.
It's possible enough that the
Poet happened to see some peddler with a carrying pole on his shoulder go into
a bath-house on the street under the winter cold moon. The pole on the
shoulder made the Poet directly suppose the person a fish peddler and I would rather think if
he hadn't carried a pole, the Haiku wouldn't have been produced. And any
substitute of the other two real factors would not have made a haiku either.
A fish peddler, a bath-house and winter moon: ━ the actual three together make a harmony of poetic sentiments. Here I
feel the necessity of the Haiku to be created. The three play their respective characteristic roles in the Haiku. It all depends
on us what three different roles
we read in the Haiku.
21.ひとり来て 独を訪や 冬の月
(Hitori kite hitori wo tou
ya fuyu no tsuki)
Season word: fuyu no tsu ki(冬の月), "winter moon" (winter)
The winter moon is shining cold. As if led by her, a lonely visitor has come to see the Poet. He too lives alone in the heart of winter. How can he expect anything more at a time, winter as it is? The winter moon sends forth her light on the two persons who, respectively alone and lonesome, gaze at
each other and she relieves their solitary beings clearly against the cold.
Prof. Ogata and Mr. Takahashi say that
there is an interchange of solitary heart between them in the coldness
of winter. As the two critics suggest, I have a keen feeling that the two persons
comfort each other in a very lonely way and are considerate of the other's feelings. Moreover, I cannot get rid of the sense of desolateness ever lingering
in the Haiku.
22.易水に 葱流るゝ 寒哉
(Ekisui ni nebuka nagaru ru samusa kana)
Season word: samusa(寒), “cold, coldness” (winter)
*'Ekisui'(易水) is the river that flows through the western part of Kahoku Province in China. On the Ekisui, Keika, the assassin, when he was starting to kill Shi Huang-ti (259-210 BC), who ruled old China, composed a Chinese poem; which goes:
The wind blows
dreary and the Ekisui flows cold;
Once a desperado starts, never shall he return.
(Translated by hokuto77)
[Keika on the Ekisui]
The Poet saw a piece of 'nebuka', a leek, floating along the cold stream. It was an extraordinary cold moment to him and he
felt the cold run through his backbone.Then his images suddenly merged into the River Ekisui of ancient times. It has been said, the Haiku is rather unclear in its true meaning. Here we have three cases of coldness; one is that of a dreary wind blowing on the Ekisui and another is a leek's psychological one ━ in this case, a single leek makes me feel much colder than plural ones ━ and the last is the coldness itself of the season.
When it comes to leeks, naturally, we are reminded of the famous haiku
that was composed by Basho.
葱白く 洗ひたてたる 寒さかな
(Negi shiro ku arai tate taru samusa kana)
As white as possible;
|| (Translated by hokuto77)
We may safely say that Buson had this haiku of Basho's in his mind
when he produced the Haiku. The leeks that are washed as white as could be by Basho reminded the Poet of the severe coldness of the River Ekisui when Keika stood on the Ekisui.
He imagined his leek equivalent to the whitely washed leeks of Basho, exposed to the extreme coldness. This is, I think, another cause of the transportation of his leek, far away and long ago, to the River Ekisui where Keika neverreturned as he had predicted in his Chinese poem.
Mr. Takahashi says that he can't definite
the color of Buson’s leek. He says it is not necessarily white and that it can be green. Anyway, what is common in the two haiku poems is that, there are actions
of man on leeks; someone washed them for cooking and another might have regretted one of them flowed away on the
||At the well
Long thin bladed knife slipped off;
What a coldness!
23. 井のもとへ 薄刃を落 寒さ哉
(Inomoto e usuba wo otosu samusa kana)
Season word: samusa (寒), “ cold, coldness” (winter)
*"Usuba" is a rectangular-shaped knife with a long thin blade, used in Japan for cutting vegetables. Long time ago, at the well, women used to cut vegetables with a long thin bladed knife, so called a "Uusuba" and they would often have housewives’ gossip,preparing for cooking, washing dishes and the like. Sometimes, a dish
slid off to pieces and a knife slipped out of a hand with a terrible sharp
sound to a real danger.
It's coldness, not carelessness, that lets a knife slip off a hand. The falling and its sharp metallic sound makes it still colder. The things are attributed to the coldness itself. I read here the
Poet’s strong sense of reality. The Haiku makes us think of a few different situations. If there was no
one at the well but the woman who dropped Usuba, what would she do? Scream? or cry for help? If there were some other women at the
well working, or talking, would they make a fuss about it? As with many other haikus of the Poet, the Haiku, too, may have some people concerned in the actal scene, though they are not mentioned at all.
