kite flying

9517 haiku out of 10000

1795

.家飛々凧も三ッ四ッふたつ哉
ie tobi-tobi tako mo mitsu yotsu futatsu kana

houses here and there
fly kites, three...four...
two

This early haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue"). Shinji Ogawa explains that tobi-tobi ("jump-jump" or "skip-skip") means "here and there" or "sporadic." It modifies the houses. He adds, "By counting the New Year's kites, Issa elevates the still picture to a movie."

1795

.凧青葉を出つ入つ哉
ikanobori aoba wo idetsu iritsu kana

New Year's kite--
out of green leaves
then back in

This early haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

1795

.日でり雨凧にかかると思ふ哉
hideri ame tako ni kakaru to omou kana

sunny day rain
has splashed the kite...
it seems

This early haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue"). Shinji Ogawa explains that hideri ame ("clear sky rain") means "the rain while the sun is shining."

1802

.日の暮の山を見かけて凧
hi no kure no yama wo mikakete ikanobori

eye-catching
over the sunset mountain...
a kite

1805

.家二ッ三ッ四ッ凧の夕哉
ie futatsu mitsu yotsu tako no yûbe kana

two houses, three, four...
an evening
of kites

Shinji Ogawa notes that the numbers grammatically modify the houses, yet "the numbers influence the 'kites' also." He adds that the normal Japanese expression is to give just two numbers, "two, three," or "three, four," but here, "Issa uses three numbers to create special effects--to make the image more clear, the image of a tranquil and peaceful village." Sakuo Nakamura also provided help with this translation.

1805

.凧今木母寺は夜に入るぞ
ikanobori ima mokuboji wa yo ni iru zo

a kite--
Mokubo Temple settles
into evening

1805

.山かげや薮のうしろや凧
yama kage ya yabu no ushiro ya ikanobori

mountain shade--
deep in a thicket
a kite

1807

.けふもけふも凧引かかる榎哉
kyô mo kyô mo tako hikkakaru enoki kana

today too, today too
the nettle tree snags
the kite

1807

.猿引は猿に持せて凧
saru hiki wa saru ni motasete ikanobori

the trainer lets
his monkey hold it...
New Year's kite

1807

.機音は竹にかくれて凧
hata oto wa take ni kakurete ikanobori

sound of a loom--
hidden in bamboo
a New Year's kite

1810

.朔日や一文凧も江戸の空
tuitachi ya ichi mon-dako mo edo no sora

New Year's Day--
a one-penny kite, too
in Edo's sky

The sky and wind are free for all to enjoy. Expensive kites soar in the New Year's sky, but so does a one-penny kite--just as happily.

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. Even though the kite would cost over twenty pennies in modern currency, I have kept it in my translation as a "one-penny kite," to emphasize its cheapness and the fact that only one small coin buys it.

1811

.今様の凧上りけり乞食小屋
ima yô no tako agari keri kojiki goya

a trendy kite soars--
below
a beggar's hut

Sakuo Nakamura views this haiku as an illustration of the contrast between having and not having: the "up and down of fortune."

1811

.今様の凧の上りし山家哉
ima yô no tako no agarishi yamaga kana

a trendy kite soars
over the mountain
home

1811

.辻うたひ凧も上つていたりけり
tsujiutai tako mo nobo[t]te itari keri

the street singer's
kite also...
rising and rising

1814

.番町や夕飯過の凧
banchô ya yûmeshi sugi no ikanobori

Bancho Town--
after dinner flying
a kite

Or: "flying kites."

Issa might be referring to the location of Banchô Sarayashiki ("The Dish Mansion at Banchô"), a famous ghost legend. A woman refused the advances of her samurai master and then, depending on the version of the story, either killed herself or was killed by him. She subsequently became a vengeful spirit, haunting her former master.

1813

.都辺や凧の上るもむづかしき
miyakobe ya tako no age[ru] mo muzukashiki

a Kyoto suburb--
even flying kites
is hard

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo. Perhaps Issa is suggesting that everything, even kite flying, is easier in the emperor's capital, harder in outlying areas.

1814

.大凧のりんとしてある日暮哉
ôtako no rin to shite aru higure kana

the big kite
cuts a brave figure...
Sunset

The phrase rin to means "majestically, imposingly, gallantly," according to Maruyama Kazuhiko; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 207, note 1080. Shinji Ogawa comments that some of the kites in Issa's day "were as big as ten feet by ten feet, raised by ten persons or more. The strings were as thick as a thumb. Their hands were protected with leather."

1814

.凧の尾を追かけ廻る狗
tako no o wo oikake mawaru enoko kana

chasing the kite's tail
'round and 'round...
puppy

1815

.生神の凧とり榎たくましや
ikigami [no] tako tori enoki takumashi ya

the sacred kite
grabbed by the nettle tree...
a bold one!

The kites on New Year's Day serve a divine purpose in Shinto custom, but the tough and enduring nettle tree could care less. Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

A tough nettle tree...
grabbing
the sacred kite

1815

.凧きれて犬もきよろきよろ目哉
tako kirete inu mo kyoro-kyoro manako kana

runaway kite!
the dog also eyes it
restlessly

1815

.人真似や犬の見て居る凧
hito mane ya inu no mite iru ikanobori

imitating his master
the dog watching
the kite

1816

.背中から猿が引也凧の糸
se[naka] kara saru ga hiku nari tako no ito

tied to the monkey's
back...
string of the kite

1816

.大名の凧も悪口言れけり
daimyô no tako mo warukuchi iware keri

even the kite
of the provincial lord
is bad-mouthed

1816

.凧上げてゆるりとしたる小村哉
tako agete yururi to shitaru komura kana

a kite rises
slow and easy...
a little village

Or: "kites rise."

Yururi to is an old expression that describes an action done in a slow or leisurely manner; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1698.

In his translation of this haiku, Makoto Ueda ascribes yururi to to the little village that, he writes, "reposes in peace." I think the expression describes the action of the kite (or kites); Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 107.

1816

.凧抱たなりですやすや寝たりけり
tako daita nari de suya-suya netari keri

hugging his kite
he sleeps
deep and calm

Flying kites is a New Year's activity for boys.

1816

.一ところに御代の大凧小凧哉
hito[ko]ro ni miyo no ôtako ko tako kana

in one sky--
grand imperial kites
and little kites

An example of Issa's often-noted democratic vision. Despite differences in social and economic class, everyone shares the sky and the New Year's excitement. "Sky" is not stated in the original; Issa writes, "in one place" (hito[ko]ro ni).

1816

.反古凧や隣は前田加賀守
hogo-dako ya tonari wa maeda kaga no kami

a wastepaper kite
next to that of Maeda
Lord Kaga!

An example of Issa's often-noted democratic vision. Despite differences in social and economic class, everyone shares the sky and the New Year's excitement. Lord Kaga of the Maeda clan was the daimyo (feudal lord) in Issa's home province of Shinano. Shinji Ogawa writes, "It is unlikely that Lord Kaga and a farmer flew their kites side by side. It may be within Issa's calculation that the haiku sounds as if the unlikely scene is going on. The reality was more likely that a kite on which Lord Kaga was painted was beside a wastepaper kite."

1816

.門前の凧とり榎千代もへん
kado mae no tako tori enoki chiyo mo hen

before the gate
the kite-snagging nettle tree...
a thousand ages old!

1819

.親よぶや凧上ながら小順礼
oya yobu [ya] tako age nagara ko junrei

calling his parents
while his kite rises!
little pilgrim

The little pilgrim is on a New Year's visit to a shrine or temple.

1820

.美しき凧上りけり乞食小屋
utsukushiki tako agari keri kojiki-goya

a pretty kite soars
a beggar's shack
below

One doesn't have to be rich to enjoy kite-flying on New Year's Day. Even a "beggar" in his shack (Issa?) can join the fun with a pretty kite. Five years later (1825), he evokes a similar scene and lesson with one-penny fireworks bursting in the sky.

1820

.乞食子や歩ながらの凧
kojiki ko ya aruki nagara no ikanobori

a beggar child
walking and flying
a kite

1821

.小順礼もらひながらや凧
ko junrei morai nagara ya ikanobori

the little pilgrim
while receiving alms
flies a kite

The little pilgrim is on a New Year's visit to a shrine or temple. Issa doesn't state directly what the child is receiving, but I assume it to be alms.

Shinji Ogawa agrees with this interpretation.

Three years later (1824), Issa rewrites this haiku, focusing on a "pilgrim" instead of a "little pilgrim," and substituting no for ya.

the pilgrim
while receiving alms
kite flying

1822

.すすけ紙まま子の凧としられけり
susuke kami mamako no tako to shirare keri

with sooty paper
the stepchild's kite
easy to spot

Issa was a stepchild--unloved, neglected, abused. Even at age 60 he remembers.

1822

.凧の糸引とらまへて寝る子哉
tako no ito hikitoramaete neru ko kana

clinging to the kite's
string...
the sleeping child

Kite-flying is a New Year's activity. In this haiku of 1822, brightly colored kites soar in the blue spring sky (in the old Japanese calendar, New Year's Day was the first day of spring). Holding the string attached to one of those kites is a little child, sound asleep. He or she has been flying the kite with laughter and excitement, but now, worn out, surrenders to a nap. The child does not, however, surrender the kite's string! Even in sleep, playtime continues. The string clutched in his or her little hand connects the child to the heavens; to a happy, bright dream flying above.

1822

.凧の尾を咥て引や鬼瓦
tako no o wo kuwaete hiku ya onigawara

catching the kite's tail
with his mouth...
gargoyle

1822

.日の暮に凧の揃ふや町の空
hi no kure ni tako no sorou ya machi no sora

sunset--
an assembly of kites
in the sky over the town

Shinji Ogawa notes that the verb sorou, in this context, means "to assemble together."

1823

.ままつ子やつぎだらけなる凧
mamakko ya tsugi darake naru ikanobori

stepchild--
the kite covered with patches
is his

Issa was a stepchild; this haiku alludes to his own bitter memories. In Issa's time flying kites is a New Year's activity for boys.

1824

.赤い凧引ずり歩くきげん哉
akai tako hikizuri aruku kigen kana

the red kite
in a drag-behind
kind of mood

1822

.あそこらがえどの空かよ凧
asokora ga edo no sora ka yo ikanobori

over yonder is that
Edo's sky?
a kite

1824

.江戸凧の朝からかぶりかぶり哉
edo tako no asa kara kaburi-kaburi kana

kites of Edo
from morning on, heads
shaking, shaking

The word "heads" doesn't appear literally in the original, but, according to Shinji Ogawa, "The word kaburi-kaburi means the gesture of swinging the head for a sign of disagreement or disapproval. In Edo, even the kites are hard to please." Edo was the big city in Issa's Japan: present-day Tokyo.

1824

.江戸凧もこもごも上る山家哉
edo tako mo komo-gomo ageru yamaga kana

an Edo kite
joins the others...
mountain home

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The Edo kite might be Issa's because he often went to Edo. In the mountain village sky, his Edo kite is rather odd, symbolizing the relationship between the villagers and himself." Edo is present-day Tokyo

1824

.順礼や貰ひながらの凧
junrei ya morai nagara no ikanobori

the pilgrim
while receiving alms
kite flying

The pilgrim is on a New Year's visit to a shrine or temple.

In his original version of this haiku (1821), Issa focuses on a "little pilgrim" and writes ya after nagara instead of no.

1824

.大名のかすみが関や凧
daimyô no kasumi ga seki ya ikanobori

the feudal lords'
Kasumi-ga-Seki...
a kite

Shinji Ogawa points out that Kasumi-ga-Seki is a section of Edo (today's Tokyo) very close to the castle where the Shogun lived. He explains: "Under the Shogun's decree, feudal lords must come to Edo every three years to stay for 100 days. The family, their wives and children, had to live in Edo." This practice was designed to keep the lords in check and maintain their obedience.

Sakuo Nakumura notes that the daimyo (feudal lords) gathered in Kasumi-ga-Seki during their Edo stay.

1824

.まま子凧つぎのいろいろ見へにけり
mamako tako tsugi no iro-iro mie ni keri

the stepchild's kite--
various patches
appear

Issa was a stepchild.

year unknown

.切凧のくるくる舞やお茶の水
kire tako no kuru-kuru mau ya ocha no mizu

broken kite dancing
'round and 'round...
Ocha-no-Mizu

Ocha-no-mizu, a section of Edo (today's Tokyo) literally means, "tea water." Shinji Ogawa alerted me to the fact that the kite is dancing over this place, not "into the tea water"!

year unknown

.凧抱て直ぐにすやすや寝る子哉
tako daite sugu ni suya-suya neru ko kana

hugging his kite
soon he's sound asleep...
the child

Flying kites is a New Year's activity for boys; this particular one has spent all of his energy in the excitement of the day, and now sleeps, hugging his beloved kite. The haiku paints a picture of pure, trusting love--the love of a child for a toy. The image has much to teach adult readers, if they open themselves to it.

1803

.万歳よも一ッはやせ春の雪
manzai yo mo hitotsu hayase haru no yuki

begging actors
play one more song!
spring snow

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy. Shinji Ogawa translates hitotsu hayase: "play one more round of music!"

1804

.万歳のまかり出たよ親子連
manzai no makari ideta yo oyako-zure

the begging actors
pay a visit...
parents and children

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy.

1808

.万歳のけふも昔に成りにけり
manzai no kyô mo mukashi ni nari ni keri

begging actors--
the olden times return
today

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy.

1811

.万歳や馬の尻へも一祝
manzai ya uma no shiri e mo hito iwai

begging actors--
even the horse's rump
gets a song

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy.

1811

.万ざいや門に居ならぶ鳩雀
manzai ya kado ni inarabu hato suzume

begging actors at the gate--
pigeons and sparrows
in a row

The pigeons and sparrows are lined up as if to view the performance. This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy.

Paul Ivanovskis writes, "An alternate reading is that the actors are like pigeons and sparrows begging for food ... metaphor rather than literal."

1811

.万ざいや麦にも一つ祝ひ捨
manzai ya mugi ni mo hitotsu iwai sute

begging actors--
even the wheat field
gets a song

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy. Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1821

.万歳のかはりにしやべる雀哉
manzai no [ka]wari ni shaberu suzume kana

in place
of begging actors
chattering sparrows

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy.

1810

.舞扇猿の涙のかかる哉
mai ôgi saru no namida no kakaru kana

the monkey with
a dancer's fan...
a tear rolls down

Dancing monkeys perform their tricks in the New Year's season. Here, Issa shows his famous compassion for his fellow travelers, the animals.

1816

.舞猿も草臥顔はせざりけり
mai-zaru mo kutabire-gao wa sezari keri

dancing monkey--
its face also
isn't weary

Dancing monkeys perform their tricks in the New Year's season. Shinji Ogawa asks, "Who else didn't show a weary face? The master of the dancing monkey? In any case, I am totally at a loss. I cannot see any significance in this haiku. When we read haiku, we should make our effort to understand the haiku. However, it is largely of the composer's responsibility to make the haiku understandable." I agree. Though a good haiku must leave something unsaid so that readers can complete it with their imaginations, this particular example perhaps leaves too much unspoken.

This haiku has similar structure to an earlier one (1806):

asagao no saki kutabire mo sezari keri

morning-glories--
they also aren't tired
of blooming

Again there is mystery: Who or what else isn't tired of blooming?

1816

.我国は猿も烏帽子をかぶりけり
waga kuni wa saru mo eboshi wo kaburi keri

in my province
even trained monkeys
wear noble hats

A jab at local politicians? Literally, Issa says that the monkey is wearing the courtly headgear of a nobleman. Dancing monkeys perform their tricks in the New Year's season.

1816

.我国は猿も祈とうをしたりけり
waga kuni wa saru mo kitô wo shitari keri

in my province
even trained monkeys
offer prayers!

1821

.御座敷や菓子を見い見い猿が舞
o-zashiki ya kashi wo mii-mii saru ga mau

sitting room--
eyes locked on his treat
the monkey dances

Dancing monkeys perform their tricks in the New Year's season. The monkey's hard-earned reward (kashi) is some sort of candy or pastry.

1821

.親猿がをしへる舞の手品かな
oya-zaru ga oshieru mai no tejina kana

mother monkey
teaches her baby...
dance moves

The mother monkey, literally, teaches her baby dancing "tricks" (tejina), a word that suggests they are captive performers working for a human master. Their dancing earns money for their master, so the fact that the mother is passing on dance tricks to her offspring must be a pleasing sight to him. Looking deeper into the haiku, we see the loving ties of one generation to the next, as knowledge passes from parent to child.

1821

.舞猿や餅いただきて子にくれる
mai saru ya mochi itadakite ko ni kureru

dancing monkey--
he gives his rice cake
to the child

Or: "he gives his rice cakes/ to the children." Issa leaves the number of children to the reader's imagination.

I originally translated this using the plural, but my friend Nena, who composed Italian and French translations for this haiku, believes that the singular "child" makes more sense in context. The fact that the child is alone, perhaps lonely, adds emotional meaning to the monkey's kind gesture.

1813

.乞食も福大黒のつもり哉
konjiki mo fuku daikoku no tsumori kana

even the beggar
hopes to get rich...
god of wealth singers

Daikoku is a god of wealth. In Issa's time, the daikokumai were troupes of begging musicians who performed between the 11th day of First Month and the first day of Second Month; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 964. Since they were named after a god of wealth, supporting them was a way to ensure prosperity for the coming year. Here, even a beggar donates.

The word kotsujiki is the old pronunciation of the word "beggar" in this haiku. However, Sakuo Nakamura writes that "Issa usually didn't like to use such a snobby word. He liked to use local accent to form his characteristic haiku style." Sakuo grew up in the same language area as Issa and feels confident that Issa would have pronounced the word, konjiki.

1811

.獅子舞や大口明て梅の花
shishimai ya ôkuchi akete ume no hana

the lion puppet
opens wide...
plum blossoms

A lion puppet play (shishimai) is a popular New Year's entertainment.

1820

.はつ雪へさし出す獅子の天窓哉
hatsu yuki e sashidasu shishi no atama kana

stretching out
toward the first snow...
lion puppet's head

A lion puppet play (shishimai) is a popular New Year's entertainment.

year unknown

.門獅子やししが口から梅の花
kado shishi ya shishi ga kuchi kara ume no hana

lion puppet at the gate--
from his mouth
plum blossoms

A lion puppet play (shishimai) is a popular New Year's entertainment.

1813

.乞食の春駒などもかすみ哉
konjiki no haru koma nado mo kasumi kana

a beggar's New Year's song
too
in the mist

The "spring colt" (haru koma) is a performer who makes the rounds on New Year's Day, singing songs at people's gates.

The word kotsujiki is the old pronunciation of the word "beggar" in this haiku. However, Sakuo Nakamura writes that "Issa usually didn't like to use such a snobby word. He liked to use local accent to form his characteristic haiku style." Sakuo grew up in the same language area as Issa and feels confident that Issa would have pronounced the word, konjiki.

1816

.春駒の歌でとかすや門の雪
haru koma no uta de tokasu ya kado no yuki

melting to the tune
of the New Year's singer...
snow at the gate

The "spring colt" (haru koma) is a performer who makes the rounds on New Year's Day, singing songs at people's gates.

1793

.君が世や旅にしあれど笥の雑煮
kimi ga yo ya tabi ni shi aredo ke no zôni

Great Japan!
even mid-journey a bowl
of zoni

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. In this instance Issa uses the character yo meaning "world" instead of the usual character used in this phrase, meaning "age"...but the gist is the same. Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season. Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku refers to a tanka poem written by Arimanomiko (Prince Arima) in Manyôshu (#142), which he paraphrases, "If at home, the rice is served in a (silver) bowl. Now on the journey, it is served on a leaf." Shinji comments, "Because of his involvement in a coup d'etat, the nineteen-year old Prince Arima was captured and sent to be executed in 658. It was a journey to death. Knowing the sad and tragic poem of Prince Arima, Issa turns it 180 degrees to create a light-touched and happy haiku."

1817

.我庵や元日も来る雑煮売
waga io ya ganjitsu mo kuru zôni uri

to my hut too
New Year's arrives...
the zoni vendor

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season. This haiku has the prescript, "In Hatsuchôbori Beggar Quarter, I greet the spring." Hatsuchôbori was a district of old Edo (today's Tokyo). See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 261, note 1394. Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

To my hut
even on the New Year's Day
zoni vendors come

He notes that it is a Japanese custom not to work during the first three days of the year, but in the big city of Edo, zoni vendors were busy as bees.

1818

.神の代はおらも四角な雑煮哉
kami no ya wa ora mo shikaku-na zôni kana

age of the gods!
even for me a square
of zoni

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season.

1818

.目出度といふも二人の雑煮哉
medetai to iu mo futari no zôni kana

though we say
"Happy New Year!"
zoni for only two

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season

This enigmatic haiku seems biographical. Shinji Ogawa notes that it is an established understanding in Japan that "this haiku alludes to the sadness of his son's death two years before...then they were three, now they are two." Lewis Mackenzie, in contrast, thinks that this haiku merely alludes to Issa's marriage to Kiku, which would suggest a happy mood; The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 39.

According to Shinji, the particle mo signifies "although" in this situation. Issa is groaning, "Although we say 'Happy New Year' there's an empty place at the table." Issa and Kiku's first child, Sentarô, died in 1816, Fifth Month. This haiku was written in Second Month, 1818. At the time Kiku was pregnant with their second child, Sato, who would be born that Fifth Month.

1821

.捨人もけさは四角にざうに哉
sutebito mo kesa wa shikaku ni zôni kana

even for the holy hermit
today, a square
of zoni!

Sutebito is a person who has rejected the world: a "hermit" or a "recluse"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 885.

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season.

1821

.もう一度せめて目を明け雑煮膳
mô ichi do semete me wo ake zônizen

if only you'd open your eyes
one more time...
zoni on the dinner tray

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season.