24. 紫の 一間ほのめく 頭巾かな
(Murasaki no hito ma hono meku zukin kana)
Season word:zukin(頭巾), “hood, hooded” (winter)
The purple hood is usually associated with a woman
of beauty and the very dimness excites curiosity and evokes some concrete image. It’s probably
a carefully planned effect. The
Poet is skillful at leaving it to readers how the incident in a haiku be interpreted. In a room of a residence, which is no small one,
a purple hood is
whispering or doing something silently. The hood has paid a secret visit. All things
considered, it may be a secret meeting. The Haiku, in a casual manner,
creates the atmosphere of
a concealed love affair.
As for a ‘word order’ of haiku, the manner is very effective in which the expression of the Haiku 'purple hood' is split into two parts in the Japanese phrase, 'purple (紫の)' and 'hood(頭巾)'. The first five 'murasaki no'(紫の) keeps us in suspense for a moment and we wonder "purple what"? Then the last five 'zukin' (頭巾), when combined with the first five, leads us into an alluring imagination.
25. こがらしや 何に世わたる 家五軒
(Kogarashi ya nanini yo wataru ie go ken)
Season word: kogarashi(こがらし), “wintry blast” (winter)
Five houses stand cold in the high wind
of winter. The Poet wonders with anxiety how they are earning their living. Where on earth do the houses stand? I associate the atmosphere surrounding the houses with a desolate wilderness, not a fair farmland. The number of houses is very small and it barely forms the least unit of
community and makes us feel anxious about the people living there. The
coldness of roaring winter winds and only the five houses exposed to it together render
the scene the drearier and lead us to worry all the more about how they are
living in the bitterly cold winter.
Mr. Takahashi says that the Haiku is most effective or impressive when it is read as a night view,
although most people read the scene in daylight. Surely its desolateness will deepen in the veil of night. But in my humble opinion, as for poetic
emotion, it makes little difference about what time of the day it is that
the Poet set the Haiku. The reason is, the season word, ‘wintry blast’, plays a decisive role in the Haiku. I am moved by the Poet's
gentle and warm gaze at poor people.
Readers, let me leave the Haiku. I'm reminded of 'two houses' in the haiku
by the Poet.
Please link Summer N0.10., if possible.
26.こがらしや 炭売ひとり わたし舟
(Kogarashi ya sumiuri hitori watashi bune)
Season word: kogarashi(こがらし), “wintry blast” (winter)
The season word, 'wintry blast', indicates the start of severe
The wind of early winter is blowing hard and a peddler of charcoal traveling
far and wide is taking a ferry across the river, there seen no other passengers
in the ferry. Formerly, charcoal was an absolute necessity in winter to keep people warm.
In spite of bitter cold weather he forces himself to sell charcoal around.
Does he do so only for his living? It seems
to me that the Poet read the peddler's spirit or guts into the Haiku.
As you know, today, charcoal is one of the basic necessities in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or in cooking food and having a party outdoors in a Japanese style garden, under garden lanterns, barbecued meat, fish, or vegetable etc over a charcoal fire can taste even more emotional.
27. 斧入レて 香におどろくや 冬木立
(Ono irete ka ni odoroku
ya fuyu kodachi)
Season word: fuyu kodachi(冬木立), "a thicket of bare winter trees" (winter)
A bare tree, hit with an axe by a woodman, gave out sweet smells. It cam
as a pleasant surprise to the Poet and what's more, the sound of the axe echoed throughout the thicket of bare winter
trees. Trees are already leafless, but they are not decayed but full of vigor. The revibration in the air and the pervasive soft fragrance; both gave him not only comfort but spiritual energy. Man works on a little piece of
Nature and marvels at her positive response to him. The Haiku is a big success.
||Buying a hermitage,
I got an additional joy:
Five straw bags of charcoal.
28.庵買うて 且うれしさよ 炭五俵
(An kote katsu ureshisa yo sumi go hyo)
Season word: sumi(炭), “charcoal” (winter)
bought a hermitage in preparation for the winter and he felt so happy and also, to his great joy, he found himself
five straw bags of charcoal. He thankfully
thinks they are enough to keep himself warm during the winter. It's a luxury for a common man. His joy is almost indescribable. In this regard, the Haiku is easy to understand
and gives us some warmth and we are much amused. But it seems
to me that the Poet wrote the Haiku with some
determination in his mind. The Haiku
was composed in 1786, when he was fifty three. Since then he became
prolific and his creative activity lasted about
eleven years running. Certainly, to
buy a hermitage marked a turning point in his haiku career.
29.炭窯の ほとりしづけき 木立哉
(Sumi gama no hotori shizuke ki kodachi kana)
Season word:sumi gama(炭窯), "charcoal kiln" (winter)
Smoke is rising slowly
from a charcoal kiln. The thicket of trees is already bare. Stillness reigns all arund the kiln, and not a soul is to be seen in its neighborhood. The Poet is
wrapped in the stillness of winter: ━ peace. Fully he enjoys the air of winter. The very simplicity of the scene gives him a feeling that he is one with Nature herself. The Haiku leads me back to that thicket where I would often wander in my
boyhood, finding a charcoal kiln smoking, with a faint soft smell. The hour was,
as vivid as I can remember, a winter evening under the sunset sky. Even
today, in the Set Inland Sea the sky is bathed, though for a very short time, in the glorious light of the winter setting sun. It's worth seeing, beyond description.
Approached from another viewpoint, the stillness we feel in the Haiku can symbolize man’s eco-friendly life style, with little damage done to the environment. The Poet's penetrative observation shows us man’s symbiotic relationship with Nature, which once existed in Japan.
||At the change of abode,
Just fits on a new framework
My dear 'kotatsu'.
30.宿替に すぽりとはまる 火燵哉
(Yado gae ni supori to hamaru kotatsu kana)
Season word: kotatsu(炬燵) , "kotatsu"(winter)
*'Kotatsu' is a low table with a heat source (usually electric nowadays, but formerly a pit of hot charcoal), covered with a quilt to retain the heat, used for keeping warm in the winter, as people sit around it with their legs under the quilt.(from Kenkyusha's New Japanese English Dictionary)
*'Kotatsu' in the Haiku is considered to be 'Horigotatsu.' 'Horigotatsu’ is a 'kotatsu' whose heating element is set in a recess in the floor under a low table. The low table can be substituted freely for a table any ohter size
so as to find a one which fits neatly on the fixed ‘Horigotatsu'. So the 'kotatasu' the Poet refers to in the Haiku is a latticed wooden frame, or a low wooden table for the fixed 'Horigotatsu.'
The theme of the Haiku goes:
The Poet changed his abode. It made him refresh his spirits and to his great joy, his dear 'kotatsu,' that is, his latticed wooden frame, neattly has fitted on the new framework of the abode to which he has moved. It looks like his 'kotatsu' backs up his new life. As Mr. Takahashi says, the Poet feels a little happiness which is precious to common people. The essence
of haiku poetry originally lies in pretty and humorous emotions of oridnary
||Unable to stand up and walk,
How pretty my wife
腰ぬけの 妻うつくしき 火燵哉
(Koshi nuke no tsuma
utsukushi ki kotatsu kana)
Season word: kotatsu(炬燵) , "kotatsu"(winter)
*Generally, 'koshimuke'(腰ぬけ) means the inability to stand up or walk by oneself because of the paralysis of one's own lower body.
*'koshinuke'(腰ぬけ) in the Haiku is a figurative use of the general meaning. In reality, the wife in the
Haiku can stand up and walk as well as anyone else and she manages diligently
household affairs every day.This can be ensured by 'The Record of Buson’s Death'(夜半翁終焉記) written by Kito(几董)(1741-1789).
The Poet's wife 'Tomo (とも)' is a diligent worker. She is busy doing the housework. At a time she had a little rest in the kotatsu. There wrapped in cozy warmth,
she felt so relaxed in rapture that she was reluctant to go out for work as
if she suddenly became paralysed from the waist down. She looked happy
Such a fair expression on her face in ‘kotatsu’ was a fresh discovery or
specialpresent to him, which led him straight to the creation of the Haiku. I can read the healing value of
'kotatsu' and his deep affection for his loved wife.
32.埋火や つゐには煮ュる 鍋の物
(Uzumibi ya tsui ni wa niyuru nabe no mono)
Season word: uzumibi(埋火), "banked fire of charcoal" (winter)
*In the Edo
period (1603-1868), charcoal and cinders are main sources for the banked fire. Those days, Japanese people lived a highly energy-saving life.
*Poverty was not the one leading cause, but rather they had a deep respect for things which they used in daily lives, whether of natural make or artificial
one, and treated them with great care.
*They did not discard things that they thought still available. They had
a keen sense of recycling. There might have been neither ecological problems nor environmental pollution.
What greatly attracts
the Poet is the banked fire, perhaps not the food in the small pot. It seems to
me that the Haiku is his sighs of admiration for the energy of banked fire. In his wintry life the banked fire is one of the bare necessities of life, just like 'kotatsu', for his body and mind as well. And the Haiku is highly significant for the understanding of his mode of living; it vividly depicts how he lives in a relaxed manner. The sllow tempo of his life style is merged with great Nature. As Prof. Ogata and Mr. Takahashi say, probably he enjoys and holds dear the long duration of the cooking time. If I'm allowed to overstate, it seems as if, with the passage of time, his meditation were leading to a blessed world.
33. 埋火や 我かくれ家も 雪の中
As you under ashes,
So my hermitage snowed up.