This haiku was written in memory of Issa's son, Ishitarô. He and his wife Kiku placed a bowl of zôni in front of his mortuary tablet; Makoto Ueda, Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 133.

1821

.我庵もけさは四角な雑煮哉
waga io mo kesa wa shikaku-na zôni kana

in my hut
today, a square
of zoni!

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season.

1823

.もともとの一人前ぞ雑煮膳
motomoto no ichininmae zo zôni zen

like in the beginning
just one helping...
zoni on the table

Ichininmae ("in front of one person") denotes one plate, one helping.

R. H Blyth notes that Issa was now sixty one, and had lost his wife and four children; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.403.

He wrote this haiku at the end of Eleventh Month, 1823. As Blyth points out, his wife Kiku had died earlier that year, in Fifth Month, but their fourth child, Konzaburô, wouldn't follow her until three weeks later: the 21st day of Twelfth Month. Since the child was certainly being cared for elsewhere, when Issa composed this haiku he was bitterly alone...again.

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season.

1819

.お袋が福手をちぎる指南哉
o-fukuro ga fukude wo chigiru shinan kana

Mama's way
of shaping rice cake offerings...
a lesson

Kazari mochi ("decoration rice cakes"), also called kagami mochi ("mirror rice cakes"), are round rice cakes used for New Year's offerings. In this case, Issa refers to them as o-fukude ("lucky hands").

In the same year (1819), Issa includes a slightly different version of this haiku in Oraga haru ("My Spring") with a middle phrase of o-fukude chigiru. The meaning is essentially the same.

1821

.かざり餅仏の膝をちよとかりる
kazari mochi hotoke no hiza wo choto kariru

rice cake offerings--
on Buddha's lap
for just a little while

Kazari mochi ("decoration rice cakes"), also called kagami mochi ("mirror rice cakes"), are round rice cakes used for New Year's offerings. In this haiku, as Shinji Ogawa explains, someone "borrows" Buddha's lap to place the cakes upon...for a while.

I suppose that Issa left the cakes as offerings to the Buddha for about as long as he could stand it (just "a little while"), then ate them.

1819

.葉固の歯一枚もなかりけり
hagatame no ha ichi mai mo nakari keri

New Year's tooth-hardening
meal...
yet toothless!

1821

.台所の爺に歯固勝れけり
daidoko no jiji ni hagatame katare keri

old man in the kitchen--
his New Year's tooth-hardening
beats mine

This haiku refers to a special tooth-hardening meal eaten in the New Year's season. The sorry state of Issa's teeth is magnified by the fact that an old man has a more complete set.

1823

.人真似に歯茎がための豆腐哉
hito mane ni ha-guki-gatame no tôfu kana

imitating others
hardening their teeth...
tofu for me

The "for me" has been added. Issa is referring to the New Year's tooth-hardening meal. He (or someone) is toothless and so must resort to tofu for the occasion.

year unknown

.かたむべき歯は一本もなかりけり
katamubeki ha wa ippon mo nakari keri

teeth to harden
this New Year's meal...
not even one

year unknown

.歯固は猫に勝れて笑ひけり
hagatame wa neko ni katarete warai keri

New Year's tooth-hardening
meal...the cat wins
and laughs

This haiku refers to a special tooth-hardening meal eaten in the New Year's season. The cat, with better and harder teeth, seems to be laughing at poor Issa.

1798

.とそ酌もわらじながらの夜明哉
toso kumu mo waraji nagara no yoake kana

my New Year's toast
with straw sandals on...
dawn

Spiced sake (toso) is a New Year's drink.

Makoto ueda observes the poet's "hurried state of mind" in this haiku. Even while toasting the new year, he has his traveling shoes on, eager to begin his journey; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 37.

1818

.朝不二やとそのてうしの口の先
asa fuji ya toso no chôshi no kuchi no saki

Mount Fuji dawn--
a New Year's sake toast
at my lips

Or: "at his lips" or "at her lips."

Spiced sake (toso) is a New Year's drink.

1818

.御関やとその銚子の不二へむく
onkan ya toso no chôshi no fuji e muku

barrier gate--
a New Year's sake toast
to Mount Fuji

Spiced sake (toso) is a New Year's drink.

1818

.月代にとそぬり付て出たりけり
sakayaki ni toso nuritsukete detari keri

a New Year's toast
on his shaved head...
he goes forth

Or: "on my shaved head/ I go forth."

Spiced sake (toso) is a New Year's drink.

1821

.皺面にとそぬり付るわらひ哉
shiwa-zura ni toso nuritsukeru warai kana

a New Year's toast
for his wrinkled face...
laughter

Spiced sake (toso) is a New Year's drink.

1805

.霞む日も寝正月かよ山の家
kasumu hi mo neshôgatsu ka yo yama no ie

on this misty day
sleeping through New Year's?
mountain home

The seasonal reference in this haiku is to neshôgatsu (formerly pronounced, neshôgwatsu), which refers to staying in bed for leisurely sleeping during the New Year's holiday. This can be due to a sickness or simply for relaxation's sake; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1280.

1806

.正月を寝てしまひけり山の家
shôgatsu wo nete shimai keri yama no ie

sleeping through
the New Year's celebration...
mountain home

The seasonal reference in this haiku is to neshôgatsu (formerly pronounced, neshôgwatsu), which refers to staying in bed for leisurely sleeping during the New Year's holiday. This can be due to a sickness or simply for relaxation's sake; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1280.

1807

.正月を寝て見る梅でありしよな
shôgatsu wo nete miru ume de arishôna

sleeping through New Year's
dreaming of plum blossoms
probably

The seasonal reference in this haiku is to neshôgatsu (formerly pronounced, neshôgwatsu), which refers to staying in bed for leisurely sleeping during the New Year's holiday. This can be due to a sickness or simply for relaxation's sake; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1280.

1795

.七草の音に負じと烏かな
nanakusa no oto ni makeji to karasu kana

pounding the seven herbs
doesn't drown him out...
crow

The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. In this haiku, a crow's raucous cawing in "not defeated" (makeji) by the sound of the herbs being pounded into a gruel.

1804

.七草を敲き直すや昼時分
nanakusa wo tataki naosu ya hiru jibun

the pounding
of the seven herbs resumes...
noontime

The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. This haiku refers to the sound of the herbs being pounded into a gruel.

1817

.七草を打つてそれから寝役哉
nanakusa wo utte sore kara ne yaku kana

after pounding
the seven herbs of health...
he sleeps

Or: "she sleeps." The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. This haiku refers to the sound of the herbs being pounded into a gruel.

1821

.七草やだまつて打も古実顔
nanakusa ya damatte utsu mo kojitsu kao

though she pounds the seven herbs
without singing...
a wise old face

Or: "though he pounds." The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. Usually, as Shinji Ogawa explains, the pounding was accompanied by a little song: "Oh Seven Herbs! Before the Chinese bird comes over Japan..." It was believed that a mythical bird from China flying over Japan would do "many bad things."

In this case, the person pounding the herbs doesn't chant, but has a "face that knows ancient customs" (kojitsu kao).

1823

.七草は隣のおとで置にけり
nanakusa wa tonari no oto de oki ni keri

pounding the seven herbs--
my next door neighbor
in sync

The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. This haiku refers to the sound of the herbs being pounded into a gruel--at Issa's house and next door.

1800

.きのふ迄毎日見しを若菜かな
kinou made mainichi mishi wo wakana kana

up to yesterday
I saw you every day...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. In this haiku, the herbs that Issa was used to seeing have all been picked.

1803

.釜粥を洗ふて待や野はわか菜
kama-gayu wo araute matsu ya no wa wakana

the gruel cauldron
all clean and ready...
herbs in the field

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1803

.切株は御顔の際やわかな摘
kirikabu wa o-kao no kiwa ya wakana tsumi

a tree stump at the edge
of his holy face...
picking herbs

Issa uses the honorofic o-kao ("honorable face") when referring to Buddha or to bodhisattvas (Buddhist saints). Is a holy man picking herbs, his face bending low to the ground? Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1803

.竹かごにすこしあるこそわかな哉
take kago ni sukoshi aru koso wakana kana

in the bamboo basket
only a bit, of course...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1803

.わか菜摘袂の下や角田川
wakana tsumu tamoto no shita ya sumida-gawa

into my sleeve
fresh-picked New Year's herbs...
Sumida River

Or: "his sleeve/ as he picks..." or "her sleeve/ as she picks..." Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

Literally, Issa writes, "under my sleeve" (tamoto no shita), but this seems to have the same meaning as "in my sleeve"--based on the way that he uses this expression in other haiku. He seems to be stowing the herbs in his sleeve.

1804

.あらためて鶴もおりるか初わかな
aratamete tsuru mo oriru ka hatsu wakana

are you coming down
crane, to see?
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1804

.こてこてと鍋かけし若菜哉
kote-kote to nabe kakeshi wakana kana

the kettle's lid
rattle, rattle...
New Year's herbs

This haiku has an unusual structure of 5-5-5 on ("sound units"). Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation by pointing out that kote-kote may mean koto-koto: an onomatopoetic expression for the "rattling sounds made by a wooden lid when a kettle is on the boil."

1805

.一桶は如来のためよ朝わかな
hito oke wa nyorai no tame yo asa wakana

one bucketful
for Buddha...
morning herbs

Someone (Issa?) leaves an offering of herbs for a statue of Buddha. Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1805

.わかな摘鷺も淋しく思ふやと
wakana tsumi sagi mo sabishiku omou ya to

picking herbs
the heron also
seems lonely

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1805

.わかなのや一葉摘んでは人をよぶ
wakana no ya hito ha tsunde wa hito wo yobu

herb garden--
picking one, he shouts
"Over here!"

Or: "she shouts" or "I shout." This is a very free translation. Literally, "a person picking one leaf of young greens calls a person." Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1807

.けふはとて垣の小すみもわかな哉
kyô wa tote kaki no ko sumi mo wakana kana

it being today
even in a nook of the hedge
picking herbs

Or: "even in nooks..." Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1807

.ちる雪をありがたがるやわかなつみ
chiru yuki wo arigatagaru ya wakana tsumi

appreciating
the falling snow...
picking herbs

Robin D. Gill notes, "The Nihon kokugo daijiten includes the word arigatagaru; it means to hold feelings of gratitude and for that to be expressed in one's attitude, behavior and appearance. While Issa often expressed antipathy for that 'bad stuff' as he called snow, spring snow was considered a good portent for crops and, with well-known particularly sweet classical poems about picking young greens in the snow, people out picking herbs would have felt more in touch with the dreamtime of their ancestors. In otherwords, people find the snow enchanting and are delighted as they pluck around."

1810

.朝陰や親ある人のわかなつみ
asa kage ya oya aru hito no wakana tsumi

morning shadows--
someone who has parents
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. In this haiku, someone is picking healthy herbs for his or her parents. One detects a twinge of envy, or perhaps longing, in Issa's verse. His mother died when he was a toddler; his father died almost a decade before he wrote this poem.

1813

.鶯に一葉とらするわかな哉
uguisu ni hito ha torasuru wakana kana

one leaf
for the nightingale...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1814

.江戸芥の山をえりはりわかな哉
edo gomi no yama wo eriwari wakana kana

on one of Edo's
mountains of rubbish...
picking herbs

Edo is today's Tokyo. Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1814

.負た子が先へ指さすわかな哉
outta ko ga saki e yubi [sa]su wakana kana

the child on her back
points them out first...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1818

.女衆に出し抜れつつつむわかな
onna-shû ni dashi-nukare tsutsu tsumu wakana

beaten out
by the women...
picking herbs

This haiku has the prescript, "Since I'm becoming an old man." Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. As Shinji Ogawa notes, women have beaten Issa to the punch: dashi-nukare = "get passed"; tsu-tsu = "-ing."

1818

.二葉三葉つみ切つて来るわかな哉
ni ha samba tsumi kitte kuru wakana kana

two or three leaves
then calling it quits...
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1819

.竃の門に置するわかな哉
hettsui no kado ni okasuru wakana kana

laid out
at the hearth's door...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1821

.大原や人留のある若菜つみ
ôhara ya hito-dome no aru wakana tsumi

a big field
with a "Keep Out" sign...
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1821

.かすむ程たばこ吹つつ若菜つみ
kasumu hodo tabako fukitsutsu wakana tsumi

almost mist
the smoke of their pipes...
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1821

.小坊主に行灯もたせて若なつみ
ko bôzu ni andon motasete wakana tsumi

letting the little boy
hold the lantern...
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

Just as the expression kozô ("little priest") can be taken literally or to mean any little boy, the "little priest" (ko bôzu) in this haiku might signify not only a Buddhist acolyte but any small, smooth-headed boy.

Shinji Ogawa notes that motasete means not simply "(the little priest) holds (the lantern)" but "having (the little priest) hold (the lantern)." The herb picker, he adds, "may be a high priest or Issa himself."

1821

.鶏に一葉ふるまふわかな哉
niwatori ni hito ha furumau wakana kana

the chicken is treated
to one...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1821

.一引はたばこかすみやわかなつみ
hito hiki wa tabako kasumi ya wakana tsumi

for each one picked
a puff on the pipe...
herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1822

.転んでも目出度いふ也わかなつみ
koronde mo medeta iu nari wakana tsumi

even while falling down
"Happy New Year!"
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1822

.爺が家のぐるりもけふはわかな哉
jiji ga ya no gururi mo kyô wa wakana kana

the old man's house
is surrounded...
herb pickers

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. There are at least two ways to picture this haiku: (1) New Year's herbs are growing, unpicked, around the old man's house; or (2) herb pickers have surrounded the house. I choose the second meaning because in another haiku of the same year Issa has "Mr. Long-Beard" give herb pickers a scolding, presumably because they are on his land.

1822

.畠の門錠の明けりわかなつみ
hata no kado jô no aki keri wakana tsumi

the garden's gate
left unlocked...
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1822

.髭どのに叱られにけりわかなつみ
hige dono ni shikarare ni keri wakana tsumi

Mr. Long-Beard
gives them a scolding...
herb pickers

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. The herb pickers are evidently trespassing.

1822

.脇差の柄にかけたるわかな哉
wakizashi no tsuka ni kaketaru wakana kana

from the short sword's
hilt hanging...
herbs

The person in the haiku might a samurai with a short sword (wakizashi) and, though not mentioned, a long one (katana). Or, as Shinji Ogawa points out, he might be Issa himself. By this time, Issa's social status was high enough for him to have a permission to carry a short sword. Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1822

.童に刀持たせてわかなつみ
warabe ni katana motasete wakana tsumi

letting the child
hold his sword...
picking herbs

The herb-picker is a samurai. Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1824

.二葉三葉たばこの上に若な哉
ni ha samba tabako no ue ni wakana kana

two or three leaves
atop the tobacco...
herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1824

.三葉程つみ切つて来る若な哉
samba hodo tsumi kitte kuru wakana kana

around three leaves
then calling it quits...
picking herbs

A rewrite of an 1818 haiku. The original begins with "two or three leaves" (ni ha sanba). Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1824

.脇差の柄にぶら下る若な哉
wakazashi no tsuka ni burasagaru wakana kana

from the short sword's
hilt dangling...
herbs

The person in the haiku might a samurai with a short sword (wakizashi) and, though not mentioned, a long one (katana). Or, as Shinji Ogawa points out, he might be Issa himself. By this time, Issa's social status was high enough for him to have a permission to carry a short sword. This is a rewrite of an 1822 haiku. In the original, the verb is kakaru ("hang"). Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1825

.脇差の柄にぶらぶら若菜哉
wakazashi no tsuka ni bura-bura wakana kana

from the short sword's
hilt dingle-dangling
herbs

The person in the haiku might a samurai with a short sword (wakizashi) and, though not mentioned, a long one (katana). Or, as Shinji Ogawa points out, he might be Issa himself. By this time, Issa's social status was high enough for him to have a permission to carry a short sword. This is a second rewrite of an 1822 haiku. In the original, the verb is kakaru ("hang"). In 1824 the verb changes to burasagaru ("dangle"). In this final version, Issa makes playful music: bura-bura ("dingle-dangle"). Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1804

.あの藪に人の住めばぞ薺打
ano yabu ni hito no sumeba zo nazuna utsu

in every thicket
where people live...
pounding New Year's herbs

Nazuna (shepherd's purse) is one of the seven herbs of health that are eaten in a gruel on the seventh day of First Month, Mankind's Day.

1813

.垢爪やなずなの前もはづかしき
akazume ya nazuna no mae mo hazukashiki

dirty nails
facing my New Year's dish
ashamed

This haiku has the prescript, "Day of Mankind," referring to the seventh day of First Month. R. H. Blyth points out that, on this day, the seven herbs of health are boiled with rice gruel. Nazuna (shepherd's purse) is one of these herbs. See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 2.635. Robin D. Gill points out that this New Year's dish is not, as I had previously translated it, a "soup."

Shinji Ogawa adds, "Tradition says that, if you cut your nails after soaking them in the seven-herbs gruel, it will expel evil spirits; Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 174, note 883.

1814

.わかい衆や庵の薺も唄でつむ
wakai shu ya io no nazuna mo uta de tsumu

young folk--
even while picking my hut's herbs
they sing

Or: "the hut's herbs." Issa doesn't say that it's his hut, but this might be inferred. Shinji Ogawa explains that wakai shu means "young men, slightly older than young boys." Nazuna (shepherd's purse) is one of the seven herbs of health that are eaten in a gruel on the seventh day of First Month, Mankind's Day.

1803

.君が代を鶏も諷ふや餅の臼
kimi ga yo wo tori mo utau ya mochi no usu

the rooster also sings
to Great Japan...
on the rice cake mill

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. This is a haiku of the New Year's season, the seasonal reference being "the year's first rooster's song" (hatsu tori).

1817

.餅臼に鶏諷ひけり君が代と
mochi usu ni tori utai keri kimi ga yo to

on the rice cake mill
the rooster sings too
"Oh Great Japan!"

A rewrite of a haiku of 1803. The original poem begins with "Great Japan." "Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. This is a haiku of the New Year's season, the seasonal reference being "the year's first rooster's song" (hatsu tori).

1814

.門の木のあはう烏もはつ音哉
kado no ki no ahô karasu mo hatsu koe zo

tree by the gate
the year's first bird song
a foolish crow

1811

.だまつても行ぬやけさの遅烏
damatte mo yukanu ya kesa no oso karasu

not shutting up
New Year morning's late riser...
the crow

1814

.さあ春が来たと一番烏哉
saa haru ga kita to ichiban karasu kana

"Well, spring has come!"
the year's first
crow

1821

.杜の陰しかも出がけのはつ烏
mori [no] kage shikamo degake no hatsu karasu

the woods are dark
but out and about...
the year's first crow

1824

.挑灯もちらりほらりやはつ烏
chôchin mo chirari horari ya hatsu karasu

a smattering of lanterns
here and there...
the year's first crow

Crows can be seen all over Japan in all seasons, so the first sighting of a crow in a given year must be during the New Year's season.

1821

.在合の鳥も初声上にけり
ariai no tori mo hatsu koe age ni keri

from this bird
the year's first song
rises

1823

.初声はあはう烏でなかりけり
hatsu koe wa awau karasu de nakari keri

year's first birdsong--
and not a foolish
crow!

Awau is an old word that means orokana: "foolish"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 50.

1824

.大雪をかぶつて立や福寿草
ôyuki wo kabutte tatsu ya fukuju kusa

covered by the big snow
yet standing...
New Year's flower

Fukuju kusa is, literally, "prosperity grass" or "longevity grass"--a New Year's season word. Shinji Ogawa explains that this is the plant, pheasant's eye, which blooms in early spring. Since pheasant's eye blooms around New Year's Day in the old Japanese calendar, its other name is New Year's Grass. In my translation, I render it, "New Year's flower," so that the English-speaking reader might picture a blooming plant in the New Year's season.

1825

.神国や草も元日きつと咲
kamiguni ya kusa mo ganjitsu kitto saku

country of gods!
on New Year's Day grasses
suddenly bloom

Lewis Mackenzie notes: "a strange observation for snowbound Shinano, but perhaps [Issa] was thinking of some cherished pot-plant." See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 45. Literally, the opening phrase is "land of the gods" (kami-guni ya). Issa is referring to fukuju kusa: "prosperity grass" or "longevity grass" ... a New Year's season word. Shinji Ogawa explains that this is the plant, pheasant's eye, which blooms in early spring. Since pheasant's eye blooms around New Year's Day in the old Japanese calendar, its other name is New Year's Grass.

1811

.二月や天神様の梅の花
kisaragi ya tenjin-zama no ume no hana

Second Month--
the heavenly gods'
plum blossoms!

1824

.二月に元日草の咲にけり
kisaragi ni ganjitsu kusa no saki ni keri

in Second Month
the New Year's grass
at last

1820

.まかり出花の三月大根哉
makari ide hana no sangatsu daiko kana

taking their leave
in the flowery Third Month...
radishes

1806

.相持の橋の春めく月よ哉
aimochi no hachi no harumeku tsuki yo kana

on Aimochi Bridge
spring has sprung...
bright moon

Aimochi means, literally, "Mutual Aid." Shinji Ogawa explains that, despite the "ridiculous luxury" of the war lords and the shogun, many bridges (such as this one) were built with donations from the people.

1820

.春めくや藪ありて雪ありて雪
harumeku ya yabu arite yuki arite yuki

spring has sprung--
but in every thicket, snow
and more snow!

The day is looking like spring (harumeku), but in Issa's cold, mountainous province the snow will linger for a long time.

1821

.春めくやこがね花咲山の月
harumeku ya kogane hana saku yama no tsuki

it's springtime!
golden flowers
mountain moon

1821

.春めくやのらはのらとて藪虱
harumeku ya nora wa nora tote yabu-jirami

it's springtime!
even the thicket's lice
move into the field

1823

.鶯はきかぬ気でなく余寒かな
uguisu wa kikanu ki de naku yokan kana

the nightingale sings
despite it all...
winter lingers

Shinji Ogawa explains that kikanu in this haiku signifies, "not hearing any advice." In other words, the bird has an "attitude" (ki) of firm resolution: determined to sing its spring song even though the cold weather lingers. The final phrase, yokan kana, might also be translated "cold spring," but this is ambiguous, since some readers might take it to mean a cold spring of water.