(Uzumibi ya waga kakurega
mo yukino naka)
word: uzumibi(埋火), "banked fire of charcoal" (winter)
The Haiku is clear and
simple. The Poet warmed himself at the banked
fire, which was
indispensable to the comfort of wintry life. He hit on a common feature shared by the banked fire and himself. It goes; both are buried: the one under ashes, and the other snow. There can be two appreciations of the Poet's mind in the Haiku. One is, it will make himself an object of ridicule or it will give him a kind of self-derision to use snowfall as a pretext for being kept indoors by the fire for a long time. The other
is, he is, from head to foot, involved in the eternal passing of time, cut off worldly affairs. He has
decided to use the snowfall as the only chance to be unworldly.
Season word: fubuki(吹雪), "snowstorm" (winter)
||Telling them to give him lodging,
He has tossed his sword down;
宿かせと 刀投出す 吹雪哉
(Yado kase to katana nage dasu fubuki kana)
*A samurai is usually a warrior wearing two swords.
*In the Edo period (1603-1868), commoners were not completely prohibited from wearing a sword. Wealthy merchants, who enjoyed Government patronage, and rich farmers, like a village headman were granted the privilege of wearing a sword. Some commoners
wore a sword as a costume when they made a long journey. And gangsters, gamblers wore a sword.
was raging. Suddenly a travelling samurai came in and tossed down his sword on the floor, asking for a lodging. It sounded a
menace.The house is not an inn, but a private house, and probably a very small farmhouse. In the Haiku we are attracted not only to the violence of blizzard
but to the family's fear and perplexity. Judging from circumstances, or the context of the Haiku, it's most effective
to imagine the man is a samurai, regardless of the number of wearing swords.
Whether the Poet was there himself is no matter
at all. What’s certain is , the Poet was hit by a severe snowstorm. Probably he imagined many strange things in the blowing snow.
The Haiku reads a scene cut from a film, sounding the dramatic beginning of a tragic story or that of a very active grand story.
||Pot in hand,
Crossing a small bridge at Yodo
Persons in the
35. 鍋さげて 淀の小橋を 雪の人
(Nabe sagete yodo no ko bashi wo yuki no hito)
Season word: yuki(雪), "snow" (winter)
'Yodo'(淀) in the Haiku is a place name in Kyoto, not the River Yodo. The small bridge in the Haiku spans the Ujigawa River.
A pot in the hand hints the time is early evening. Going out, pot in hand on a snowy evening, shows the intention of getting materials for hot supper.
A scene will be clearly pictured by us of persons crossing a bridge in the snow with a pot in hand, and the imagined scene varies from individual
to individual. But the Haiku is not a mere description of a snowy evening. The words appeal to us more emotionally than a scene personally we imagine would. We associate evening, pot,
person, and snow, all the four together, with humble but active lives of ordinary people in the winter. The Poet is skilled in depicting a cross section of common life.
36. しづしづと 五徳居へけり くすりぐひ
(Shizu shizu to gotoku sue ke ri kusuri gui)
Season word: kusurigui (くすりぐひ), "kusurigui" (winter)
'Kusurigui'(薬喰い) means eating game meat in the cold winter to get warmth and
nutrition. In the Edo period (1603-1868), under the influence of Confucian
philosophy meat was considered unclean and generally people detested eating it. But, step by step, people secretly enjoyed eating game, especially venison or wild boar's
meat. By eating game meat, they got vigor or prevented catching cold or falling
ill. It was so efficacious against the coldness of winter, like a good
medicine, that they called game eating 'kusurigui'(薬喰い), as if to take medicine. 'Kusurigui' was enjoyed some time alone and some time in a like-minded company.
As Prof. Ogata says, setting a trivet quietly and gently gives us an impression of pretending to practice a rigid custom. In fact it indicates 'kususurigui' is a very important event and that it must be done in
secrecy.The Poet attracts our attention to what is going to take place by the five words 'quietly and gently' (shizu shizu to) and by the last five words 'kusurigui' provides us with an unexpected surprise. At the same time we can gather how eagerly they
waited for the time. Then we are pleasantly invited to a fairy-tale 'kusurigui' party.
Season word: kusurigui (くすりぐひ), "kusurigui" (winter)
||Wife and children sleeping;
In sight of their faces,
妻や子の 寝皃も見えつ 薬喰
(Tsuma ya ko no negao mo mie tsu kusuri gui)
Generally, wives and children did not care for eating game meat. Husbands had to wait till they fell asleep. Mostly ordinary houses were so small
slept hard by a small kitchen.