1823

.彼岸迄とは申せども寒哉
higan made to wa môsedo mo samusa kana

"Fair weather by spring's equinox"
so they say...
liars!

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province. Shinji Ogawa notes that there is a Japanese proverb which states, "Hot or cold only lasts till an equinox." In Issa痴 province of Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, this saying doesn't at all hold true. Literally, Issa is saying, "Only until the spring equinox [will the cold weather last], they say...[and yet] it's cold!" My rather free translation attempts to evoke Issa's emotion and humor.

1818

.三ケ月はそるぞ寒は冴かへる
mikazuki wa soru zo samusa wa saekaeru

the sickle moon
curls up, winter's cold
returns

It is springtime but keenly cold, as if winter has returned. In an earlier translation, I had the sickle moon "bend," but based on one of my student's comments, I now believe that Issa is picturing the moon curling up, like a person under a quilt on a cold night. Thanks, Cintasha! The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

1804

.親里へ水は流るる春辺哉
oya-zato e mizu wa nagaruru harube kana

to my home village
the water flows...
springtime

This is a homesick haiku written while Issa was living in Edo (today's Tokyo), far from his "parental village" (oya-zato).

Makoto Ueda speculates that Issa came upon a stream that was flowing in a northwesterly direction: toward his native village in the mountains. Of course, since water can't flow uphill, there's a bit of humor in the haiku to balance the nostalgia; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 56.

1807

.鶯の東訛りも春辺哉
uguisu no azuma namari mo harube kana

the nightingale sings
with a country twang...
springtime

Issa is alluding to a Kasai accent. A subway stop in Greater Tokyo today, in Issa's time Kasai was a farming village east of Edo.

1808

.としよりの今を春辺や夜の雨
toshiyori no ima wo harube ya yoru no ame

now it's a springtime
befitting old men...
evening rain

1811

.月さして一文橋の春辺哉
tsuki sashite ichi mon hashi no harube kana

moon shining
on a one-penny bridge...
springtime

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. In this haiku, even though the toll is cost over twenty pennies in modern currency, I have kept it in my translation as a "one-penny bridge" to emphasize its cheapness and the fact that only one small coin is required.

1795

.長閑や雨後の縄ばり庭雀
nodokeshi ya ugo no nawabari niwa suzume

spring peace--
after rain, a gang war
garden sparrows

Shinji Ogawa clarifies the meaning of this haiku. He explains, "The word nawabari (to stretch a rope) means the 'turf' for mobsters." He translates the second and third phrases, "a turf war among the garden sparrows."

1795

.長閑しや雨後の畠の朝煙り
nodokeshi ya ugo no hatake no asa kemuri

spring peace--
the rained-on field's
morning smoke

1804

.長閑さや去年の枕はどの木の根
nodokasa ya kozo no makura wa dono ki [no] ne

spring peace--
last year which tree root
was my pillow?

Now that spring has returned, Issa is ready for a delicious nap.

1811

.長閑しや酒打かける亦打山
nodokeshi ya sake uchi-kakeru matchi yama

spring peace--
smash goes the sake bottle
on Mount Matchi

A drunken party?

1812

.辻だんぎちんぷんかんも長閑哉
tsuji dangi chinpunkan mo nodoka kana

a crossroads sermon
gibberish
spring peace

In my article, "The Dewdrop World: Death and Other Losses in the Haiku of Issa," I write:

Issa regards the crossroads sermon as a lot of "gibberish"--long-winded and fundamentally meaningless. However, his attitude is not one of disdain, but rather of quiet, peaceful acceptance, for the sermon, too, is part of the lovely spring day. The final words, nodoka kana, translate literally as, "peacefulness!" but in the shorthand of haiku nodoka specifically connotes the tranquility of springtime. Hence the monk, his listeners, Issa, and the crossroads are all seen as part of a greater picture--the spring day itself: green fields, blue sky, and the peace evoked without and within. The poet is not condemning the sermon or the monk; his calling the sermon gibberish, in the whole context of the poem, sounds almost like a loving tribute, for the outdoor sermon is as much a sound of spring as the warble of birds. However, its content is evidently not to be taken seriously. Modern Haiku 16. No. 3 (1985): 20-31.

1812

.長閑しや大宮人の裾埃
nodokeshi ya ômiyabito no suso-bokori

spring peace--
in the great courtier's hem
dust

The courtier has dragged his ceremonial robe in the dust, gathering it in its hem. Perhaps he has been in the countryside viewing the spring blossoms.

1812

.やみくもに長閑になりし烏哉
yamikumo ni nodoka ni narishi karasu kana

all of a sudden
he shuts up...
crow

Or: "they shut up/ crows." Shinji Ogawa explains that yamikumo means literally "dark and cloudy," but idiomatically expresses the idea, "all of a sudden," or "abruptly."

The sudden silence is deafening. The crow is becoming "peaceful" in a very specific sense, since nodoka designates the tranquility of springtime. Up to this point, the crow has been shattering that tranquility, but now, finally and suddenly, has gotten with the program.

1813

.大びらな雪のぼたぼた長閑さよ
ôbirana yuki no bota-bota nodokesa yo

blatantly the snow
falls pit-a-pat...
spring peace

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province. The old expression bota-bota denotes the ever-so soft sound that snowflakes or blossoms make as they fall, one after the other; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1487.

1814

.土の鍋土の狗の長閑也
tsuchi no nabe tsuchi no enoko no nodoka nari

an earthen pot
and an earthen puppy...
spring peace

1819

.長閑さや浅間のけぶり昼の月
nodokasa ya asama no keburi hiru no tsuki

spring peace--
Mount Asama's smoke
and the noon moon

Mount Asama is a volcano in Issa's home province of Shinano, active during the poet's lifetime. The eruption of 1783, when Issa was twenty-one years old and living in Edo (today's Tokyo), killed 1,151 people.

1820

.長閑や鼠のなめる角田川
nodokasa ya nezumi no nameru sumida-gawa

spring peace--
a mouse licking up
Sumida River

Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku is popular in Japan for the "interesting contrast" between great Sumida river, swelled with rain, and the tiny mouse.

Lucien Stryk translates nezumi as "wharf-rat"--a choice that I believe drastically changes the feeling of the poem; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 18.

year unknown

.長閑さや垣間を覗く山の僧
nodokasa ya kakima wo nozoku yama no sô

spring peace--
a mountain monk peeks
through a fence

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." Shinji Ogawa feels that this is a humorous reference to a scene from The Tale of Genji (Chapter 5), wherein Prince Genji peers through a wattle fence and catches sight of ten-year old Murasaki. Shinji notes, "In spring, even a mountain monk becomes a Peeping Tom." Issa plays with this same image in another comic haiku, but in this case a cat takes the place of the famous prince; search the archive for "Genji."

1793

.嬌女を日々にかぞへる春日哉
taoyame wo hi-bi ni kazoeru haru hi kana

pretty girls multiply
day by day...
spring days!

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation.

1804

.春の日や水さへあれば暮残り
haru no hi ya mizu sae areba kure nokori

the spring day's
remnants...
only in the water

According to Jean Cholley, Issa wrote this haiku in Katsushikano, a neighborhood of today's Tokyo known as Katsushika. It was one of the poet's favorite walking places, with plenty of ponds and streams. At dusk, even though the sky was already dark, glimmers of twilight lingered on the surfaces of water; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235, n. 25.

1805

.揚土のいかにも春の日也けり
agetsuchi no ikanimo haru no hi nari keri

the earth mound's
part of it indeed...
a fine spring day

I have a hunch that Issa could be referring to a grave mound with the term, agetsuchi ("earth mound"), but Shinji Ogawa notes that "some gardens have earth mounds to make the view interesting."

1805

.破風からも青空見ゆる春日哉
hafu kara mo ao-zora miyuru haru hi kana

even from the gable
clear blue sky...
a spring day

1805

.春の日を背筋にあてることし哉
haru no hi [wo] sesuji ni ateru kotoshi kana

exposing my spine
to the spring sun...
this year

1805

.春の日を降りくらしたる都哉
haru no hi wo furikurashitaru miyako kana

on the spring day
all day, rain...
Kyoto

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1805

.春の日や暮ても見ゆる東山
haru no hi ya kurete mo miyuru higashi yama

spring day--
visible even after sunset
Higashi Mountains

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1807

.ついついと草に立たる春日哉
tsui-tsui to kusa ni tachitaru haru hi kana

rising over
the swishing grasses...
spring sun

In my first translation of this haiku I read tsui-tsui as tsui to, meaning "suddenly." However, commenting on a different poem, Shinji Ogawa suggests that Issa is using this word onomatopoetically to express the swishing sound of a canoe's paddle in water. In light of Shinji's comment on that poem, I've decided to rethink (and re-translate) this haiku and all others that contain this phrase.

Robin D. Gill points out that the Nihon kokugo daijiten defines tsui-tsui as an offshoot of tsui-to, meaning "straight up and rising up high from." He would have the spring sun "sprout up" from the grass.

1807

.春の日やついつい草に立安き
haru no hi ya tsui-tsui kusa ni tachi yasuki

spring sun--
over the swishing grasses
gliding up

In my first translation of this haiku I read tsui-tsui as tsui to, meaning "suddenly." However, commenting on a different poem, Shinji Ogawa suggests that Issa is using this word onomatopoetically to express the swishing sound of a canoe's paddle in water. In light of Shinji's comment on that poem, I've decided to rethink (and re-translate) this haiku and all others that contain this phrase.

1808

.春の日や雪隠草履の新しき
haru no hi ya setchin zôri no atarashiki

spring day--
the outhouse sandals
are new

1788

.永き日や水に画を書鰻掻き
nagaki hi ya mizu ni e wo kaku unagikaki

a long day--
the eel catcher writes pictures
on the water

Unagikaki is a tool for catching eels. Here, the bored fisherman uses it to draw on the surface of the water. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 217.

1805

.砂をする大淀舟や暮遅き
suna wo suru ôyodobune ya kure osoki

grating on sand
the big ferryboat...
late sunset

The seasonal phrase "late sunset" (kure osoki) indicates a long day of spring.

1806

.軒の雨ぽちりぽちりと暮遅き
noki no ame pochiri-pochiri to kure osoki

rain from the eaves
drip-drip...
a late sunset

The seasonal phrase "late sunset" (kure osoki) indicates a long day of spring.

1807

.岩の亀不断日永と思ふ哉
iwa no kame fudan hinaga to omou kana

for the turtle on a rock
it's the usual
long day

1807

.うら門のひとりでに明く日永哉
ura kado no hitori de ni aku hi naga kana

the back gate
opens on its own...
a long day

In their index, the editors of Issa zenshû read the first two kanji as ura kado (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79). Makoto Ueda reads them as uramon. Ueda speculates that a spring breeze has opened the gate; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 62.

1807

.鶏の人の顔見る日永哉
niwatori no hito no kao miru hi naga kana

the chicken stares
at the man...
a long day

Shinji Ogawa, who helped with the translation, finds this haiku to be funny because "the scene is so boring and, therefore, so appropriate to depict the long day."

I agree. There's great comedy built into the scene of a chicken staring at a man--as if accusing the latter for making the day so long. Later, Issa writes poems depicting "staring contests" with a frog (1819) and with a gargoyle (1824), but this early poem isn't about a friendly, two-way game. The chicken stares and stares at the man (Issa?). The day, indeed, is long!

1807

.木兎は不断日永と思ふ哉
mimizuku wa fudan hi naga to omou kana

in the owl's opinion
every day
is long

A nocturnal bird, the owl is frustrated by the long day of spring. Shinji Ogawa explains, "The word fudan means, originally, 'endless' and derivatively 'every day' or 'always'." The owl in question is a feather-toed scops-owl (mimizuku).

1808

.鶯の咽かはかする日永哉
uguisu no nodo kawakasuru hi naga kana

the nightingale's
throat is parched...
a long day

The nightingale (uguisu) is thirsty, Issa imagines, singing so long on this long day of spring. Shinji Ogawa is unimpressed. He writes, "This haiku is too explanatory. Based upon the common phrase 'long day,' Issa constructed a joke. Because of the conventionalism, this haiku is not funny but smelly."

1808

.のべの草蝶の上にも日や長き
nobe no kusa chô no ue ni mo hi ya nagaki

even for the meadow
butterflies...
the day is long

Or: "for the butterfly."

1808

.ぽちやぽちやと鳩の太りて日の長き
pocha-pocha to hato no futorite hi no nagaki

roly-poly pigeons
growing fatter...
a long day

1809

.生炭団一ッ一ッの日永哉
ike tadon hitotsu hitotsu no hi naga kana

making charcoal balls
one by one...
a long day

1809

.永の日に口明通る烏哉
naga no hi ni kuchi ake-tôru karasu kana

in the long day
passing with mouth wide...
a crow

Susan Delphine Delaney notes that "Birds don't sweat. On hot days they 'pant' like dogs do to cool off. Hence the open mouth all day."

1810

.ひよりひよりと磯田の鶴も日永哉
hyoro-hyoro to iso ta no tsuru mo hi naga kana

tottering in the seaside
rice field...for the crane too
the day is long!

Maintaining balance on one leg in the long spring day poses a challenge.

1812

.永の日を喰やくわずや池の亀
naga no hi wo kû ya kuwazu ya ike no kame

in the long day
they eat, they don't eat
pond turtles

In a prescript for this haiku, Issa writes that he visited a secluded pond, where he watched the turtles begging for handouts. It must be painful for them, he mused, to live so long in this "world of suffering"; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 4.111.

According to Jean Cholley, Issa sees himself in the hungry turtles; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 239, note 56.

1813

.鶏やちんば引々日の長き
niwatori ya chinba hiki-hiki hi no nagaki

the lame chicken
dragging, dragging...
a long day

One of at least three haiku about a lame chicken, this is yet another example of Issa's compassionate view of animals.

1814

.菜畠に幣札立る日永哉
na-batake ni nusa fuda tateru hi naga kana

an offering placard
in the farm field...
a long day

This haiku refers to a Shinto offering charm.

1814

.茨薮に紙のぶらぶら日永哉
bara yabu ni kami no bura-bura hi naga kana

in a thorn patch
some paper, to and fro...
a long day

1814

.鑓もちて馬にまたがる日永哉
yari mochite uma ni matagaru hi naga kana

holding a spear
riding a horse...
a long day

1815

.鶏の仲間割して日永哉
niwatori no nakama wareshite hi naga kana

among the chickens
a bitter feud...
a long day

Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, nakama ware as "breaking up" due to a disagreement.

1815

.日の長い日の長いとて涙かな
hi no naga[i] hi no nagai to[te] namida kana

the day is long
the day is so long!
tears

This haiku has the prescript, "Feeling old age."

1816

.有がたや用ない家も日が長い
arigata ya yô nai ie mo hi ga nagai

the way things are--
in my do-nothing house
the day is long

Arigata is an old word that means "the present state of affairs"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 83. It does not connote "grateful," as I thought in my earlier translation of this haiku.

1816

.老の身は日の永いにも涙かな
oi no mi wa hi no nagai ni mo namida kana

growing old--
even the long day
brings tears

1816

.長き日の壁に書たる目鼻哉
nagaki hi no kabe ni kaitaru mehana kana

in the long day
scribbling on a wall...
eyes, nose

In the long spring day someone (Issa?) has been practicing calligraphy on the wall.

1816

.永の日の杖の先なる火縄哉
naga no hi no tsue no saki naru hinawa kana

in the long day
at my cane's tip...
a fuse cord

Issa has come upon the fuse cord of a matchlock or firelock gun.

1816

.日が長い長いとむだな此世哉
hi ga nagai nagai to mudana kono yo kana

the day is long!
long! in this vain
world today

This haiku alludes to the Pure Land Buddhist concept of mappô, the notion that we live in a fallen age.

1816

.むだな身に勿体なさの日永哉
mudana mi ni mottainasa no hi naga kana

in this vain life
a sheer waste...
the long day

1818

.長き日やここにもごろりごろり寝
nagaki hi ya koko ni mo gorori gorori neru

a long day--
here too everyone's
curled asleep

This haiku has the prescript, "Main temple hall." In the long spring day monks and pilgrims sleep.

1818

.長き日や大福帳をかり枕
naga[ki] hi ya daifukuchô wo kari makura

a long day--
his account book serves
as a pillow

Or: "my account book," though I prefer to picture a bored merchant, not Issa, napping in the long spring day.

Shinji Ogawa notes that kari in this context signifies "substitution for," "in place of," or "temporary." The account book is a temporary pillow.

1818

.ばか長い日やと口明く烏哉
baka nagai hi ya to kuchi aku karasu kana

"It's a foolishly long
day!"...the crow opens
his mouth

It seems silly for a crow to be voicing Issa's complaint about the summer's long day, and yet, thinking about it more deeply, we can conceive that crows, like haiku poets, might be capable of boredom. Whether this particular crow is, in fact, bored isn't as important as Issa raising the possibility, narrowing the distance between human and animal realities.

1818

.べら坊に日の長い哉長い哉
berabô ni hi no nagai kana nagai kana

the day is devilishly
long!
long!

Sakuo Nakamura believes that berabô ni ("beyond measure") was not an expression in Issa's home province. He suspects that it was an expression used in Edo (today's Tokyo). Now that he has returned to his home in the mountains, perhaps Issa is complaining, using this big city word, about how long and dull the day is.

1819

.山の湯やだぶりだぶりと日の長き
yama no yu ya daburi-daburi to ni no nagaki

a mountain hot bath
slish-slosh...
a long day

Daburi-daburi ("slish-slosh") seems to be a variant of tabu-tabu/taburi to: the movement of water or liquid that is filled to the brim; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1020. In this haiku the length of the day doesn't seem a negative thing.

1819

.白犬の眉書れたる日永哉
shiro inu no mayu kakaretaru hi naga kana

drawing eyebrows
on the white dog...
a long day

Someone (Issa?) has way too much time on his hands in the long spring day, giving the dog a makeover with a calligraphy brush.

1819

.大道にころころ犬の日永哉
daidô ni koro-koro inu no hi naga kana

a dog rolling
in the highway...
a long day

1820

.大口を明て烏も日永哉
ôkuchi wo aite karasu mo hi naga kana

the crow, too
yawns and yawns...
a long day

Kikuko J. Hilbun notes that Issa's literal "with mouth open wide" is a Japanese expression for yawning in a "dull, boring long day."

1820

.闇がりの牛を引出す日永哉
kuragari no ushi wo hikidasu hinaga kana

leading a cow
from the dark barn...
days grow longer

Shinji Ogawa translates kuragari no ushi as "leading out a cow from a dark place." I have substituted "barn" in an attempt to make Issa's image concrete in English.

Noriyuki Inoue writes, "I think 'the day becomes long' is better than 'the day is long'. The season of this haiku is spring; hinaga means the day becomes longer now than it was in winter, so spring has come. In winter the farmer didn't feel the barn was dark, because it was dark outside when he led his cow out. But now he feels the barn is dark, because it is light now when he leads his cow out. He feels: Oh, spring has come!"

Mark McGuinness suggested ending with the phrase, "days grow longer."

1820

.永き日や牛の涎が一里程
naga[ki] hi ya ushi no yodare ga ichi ri hodo

long day--
the cow's slobber
about two miles long

The cow's slobber trail stretches for "about one ri" (ichi ri hodo): 2.44 miles.

1820

.念仏の申し賃とる日永哉
nembutsu no mô[shi] chin toru hi naga kana

chanting "Praise Buddha!"
for a fee...
a long day

This haiku refers to the nembutsu, a prayer of thanksgiving for, and praise of, Amida Buddha's saving power. Eons ago, Amida promised that all who rely on his saving power will be reborn in the Pure Land (the Western Paradise). In this case, a monk has been commissioned to chant.

1820

.雇れて大念仏の日永哉
yatowa[re]te ônembutsu no hi naga kana

"Praise Buddha!"
chanted for a fee...
a long day

This haiku refers to the nembutsu, a prayer of thanksgiving for, and praise of, Amida Buddha's saving power. Eons ago, Amida promised that all who rely on his saving power will be reborn in the Pure Land (the Western Paradise). In this case, a monk has been commissioned to chant.

1821

.永き日は只湯に入が仕事哉
nagaki hi [wa] tada yu ni iru ga shigoto kana

a long day--
even getting in the bath
is a chore

1821

.日永とて犬と烏の喧嘩哉
hi naga tote inu to karasu no kenka kana

a long day--
the dog and the crow
quarreling

1822

.歩行よい程に風吹く日永哉
aruki yoi hodo ni kaze fuku hi naga kana

good for walking
wind blows
all the long day

According to Shinji Ogawa, the phrase aruki yoi hodo, literally translates, "as good as [a] walking aid."

The wind from behind is pushing Issa along.

1822

.永き日や風の寒もよい位
nagaki hi ya kaze no samusa mo yoi kurai

this long day
with this cold breeze
almost...not bad

1822

.永き日やたばこ法度の小金原
nagaki hi ya tabako hatto no kogane hara

a long day--
no smoking allowed
in Kogane Plain

Was the no-smoking ban an attempt to prevent brushfires? In any case, for Issa who enjoys the pipe this edict makes a long spring day seem even longer.

1823

.長の日や沈香も焚かず屁もひらず
naga no hi ya jinkô mo takazu he mo hirazu

a long day--
no incense
no farts

Literally, Issa is "not burning incense, not farting," an idiomatic expression that Shinji Ogawa translates as, "not doing anything substantial." He hasn't done good; hasn't done bad in the long day.

1822

.のらくらや勿体なくも日の長き
norakura ya mottainaku mo hi no nagaki

idleness--
the day is so wastefully
long!

1823

.鶏の座敷を歩く日永哉
niwatori no zashiki wo aruku hi naga kana

a chicken strolls
through the sitting room...
a long day

In his translation, Makoto Ueda has the chicken walking on "the tatami floor"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 150.

1825

.永き日や嬉し涙がほろほろと
nagaki hi ya ureshinamida ga horo-horo to

a long day--
my tears of joy
rolling down

1825

.湯に入るも仕事となれば日永哉
yu ni iru mo shigoto to nareba hinaga kana

when even bathing
becomes a chore...
a long day

This haiku is a reworking of one written in 1821:

nagaki hi [wa] tada yu ni iru ga shigoto kana

a long day--
even getting in the bath
is a chore

year unknown

.草麦のひよろひよろのびる日ざし哉
kusa mugi hyoro-hyoro nobiru hizashi kana

the grass and wheat
tottering...
sunlight stretches on

It's a long day of springtime. Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1805

.雨がちに都の春も暮る也
amegachi ni miyako no haru mo kururu nari

in falling rain
in Kyoto too
dusk of spring

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1805

.顔染し乙女も春の暮る哉
kao someshi otome mo haru no kururu kana

for the painted faced
maiden too...
spring dusk

Cynthia writes, "The clock is ticking for the young woman, who is in the dusk of her season of youthful beauty."

1805

.下京の窓かぞへけり春の暮
shimogyô no mado kazoe keri haru no kure

counting the windows
of Shimogyo Town...
spring dusk

Shimogyô in Issa's time was a place near Kyoto. Today, it is one of Kyoto's 11 wards.

1805

.松に藤春も暮れぬと夕哉
matsu ni fuji haru mo kurenu to yûbe kana

for the wisteria in the pine, too
spring's dusk
this evening

1805

.木兎の面魂よ春の暮
mimizuku no tsuradamashii haru no kure

the little owl
makes a face...
spring dusk

The owl in question is a feather-toed scops-owl (mimizuku).

1808

.角田川どこから春は暮るるぞよ
sumida-gawa doko kara haru wa kururu zo yo

Sumida River
from whence will spring's dusk
come?

1813

.雉の鳴く拍子に春は暮にけり
kiji no naku hyôshi ni haru wa kure ni keri

to the beat
of a pheasant's cries
spring dusk

1804

.春の夜や瓢なでても人の来る
haru no yo ya fukube nadete mo hito no kuru

spring evening--
he comes out to pet
the gourd

Is the proud gardener Issa?

1808

.春の夜や一の宝の火吹竹
haru no yo ya ichi no takara no hifukitake

spring evening--
the bamboo fire-feeding pipe
is a treasure

Bamboo pipes (hifukitake) were used to build fires; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1408.

1792

.行春の町やかさ売すだれ売
yuku haru no machi ya kasa uri sudare uri

spring ends in the town--
umbrella-hat, bamboo blind
vendors

Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku parodies an earlier one by Ôemaru: yûdachi ya edo wa kasa uri ashida uri, which might be translated, "Cloudburst/ in Edo umbrella-hat vendors/ wooden sandal vendors." See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.50, note 6; and Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 15, note 17. Shinji believes that Issa's haiku, being a parody, is not art. I think that the fact that Issa playfully alludes to a previous poem in a present moment does not, in itself, disqualify the haiku as a work of art.

1805

.舞々や翌なき春を顔を染て
mai-mai ya asu naki haru wo kao wo somete

water spider
on spring's last day
blushing

In one manuscript, Issa prefaces this haiku with the comment, "Third Month's end." In the old lunar calendar, summer began on the first day of Fourth Month. The mai-mai is also called a "water spinner."

year unknown

.舞々や翌なき春を笑ひ顔
mai-mai ya asu naki haru wo warai kao

water spider
on spring's last day...
laughing face

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. The mai-mai is also called a "water spinner."

1805

.大和路や翌なき春をなく烏
yamato-ji ya asu naki haru wo naku karasu

road to Nara--
a crow caws
at spring's last day

The phrase yamato-ji means "road to Nara," not "road of Japan," as I originally translated it. I thank Shinji Ogawa for this correction. Nara was Japan's capital before Kyoto.

1806

.山守や春の行方を箒して
yamamori ya haru no yukigata wo hôki shite

forest ranger--
he sweeps away spring
with a broom

This haiku commemorates the last day of spring. Shinji Ogawa writes, "I can imagine the forest ranger sweeping away colorful flower petals."

1806

.行春の空はくらがり峠哉
yuku haru no sora wa kuragari tôge kana

departing spring's
sky turns dark...
mountain pass

1809

.春の行夜を梟の小言哉
haru no yuku yo wo fukurô no kogoto kana

at spring's last night
the owl
is nagging

1809

.行春にさしてかまはぬ烏哉
yuku haru ni sashite kamawanu karasu kana

paying no attention
to the departing spring...
crows

Or: "the crow."

Issa, human and a poet, knows that it is spring's last day and is ready to write about it. The crows pay no attention to this fact. They go on being crows.

1810

.長の春今尽る也角田川
naga no haru ima tsukiru nari sumida-gawa

the long spring
finally at an end...
Sumida River

1810

.若雀翌なき春をさわぐ也
waka suzume asu naki haru wo sawagu nari

the young sparrows
clamor at spring's
last day

1811

.鳩鳴や大事の春がなくなると
hato naku ya daiji no haru ga nakunaru to

a pigeon coos--
"That great thing, spring
has passed!"

1811

.ゆさゆさと春が行ぞよのべの草
yusa-yusa to haru ga yuku zo yo nobe no kusa

swish-swish
spring is departing...
field of grass

Earlier, I posted a freer translation:

swish-swish
the grass waves goodbye
to spring

This version was influenced by Issa's human treatment of plants in other poems, but in the present one the grass isn't overtly waving goodbye. It's simply waving, and the reader is left to interpret this movement as the reader wishes. I use the phrase "swish-swish" to capture the swishy sound of the original (yusa-yusa). Shinji Ogawa notes that the haiku refers more directly to the zigzagging motion of the grass in the wind. He offers a more literal translation:

Zigzag-zigzag
goes the spring...
Field grasses

1813

.鑓持よ春を逃すな合点か
yari mochi yo haru wo nogasu na gatten ka

hey spear holder!
don't let the spring
escape!

This comic haiku commemorates the last day of spring. A spear is powerless to stop the season's escape.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures a daimyo's parade marching into a town. "The spear man is the leader of this march. A specially selected young man becomes the spear man, because he is the symbol of the parade. People evaluate the feudal lord by the dancing spear man at the head of the parade, just like a cheerleader in a modern sports game. When Issa sees the parade, he cries, "Please stop spring from departing, spear holder!" Sakuo adds, "This haiku is so vivid that I feel I can see it like a movie scene."

1814

.やよ虱這へ這へ春の行方へ
yayo shirami hae-hae haru no yuku kata e

hey lice--
crawl after the departing
spring!

1816

.山守の箒の先を行春ぞ
yamamori no hôki no saki wo yuku haru zo

from the tip
of the forest ranger's broom...
spring departs

This haiku commemorates the last day of spring. It is a revision of a haiku written ten years earlier, in 1806:

yamamori ya haru no yukigata wo hôki shite

forest ranger--
he sweeps away spring
with a broom

Shinji Ogawa writes, "I can imagine the forest ranger sweeping away colorful flower petals."

1811

.鳥どもよだまつて居ても春は行
tori domo yo damatte ite mo haru wa yuku

hey birds!
even if you shut up
spring would go

This haiku commemorates the last day of spring. Shinji Ogawa corrected my first translation. He offers this literal paraphrase: "Hey you, noisy birds! You don't have to chase the spring out. The spring will go away even if you keep quiet."

1825

.春永と延した春も仕廻哉
haru naga to noboshita haru mo shimai kana

the long
stretched-out spring finally...
over

year unknown

.行春や我を見たをす古着買
yuku haru ya ware wo mitaosu furugigai

spring departs--
the old clothes buyer
ignores me

Jean Cholley identifies this as a haiku written in the period 1798-1800; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 41. In Issa zenshû it is simply listed as an undated poem (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.64.

In this self-ironic portrait Issa suggests that he is so ragtag and beggarly-looking, the used clothes merchant looks past him, confident that he has nothing worth buying.

Originally, I translated furugigai as "old clothes seller," but Sakuo Nakamura suggests that "buyer" fits better here: he or she looks with disdain at Issa in his poor-looking clothes.

1803

.紫の袖にちりけり春の雪
murasaki no sode ni chiri keri haru no yuki

scattering onto
my purple sleeves...
spring snow

Or: "his" or "her purple sleeves."

1807

.春の雪せまき袂にすがりけり
haru no yuki semaki tamoto ni sugari keri

spring snow
on my narrow sleeves...
clinging

Or: "his" or "her sleeves." There is a cultural dimension to this haiku that is lost in translation. Shinji Ogawa explains, "The expression tamoto ni sugari or 'clinging to the sleeve' is a typical gesture in the theater for a lover's departure. I think it is Issa's humor to depict the spring's unwillingness to depart. The phrase semaki tamoto implies the work clothes or poor man's clothes."

1807

.春の雪地祭り唄にかかる哉
haru no yuki chi matsuri uta ni kakaru kana

spring snow sprinkles
the earth god's
festival song

This haiku refers to a song sung in honor of earthly deities; see Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.392, note 3. Gabi Greve adds, "In Japan, purification ceremonies are performed before the commencement of all important events and functions. When a new home or building is to be constructed, a groundbreaking ceremony, which is called 'earth pacifying ceremony' (jichinsai) is performed to pacify the earth deity and to purify the spot where construction will be carried out."

1807

.古郷や餅につき込春の雪
furusato ya mochi ni tsukikomu haru no yuki

my home village--
rice cakes soaked
with spring snow

One of many haiku in which Issa "grumbles" about his snowy home in the mountains, where New Year's signals spring in name only.

1814

.淡雪や野なら薮なら道者達
awayuki [ya] no nara yabu nara dôsha-dachi

a light snow
over fields, through woods...
pilgrims

The season word, "light snow" (awayuki), signifies a spring context.

1814

.思出し思出してや春の雪
omoidashi omoidashite ya haru no yuki

remembering
to fall again...
a light spring snow

Shinji Ogawa suspects that "the haiku depicts on-and-off snowing. A Japanese expressions says, 'It snows again as if it has recollected,' when the snow starts falling again after an interval."

1814

.一村は柳の中や春の雪
hito mura wa yanagi no naka ya haru no yuki

in a village
deep in the willows...
spring snow

1816

.今敷た鋸屑を春の雪
ima shiita nokogirikuzu wo haru no yuki

over the just-spread
sawdust...
spring snow

1816

.春の雪あら菰敷て降らせけり
haru [no] yuki ara komo shiite furase keri

spring snow--
on fresh-laid reeds
it falls

This haiku refers to reed matting (komo).

1816

.春の雪扇かざさぬ人もなし
haru no yuki ôgi kazasanu hito mo nashi

spring snow--
not a single face
without a fan

People are screening their faces with their fans. In an earlier haiku (1810) Issa shows the same action in a different season, starting with "rain of cherry blossoms" (hana no ame).

1818

.梅どこか二月の雪の二三尺
ume doko ka nigatsu no yuki no ni san jaku

plum blossoms, where?
Second Month snow
two or three feet deep

One of many haiku in which Issa "grumbles" about his snowy home in the mountains, where New Year's signals spring in name only.

1818

.梅どこかはらはら雪のむら雀
ume doko ka hara-hara yuki no mura suzume

plum blossoms, where?
snow falls in clumps
among the sparrows

One of many haiku in which Issa "grumbles" about his snowy home in the mountains, where New Year's signals spring in name only. Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602.

1818

.雁鴨のきげん直るや春の雪
kari kamo no kigen naoru ya haru no yuki

improving the mood
of the geese and ducks...
spring snow

1818

.我村や春降雪も二三尺
waga mura ya haru furu yuki mo ni san jaku

my village--
even the spring snow
two or three feet!

Issa's home village was Kashiwabara in mountainous Shinano Province (today's Nagano Prefecture, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics)--a famously cold locale.

1822

.淡雪にまぶれてさはぐがきら哉
awayuki ni maburete sawagu gakira kana

dusted with snow
how they clamor!
the little brats

The ending of this haiku isn't clear in the manuscript. The editors of Issa zenshû read it as gakira: a gang of brats or urchins. The season word, "light snow" (awayuki), signifies a spring context.

1822

.市人の大肌ぬぐや春の雪
ichibito no ôhadanugu ya haru no yuki

the market workers
bare-chested...
spring snow falling

1822

.雷の光る中より春の雪
kaminari no hikaru naka yori haru no yuki

from deep
in the lightning's flash...
spring snow falling

1822

.草山のこやしになるや春の雪
kusa yama no koyashi ni naru ya haru no yuki

turning the haystack
to compost...
spring snow

"Haystack" is my translation for kusa yama ("grass mountain").

1822

.春の雪遊がてらに降りにけり
haru no yuki asobi-gatera ni furi ni keri

spring snow--
while it carouses
it falls

The suffix -gatera, equivalent to -katagata, means "while" or "at the same time." I assume that Issa means: while the snowflakes play their games in the sky, they fall.

1823

.淡雪や連出して行く薮の雪
awayuki ya tsuredashite yuku yabu no yuki

the light spring snow
melts alongside it...
snow in the thicket

The season word, "light snow" (awayuki), signifies a spring context, so for clarity I have added the word "spring" to my translation.

Shinji Ogawa notes that tsuredashite yuku means "to accompany someone out." Literally, Issa is saying:

the light spring snow
accompanies out
the snow in the thicket

In what sense does the spring snow "accompany out" the leftover winter snow in the thicket? I believe Issa is referring to melting.

1823

.紅皿にうはうけにけり春の雪
beni-zara ni uwauke ni keri haru no yuki

into the red dish
flitting down...
spring snow

The word uwauke is "muddy" writing in Issa's manuscript. I assume that he means fuwa-fuwa ("flitting down").

1823

.薮の雪を連出すや春の雪
yabu no yuki wo tsuredasu ya haru no yuki

a melting escort
for snow in the thicket...
spring snow

Shinji Ogawa notes that tsuredasu means "to accompany someone out." Literally, Issa is saying: "accompanying out/ the snow in the thicket/ spring snow."

In what sense does the spring snow "accompany out" the leftover winter snow in the thicket? I believe Issa is referring to melting. Shinji agrees. He writes, "Then, the question would be what is the relation between the spring snow and the melting, and the heart of the humor lies in this question. It is a common belief that spring snow melts quickly. It is, however, not the spring snow but rather the spring or the spring weather that makes the snow melt rapidly. Knowing this, Issa uses the spring snow as an agent to melt away the old snow."

year unknown

.淡雪や犬の土ほる通のはた
awayuki ya inu no tsuchi horu michi no hata

light snow--
a dog digs a hole
by the road

1806

.二葉から朝顔淋し春の霜
futaba kara asagao sabishi haru no shimo

down to two leaves
the lonely morning-glory...
spring frost

1822

.安房霜いつが仕廻ぞ仕廻ぞよ
ahô shimo itsu ga shimai zo shimai zo yo

oh foolish frost
when will you be gone?
be gone!

The season is spring, but winter conditions persist--much to Issa's frustration!

1822

.是きりと見へてどつさり春の霜
korekiri to miete dossari haru no shimo

the last of it--
a load of spring
frost

Dossari can mean "thump"/"plop" or "a large quantity." The second definition applies here; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1169. In Haiku R. H. Blyth has "spring snow" instead of "spring frost" (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition, 2.404). This is an error.

1822

.山里や毎日日日わかれじも
yama-zato ya mainichi hi nichi wakare-jimo

mountain village--
every day, day after day
the last frost

Shinji Ogawa explains: ("Wakare-jimo ("departing frost") implies the last frost of the season. The humor, here, is that at Issa's village the last frost comes day after day."

Wakare-jimo ("departing frost") is a spring season word.

1795

.起て見れば春雨はれず日も暮れず
okite mireba harusame harezu hi mo kurezu

waking up--
the spring rain hasn't cleared
the day hasn't ended

This haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

1795

.春雨や独法談二はいかい
harusame ya hitori hôdan ni haikai

spring rain--
one Buddhist sermon
two haiku

This haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

1803

.北さがや春の雨夜のむかし杵
kita saga ya haru no amayo no mukashi-gine

Kitasaga--
in evening rain
a pestle from olden times

Issa hears the nostalgic sound of a wooden pestle pounding, its music adding to the pattering of the rain. Kitasaga, "North Saga," is an area in the western part of Kyoto, facing Mount Arashi.

1803

.膳先に雀なく也春の雨
zen saki ni suzume naku nari haru no ame

at my dinner tray
a sparrow chirps...
spring rain

Or: "sparrows." Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1803

.春の雨よ所の社もめづらしき
haru no ame yoso no yashiro mo mezurashiki

spring rain--
elsewhere the shrines
are wonderful

Evidently written during a visit to a Shinto shrine.

1803

.焼餅に烏の羽や春の雨
yakimochi ni karasu no hane ya haru no ame

a crow's feather
on the toasted rice cake...
spring rain

1804

.川見ゆる木の間の窓や春の雨
kawa miyuru ko no ma no mado ya haru no ame

watching the river
through a window of trees...
spring rain falls

In my first translation, I had the view of river and rain "through window and trees." Sakuo Nakamura pictures "a window of trees." This makes sense to me.

1804

.酒ありと壁に張りけり春の雨
sake ari to kabe ni hari keri haru no ame

"Sake for sale"
a sign on a wall...
spring rain

A slice-of-life image. Shinji Ogawa explains that sake ari ("sake is here") is a statement on a sign that has been pasted (hari keri) on a wall.

1804

.春雨で恋しがらるる榎哉
harusame de koishigararuru enoki kana

because of spring rain
the dear nettle tree
is missed

According to Shinji Ogawa, harusame de signifies "due to the spring rain," and koishigararuru enoki denotes a "nostalgically beloved nettle tree," in other words, a nettle tree that is no longer here. Is Issa implying that he cut down the tree but regrets it, now that he needs a rain shelter?

1804

.春雨になれて灯とぼる薮の家
harusame ni narete hi toboru yabu no ie

becoming inured
to spring's rain...
lamp-lit house in the trees

Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

Getting used to
the spring rain,
The house in the woods is lighted.

1804

.春雨の中に立たる榎哉
harusame no naka ni tachitaru enoki kana

standing tall
in the spring rain...
nettle tree

1804

.春雨やけぶりの脇は妹が門
harusame ya keburi no waki wa imo ga kado

spring rain--
at the edge of the spray
my dear one's gate

In my first translation, I rendered keburi literally as "smoke," but this word can also signify a type of mist or spray. I think the latter word captures Issa's image. Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454.

1804

.春雨や雀口明く膳の先
harusame ya suzume kuchi aku zen no saki

spring rain--
a sparrow begs
by my dinner tray

The sparrow opens its mouth; one assumes it is begging for a handout. Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1804

.春雨や火もおもしろきなべの尻
harusame ya hi mo omoshiroki nabe no shiri

spring rain--
a delightful fire
under the kettle

1804

.昼過の浦のけぶりや春の雨
hiru sugi no ura no keburi ya haru no ame

steam on the bay
past midday...
spring rain

1804

.ほうろくをかぶつて行や春の雨
hôroku wo kabutte yuku ya haru [no] ame

walking along
a baking pan on his head...
spring rain

Or: "her head." One of the most important aspects of haiku is that much is left ambiguous, unspoken, undefined. Ludmila Balabanova writes, "Haiku isn't a perception shared by the author, but an invitation to the reader to achieve his own enlightenment" (World Haiku Association speech, Tenri Japan, October 2003). Is the person walking along a child? An adult? Issa? I prefer to picture a child, but this choice is left to each reader to decide. Whoever we imagine, the makeshift umbrella-hat raises a smile. The delight of seeing a baking pan in this unexpected place, worn as a hat, is justification enough for the poem--a sketch from life that isn't straining to reveal deeper meaning. The image is simple, but the feeling it evokes, one of springtime joy, resonates in our hearts. Raindrops patter on the pan; the person under it--child, man, woman or Issa--strides forward unabashed.

1804

.山の鐘も一ッひびけ春の雨
yama no kane mo hitotsu hibike haru no ame

clang once more
mountain temple bell!
spring rain

Literally, it is a "mountain bell" (yama kane), but Issa's readers Japanese readers understand that this refers to the bell of a Buddhist temple. Originally, I had the bell "ring," but Shinji Ogawa advises, "A Japanese mountain bell (or temple bell) is so huge that it rather peals than rings." I then changed it to "clang"--a stronger, louder sound, though the temple bells that I heard in Japan sounded more like BONGGGGGGGgggggg!

1804

.我松もかたじけなさや春の雨
waga matsu mo katajikenasa ya haru no ame

my pine tree too
is grateful...
spring rain

1805

.小田の鶴又おりよかし春の雨
oda no tsuru mata oriyokashi haru no ame

rice field crane
again, come on down!
spring rain

Shinji Ogawa explains that oriyokashi means, "come down, please!"

1805

.黒門の半分見へて春の雨
kurumon no hambun miete haru no ame

the Black Gate
just half visible...
spring rain

The "Black Gate" (kuromon) is the main temple gate of Kan-eiji in the Ueno district of Edo (today's Tokyo).

1805

.春雨や家鴨よちよち門歩き
harusame ya ahiru yochi-yochi kado aruki

spring rain--
ducks waddle-waddle
to the gate

Why are the ducks congregating at the gate to a house? Is it Issa's house and gate, and do the ducks expect to be fed there? Or are they just waddling about happily under the spring rain? Issa presents the essential image; it's up to the reader to contemplate and enjoy it.

1805

.春雨や膳の際迄茶の木原
harusame ya zen no kiwa made cha no kibara

spring rain--
to the dinner tray's edge
the tea grove

Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1805

.春雨や蛤殻の朝の月
harusame ya hamaguri-gara no asa no tsuki

spring rain--
the morning moon
is a clam shell

Issa wrote this haiku on the first day of Third Month,1805. Interestingly, in his journal Bunka ku chô ("Bunka Era Haiku Collection"), he notes that it was a sunny day. Perhaps this rainy scene is imagined. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.276.