After much irritation, 'kusurigui' started just as wife and children fell asleep. But afraid of their waking, he or they peeked on and off the sleeping faces. They could not but feel guilty about
it. This explains the deliciousness of 'kusurigui'. Judging from the situation, game meat must have tasted all the more
38.薬喰 盧生をおこす 小声哉
(Kusuri gui rosei wo
okosu kogoe kana)
Season word: kusurigui (くすりぐひ), "kusurigui" (winter)
In the Haiku Rosei (盧生) is one of the fellow members who has fallen asleep while they are making ready for 'kusurigui' party. Rosei was a young man who failed in the examination for the entrance
to civil service in ancient China. He came across a Taoist called Ro-o(呂翁) in the capital of the of the country of Chou(趙 ) (403~228 BC). The capital is now called Han-tan. Chou was one of the
nations in the Warring States period (403~221BC). The Taoist lent the disappointed young man Rosei a strange pillow, with which during sleep, people said, one could dream
as prosperous a life as he liked. Rosei slept with his head on the pillow and dreamed leading a wonderful life
over fifty years, going up step by step in the worldly life and finally
rising to the highest social rank with countless riches in addition. Then
he awoke to find himself asleep only for so short a while that the millet
grain at his bedside was not yet boiled.
(Translated by hokuto77 from Kojien[広辞苑])
This fable is a good example of 'evanescence of earthly splendor'. It
is called ‘Kantan no Makura’(邯鄲の枕)literally '‘Pillow of Kantan'.
Some gathered to enjoy 'kusurigui', but it took time to boil the game meat in the pot. Unable to wait any longer, one of the members fell asleep.
The Poet named him Rosei (盧生), which is a refined poetic association and excites laughter, too. This is a key of the Haiku. Finally it boiled and one of
them woke up the sleeping fellow by whispers, not in a loud voice, which was forbidden, because 'kusurigui' was a secret party. Besides, most wives and children disgusted eating game meat. A low voice is another key of the Haiku. The Haiku vividly tells us a heated but silent atmosphere of 'kusurigui' party.
I go to bed;
New Year's Day a matter for tomorrow.
いざや寝ん 元日は又 翌の事
(Izaya nen ganjitsu wa mata asu no koto)
|<Please click the image>
Season word:jyoya(除夜), New Year’s Eve(winter)⇔ ganjitsu wa mata asu no koto
Too many things had to be dealt with some time or other within New Year’s Eve. It was a tough task for a common man to pass New Year's Eve safely and peacefully. Before everything else, the most serious and hard
thing was to pay off the debt which he contracted during the year. If not
in debt, someone might come to borrow money from him to setle a debt. Besides,
in his mind, there were things left undone, and a thing remained to be
regretted. Even in another year, these things would not disappear of themselves, if not dealt with appropriately within this year.
While various preparations for New Year's Day, including special cooking, 御節 (osech) ritual decorations, sweeping indoors and outdoors and etc were too numerous to
count. In spite of his strenuous efforts, leaving a lot of things loaded
up, the valuble time passed away in an irritated manner and very quickly.
In the Haiku, as Prof. Ogata says, eventually the Poet decided not to care
about the consequences and went to bed, believing tomorrow would be another day, or leaving the rest to Heaven. Mr. Takahashi comments that the Poet is resolved to live in the belief that he was right and not to
be at the mercy of money.
Here I read a sound humor of strong-minded common people and somewhat placid view of life.
40. 足袋はいて 寝る夜物うき 夢見哉
(Tabi haite neruyo monouki yumemi kana)
Season word: tabi (足袋), ‘split-toe socks’ (winter)
*Tabi(足袋) is heavy-soled socks made with a split in the toe section between the big toe and second toe.(大英和)
*According to Prof. Ogata, in Japan there used to be a saying, "Go
to bed with split-toe socks on, and you won't be able to attend your parents' deathbed". Now the saying may be said to be rather a superstition.
Though he knew well what the old saying meant, the night was so cold that he could not help wearing split-toe socks in the bed. That night he did not sleep well, as the dream was very weary. He wonders whether,as the superstitious old saying goes, the tabi did disturb
his usual sound sleep.
The Poet wrote the Haiku at the age of 53, 1768. Considering his age at death 68, 1783, the Poet was not so aged when he composed the Haiku. Mr. Takahashi comments that the Haiku expresses the lonely sleep of an elderly man leading a wretched
It can be safely accepted that the man in the Haiku is the Poet himself. His prolificperiods started when he was 51, 1766. Two years later, at the age of 53, he must have been active and energetic in daily lives. I hardly agree to Mr. Takahashi's comment in this respect. It will be better to suppose that it was a
terribly record cold night. Bare-foot in bed, he could't easily get to sleep and with split-toe socks on he happened to have a bad dream. He regretted a little that it was anything but a deep sleep. I think that his way of putting it comes close to expressing actual feelings of commoners as to how they spend a severely cold night.
Season word: furukoyomi(古暦), "a calendar of
the old year" (winter)
*'Tokamari'(十日まり) is toka amari(十日あまり), which means about ten days running.