1806

.あさぢふや逆に寝てさへ春の雨
asajiu ya gyaku ni nete sae haru no ame

shelter in the reeds--
even when I turn over
spring rain

Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25. Issa's shelter must be open on the sides; when he changes his sleeping position, he still sees (and feels?) the spring rain.

1806

.春雨のめぐみにもれぬ草葉哉
harusame no megumi ni morenu kusaba kana

not missing
the spring rain's blessing...
blades of grass

1806

.春雨や千代の古道菜漬売
harusame ya chiyo no furu michi nazuke uri

spring rain
on an ancient road...
the pickle vendor

The vendor is selling pickled vegetables (nazuke).

1806

.春雨や窓も一人に一つづつ
harusame ya mado mo hitori ni hitotsu-zutsu

spring rain--
there's one window
per person

A comic, slice-of-life haiku. Every person, up and down the block, is stuck inside, watching the rain. What emotions are they feeling? Joy? Irritation? Boredom? Issa leaves this unsaid, and, really, the emotions of the watchers in their windows don't matter. What matters in the scene, its controlling reality, is the spring rain itself, falling from the sky and splashing the street.

1807

.木母寺の夜を見に行春の雨
mokuboji no yoru wo mi ni yuku haru no ame

going to see
Mokubo Temple's evening...
spring rain

1807

.山里は常正月や春の雨
yama-zato wa jô shôgatsu ya haru no ame

for the mountain village
the usual First Month...
spring rain

1808

.壁の穴幸春の雨夜哉
kabe no ana saiwai haru no amayo kana

hole in the wall--
"blessed" spring's
night rain

With the rain coming inside, spring doesn't seem quite so "blessed" or "fortunate" (saiwai).

1808

.春雨やかまくら雀何となく
harusame ya kamakura suzume nan to naku

in spring rain
Kamakura's sparrow's...
how they sing!

Kamakura is one of Japan's ancient capitals, on Sagami Bay southwest of Tokyo.

1808

.古郷や草の春雨鍬祭
furusato ya kusa no harusame kuwa matsuri

home village--
spring rain on the grass
Hoe Festival

I haven't found information on "Hoe Festival" (kuwa matsuri): was it an actual celebration in Issa's native village, or is it a joking reference to the fact that all hoeing must stop during the rain?

1809

.神棚は皆つつじ也春の雨
kami-dana wa mina tsutsuji nari haru no ame

the little shrine
is all azaleas...
spring rain

The flowers have enveloped the little Shinto shrine. In the native Japanese religion of Shinto, Nature is sacred, with in-dwelling gods (kami-sama). The fact that the shrine is almost invisible among the flowers suggests many things. Are the flowers themselves, in a spontaneous act of reverence, decorating the shrine, in which case their blossoms can be viewed as acts of prayer? Or, do the flowers represent the living god of the shrine, to which Issa is bowing, with a grateful smile, as he writes the poem? Or...?

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The plant, tsutsuji, is normally translated as 'azalea.' In a park, azaleas are maintained as three-foot-high bushes."

1809

.けふもけふも同じ山見て春の雨
kyô mo kyô mo onaji yama mite haru no ame

today too
looking at the same mountain...
spring rain

1809

.春雨や土のだんごも遠土産
harusame ya tsuchi no dango mo tômiyage

spring rain--
mud-dumplings too
gifts from afar

Or: "a mud-dumpling too/ is a gift from afar."

1809

.春雨や人の花より我小薮
harusame ya hito no hana yori waga ko yabu

spring rain--
better than the flowers of others
my little thicket

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "My little thicket is more important than others' flowers."

1810

.行灯で畠を通る春の雨
andon de hatake wo tôru haru no ame

crossing the field
with a paper lantern...
spring rain

1810

.春雨や魚追逃す浦の犬
harusame ya uo oi-nogasu ura no inu

in spring rain
chasing the elusive fish...
dog on the shore

1810

.春雨や盃見せて狐よぶ
harusame ya sakazuki misete kitsune yobu

spring rain--
showing a sake cup
calling foxes

In Japanese folklore the fox is a powerful spirit. Here, someone has set out an offering of sake and is calling for a "lucky" fox...or fox god. Sakuo Nakamura writes that this is a scene at Inari Shrine (inari = "fox").

1810

.春雨や少古びし刀禰の鶴
harusame ya sukoshi furubishi tone no tsuru

in spring rain
a bit bedraggled...
Tone River crane

The editors of Issa zenshû provide a note indicating that tone refers to a river; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.30, note 3.

1811

.野大根烏のかがし春の雨
no daikon karasu no kagashi haru no ame

warding off crows
in the radish field...
spring rain

Kagashi is roasted animal flesh intended to keep a field safe from pests such as crows. Here, spring rain serves as the kagashi warding off the birds; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 329.

1811

.萩の葉に鹿のくれけり春の雨
hagi no ha ni shika no kure keri haru [no] ame

in bush clover
a deer hides out...
spring rain

1811

.春雨に大欠する美人哉
harusame ni ôakubi suru bijin kana

in the spring rain
a big yawn...
pretty woman

1811

.春雨や小島も金の咲くやうに
harusame yak o-jima mo kane no saku yô ni

spring rain--
a little island too
blooms golden

1811

.春雨や是は我家の夜の松
harusame ya kore wa waga ya no yoru no matsu

spring rain--
here's my house's
evening pine

A pine tree goes perfectly with a spring shower. Is Issa addressing the rain, asking it to fall on his pine, too?

1811

.春雨やつつじでふきし犬の家
harusame [ya] tsutsuji de fukishi inu no ie

spring rain--
thatched with azaleas
the doghouse

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The plant, tsutsuji, is normally translated as 'azalea.' In a park, azaleas are maintained as three-foot-high bushes."

1811

.春雨や貧乏樽の梅の花
harusame ya bimbôdaru no ume no hana

spring rain--
in an old keg
a plum tree blooms

The "old keg" (bimbôdaru) might also be translated "poor keg," suggesting that it belongs to a poor man--perhaps Issa. Amid someone's poverty, the potted plum tree blooms...gloriously.

1811

.人のいふ法ほけ経や春の雨
hito no iu hôhokekyô ya haru no ame

someone recites
the Lotus Sutra...
spring rain falls

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts.

1812

.野烏の巧者にすべる春の雨
no-garasu no kôsha ni suberu haru no ame

the field crow
slips so cleverly...
spring rain

Issa later revises this to be about a "little crow" (ko-garasu).

year unknown

.小烏や巧者にすべる春の雨
ko-garasu ya kôsha ni suberu haru no ame

the little crow
slips so cleverly...
spring rain

This is a rewrite of an 1812 haiku; in the original the crow was a "field crow" (no-garasu).

1812

.野鼠も福を鳴ぞよ春の雨
no nezumi mo fuku wo naku zo yo haru [no] ame

even the field mouse
squeaks, "What luck!"
spring rain

1812

.春雨やてうちん持の小傾城
harusame ya chôchin mochi no ko keisei

in spring rain
with a paper lantern...
little beauty

The girl is dressed in a fine kimono.

Ko keisei can mean "little beauty," "little courtesan," or "little prostitute."

1813

.穴蔵の中で物いふ春の雨
anagura no naka de mono iu haru no ame

small talk
down in the cellar...
spring rain

In Issa's time mono iu could mean any kind of talking or, more specifically, a man and a woman exchanging passionate words; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1632.

1813

.起々の目に付る也春の雨
oki-oki no me ni tsukeru nari haru no ame

first thing after waking up
spring rain
in my eyes

1813

.挑灯を親に持たせて春の雨
choûchin wo oya ni motasete haru no ame

letting her parent carry
the paper lantern...
spring rain

Or: "his parent."

1813

.春雨や喰れ残りの鴨が鳴
harusame ya kuware-nokori no kamo ga naku

spring rain--
the uneaten ducks
are quacking

A sensuous, joyous haiku. The ducks have survived the winter, which suggests that some of their comrades ended up in cooking pots.

Shinji Ogawa writes that it "shows Issa's unique perspective or twist. The ducks are the leftovers from last winter." He goes on to say, "This humorous and hillbilly perspective is, in my opinion, one of the reasons for Issa's popularity."

1813

.春雨や鼠のなめる角田川
harusame ya nezumi no nameru sumida-gawa

spring rain--
a mouse licking up
Sumida River

In another version of this haiku, written the same year, Issa begins with "spring breeze."

1813

.一ッ舟に馬も来りけり春の雨
hitotsu fune ni uma mo nori keri haru no ame

in one boat
a horse rides too...
spring rain

I assume that hitotsu fune ("one boat") means that the horse is in the same boat that people are riding.

1814

.梅鉢や竹に雀や春の雨
ume-bachi ya take ni suzume ya haru no ame

potted plum tree
sparrows in bamboo...
spring rain

With plum, sparrows, bamboo and the rain this haiku is a grand-slam homerun of spring images.

1814

.客ぶりや犬も並んで春の雨
kyakuburi ya inu mo narande haru no ame

like a proper guest
the dog falls in...
spring rain

1814

.梟も面癖直せ春の雨
fukurô mo tsuraguse naose haru no ame

cheer up, owl!
the spring rain
is falling

Issa rewrites this haiku a year later (1815) with a slightly different opening (fukurô yo). In a later, undated copy from the Bunsei Era, Issa prefaces the poem with the prescript, "The pigeon speaks words of admonishment."

Makoto Ueda believes that the owl is Issa; the pigeon is his wife, Kiku; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 98. In his children's book, Matthew Gollub merges the prescript with the poem: "The dove tells the owl/ to fix his worried face"; Cool Melons--Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa (New York: Lee and Low Books, 1998). The book's illustrator, Kazuko G. Stone, presents a charming picture of dove and owl (Kiku and Issa) as husband and wife kneeling side by side.

1814

.藪尻の賽銭箱や春の雨
yabu-jiri no saisen-bako ya haru no ame

behind the thicket
an offering box...
spring rain

Instead of coins, a different treasure has filled the offering box of the little shrine in the trees.

1814

.藪といふ藪がそれぞれ春の雨
yabu to iu yabu ga sore-zore haru no ame

for every thicket
every thicket...
spring rain

Shinji Ogawa writes, ("yabu to iu yabu is an idiom for "every thicket we know of." In other words, a blessing of spring rain falls "upon every thicket."

Literally, the expression denotes "every thicket called a thicket"; i.e. "every thicket worthy of the name." It is difficult to echo Issa's repetition in English without sounding less natural than Issa's Japanese sounds to Japanese ears (if that makes sense!). However, I think that such repetition is absolutely necessary, as it underscores the steady rhythm of the rain.

1815

.行灯で菜をつみにけり春の雨
andon de na wo tsumi ni keri haru no ame

picking veggies
with a paper lantern...
spring rain

1815

.しんしんとしんらん松の春の雨
shin-shin to shinran matsu no haru no ame

perfect calm--
Shinran's pine
in the spring rain

This haiku has the prescript, "Zenko Temple." Shinran was the founder of the Jôdoshinshû branch of Buddhism, Issa's sect. When he visited Zenkôji, Shinran planted the branch of a pine in a large pot in the main hall--a plant which, evidently, was still alive in Issa's time, over 500 years later. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.352, note 4.

Shinji Ogawa notes that shin-shin can mean: (1) heartfelt; (2) quiet; (3) the progression of night time; and (4) body-piercing cold. In my first translation of this haiku, I chose the fourth option, starting with the phrase, "cold to the bone." However, due to the "spring rain," Shinji believes that the second meaning, "quiet," is more likely here. He suggests that the meaning and mood are similar to the "silent" in the song, "Silent Night."

Note the musical sound of shin-shin to shinran...

1815

.春雨や菜をつみに行小行灯
harusame ya na wo tsumi ni yuku ko andon

spring rain--
gone vegetable-picking
with a little lantern

1816

.鋤鍬を先拝む也春の雨
suki kuwa wo mazu ogamu nari haru no ame

the first blessing
for plow and hoe...
spring rain

1816

.猫洗ふざぶざぶ川や春の雨
neko arau zabu-zabu kawa ya haru no ame

splish-splash
the cat washes in the river...
spring rain

1816

.春雨や欠をうつる門の犬
harusame ya akubi wo utsuru kado no inu

spring rain--
he catches my yawn
dog at the gate

Issa expresses the boredom of a man and a dog, each one cowering under shelter, waiting out the rain. Issa looks out the window or door of his house and yawns; the dog, watching from under the front gate, yawns too. The scene is comic, reminiscent of the 1807 poem in which a chicken stares at a man (Issa?) all day. Yet, even in such silly moments, the poet senses connections between himself and non-human creatures--who, in a Buddhist universe, are fellow travelers on the road to enlightenment. This particular moment of spring rain, however, neither man nor dog seems anywhere near enlightenment.

1817

.春雨や薮に吹るる捨手紙
harusame ya yabu ni fukaruru sute tegami

spring rain--
in the thicket
a discarded letter blows

Shinji Ogawa suggests that I change the third line of my translation to "a discarded letter is blown." He explains, "The discarded letter, especially in the thicket, might be blown like a flag [but] not blown like fallen leaves. In Issa's time, a Japanese letter was written on a single long sheet of paper."

Changing line three to "is blown," however, is ambiguous: the letter might be riffled by the wind (Issa's meaning, according to Shinji) or tumbling from place to place (which, Shinji believes, is not happening). Though Issa uses passive voice in his original text, I try to avoid this when I can, since English haiku tradition generally favors the succinctness and immediacy of simple, active verbs. Moreover, English speakers are more likely to picture a small sheet of stationery, not a long banner-like letter of Old Japan--a misperception more easily corrected in a footnote such as this one than in the translation itself. Therefore, for the time being at least, Issa's letter will keep on blowing.

1818

.明六を鳩も諷ふや春の雨
akemutsu wo hato mo utau ya haru no ame

the pigeon too
sings at six a.m.
spring rain

Akemutsu roughly corresponds to six in the morning; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 20.

1818

.有明や石の凹みの春の雨
ariake ya ishi no kubomi no haru no ame

dawn--
in a stone's hollow
spring rain

1818

.傘さして箱根越也春の雨
kasa sashite hakone kosu nari haru no ame

under their parasols
crossing Mount Hakone...
spring rain

I picture several umbrellas in the scene; Lucien Stryk, in his translation, visualizes just one: the poet's; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 18.

French translator Jean Cholley also sees only one parasol in the scene; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 157.

Mount Hakone is south of Edo (today's Tokyo).

1818

.草の葉に鹿のざれけり春の雨
kusa no ha ni shika no zare keri haru no ame

deer gamboling
in the grass...
spring rain

1818

.小社の餅こそ見ゆれ春の雨
ko yashiro no mochi koso miyure haru [no] ame

little shrine
with rice cake, of course...
spring rain

It's a Shinto shrine. The rice cake is an offering to a local god.

1818

.酒法度たばこ法度や春の雨
sake hatto tabako hatto ya haru no ame

no drinking, no smoking
allowed...
spring rain

This is a bad thing for Issa, who enjoyed his tobacco and sake. Most likely the location of the smoking and drinking ban is a Buddhist temple. In a later haiku (1824) he refers to a great temple's no-smoking rule.

1818

.笹ツ葉の春雨なめる鼠哉
sasappa no harusame nameru nezumi kana

licking a bamboo leaf's
spring rain...
mouse

1818

.山門の長雨だれの春雨哉
sanmon no naga amadare no harusame kana

from the temple's great gate
long drops from the eaves...
spring rain

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang.

1818

.釣り棚のつつじ咲けり春の雨
tsuridana no tsutsuji saki keri haru no ame

the hanging shelf's
azaleas bloom...
spring rain

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The plant, tsutsuji, is normally translated as 'azalea.' In a park, azaleas are maintained as three-foot-high bushes."

1818

.春雨やしたたか銭の出た窓へ
harusame ya shitataka zeni no deta mado e

spring rain--
hitting the windows
that cost me so much

According to Jean Cholley, Issa is referring to the property tax based on the number of windows in a house; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 244, note 103.

1818

.春雨やばくち崩と夜談義と
harusame ya bakuchi kuzure to yo dangi to

spring rain--
backsliding gamblers
and a night sermon

The same rain falls on sinners and saints.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures rain falling on a peaceful night: on the gamblers who have fallen into a dissolute way of life, and on the faithful who are hearing the night sermon. He notes, "Buddha gives to all of us the grace of spring rain."

1818

.春雨や髭を並べるせうじ紙
harusame ya hige wo naraberu shôji-gami

spring rain--
beards in a row
at the paper door

Is Issa looking at shadowy outlines of the people outside?

1818

.春雨や窓から値ぎる肴売
harusame ya mado kara negiru sakana uri

spring rain--
in the window they haggle
over fish

1819

.朝市の大肌ぬぎや春の雨
asa ichi no ôhadanugi ya haru no ame

at morning market
he bares his chest...
spring rain

1819

.馬迄もはたご泊りや春の雨
uma made mo hatago tomari ya haru no ame

even a horse
is the inn's guest...
spring rain

In Nobuyuki Yuasa's translation, even the horse is assigned a room; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru, 2nd Edition (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1972) 49. Issa's point seems to be that the horse, too, is given a roof and shelter from the rain. The editors of Issa zenshû believe that this special treatment might indicate that the horse belongs to an important person such as a daimyô; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.167, note 55.

1819

.芝居へと人はいふ也春の雨
shibai e to hito wa iu nari haru no ame

"We're off to see
the play," they say...
spring rain

1825

.芝居日と家内は出たり春の雨
shibai hi to kanai wa detari haru no ame

"It's theater day!"
my wife goes out...
spring rain

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa had no wife in 1825. He had divorced his second wife, Yuki, the year before and hadn't yet married the third, Yao. He speculates that perhaps Issa is joking in this haiku, saying: "I'm alone because my wife is out at the theater today."

1819

.掃溜の赤元結や春の雨
hakidame no aka motoyui ya haru no ame

a red hair string
in the rubbish heap...
spring rain

1819

.福狐出た給ふぞよ春の雨
fuku kitsune ide tamau zo yo haru no ame

a lucky fox
deigns to come out...
spring rain

In Japanese folklore the fox is a powerful spirit.

1820

.起々やおがむ手に降る春の雨
oki oki ya ogamu te ni furu haru no ame

morning's first thing--
on praying hands
the spring rain

1820

.をく山もばくちの世也春の雨
oku yama mo bakuchi no yo nari haru no ame

in deep mountains too
it's a gambler's world!
spring rain

1820

.桟を唄でわたるや春の雨
kakehashi wo uta de wataru ya haru no ame

crossing the hanging bridge
singing a song...
spring rain

1820

.線香や平内堂の春の雨
senkô ya heinai dô no haru no ame

incense smoke--
Inner Peace Temple
in the spring rain

1820

.春雨や妹が袂に銭の音
harusame ya imo ga tamoto ni zeni no oto

spring rain--
in the wife's sleeve
coins jingle

Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved, in this case, Issa's wife; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454.

1820

.春雨や猫におどりをおしえる子
harusame ya neko ni odori [wo] oshieru ko

spring rain--
a child gives a dance lesson
to the cat

Issa depicts a playful moment. The child can't go outside to play, but instead of being bored he or she teaches the cat to dance. The poem celebrates the imagination of children ... and hints of sympathy for the poor cat!

1820

.春雨やむだに渡りし二文橋
harusame ya muda ni watarishi ni mon-bashi

spring rain--
crossing the two-penny bridge
in vain

Evidently, Issa paid his toll and crossed, but the rainfall caused a change in plans, so he turned around and crossed the bridge again. In a later version of this haiku, the middle phrase is muda ni itte kuru: "going and coming in vain."

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. The two mon bridge would cost the modern equivalent of approximately 50 cents.

1820

.人の世や直には降らぬ春の雨
hito no yo ya sugu ni wa furanu haru no ame

world of man--
it doesn't fall at once
the spring rain

Shinji Ogawa translates sugu ni wa furanu as: "it doesn't fall immediately."

Maybe in a perfect world the spring rain ushers in a new season of life on spring's first day, but not so in the "world of man" (hito no yo): a phrase that calls to mind the Pure Land Buddhist notion of mappô, according to which, we live in a degenerate age.

1821

.狗が鼠とる也春の雨
enokoro ga nezumi toru nari haru no ame

the puppy has caught
a mouse...
spring rain

In an almost identical haiku, the seasonal phrase is "spring breeze."

1822

.片方は雪の降也春の雨
kata-kata wa yuki no furi nari haru no ame

on one side
snow falling, the other
spring rain!

1822

.出た人を梓に寄る春の雨
deta hito wo azusa ni yoseru haru no ame

everyone outside
under the umbrella-tree...
spring rain

The technical name for the tree in question is catalpa (azusa).

1823

.白妙の雪の上也春の雨
shirotae no yuki no ue nari haru no ame

on the white blanket
of snow...
spring rain

1823

.山里も銭湯わいて春の雨
yama-zato mo sentô waite haru no ame

even in a mountain village
a public bath is ready...
spring rain

Shinji Ogawa notes that sentô ("coin" + "hot bath") signifies a public bathhouse.

1824

.大寺のたばこ法度や春の雨
ôtera no tabako hatto ya haru no ame

the great temple's
smoking ban...
spring rain

For Issa who enjoyed his pipe, a smoking ban was a hard thing.

1824

.乞食小屋富のおちけり春の雨
kojiki goya tomi no ochi keri haru no ame

on a beggar's hut
riches fall...
spring rain

1824

.水仙は花と成りけり春の雨
suisen wa hana to nari keri haru no ame

the daffodils
have become flowers!
spring rain

1810

.鳩の恋烏の恋や春の雨
hato no koi karasu no koi ya haru no ame

pigeons mating
crows mating...
the spring rain falls

1825

.春雨や腹をへらしに湯につかる
harusame ya hara wo herashi ni yu ni tsukaru

spring rain--
to help the digestion
a hot bath

At first, I translated hara wo herashi literally: "to shrink the belly." Shinji Ogawa notes that this is an idiom for "to help the digestion."