*To feel each day he spends belonging to the calendar of the old year means
that he realizes the end of the year is just ahead.
People are busy in December every year. Each day late in the mmoth when they are very busy and short-
handed is count as especially precious time. During such restless days, if they get fair ten days on end, they may well regard it as a blessing
of Nature. Mr. Takahashi says the satifactory feel about the lives common man has led is expressed in the phrase of "the calendar
of the old year".
The Haiku expresses a slice
of busy activities done by people toward the end of a year. And here we read the frugal lives described warmly by the Poet, which common people are leading with all their hearts
Season word: yowa no fuyu (夜半の冬), "winter midnight" (winter)
In a mountainous region of Hida
The pawnshop is closed;
飛騨山の 質屋戸ざしぬ 夜半の冬
(Hida yama no shichiya tozashi nu yowa no fuyu)
*Hida(飛騨) is an old country's name of Gifu prefecture.
*Hida yama (飛騨山) is not a mountain but a mountainous region in the north of Gifu Prefecture. Situated in highlands, the region has an exceptionally
severe wintry chill every year.
The Haiku implies that in other seasons the pawnshop is usually open
till late at night. Though in a mountainous district, it seems, so many customers, so
many articles for pawning. On a cold winter night, the shop is closed much earlier
than usual. The colder is it, the fewer customers visit.
The Haiku wouldn't have been composed if the Poet had not been there in person. 'Going to pawnshop' was a long way from poetical subjects, but some time common people found a pawnbroker necessary for keeping alive. The Poet composed a simple but profound 'ode' by setting common man's maintenance of livelihood in a severe cold weather of highlands.
43. 冬ごもり 妻にも子にも かくれん坊
(Fuyu gomori tsuma nimo ko
Season word: fuyu gomori(冬籠), " winter confinement" (winter)
Staying indoors on cold
days has finally escalated into hiding from the family. Thus his small room is closed, but, in the Haiku, I cannot find any sign of melancholy, by which shunning other people is usually accompanied. If it is kept comfortable,
there in his room he is sure to enjoy, as Prof. Ogata says, by avoiding worldly troubles, a great sense of space and freedom to his heart’s content, as if he is playing hide- and-seek with family. Mr. Takahashi says this is nothing but passing his winter days in indolence and indulgence.
The Poet turns tough winter days into lazy time for tranquility of mind in comfort through his sharp wit and gentle humor.
44. 茶の花の 月夜もしらず 冬籠
hana no tsukiyo mo shirazu fuyu gomori)
Season word: fuyugomori(冬籠), "winter confinement" (winter)
White blossoms of tea trees on a cold moonlit night are pictured in his mind; "How beautiful they can be!", but he stays confined still in 'kotatsu'. He persuades himself that he is 'wintering', so has to
keep away from outdoors.
It sounds to me as if the Poet believes the spirit of wintering is obstinately to devote himself to the
winter confinement, stubbornly resisting the impulse to see tea blossoms outside under the cold moon.
Even into the living room
Whose family is
it that step?
勝手迄 誰が妻子ぞ ふゆごもり
(Katte made tarega saishi
zo fuyu gomori)
Season word: fuyugomori(冬籠), " winter confinement"(winter)
*Katte(勝手) generally means
a kitchen. Intimate neighbors used to visit a housewife through
a kitchen door or a backdoor.
*Prof. Ogata glosses 'katte (勝手)' in the Haiku as 'a living room'. From the atmosphere of the Haiku, I agree with Prof. Ogata.
He is resentful of someone else's family, perhaps one of neighborhood families,
entering the living room and talking noisily with his family. He does not want his restful winter confinement to be disturbed. While, unable to ignore them
completely, he is listening attentively in his secluded room. Mr. Takahashi says, he has turned aggressive psychologically.
It seems to me that he persuades himself that wintering is the core of winter season. The Haiku reads to me less attractive, but from the Haiku, I get
some knowledge of his poetic qualities, which range is wide. The Haiku is a bit outside the
range of that of Basho.
Season word: kanbai(寒梅), "early ume blossoms"(winter)
*Hokuchi(火口) is tinder.[=a dry, flammable material, such as wood or paper.] Tinder
ignites by sparks given off from a flint when it is struck with steel.]
A few white flowers of
early flowering-ume in the shadows of cold night have wrapped the Poet in a fantastic excitement. The pure tiny whiteness is strongly lit up against utter darkness.
scene is of a split-second or lasting a fraction of a second depiction, as dreamlike in his mind, with many other possible flowers under cover of deep darkness behind the rare few. I feel our imagination, step by
step, oozing out of the Haiku.
Early ume blossoms;
The keeper of a sumi store at Nara
like their owner.