1825

.めぐり日と俳諧日也春の雨
meguri hi to haikai hi nari haru no ame

a day for wandering
a day for haiku...
spring rain

year unknown

.安堵して鼠も寝るよ春の雨
ando shite nezumi mo neru yo haru no ame

taking it easy
the mouse sleeps too...
spring rain

year unknown

.たびら雪半分交ぜや春の雨
tabira yuki hambun maze ya haru no ame

half of it
is flitting snowflakes...
spring rain

Tabira yuki is an old expression that connotes a light, flitting snow; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1019. Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

year unknown

.入道が綻ぬふや春の雨
nyûdô ga hokorobi nuu ya haru no ame

the priest is mending
a rip...
spring rain

year unknown

.春雨や相に相生の松の声
harusame ya ai ni aioi no matsu no koe

spring rain--
growing side by side
whispering pines

This haiku has the prescript: "Congratulations on a new marriage." The "pines' voices" (matsu no koe) refer to the sighing of wind through their branches. Shinji Ogawa notes that aioi means "growing up together" and "growing old together," and so this word is often used in wedding speeches.

year unknown

.春雨や夜も愛するまつち山
harusame ya yoru mo ai [su]ru matchi yama

spring rain--
at night, too, making love
on Mount Matchi

Shinji Ogawa notes that there is a mountain called Matchi, but "Mount Matchi" (matchi yama) is also a pillow word (conventional poetic expression) for "waiting." He believes that there are many love poems associated with Mount Matchi.

year unknown

.夜談義やばくちくづれや春の雨
yo dangi ya bakuchi kuzure ya haru no ame

night sermon
backsliding gamblers...
spring rain

This is a rewrite of an earlier haiku of 1818: "spring rain--/ backsliding gamblers/ and a night sermon." Here, Issa reverses the order of images.

1792

.春風や尾上の松に音はあれど
haru kaze ya onoe no matsu ni ne wa aredo

spring breeze--
the pine on the ridge
whispers it

The expression wa aredo suggests that something is happening in contrast to an existing situation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 88. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "The spring breeze is so gentle I can hear the sounds created by it only from the pine tree on the ridge."

Sakuo Nakamura believes that onoe is not "ridge" but Onoue: a place name: "The pine tree is in the shrine called Onoue no Matsu that appears in an old Noh song." The editors of Issa zenshû, however, indicate that the pronunciation is onoe, not onoue; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.74.

1795

.春風や順礼共がねり供養
harukaze ya junrei-domo ga nerikuyô

spring breeze--
pilgrims on their way
to rites for the dead

A powerful juxtaposition of life and death. This haiku refers to nerikuyô: a memorial service held at Pure Land Buddhist temples to celebrate the coming of Amida Buddha to welcome spiritis of the dead; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1286.

1803

.春の風草深くても古郷也
haru no kaze kusa fukakute mo kokyô nari

spring breeze--
though deep in the grasses
my home village

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The phrase, kusa fukakute mo kokyô nari means 'even though it痴 in thick grass, it is my native village'." Issa's sentiment, he adds, is similar to that of the English verse, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

1804

.小盥の貫すは青し春の風
ko-darai no nukisu wa aoshi haru no kaze

the little tub's
braided bamboo is green...
spring breeze

Nukisu is a mat of woven bamboo used in hand-washing. Shinji Ogawa explains that the greenness of the bamboo means it is a newly-made screen. "When the bamboo is fresh, it carries a green color, and the color changes to yellow after a month or so."

1804

.春風の吹かぬ草なし田舎飴
haru kaze no fukanu kusa nashi inaka ame

not a blade of grass
untouched by the spring breeze...
country jelly

An odd juxtaposition.

1804

.春風や黄金花咲むつの山
harukaze ya kogane hana saku mutsu no yama

spring breeze--
golden flowers in bloom
on Mount Mutsu

1804

.松苗も肩過にけり春の風
matsu nae mo kata sugi ni keri haru no kaze

the pine saplings
over shoulder-high...
spring breeze

1805

.春風の闇にも吹くや浦の家
haru kaze no yami ni mo fuku ya ura no ie

the spring breeze
blows in the dark...
house on the shore

In my first translation, I imagined that the spring breeze was reaching into the darkness within the house. Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is painting with a "slightly wider brush": the breeze blows in the dark of night.

1805

.春風や土人形をゑどる也
haru kaze ya tsuchi ningyô wo wedoru nari

spring breeze--
the clay doll
gets some color

Someone is painting a clay doll, the freshness of the color accentuating the feeling of springtime.

1805

.棒先の茶笊かわくや春の風
bô saki no chazaru kawaku ya haru no kaze

on the tip of the pole
the tea strainer dries...
spring breeze

As Makoto Ueda points out, A tea strainer (chazaru) is made of bamboo. It needs to be dried in the sun to prevent it from becoming moldy; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 138.

1806

.笠程の窓持て候春の風
kasa hodo no mado mochite soro haru no kaze

through a window big
as an umbrella-hat...
spring breeze

1806

.春の風垣の雑巾かわく也
karu no kaze kaki no zôkin kawaku nari

spring breeze--
the mop on the fence
drying

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1806

.春の風草にも酒を呑すべし
haru no kaze kusa ni mo sake wo nomasu-beshi

spring breeze--
let the grass also
drink sake!

I picture a drinker (perhaps Issa) drunkenly spilling some of his sake, then generously offering it to the grass. Louis Russ wonders, "Perhaps the grass is waving in the breeze like someone who's had too much to drink?"

Shinji Ogawa notes that the word beshi, in this context, indicates a strong suggestion : sake wo nomasu-beshi = "let (the grass) drink sake or have (the grass) drink sake."

1807

.春風がならして行くぞ田にし殻
haru kaze ga narashite yuku zo tanishi-gara

the spring breeze
whistles through...
pond snail shells

1807

.春風に箸を掴んで寝る子哉
haru kaze ni hashi wo tsukande neru ko kana

in spring's breeze
clutching chopsticks
the sleeping child

This haiku paints a peaceful scene: a sleeping child clinging to a pair of chopsticks as the spring breeze wafts over. Why does the child hold chopsticks? Was he or she perhaps eating with them before nap time? Or is the child very small, too small to use these grown-up utinsels? In this case, the chopsticks are a favorite toy that the child refuses to relinquish, even in sleep. On a symbolic level, they might represent the promise that one day his or her hands will be large and coordinated enough to eat with them, and so they are a hint of the future to which the child is, now, happily oblivious.

1807

.ぼた餅に宵の春風吹にけり
botamochi ni yoi no haru kaze fuki ni keri

over rice cakes and jelly
the good spring breeze
blows

1808

.膳先に夜の春風吹にけり
zen saki ni yoru no haru kaze fuki ni keri

to my dinner tray
evening's spring breeze
comes wafting

Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1809

.春風の夜も吹也東山
haru kaze no yoru mo fuku nari higashi yama

the spring breeze
blows all evening too...
Higashi Mountains

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

1809

.春風や草よりかわく犬張子
haru kaze ya kusa yori kawaku inu hariko

spring breeze--
drying in the grass
a paper dog

An inu hariko is a papier maché dog

1809

.春風や柱の穴も花の塵
haru kaze ya hashira no ana mo hana no chiri

spring wind--
even in the pillar's hole
pollen

Normally, I translate haru kaze as "spring breeze," but this haiku suggests a forceful "wind."

1809

.春風や夜にして見たき東山
harukaze ya yo ni shite mitaki higashi yama

spring breeze--
on a night journey to see
Higashi Mountains

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

Literally, Issa is saying that he or someone "wants to see the Higashi Mountains at night." My translation pictures this as a "night journey" to see them.

1809

.春風や夜も市立なにはがた
harukaze ya yoru mo ichidachi naniwagata

spring breeze--
even at night a market stand
on Naniwa Bay

Or: "market stands." Naniwa is an old name for Osaka and its vicinity; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1227. Naniwagata (Naniwa Bay) is an old name for Osaka Bay.

1810

.春ひと風の夜にして見たる我家哉
harukaze no yo ni shite mitaru waga ya kana

seeing it
on a spring breeze night...
my house

Issa wrote the haiku in Second Month, 1810. At the time he was attempting to settle an inheritance dispute with his stepmother and half-brother; the dispute would drag on for two more years. Perhaps, in this haiku, he is longing to be back in his family home.

1810

.春風や残らず晴しらかん達
harukaze ya nokorazu hareshi rakan-tachi

spring breeze--
completely gone now
the holy men

The "holy men" (rakan-tachi) are Buddhist arhats ... those who have attained enlightenment. Why have they "completely cleared away" (nokorazu hareshi)? Is the weather so nice that arhats who wish to tame their flesh have left for harsher places?

1810

.春風やはや陰作るかきつばた
haru kaze ya haya kage tsukuru kakitsubata

in the spring breeze
already casting shadows...
irises

A summer flower, the irises in this haiku are off to an early start, already casting shadows in the springtime.

1811

.春風や東下りの角力取
haru kaze ya azuma kudari no sumôtori

spring breeze--
going down to the east
a sumo wrestler

The wrestler is traveling toward the eastern part of Japan (azuma).

1811

.春風や牛に引かれて善光寺
haru kaze ya ushi ni hikarete zenkôji

spring breeze--
a cow leads the way
to Zenko Temple

This haiku refers to a popular folktale in Issa's home province of Shinano. A sinful woman left a piece of cloth to dry in the garden behind her house, but a passing cow snagged it with a horn and trotted off. The woman followed the beast all the way to Zenkôji, where it disappeared and she found herself standing before the image of Amida Buddha. From that point on, she became pious.

This is a revision of a haiku written eight years earlier (1803), in which Issa begins with "winter rain" (shigururu). Either way, the poem is a tribute to Pure Land Buddhism. According to the patriarch of Issa's Jôdoshinshoû sect, Shinran, salvation is a gift that comes from beyond the ego's calculations. The woman in the story arrives at salvation without thinking about it--simply by following a cow. Issa, too, follows a cow to Zenko Temple (and salvation) in this haiku. And, perceptive readers will follow it there too.

1812

.はちの木や我春風のけふも吹
hachi no ki ya waga haru kaze no kyô mo fuku

potted tree--
I blow a spring breeze on you
again today

1812

.春風や傾成丁の夜の体
harukaze ya keisei machi no yoru no tei

spring breeze--
the pleasure quarter's
night life

Issa might be referring to Yoshiwara, the licensed brothel district near Edo (Tokyo).

1812

.春風や十づつ十の石なごに
harukaze ya jû-zutsu jû no ishinago ni

spring breeze--
over the game stones
ten at a time

Issa is referring to ishinadori, a game that is played with little stones. The player would toss a stone in the air, pick up another stone, and then catch the tossed one. Edwin A. Cranston, A Waka Anthology (Stanford Univeristy Press, 2006) 2.411; see also Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 114. In Issa's haiku an expert player is scooping up ten stones at a time.

1812

.春風やひらたく成つて家根をふく
haru kaze ya hirataku natte yane wo fuku

spring wind--
my thatched roof
blown flat

Normally, I translate haru kaze as "spring breeze," but this haiku suggests a forceful "wind."

1812

.春の風足むく方へいざさらば
haru no kaze ashi muku hô e iza saraba

spring breeze--
where my feet are pointed
I'm on my way

1812

.春の風いつか出てある昼の月
haru no kaze itsuka dete aru hiru no tsuki

spring breeze--
when did you come out
noon moon?

1812

.細長い春風吹くや女坂
hosonagai harukaze fuku ya onnazaka

long and narrow
the spring breeze blows...
gentle slope

Onnazaka is a gentle slope.

1813

.草山の雨だらけ也春の風
kusa yama no ame darake nari haru no kaze

the haystack
soaking with rain...
spring breeze

Can you smell it? "Haystack" is my translation for kusa yama ("grass mountain").

1813

.てうちんでたばこ吹也春の風
chôchin de tabako fuku nari haru no kaze

smoking a pipe
by lantern light...
spring breeze

1813

.春風に尻を吹るる屋根屋哉
haru kaze ni shiri wo fukaruru yaneya kana

his butt cooled
by the spring breeze
roof thatcher

1813

.春風や御祓うけて帰る犬
harukaze ya o-harai ukete kaeru inu

spring breeze--
purified at a shrine
the dog comes home

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, o-harai ukete means "to have received the purification ceremony." The fortunate dog has been blessed.

1813

.春風や鼠のなめる角田川
haru kaze ya nezumi no nameru sumida-gawa

spring breeze--
a mouse licking up
Sumida River

In Makoto Ueda's translation, a rat is "feeding by" the river. He believes that the rat is not drinking water but is eating something in the water; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 96-97.

I disagree. I see the haiku as a vision of contrasts: tiny mouse drinking the great river. It has the same tone and resonance, for me, as Issa's image, in another haiku, of a little snail climbing Mount Fuji.

1813

.春の風おまんが布のなりに吹
haru no kaze oman ga nuno no nari ni fuku

spring breeze--
Oman's cloth simply
blowing

According to R. H. Blyth, Oman is a name taken from a song by Kashiwazaki, part of which he translates: "O-Man so charming/ Bleaching cloth in the sun..." (Haiku Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition 2.423-24).

Shinji Ogawa writes, "The haiku is very sensual and creative. In my opinion, this haiku is one of the Issa's best."

He proposes two paraphrases: "spring breeze/ blows Oman's cloth/ as it is" and "spring breeze/ caresses Oman's clothes/ revealing how she is."

1813

.春の風垣の茶笊を吹にけり
haru no kaze kaki no chazaru wo fuki ni keri

spring breeze--
the fence's tea strainer
blowing

As Makoto Ueda points out, A tea strainer (chazaru) is made of bamboo. It needs to be dried in the sun to prevent it from becoming moldy; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 138.

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1814

.馬の背の幣に先吹春の風
uma no se no nusa ni mazu fuku haru no kaze

the horse's paper decorations
feel it first...
spring breeze

The Shinto offerings (nusa) can be in the form of cloth, rope, or zigzag paper.

1814

.春風にお江戸の春も柳かな
haru kaze ni o-edo no haru mo yanagi kana

with the spring breeze
spring reaches Edo...
the willows!

1814

.春風に二番たばこのけぶり哉
harukaze ni ni ban tabako no keburi kana

in the spring breeze
my second pipe's
smoke

Or: "his second pipe's smoke."

1814

.春風や大宮人の野雪隠
haru kaze ya ômiyabito no no setchin

spring breeze--
the great courtier
poops in the field

French translator Jean Cholley interprets no setchin ("field outhouse") as a person doing his business in an open field; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 167. My Japanese advisor, Shinji Ogawa, concurs. I had assumed that no setchin is an outhouse in a field, but Shinji notes that an outhouse is called setchin, not no setchin.

1814

.春風や小薮小祭小順礼
haru kaze ya ko yabu ko matsuri ko junrei

spring breeze--
a little thicket, little festival
little pilgrim

1814

.春風や地蔵の口の御飯粒
haru kaze ya jizô no kuchi no o-meshi tsubu

spring breeze--
on holy Jizo's lips
a grain of rice

The rice has been left as an offering. A grain of it seems to have blown into the statue's mouth, as if he is eating.

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

1814

.春風や人でつくねし寺の山
harukaze ya hito de tsukuneshi tera no yama

spring breeze--
packed with people
the mountain temple

Shinji Ogawa notes that tsukuneru, in this context, means "to be very crowded."

1814

.ぼた餅や地蔵のひざも春の風
botamochi ya jizô no hiza mo haru no kaze

rice cake with bean paste
on holy Jizo's lap
the spring breeze

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children. Issa later revises this haiku twice: subsituting tsuji no hotoke ("crossroads Buddha") and yabu no hotoke ("Buddha in the thicket") for Jizô.

year unknown

.ぼた餅や辻の仏も春の風
botamochi ya tsuji no hotoke mo haru no kaze

rice cake with bean paste
for the crossroads Buddha...
spring breeze

In its original form (1814), this haiku focuses on Jizô, the guardian deity of children. In another version (1819) it focuses on a "Buddha of the thicket" (yabu no hotoke).

1819

.ぼた餅や藪の仏も春の風
botamochi ya yabu no hotoke mo haru no kaze

rice cake with bean paste
for the Buddha of the thicket...
spring breeze

In its original form (1814), this haiku focuses on Jizô, the guardian deity of children. In another, undated version it focuses on a "crossroads Buddha" (tsuji no hotoke).

1815

.春風や今つくねたる山の月
haru kaze ya ima tsukunetaru yama no tsuki

spring breeze--
a fresh-made moon
over the mountain

The moon appears to be "freshly kneaded" (ima tsukunetaru), like a dumpling in the sky.

1815

.春風や畠掘つても涌く油
haru kaze ya hatake hotte mo waku abura

spring breeze--
even while digging a garden
oils gushes out

This haiku has the prescript, "Echigo." The province of Echigo is called Niigata Prefecture today. Shinji Ogawa explains: "In the early twentieth century, there were some oil wells in the Niigata Prefecture, or Echigo. I think they have dried up by now. However, petroleum was not too much of value in Issa's day."

1816

.春風や袂にすれる亦打山
haru kaze ya tamoto ni sureru matchi yama

spring breeze--
her sleeves rustle over
Mount Matchi

Shinji Ogawa believes that the sleeves belong to Saohime, the goddess in charge of all spring activities. He writes, "Let me clarify the scene: imagine a spring mist is trailing over a mountain. The spring mist is a part of the Saohime's sleeves. The sleeves are equivalent to a fairy's wand. Because of the touch of the sleeves, the mountain is able to bloom and become green."

1816

.春風や筆のころげる草の原
haru kaze ya fude no korogeru kusa no haru

spring wind--
the writing brush rolls away
in the field

Normally, I translate haru kaze as "spring breeze," but this haiku suggests a forceful "wind."

1817

.春風や犬の寝聳るわたし舟
haru kaze ya inu no nesoberu watashibune

spring breeze--
a dog stretched to sleep
in the ferryboat

1817

.春風や八文芝居だんご茶や
harukaze ya hachi mon shibai dango chaya

spring breeze--
an eight-penny play
a tea-and-dumpling shop

Inexpensive springtime fun.

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. In this haiku, the play costs eight mon, which would have a modern equivalent of approximately two U.S. dollars. Admittedly, an "eight-penny play" sounds much cheaper than a "two-dollar play," but in my translation I want to preserve Issa's image of eight coins being paid while avoiding the word "dollar," which in most people's minds suggests paper money.

1817

.春風やおばは四十九でしなの道
haru kaze ya oba wa shi jû ku de shinano michi

spring breeze--
forty-nine old women
on the Shinano road

Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture) was Issa's home province.

1818

.雨だれの中から吹や春の風
amadare no naka kara fuku ya haru no kaze

blowing from the raindrops
from the eaves...
spring wind

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang.

1818

.春風や馬をほしたる門の原
haru kaze ya uma wo hoshitaru kado no hara

the spring breeze
dries the horse...
field by the gate

1818

.春風や女も越える箱根山
haru kaze ya onna mo koeru hakone yama

spring breeze--
a woman also crosses
Mount Hakone

Mount Hakone is south of Edo (today's Tokyo).

1818

.春風や供の娘の小脇差
harukaze ya tomo no musume no ko wakizashi

spring breeze--
the little servant girl
has a short sword

Although in my first translation I portrayed a servant's child, Shinji Ogawa believes that it is more likely that Issa means a child who herself is a servant. In an undated revision, Issa pictures a "female servant" (tomo no onna).

year unknown

.春風や供の女の小脇差
harukaze ya tomo no onna no ko wakizashi

spring breeze--
a female servant's
short sword

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation. In his original verison of this haiku (1819), Issa pictures "a little servant girl" (tomo no musume).

1818

.春風や曲り曲りの奉加橋
harukaze ya meguri-meguri no hôga-bashi

spring breeze--
after twists and turns
Hoga Bridge

The editors of Issa zenshû explain that hoga-bashi, "Donation Bridge," is a bridge where travelers stop to make coin donations to gods or Buddhas; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.468, note 1.

Shinji Ogawa thinks that What Issa says is: the spring breeze or he himself (because of reluctance) makes many turns before reaching "Donation Bridge."

1818

.降雪の中も春風吹にけり
furu yuki no naka mo haru kaze fuki ni keri

through falling snow
a spring breeze
blows

1819

.春風に御用の雁のしぶとさよ
harukaze ni goyô no kari no shibutosa yo

in the spring breeze
a goose on a mission...
headstrong!

Or: "geese on a mission." The migrating goose stubbornly persists on his or her journey. Does Issa admire or gently poke fun at its stubbornness?

1820

.狗が鼠とる也はるの風
enokoro ga nezumi toru nari haru no kaze

the puppy has caught
a mouse...
spring breeze

In an almost identical haiku, the seasonal phrase is "spring rain."

1820

.春風のそこ意地寒ししなの山
haru kaze no soko iji samushi shinano yama

the spring breeze
stubbornly cold...
Shinano mountain

Or: "Shinano mountains."

This haiku makes fun of the long, hard winter of Issa's home province. Though it is springtime, the mountain is cold.

Viewed in isolation, the haiku is humorous. However, Makoto Ueda notes that it appears in a short, angry haibun (a prose and haiku piece) addressed to Issa's half-brother Senroku (AKA Yahei). In the context of the haibun, the cold wind evinces the emotional coldness between brothers; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 135.

1820

.春風や侍二人犬の供
haru kaze ya samurai futari inu no tomo

spring breeze--
two samurai
attend the dog

An ironic haiku. When I first translated it, I thought that the dog was the attendant or "squire" of the two samurai; Shinji Ogawa assures me that the opposite is the case. The two "mighty" warriors are attendants...to a dog--a biting piece of social satire.

1820

.春風やとある垣根の赤草履
haru kaze ya toaru kakine no aka zôri

spring breeze--
on the fence a pair
of red sandals

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1820

.宿引に女も出たり春の風
yadohiki ni onna mo detari haru no kase

one hotel runner
is a woman...
spring breeze

1821

.春風や犬にとらるる薮鼠
haru kaze ya inu ni toraruru yabu nezumi

spring breeze--
a thicket mouse
caught by the dog

1821

.春風や袴羽織のいせ乞食
harukaze ya hakama haori no ise kojiki

spring breeze--
in coat and trousers
a dandified beggar

In another version of this haiku (same year), the beggar is in Edo. Shinji Ogawa suspects that ise in this context denotes a "dandy." Since in the other haiku of the beggar in Edo, he believes that Issa is ridiculing the haiku poets in Edo. Shinji adds, "In those years, Issa, though his own reputation was sky-high, was very critical about the low quality of Edo haiku."

Gabi Greve notes that "Hakama is an outer garment worn over the kimono that is either split between the legs like pants or non-split like a skirt. Hakama pants originated as an outer garment to protect samurai warriors' legs from brush when riding a horse. Today, the hakama is worn as formal attire for ceremonies, traditional Japanese dance, artists and martial arts."

In this haiku, is Issa noting that the beggar is well-dressed, perhaps better dressed than Issa?

1821

.春風や袴羽織の江戸乞食
harukaze ya hakama haori no Edo kojiki

spring breeze--
in coat and trousers
an Edo beggar

In another version of this haiku (same year) the beggar is "dandified" (ise kojiki).

Gabi Greve notes that "Hakama is an outer garment worn over the kimono that is either split between the legs like pants or non-split like a skirt. Hakama pants originated as an outer garment to protect samurai warriors' legs from brush when riding a horse. Today, the hakama is worn as formal attire for ceremonies, traditional Japanese dance, artists and martial arts."

1821

.灸すんで馬も立也春の風
kyû sunde uma mo tatsu nari haru no kaze

even for the horse
a dose of burning wormwood...
spring breeze

Sharp sticks of wormwood are stuck into various parts of the body and burned to ensure good health. Here, even a horse receives the treatment.

1822

.春風に肩衣かけて御供かな
harukaze ni kataginu kakete o-tomo kana

in spring breeze
his stole billowing...
a monk comes too

Shinji Ogawa notes that kataginu is a stole that is worn over regular clothes to signify a religious ceremony. A Buddhist monk is accompanying someone. In a related haiku written a month later (Third Month, 1822), this "someone" turns out to be the village elder. The "billowing" in my translation makes explicit what Issa's Japanese might only imply. Issa states simply that the stole is "hanging" (kakete) on the monk's body. Putting this fact with the spring breeze, I picture it billowing.

1822

.春風に猿もおや子の湯治哉
haru kaze ni saru mo oyako no tôji kana

spring breeze--
monkey families, too
take healing baths

The original haiku can be paraphrased, "In the spring breeze even monkeys, parents and children, take healing hot baths." I assume that Issa is referring to an outdoor hot spring.

1822

.春風に吹出されたる道者かな
harukaze ni fuki-dasaretaru dôja kana

blown forth
by the spring breeze...
pilgrims

Or: "the pilgrim."

1822

.春風の女見に出る女かな
haru kaze no onna mi ni deru onna kana

in the spring breeze
they're out to watch the women...
women!

The women are out and dressed in their finery. But they seem only to be looking at each other--a keen psychological observation on Issa's part.

1822

.春風や越後下りの本願寺
harukaze ya echigo kudari no honganji

spring breeze--
going down to Echigo's
Hongan Temple

Echigo is one of the old provinces of Japan, today's Niigata Prefecture. Honganji, literally, means "Original Vow Temple." The name commemorates Amida Buddha's vow to make possible rebirth in the Pure Land for all who invoke his saving power.

1822

.春風や肩衣かけて長の供
harukaze ya kataginu kakete osa no tomo

spring breeze--
a monk in a stole accompanies
the village elder

This haiku was written in Third Month, 1822. A month earlier, Issa wrote a similar haiku that pictures the monk but doesn't reveal whom he is accompanying. Shinji Ogawa defines osa as the "Elder of the village." The
priest and the village elder may be on their way to a spring ceremony.

1823

.春風や武士も吹るる女坂
haru kaze ya bushi mo fukaruru onnazaka

spring breeze--
even a samurai is blown
down the slope

Onnazaka is a gentle slope.

1824

.春風や三人乗りのもどり馬
haru kaze ya sannin nori no modori uma

spring breeze--
three ride the same horse
home

A nice slice-of-life haiku.

1824

.一馬に三人乗りや春の風
hito uma ni sannin nori ya haru no kaze

on one horse
three riders...
the spring breeze blows

1825

.春の風子どもも一箕二み哉
haru [no] kaze kodomo mo hito mi futa mi kana

spring breeze--
even a child has a winnow
two winnows!

Everyone is carrying a farm implement ... or two.

1826

.春風や野道につづく浅黄傘
haru kaze ya nomichi ni tsuzuku asagi-gasa

spring breeze--
across the field a parade
of light blue parasols

Or: "on the field's path a parade."

year unknown

.鬼の面狐の面や春の風
oni no men kitsune no men ya haru no kaze

faces of devils
faces of foxes...
spring breeze

Or: "a devil's face/ a fox's face..."

Shinji Ogawa explains that men in this context means a mask used in a spring celebration.

year unknown

.笠うらの大神宮や春の風
kasa ura no daijingû ya haru no kaze

inside my umbrella-hat
a charm from Ise Shrine...
spring breeze

Issa is referring to the great Shinto shrine at Ise.

Shinji Ogawa helped me to understand Issa's meaning. Literally, the poet has Ise Shrine under his umbrella-hat; actually, this is a lucky charm which he purchased at Ise Shrine.

year unknown

.春風に吹れた形や女坂
haru kaze ni fukarete nari ya onnazaka

the spring breeze pushes
somebody
down the slope

Onnazaka is a gentle slope.

year unknown

.春風に吹れ序の湯治哉
haru kaze ni fukare tsuide no toji kana

while the spring breeze blows
a healing
bath

year unknown

.春風や芦の丸屋の一つ口
harukaze ya ashi no maruya no hitotsu-guchi

spring breeze--
the round reed hut's
one door

year unknown

.春風や歩行ながらの御法談
haru kaze ya aruki nagara no ôhôdan

spring breeze--
the priest gives his sermon
walking along

year unknown

.一つ葉の中より吹や春の風
hitotsuba no naka yori fuku ya haru no kaze

out of the dyer's-weed
it blows...
spring breeze

Shinji Ogawa notes that hitotsuba is the name of a weed: "a dyer's-weed."

1812

.亀の甲並べて東風に吹れけり
kame no kô narabete kochi ni fukare keri

turtle shells
blown into a row...
east wind

1820

.東風吹や堤に乗たる犬のあご
kochi fuku ya dote ni nosetaru inu no ago

an east wind blows--
the dog lays his chin
on the bank

1822

.夕東風に吹れ下るや女坂
yû kochi ni fukare oriru ya onnazaka

blown downhill
by evening's east wind...
gentle slope

Onnazaka is a gentle slope. The wind appears to be blowing a person or persons downhill.

1822

.夕東風や埒にもたする犬のあご
kuchi kaze ya rachi ni motasuru inu no ago

east wind--
the dog rests his chin
on the stake

1802

.文七が下駄の白さよ春の月
bunshichi ga geta no shirosa yo haru no tsuki

the hairdresser's
white wooden clogs...
spring moon

Shinji Ogawa defines bunshichi as a hairdresser or a craftsman who produces hair bands or strings out of white paper.

1802

.茹汁の川にけぶるや春の月
yudejiru no kawa ni keburu ya haru no tsuki

a river of broth
is steaming...
spring moon

Here's what I picture: Issa is looking at a river that resembles "broth" (yudejiru) with steam rising from it.

1805

.浅川や鍋すすぐ手も春の月
asa kawa ya nabe susugu te mo haru no tsuki

shallow river--
on hands rinsing a kettle
spring moon

1805

.春の月さはらば雫たりぬべし
haru no tsuki sawaraba shizuku tarinubeshi

spring moon--
if I touched it
it would drip

The suffix -beshi indicates that the action of the verb is probable: a guess on the poet's part; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1469. Lucien Stryk's translation is a bit more hyperbolic than Issa's original: "raise a finger/ and it drips"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 11. Issa wrote this on the 23rd day of Second Month. According to his journal, it rained that day, so perhaps the poem was inspired by the damp weather. Literally, he is saying, "If I touched the spring moon, water would drip from it, I bet."The wetness of the moon and the fanciful idea of touching it and making it drip combine in one of Issa's most imaginative and unforgettable images.

1805

.春の月軒の雫の又おちよ
haru no tsuki noki no shizuku no mata ochi yo

the spring moon
in a raindrop from the eaves...
falls again

1806

.山寺や春の月夜の連歌道
tera yama ya haru no tsuki yo no renga michi

temple mountain--
under a spring moon heading
to a poem party

At the party poets will make a renga of linked verses. Shinji Ogawa comments, "The meaning of renga michi is a haiku road or a road to a poem party."

1806

.宵々や軒の雫も春の月
yoi-yoi ya noki no shizuku mo haru no tsuki

every evening
in raindrops from the eaves...
spring moon

1814

.白水の畠へ流て春の月
shiro mizu no hata e nagarete haru no tsuki

silver water flowing
toward the garden...
spring moon

1814

.土橋の御神酒得利や春の月
tsuchi-bashi no o-[mi]ki dokuri ya haru no tsuki

on an earthen bridge
an offering of sake...
spring moon

1814

.湯けぶりも月夜の春と成りにけり
yu keburi mo tsuki yo no haru to nari ni keri

steam from my bath
and the moonlight...
springtime!

1818

.すつぽんも時や作らん春の月
suppon mo toki ya tsukuran haru no tsuki

a snapping turtle too
crows the time...
spring moon

"A snapping turtle crowing the time" is an expression that denotes a thing that cannot happen in this world"--the Japanese equivalent of "when pigs fly."

1795

.朧々ふめば水也まよひ道
oboro-oboro fumeba mizu nari mayoi michi

in hazy night
stepping into water...
losing my way

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers succinctly to a hazy night of spring. In this uncertain, dreamlike light, Issa steps off a path into water. Hiroshi Kobori notes that the poet's state of mind is like the misty night. He feels insecure and bewildered, aware of the uncertainty of his own future. According to Lewis Mackenzie, this haiku alludes to the death of one of Issa's friends, a Buddhist priest. On a journey, Issa went to visit him only to find that he had been dead for several years. Mackenzie translates the last phrase, "Ways of delusion!" See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 30.

In Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary") there is an explanatory prescript of which Shinji Ogawa offers this paraphrase: After hearing of his priest friend Sarai's death, Issa begged his replacement for a night's stay at the temple but was refused. Counting on Sarai, he had come over 300 ri (732 miles), "without a soul to lean on, going over the fields and the yards..." See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.36.

Makoto Ueda reports that Issa found a place to stay that night "just one hundred feet away"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 33.

Debi Bender likes the repetition and alliteration in the opening phrase (oboro-oboro). To preserve this subtle music, she suggests this translation:

misty, misty moon
stepping into water
losing my way

1805

.夜明ても朧也けり角田川
yoakete mo oboro nari keri sumida-gawa

even at dawn
spring haze hovers...
Sumida River

The word "even" (mo) suggests that the haze has lasted all night.

1806

.段々に朧よ月よこもり堂
dan-dan ni oboro yo tsuki yo komori-dô

bit by bit
more haze, more moon...
secluded temple

Is the haze making the moon seem bigger?

1813

.芦の鶴宵の朧を拵ぬ
ashi no tsuru yoi no oboro wo koshiraenu

crane in the rushes
the evening's haze
is your doing

The season word, oboro, refers to spring haze.

1813

.おぼろ夜や餅腹こなす東山
oboro yo ya mochi hara konasu higashi yama

night of haze
with a bellyful of rice cakes...
Higashi Mountains

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

1814

.雨だれのぽちぽち朧月夜哉
amadare [no] pochi-pochi oboro tsuki yo kana

from the roof's overhang
dripping, dripping...
hazy moon

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. Issa sees a reflection of the hazy spring moon in each falling drop.

1814

.我立た畠の棒もおぼろ月
waga tateta hatake no bô mo oboro-zuki

over the pole I stuck
in the garden...
hazy moon

1816

.泥坊や其身そのまま朧月
dorobô ya sono mi sono mama oboro-zuki

the thief
is just as he is...
hazy moon

Is the thief "just as he is" (sono mi sono mama) because the dimmed moonlight helps to hide him? The season word, oboro, refers to spring haze.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the stiletto of a thief appearing in the moonlight. He adds, "It is not sharp but hazy. This is comic and dreamy sight."

1818

.朧夜や酒の流し滝の月
oboro yo ya sake no nagareshi taki no tsuki

hazy night--
sake is flowing
waterfall and moon

The haiku has the prescript, "Yôrô Waterfall." The season word, oboro, refers to spring haze.

1819

.朧夜や天の音楽聞し人
oboro yo ya ten no ongaku kikishi hito

hazy night--
people listening
to heavenly music

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze. In his journal, Hachiban nikki ("Eighth Diary"), Issa prefaces the following haiku of the same year with the head note, "Heavenly Music":

ima no yo mo tori wa hokekyô naki ni keri

the world today--
a bird sings
the Lotus Sutra

The divine music in the present haiku is most likely the same bird.

In a similar haiku, written the same year, Issa begins with the phrase, "evening cherry blossoms" (yo-zakura ya).

1822

.川霧の手伝ふ朧月夜かな
kawa-giri no tetsudau oboro tsuki yo kana

the river's mist
helps out the haze...
moonlit night

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze.

1823

.錦着て夜行く人やおぼろ月
nijiki kite yoru iku hito ya oboro-zuki

wearing brocade
he walks in the night...
hazy moon

Or: "she walks." The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is alluding to a saying from the Chinese classic, Histories, written in 90 BCE by a court historian, Sima Qian: "If you are rich and do not go back to your native town, you are like the man who wears brocade and walks in the night."

year unknown

.おぼろ月松出ぬけても出ぬけても
oboro-zuki matsu denukete mo denukete mo

hazy moon in the pine--
passing through
passing through

As it rises in the sky, the moon passes through the branches of the pine. The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the setting in high country, where Issa lived. There, "the hazy moon is rising up at our eye level; the tree is slender, and the moon can be seen through the young leaves."

year unknown

.福狐啼たまふぞよおぼろ月
fuku kitsune naki tamau zo yo oboro-zuki

a lucky fox
deigns to bark...
hazy moon

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze. In Japanese folklore the fox is a powerful spirit.

1805

.青苔や膝の上迄春の虹
ao-goke ya hiza no ue made haru no niji

green moss--
all the way to my lap
spring's rainbow

1822

.初虹もわかば盛りやしなの山
hatsu niji mo wakaba sakari ya shinano yama

first rainbow
new leaves in their glory!
Shinano mountain

Shinano was Issa's home province: Nagano Prefecture today.

1824

.初虹や左り麦西雪の山
hatsu niji ya hidari mugi nishi yuki no yama

spring's first rainbow
from the wheat field on my left
to the western snowcaps

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1824

.昼寝るによしといふ日や虹はじめ
hiru neru ni yoshi to iu hi ya niji hajime

a noon nap
on a good day...
first rainbow

"First rainbow" (niji hajime) refers to the first rainbow of the year--a spring season word. "Noon nap" (hiru neru) is more accurately translated "afternoon nap" or "siesta." I decided to go with "noon nap" for a rhythmic reason, liking the way it resonates with "good day."

1822

.春もまた雪雷やしなの山
haru mo mata yuki kaminari ya shinano yama

even in spring
a snowstorm's thunder...
Shinano mountain

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1790

.三文が霞見にけり遠眼鏡
san mon ga kasumi mi ni keri tômegane

for three pennies
nothing but mist...
telescope

Issa's tone is wryly ironic. He (or someone) has paid three pennies (three mon) to peer through a telescope to see ... only mist. On one level, he groans at the waste of money to have paid to see, magnified, nothing--the same nothing that the naked eye views for free. On another level--and there's always another level in Issa's best haiku--he smiles at human enterprise and its futility.



According to Makoto Ueda, this haiku refers to a scenic lookout on Yushima Hill in Edo (today's Tokyo); Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 16.

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. The three mon telescope view would cost approximately 75 cents today.

1792

.いつ逢ん身はしらぬひの遠がすみ
itsu awan mi wa shiranuhi no tôgasumi

when will we meet again?
I'm off to the phosphorescent fires
in the far mist

This haiku has the prescript, "Rain. Before setting off on my journey, saying farewell to the people staying behind." According to Lewis Mackenzie, Issa was on his way to Shimabara Bay, a place known for ignis fatuus: phosphorescent lights (will-o'the-wisps); The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 27.

Shinji Ogawa notes that shiranuhi literally means "unknown fire" (shiranu = unknown; hi = fire). Since hi (fire) and hi (day) are homonyms, shiranuhi carries a double meaning of "unknown day." Shinji notes that this "punning phrase is very proper for the departure. In most cases, a pun exchanges the haiku's quality for a giggle. But in this case, the pun is nicely done. The word shiranuhi (same as shiranui) is a makura-kotoba (a pillow word or a conventional epithet mostly used in waka poems) for Tsukushi, an old name for Kyûshû, the south island of Japan." Shimbara Bay, Issa's destination, is located on this island.

Makoto Ueda translates shiranuhi as "sea fires," which, he explains "are believed to be caused by the refractions of fires used by fishermen far out at sea." See Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 26.

1792

.白雲のかすみ吹抜く外山哉
shiro-gumo no kasumi fukinuku toyama kana

white clouds of mist
blow away...
the village's mountain

Toyama (often translated as "foothills") refers to any mountain located near a village; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185.

1792

.しら浪に夜はもどるか遠がすみ
shiranami ni yoru wa modoru ka tôgasumi

turning into white waves
at night?
the far mist

Shinji Ogawa explains that yoru wa modoru ka ("the evening returns") can be a shortened form of yoru ni wa modoru ka ("returning in the evening"). On this basis, he paraphrases, "into white billows/ do you return at night/ far mist?"

1794

.きぬぎぬやかすむ迄見る妹が家
kinu-ginu ya kasumu made miru imo ga ie

lovers parting--
looking back at her house
until only mist

This unusually romantic haiku has the prescript, "Parting lovers." On the morning after a night of passion, lovers put their clothes back on and depart. The last line, imo ga ie, refers to the "dear one's house," (imo) being an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved.

According to Makoto Ueda, this early haiku represents an attempt at Tenmei style, a school of haiku that valued aestheticism and fictional elegance; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 31.

Shinji Ogawa notes, "it is the man (Issa) who turns to look at her house again and again until it fades into mist."

For definitions of kinu-ginu and imo see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 167; 454.

1795

.朝がすみ天守の雨戸聞へけり
asa-gasumi tenshu no amado kikoe keri

morning mist--
the castle's shutters
bang open

Literally, Issa says that the "shutter(s)" or "storm door(s)" can be heard. At first I imagined someone shutting them, but Sakuo Nakamura points out that in the morning the shutters would be opening.

In his translation, Makoto Ueda imagines the sound is a "creak"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 34.

1795

.門前や何万石の遠がすみ
monzen ya nan man-goku no tôgasumi

at the gate
how many thousands of bushels
of far mist?

Issa asks how many "ten-thousands" (man) of koku might there be. 1 koku = 4.96 bushels.

1796

.旅笠を小さく見せる霞かな
tabi-gasa wo chiisaku miseru kasumi kana

their traveling hats
looking small...
mist

Or: "his traveling hat." The hat in question is a kasa: umbrella-hat. I picture Issa watching travelers departing in the early morning--perhaps from an inn. As their bodies blend in with the spring mist, all he can see now are the outlines of their umbrella-hats growing smaller and smaller. In this early haiku he shows that he has already mastered the art of using simple observation to suggest depths of meaning and feeling. Like Issa, we shall miss those who go before us, fading into nothing.

1798

.むく起の鼻の先よりかすみ哉
mukuoki no hana no saki yori kasumi kana

from the nose
of the sudden riser...
mist

This haiku has the prescript, "A head-and-tail song."

Is the sudden riser Issa? Makoto Ueda thinks so; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 37.

Mukuoki is an old word meaning to get up (from bed) quickly; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1589.

1799

.今さらに別ともなし春がすみ
imasara ni wakare tomonashi harugasumi

leaving now
is especially hard...
spring mist

Makoto Ueda notes that Issa used this haiku in an elegiac haibun on the death of his friend, Ôkawa Ryûsa; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 40-41.

1802

.昼風呂の寺に立也春がすみ
hiru furo no tera ni tatsu nari harugasumi

from the temple's
noon bath rising...
spring mist

1803

.京見えてすねをもむ也春がすみ
kyô miete sune wo momu nari harugasumi

seeing Kyoto
I massage my shins...
spring mist

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1803

.馬上から黙礼するや薄霞
bajô kara mokurei suru ya usu-gasumi

on horseback
making a silent bow...
thin mist

This haiku has the prescript, "Return." The rider (Issa?) has returned from a journey. Perhaps he is thanking the god or gods that have protected him along the way.

Shinji Ogawa points out that bajô kara means "from the horse's back," not, as I first assumed, "dismounting."

1804

.霞み行や二親持し小すげ笠
kasumi yuku ya futa oya mochishi ko suge-gasa

walking in mist
in a little sedge hat
with both parents

Or: "with her parents." The child is wearing a little sedge umbrella-hat (ko suge-gasa).

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, "walking into the mist" (kasumi yuku) shows "the time progression during which Issa was watching them enviously."

Perhaps. Or, perhaps, Issa is simply happy for the lucky little child who, unlike himself, is no orphan?