47. 寒梅や 奈良の墨屋が あるじ皃
(Kanbai ya nara no sumiya
ga aruji gao)
Season word: kanbai (寒梅), "‘early flowering-ume" (winter)
*Sumi(墨) is Japan liquid black ink or Japan ink stick for a calligraphy brush or a brush for wash drawings or sumie paintings.
*Sumiya(墨屋) is a person who sells Japan liquid black ink or Japan ink stick or its storekeeper. The store in the Haiku is known as 'Kanbai en'(寒梅園), which was set up centureis ago. The literal meaning of ‘Kanbai en’ is an early-flowering ume orchard.
*Arujigao (主顔) is to act or behave as if one was an owner of the place, or the boss.
The Poet was first attracted to the beauty of early ume blossoms and then the proud expression of the owner of the store across the street greatly aroused his curiosity. The owner behaves as if he owns the beautiful ume blossoms.
The Poet looks, in wonder and with a smile, at the one and the other by turns.
At last he is moved by the love of the shopkeeper for ume blossoms and his straightforwardness.
The phrase, 'nara no sumiya ga', whose 7 sounds accounts for as much as 41% of the 17 sounds in all, has the value of its existence only in the expression
'‘aruji gao'. If we can read any humor here, we'll realize it's a very dry one.
48. ふく汁の 我活ｷて居る 寝覚め哉
(Fukujiru no ware ikiteiru nezame kana)
Season word: fukujiru(ふく汁), ‘fugu soup or blowfish soup’ (winter)
*Fugu tastes very delicious, raw in sashimi or boiled in soup. But, as you know, fugu or blowfish has poison in it. Nowadays the process of cooking fugu has so
well developed that if it is cooked by licensed experts on fugu cooking, you
can safely enjoy fugu soup or eating it raw. But, in Japan, years ago, many
of those who tried fugu died of its poison. Preparation for unnatural death used
to be required when they tried tasting fugu, raw or boiled.
The Poet ate fugu soup for dinner and went to bed with some preparation, in his ownway, for death from a fugu toxin. Much to his relief and delight, he awoke to find himself still alive and well.
The hour when he awoke is not certain. We can choose the time as we like. Mr. Takahashi and I guess the sleep was probably not so long. There must have been some time before daybreak. We think of some manners and
others in which he might have ascertained his healthy survival in darkness. I guess he remembered some anxiety and fear he felt before and after eating fugu soup. This is expressed in the seven
words,'‘ware ikiteiru' (I’ve survived). Let me add, Prof. Ogata says the Poet awoke in the morning.
In the Haiku I do not read merely a deep attachment to the food and trying
his luck with good grace, but a slight touch of humor.
Critics say that we have a preceding haiku composed by Basho. On reading it, we realize the Haiku is based on it. It goes:
あら何ともなや きのふは過ぎて ふくと汁
(Ara antomo naya kino wa sugi te fukutoiru)
|(Translated by hokuto77)
Why, Nothing wrong happened!
Yesterday has passed away,
In the haiku, Basho talks to himself that it’s fugu soup that he ate yesterday and he
feels a little ashamed of his over-anxiety about his luck.
As Mr. Takahashi says, the haiku is refined and a little abstracted, like his other haikus. While Buson, through his own expression, as I ‘ve mentioned above, presents us with
a stimulus to his imaginations concerning tasting fugu.
49.ふく汁の 亭主と見えて 上座哉
(Fukujiru no teishu to
miete jyoza kana)
Season word: fukujiru(ふく汁), "fugu soup or blowfish soup" (winter)
Some are invited to the
fugu soup dinner. A man is sitting at the head of the table. Judging from the polite but confident demeanor, he must be
the host. His knowledge about fugu
soup may be extensive.
It's usual for the host to take a lower seat. In the Haiku, for some reason
or other, the custom is not
observed, which is the essential point of the Haiku. Assured of safety
of eating the fugu soup, he sits at the head, lively giving some information
or instructions to his guests, some of whom are wearing worried faces.
The Poet willingly shares the host’s hospitality, as cordial rather than oppressive.
has decided to give up
On that night;━fugu soup!
逢ぬ恋 おもひ切 ﾙ 夜や ふくと汁
(Awanu koi omoi kiru yo ya fukuto jiru)
Season word: fukujiru(ふく汁), "fugu soup or blowfish soup" (winter)
* 'Fukuto' is an old name for 'fugu'.
* 'Omoikiru'(おもひ切ﾙ) has two puns. One is to give up the love,and the other to decide on eating fugu
soup on the very night.
A man has suffered the pangs of rejected love. On the very night that he
decides to abandon the hopeless love, he desperately eats fugu soup. It's
clear that he has no intention of suicide at all. But the resolution conveys
to me that he needs so much in giving up
the love. Fugu soup plays some role in his forgetting the image of the woman in his mind and overcoming his regret for giving up
the love. He does not mind dying of fugu soup. He wishes to give up with good grace.
This is the main point of the Haiku. It's all up to us to decide whether or not the man enjoyed fugu soup of the night.
Mr. Takahashi says the Haiku is the product of the Poet's imagination. But such desperate behaviors are often seen or heard of as to forget ourselves or
ease our frustrations. The Poet might have heard of one of them. Strangely the man in the Haiku gains not only the Poet's sympathy but ours and lets us give a rueful smile.
Getting his children to sleep,
darkness he goes out ━
子を寝せて 出行闇や はちたたき
(Ko o nese te dete yuku
yami ya hachi tataki)
Season word: hachi tataki(はちたたき), "hachitataki" (winter)
*"Hachitataki" is a man who was half a man of the world and half a priest that
walked about at night in biting coldness, praying to Amitabha loudly, beating a bowl or a gourd, and
dancing to get some contributions, esp. gifts of money.
*The religious service was
practiced from the 13th of November to the 31st of December. The service was performed mainly in Kyoto City. Sometimes they walked around all night long.
*The service was started and spread by Kuya (空也), who was a priest in the middle of Heian period (794~1192). He was called 'Ichino Hijiri (市聖)', 'Saint in the street.'
That is because from 938 to 946, he walked up and down the city of Kyoto, persuading citizens to practice the teachings of Buddha. It can be called a genuine missionary activity.
The Hachitataki has a family. He is just going to walk out into the dark
to do the religious service but he is somewhat reluctant to leave his family behind.
Especially he is anxious about his
children in bed.
The cold darkness through which he walks symbolizes the one rooted in his
mind. Prof. Ogata comments that the darkness arises from his anxiety about children at home during his absence. I think otherwise: his darkness may
be due to the fact that it's tough for him to attain *enlightenment. The Poet has sympathy for the Hachitataki in the Haiku.
[*enlightenment=the attainment of spiritual insight, in particular (in Buddhism) that awareness which frees a person from the cycle of rebirth. (COD 11th Edition)]
Daytime in his home
He spends on
short sleep ━
我宿の 昼を仮寝や 鉢たゝき
(Waga yado no hiru o karine ya hachi tataki)
Season word: hachitataki(鉢たたき), "hachitataki" (winter)
He walks around at night, sometimes all night, practicing religious service. His golden hours during daytime at home have to be spent in making up for his
lack of sleep at night, but such a sleep may not be sound and long enough to let
him recover from his accumulated fatigue.
Mr. Takahashi says the Haiku is based on the humor that is the essence of haiku. Moreover, I, feeling a little sappy, read the Poet’s warm sympathy for Hachitatakis ' hard conditions of life.
||Winter bush warbler!
Long, long ago,
That was in the hedge of Oi.
冬鴬 むかし王維が 垣根哉
(Fuyuuguisu mukashi oi ga kakine kana)
|Season word: fuyuuguisu (冬鶯), "winter bush warbler" (winter)
*Oi(王維)(A.D.701~761) was a poet who composed poetry of landscape and nature, and
what is more, he was the originator of Southern painting, or Nan-ga.
*History of Chinese poetry during the Tang period is divided into four
parts: the early Tang period, the golden Tang period, the middle Tang period and the
late Tang period. Oi belongs to the golden Tang period (A.D. 713~766).
*Southern painting (Nan-ga) is one of the schools of ancient Chinese landscape painting. Buson held Oi in high esteem both as a poet and a painter.
*Oi had a villa on the bank of the river 'Mousen', which flows through ancient Randen district, located southeast of Changan, now called Sian. Bush warblers used to sing in the hedge of his villa, which was called
*The Haiku was composed last but two on the 25th of December in the lunar calendar, in 1783. On the day, sixty eight years old, the Poet, who had been ill in bed, breathed his last. The Haiku is recorded as one of his farewell poems.
*The other two of his three swan songs you can read in Spring, N0.6 and N0.17.
The Poet hears a bush warbler singing on his deathbed. The time was late winter in the lunar calendar. To be precise, it was just before dawn on the 25th of December. Prof. Ogata says he imagines the singing bush warbler may be the same that sang in the hedge of Oi in ancient times, in the Tang period.
The Poet is aware that death is coming for him, thinking of Oi, whom he has loved and respected as one of his respectable leaders of fine art and literature. Prof. Ogata says the Poet prays the bush warbler may lead him into the realm where the soul of Oi is waiting.
The Haiku and No. 6 in Spring are noteworthy in that in both of them the Poet expresses his strong longing and hearty respect for the two great persons respectively. The one is to Oi and the other to Basho. It's the deep-rooted reverence and admiration for the two great precursors
or forerunners that supported his efforts to lead a tough but fruitful life as a painter and poet of a rare
kind in the history of Japan. The fact is well worth remembering on appreciating his art and literature.