1805

.鰯焼片山畠や薄がすみ
iwashi yaku kata yama hata ya usu-gasumi

grilling sardines
in a mountain field...
thin mist

1805

.薄霞む夕々の菜汁哉
usu-gasumu yûbe-yûbe no na-zuyu kana

thin mist--
night after night
vegetable soup

1805

.うら窓にいつもの人が霞む也
ura mado ni itsumo [no] hito ga kasumu nari

at the back window
the same person...
mist

1805

.かすむ日もうしろ見せたる伏家哉
kasumu hi mo ushiro misetaru fuseya kana

the misty day, too
viewed out back...
my humble hut

Or: "the humble hut." Issa doesn't specify that it is his, but this might be inferred.

1805

.かすむ日や夕山かげの飴の笛
kasumu hi ya yûyama kage no ame no fue

misty day--
in evening mountain's shadow
candyman's flute

Makoto Ueda notes that ame no fue ("candy flute") signifies "a candyman's flute": the flute that a candy peddler is playing to catch children's attention (similar to the ice cream truck jingles of a later time); 56.

A year later (1806) Issa rewrites this haiku, changing the ending to fue no ame ("flute's candy").

Shinji Ogawa comments, "Issa tries to wrap the sound of the flute with mist to fuse the visual and acoustic senses into one."

1805

.かりそめに出て霞むやつくば山
karisome ni idete kasumu ya tsukuba yama

peeking in, peeking out
of the mist...
Mount Tsukuba

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Karisome can mean "transient," "provisional," or "in sport." Shinji Ogawa chooses the third connotation when he paraphrases this haiku: "hide-and-seek/ with the spring mist/ Mount Tsukuba." He adds that this is a typical example of personification in Issa.

1805

.盗する烏よそれも春がすみ
nusumi suru karasu yo sore mo harugasumi

thieving crow!
under a cloak
of spring mist

Or: "crows."

Shinji Ogawa notes that yo in this context means, "indeed." The expression sore mo means, "adding to that." Thus, he paraphrases, "thieving crow/ adding to that/ spring mist," or, "thieving crow/ the accomplice/ spring mist."

1805

.柱をも拭じまひけり春霞
hashira wo mo fuki-jimai keri harugasumi

the post is wiped
all clean...
spring mist

1805

.我袖も一ッに霞むゆふべ哉
waga sode mo hitotsu ni kasumu yûbe kana

even my sleeve
is one with the mist...
evening

1806

.かすむ日に窓さへ見へぬ獄屋哉
kasumu hi ni mado sae mienu hitoya kana

in the misty day
no window can be seen...
a prison

In Issa: Cup-of-Tea Poems (Berkeley: Asian Humanities, 1991), I translated this haiku as if "prison" (hitoya) were a metaphor: "misty/ day/ windows/ solid/ blank/ prison" (17). Now I believe that the prison is real. Shinji Ogawa concurs. He writes, "Though I do not know anything about this haiku, if we can assume that Issa's friend was in the prison, then the phrase, 'no window can be seen' is a very proper expression."

1806

.霞む日や門の草葉は昼時分
kasumu hi ya kado no kusaba wa hiru jibun

misty day--
grasses at the gate
at noon

The morning mist lingers all the way to the noon hour.

1806

.片袖はばらばら雨や春がすみ
kata sode wa bara-bara ame ya harugasumi

on one sleeve
rain pitter-patters...
spring mist

On one side of the poet ("one sleeve") rain is falling. Issa might imply that the spring mist is located on the other side--in the direction of his other sleeve.

Shinji Ogawa pcitures the scene: "The rain hit one side of the poet due to the direction of the wind. Inferring from the expression bara-bara ("pitter-patter"), I think that Issa might be wearing a paper raincoat: paper clothing reinforced with some sort of oil. It is known that in Issa's day such raincoats were used and handy, especially for the travelers like Issa."

1806

.菜畠のふくら雀もかすみ哉
na-batake no fukura suzume mo kasumi kana

fat little sparrows
in the farm field too...
in mist

Shinji Ogawa explains that fukura suzume refers to sparrows that are fat and round or due to cold weather.

1806

.春がすみ鍬とらぬ身のもつたいな
harugasumi kuwa toranu mi no mottaina

spring mist--
not taking up a hoe
a shameless loafer

Issa is referring to himself, for, as Shinji Ogawa reminds us, he was born as a farmer's first son who, at this point in his life, did not farm. Mi no mottaina, a shortened form of mi no mottainai, means to feel ashamed or guilty, Shinji says. He believes that Issa feels a guilt pang, loafing while others work hard with their hoes in the misty field. While this may be true, I imagine Issa saying the poem with a smile. In a perverse way, he takes pride in his laziness.

1806

.むさしのや我等が宿も一かすみ
musashi no ya warera gay ado mo hito kasumi

Musashi Plain--
our dwelling too
in mist

1806

.山里の寝顔にかかるかすみ哉
yama-zato no ne-gao ni kakaru kasumi kana

draping the mountain
village's sleeping face...
mist

1807

.かすむ日や麓の飯のめづらしき
kasumu [hi] ya fumoto no meshi no mezurashiki

misty day--
the meal at the mountain's foot
marvelous

1808

.霞日や大宮人の髪の砂
kasumu hi ya ômiyabito no kami no suna

misty day--
the great courtier
with sand in his hair

Why does the courtier have sand in his hair? Colleen Rain Austin believes that this is "an indication that the courtier is subject to the elements like everyone else and a comment on his (undeserved) exalted status. Remember that for common people to even look at courtiers at this time was punishable by death. Issa is being revolutionary in his observation. Think of the idiom 'feet of clay'."

1808

.玉琴も乞食の笛もかすみけり
tamagoto mo kojiki no fue mo kasumi keri

a precious harp
a beggar's flute
deep in mist

I discuss this haiku in my book, Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa. In it, I compare it to a later poem of 1818:

yabu goshi no konujiki fue yo uguisu yo

wafting through trees
a beggar's flute
a nightingale

I write, "Feudal hierarchy has nothing to do with one's ability to harmonize with Nature. Sweet music is sweet music. The beggar and the nightingale combine forces in a spontaneous duet. In similar fashion, a beggar and a courtier can unite in their music" (Reno/Tadoshi: Buddhist Books International, 2004) 51.

1808

.吹下手の笛もほのぼのかすみ哉
fuki-beta no fue mo hono-bono kasumi kana

a poorly played flute
faintly, faintly...
spring mist

1809

.愚さを松にかづけて夕がすみ
orokasa wo matsu ni kazukete yûgasumi

accusing the pine
of foolishness...
evening mist

Kathleen Davis observes, "Pines and mist go together. They have conversations all the time."

1809

.窓先や常来る人の薄霞
mado saki ya tsune kuru hito no usu-gasumi

to my window
he comes as usual...
thin mist

Or: "she comes."

1809

.夕風呂のだぶりだぶりとかすみ哉
yûfuro no daburi-daburi to kasumi kana

the evening bath
slish-slosh...
mist

Daburi-daburi ("slish-slosh") seems to be a variant of tabu-tabu/taburi to: the movement of water or liquid that is filled to the brim; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1020.

1809

.我笠ぞ雁は逃るな初霞
waga kasa zo kari wa nigeru na hatsu-gasumi

it's my umbrella-hat
don't run, geese!
first mist

It is the first mist of spring.

1810

.親にらむ平目もかすむ一つ哉
oya niramu hirame mo kasumu hitotsu kana

father's steady glare
another thing
in the mist

This haiku was written in 1810, Second Month. The editors of Issa zenshû do not provide a note for it (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79; 3.32). This is unfortunate, since, as Shinji Ogawa points out, Issa's meaning is obscure. Shinji notes that hirame can mean "halibut" or "calmness, monotone." Therefore, widely divergent translations are possible:

1. The calmly glaring parent is also one of those in the mist.
2. The calmly glared-at parent is also one of those in the mist.
3. The halibut that the parent glares at is also one of those in the mist.
4. The halibut that glares at the parent is also one of those in the mist.

The first possibility seems the best, I think. I picture a parent glaring at a naughty child.

1810

.かすむぞよ松が三本夫婦鶴
kasumu zo yo matsu ga sanbon meoto-zuru

in spring mist
three pines, two cranes
husband and wife

1810

.此門の霞むたそくや隅田の鶴
kono kado no kasumu tasoku ya sumida no tsuru

at the gate
so many in the mist!
Sumida River cranes

1810

.柴の戸やかすむたそくの隅田鶴
shiba no to ya kasumu tasoku no sumida-zuru

at my humble hut
so many in the mist!
Sumida River cranes

Shinji Ogawa explains that shiba no to ("brushwood door") is an idiom for a "hut" or "my humble house." It does not mean that Issa's door is literally made of brushwood.

1810

.とくかすめとくとくかすめ放ち鳥
toku kasume toku toku kasume hanachi-dori

hurry into mist
hurry, hurry!
a bird set free

This refers to the custom of setting a bird free at a funeral or memorial service. This ceremony "was an outgrowth of the Mahayana [Buddhist] respect for all forms of life"; Daigan and Alicia Matsunaga, Foundation of Japanese Buddhism, Vol. 1 (Los Angeles/Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1974) 19.

1810

.夕暮れや霞中より無常鐘
yûgure ya kasumu naka yori mujô-gane

from evening mist
the bell
of life passing

1811

.彼の桃が流れ来よ来よ春がすみ
ka[no] momo ga nagare ki yo ki yo harugasumi

oh peach
come float to me!
spring mist

According to R. H. Blyth in Haiku, a woman was washing clothes by a stream, "when a huge peach (momo) came floating down. She took it home, and when she and her husband cut it open, they found a little boy, Momotarô, inside" (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition), 2.418. The fairy tale of the floating Peach Boy makes the haiku moment even more magical. The spring mist is so thick, Issa fancies that the peach, like the baby boy of the story, might come floating to his hand.

Alastair comments: "Spring, newborn baby, 'new' things come floating to me ... many beginning things! Surprising how the water-borne babe is delivered in various cultures: Moses, Momotarô ... the universal myth survives!"

1811

.死鐘と聞さへのらのかすみ哉
shini kane to kiku sae nora no kasumi kana

a death bell too
can be heard...
misty field

1811

.ちとの間にかすみ直すや山の家
chito no ma ni kasumi naosu ya yama no ie

in a flash
the mist is mended...
mountain home

1811

.古郷や下手念仏も春がすみ
furusato ya heta nembutsu mo harugasumi

my home village--
a poor "Praise Buddha!" too
in spring mist

The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!" Is Issa referring to his own poorly chanted prayer?

1811

.湖を風呂にわかして夕がすみ
mizuumi wo furo ni wakashite yûgasumi

the lake steams
like a hot bath...
evening mist

1812

.かすむぞよ金のなる木の植所
kasumu zo yo kane no naru ki no ue tokoro

spring mist--
the place where money trees
are planted

This haiku has the prescript, "On the subject of the eastern capital." Issa is referring to Edo (today's Tokyo), where many people made their fortunes.

1812

.かすむ日の咄するやらのべの馬
kasumu hi no hanashi suru yara nobe no uma

on a misty day
they chat...
horses in the field

R. H. Blyth reads the kanji verb in the middle phrase as uwasu: "gossip"; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.369-70. The editors of Issa zenshû read it, hanashi ("talk"); (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.84. Either way, Issa imputes "human" action to the horses. Or, is he challenging our preconceptions that would draw such a hard, clear line between "human" and "animal?" I suspect that the latter is true.

1812

.かすむ日やさぞ天人の御退屈
kasumu hi ya sazo tennin no o-taikutsu

misty day--
no doubt Heaven's saints
bored stiff

An ironic view of Paradise. Pure Land Buddhists maintain that there are "Six Ways" of possible future life reincarnation: (1) as a sufferer in hell, (2) as a hungry ghost, (3) as an animal, (4) as an angry demon, (5) as a human being, or (6) as a heavenly being. This haiku is poem 6 of a six-poem series on the Six Ways. Two versions of this series exist; one appears in the 1812 book, Kabuban, while the other was published posthumously by Issa's students in Issa hokku shû in 1829. The present haiku appears in both versions.

1812

.古鐘やかすめる声もむづかしき
furu kane ya kasumeru koe mo muzukashiki

an old temple bell
and voices too
muffled in mist

1812

.古椀がはやかすむぞよ角田川
furu wan ga haya kasumu zo yo sumida-gawa

the old bowl
quickly misted over...
Sumida River

1812

.麦の葉も朝きげんぞよ青霞
mugi no ha mo asa kigen zo yo ao-gasumi

even the wheat
in a morning mood...
blue mist

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1812

.我ににた能なし山もかすみ哉
ware ni nita nô nashi yama mo kasumi kana

imitating me
the good-for-nothing mountain
in the mist

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1813

.かすむ日も雪の上なる住居哉
kasumu hi mo yuki no ue naru sumai kana

even in spring mist
it's snow-covered...
my home

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1813

.かすむ日や目を縫たる雁が鳴
kasumu hi ya me wo nuwaretaru kari ga naku

misty day--
with their eyes sewn shut
geese honking

Writing about a similar haiku of 1808, Jean Cholley explains that the scene is the poultry market in the Muromachi district of Edo (today's Tokyo). The birds' eyes were sewn shut to keep them immobile while being fattened in their cages; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 237.

1813

.かすむやら目が霞やらことしから
kasumu yara me ga kasumu yara kotoshi kara

all is misty
even my eyes!
from this new year on

Robin D. Gill suggests that kara ("from") is the key word in this haiku. From this new year onward, Issa's old age will continue.

1813

.すりこ木の音に始るかすみ哉
suriko-gi no oto ni hajimaru kasumi kana

with the pounding
of a pestle
the mist gathers

1813

.泣な子供赤いかすみがなくなるぞ
naku na kodomo akai kasumi ga nakunaru zo

don't cry, children!
the red mist
has passed away

A haiku for children with a lesson for grown-ups: don't try to grasp the ineffable, which everything, ultimately, is.

1813

.西山やおのれがのるはどのかすみ
nishi yama ya onore ga noru wa dono kasumi

western mountains
when I'm carried away
which mist will I ride?

Issa is referring, with hope, to being reborn in Amida Buddha's Western Paradise. His imagery calls to mind Buddhist paintings in which Amida appears surrounded by saints riding clouds of mist ("The Descent of Amida from Heaven," attributed to Genshin and kept in the Museum Reihokan on Mt. Koya is perhaps the most famous of such images).

year unknown

.ほくほくと霞んで来るはどなた哉
hoku-hoku to kasunde kuru wa donata kana

rap-a-tap
who's that coming
in the mist?

Issa hears the clacking of someone's walking stick.

1813

.御仏の手桶の月もかすむ也
mi-hotoke no teoke no tsuki mo kasumu nari

the moon
in Buddha's bucket, too...
mist-covered

I assume that Issa is referring to an image of Buddha, most likely made of stone. In a nearby pail of water, he sees the misty moon's reflection.

1814

.かすむとてよろこび烏ばかり哉
kasumu tote yorokobi karasu bakari kana

in the mist
crows are rejoicing...
nothing else

1814

.かすむ夜やうらから見ても吉原ぞ
kasumu yo ya ura kara mite mo yoshiwara zo

misty evening--
out the back door too
Yoshiwara

Yoshiwara was the licensed brothel district near Edo (today's Tokyo).

1814

.折角にかすんでくれし榎哉
sekkaku ni kasunde kureshi enoki kana

a custom-made mist
just for it...
nettle tree

1814

.野ばくちや藪の法談も一かすみ
no bakuchi ya yabu no dangi mo hito kasumi

gambling in the field
a sermon in the thicket...
one mist

Saints and sinners are united by the same mist: a parable of the universe?

1814

.一聳かすみ放しの榎哉
hito sobie kasumi hanashi no enoki kana

one soars
released from the mist...
nettle tree

1814

.ぼた餅をつかんでかすむ烏哉
botamochi wo tsukande kasumu karasu kana

snatching a jellied rice cake
in the mist...
crow

1814

.我里はどうかすんでもいびつ也
waga sato wa dô kasunde mo ibitsu nari

even in the mist
my village
is a mess

1814

.我をよぶ人の顔よりかすみ哉
ware wo yobu hito [no] kao yori kasumi kana

from the face
of the man yelling for me...
mist

I assume that Issa is referring to "mist" coming from the man's mouth. This haiku has the prescript, "25th day [of the month], a storm in Azari."

1815

.霞から人さす虫が出たりけり
kasumi kara hito sasu mushi ga detari keri

from the mist
stinging insects
emerge

1815

.けふの日も喰つぶしけり春がすみ
kyô no hi mo kuitsubushi keri harugasumi

today too
spent stuffing my face...
spring mist

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, kuitsubushi keri, in this context means "to spend the whole day doing nothing except eating."

1815

.土橋や立小便も先かすむ
tsuchi-bashi ya tatsu shôben mo mazu kasumu

earthen bridge--
I stand pissing
in morning mist

I interepret mazu ("first") to mean "first thing in the morning."

1815

.菜も蒔いてかすんで暮らす小家哉
na mo maite kasunde kurasu ko ie kana

planting vegetables
living in mist...
little house

Shinji Ogawa believes that this haiku, wirtten in Second Month of 1815, alludes to Issa's happy domestic life with his first wife, Kiku. He married her the previous year, in Fourth Month.

year unknown

.けふもけふもかすんで暮らす小家哉
kyô mo kyô mo kasunde kurasu ko ie kana

today too, today too
living in mist...
little house

A wonderful portrait of the poet's life and, by extention, the life of all human beings.

1816

.寺の茶の二番鳴子や朝霞
tera no cha no ni ban naruko ya asa-gasumi

the temple teatime's
second call of the clapper...
morning mist

Originally, I translated naruko literally as "bird clapper": a wood and bamboo contraption that hangs from a rope over a field. The wind causes its dangling parts to clack loudly together. Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is using the word simply to denote the "second bell" for the temple teatime.

1817

.笠でするさらばさらばや薄がすみ
kasa de suru saraba saraba ya usu-gasumi

waving umbrella-hats
farewell! farewell!
thin mist

This is the first haiku that Issa wrote in Second Month, 1817. It has the prescript, "Spring Colors at Karuizawa."

In it, Issa paints a picture of people bidding each other farewell in the spring mist. Because of the mist, their hand gestures and their bowing heads are hard to see. As one walks away from the other, his shape soon is swallowed by the mist, and is seen no more. Issa captures the delicate emotion that the Japanese called sabi, a sort of existential loneliness that the great poet Bashô valued.

In his book Issa to onnatachi ("Issa and Women"), Masafumi Kobayashi posits that the scene describes two lovers parting in the morning, more particularly, a man (possibly Issa) and his ichiyazuma ("one night wife")--a prostitute or temporary consort (Tokyo: Sanwa 2004) 44.

1817

.呉服やの朝声かすみかかりけり
gofukuya no asa koe kasumi kakari keri

voices in the dry goods store
hang
on the mist

1817

.吼る犬かすみの衣きたりけり
hoeru inu kasumi no koromo ki[ta]ri keri

the barking dog
is wearing a robe...
of mist

year unknown

.かすむ日に古くもならぬ卒塔婆哉
kasumu hi ni furuku mo naranu sotoba kana

in the misty day
not growing older...
grave tablets

There are two definitions for sotoba: (1) a Buddhist shrine constructed to contain Buddha's ashes, used in memorial services for the dead; (2) a wooden grave tablet; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 946. Sakuo Nakamura and Gabi Greve believe that Issa has the second meaning in mind when he uses this term.

1818

.梅ばちの大挑灯やかすみから
ume bachi no daichôchin ya kasumi kara

great lanterns
with the plum blossom crest...
out of mist

This haiku has the prescript, "Lord of Kaga." It refers to the daimyo Maeda, Lord of Kaga. The plum blossom was the crest of the Maeda family; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.532, note 2.

1818

.かすむ野にいざや命のせんたくに
kasumu no ni iza ya inochi no sentaku ni

into the misty field
let's go!
refreshing our souls

Shinji Ogawa glosses iza ya as "let's go!" The expression, inochi no sentaku (to launder one's life) means, idiomatically, " to refresh one's soul by having a good time."

1818

.霞やら雪の降やら古郷山
kasumu yara yuki no furu yara kokyô yama

spring mist
and falling snow...
my home mountains

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1818

.さらし布かすみの足に聳へけり
sarashi nuno kasumi no tashi ni sobie keri

cloth hung to dry
adds to the mist...
soaring

Issa composes this haiku in his "Seventh Diary" (Shichiban nikki) without a head note. He repeats it a year later (1819) in "My Spring" (Oraga haru) with the prescript, "Tama River." Tama River is a famous locale, which appears in the earlier Japanese poetry anthology, Manyôshu, as an often repeated descriptive epithet for cloth being hung out to dry; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.166, note 33.

In yet another text, Issa prefaces this haiku with "Southern Capital," another name for Nara.

Nobuyuki Yuasa notes that "many dye factories are built on the banks of large rivers, and pieces of colored cloth are often seen hung high in the air to dry"; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1960; 2nd ed. 1972) 43.

1818

.古郷はかすんで雪の降りにけり
furusato wa kasunde yuki no furi ni keri

my home village
in the spring mist, snow
is falling

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1818

.我家はどうかすんでもいびつ也
waga ie [wa] dô kasunde mo ibitsu nari

even in the mist
my house
is a mess

1819

.後の家見るやかすめばかすむとて
ato no ie miru ya kasu[me]ba kasumu tote

looking back at my house
the mist
even mistier

This haiku has the prescript, "Departure."

1819

.あとの家もかすんで音途々哉
ato no ie mo kasunde kadode kadode kana

looking back at her house
just mist...
I depart, I depart

Or: "his house" or "my house." Issa doesn't specify whose house it is, but I have a feeling that this haiku is related to an early one of 1794, in which the poet describes a lover leaving his beloved in the morning and looking back to see mist:

kinu-ginu ya kasumu made miru imo ga ie

lovers parting--
looking back at her house
until only mist

1819

.家舟の音途々もかすみけり
iebune no kadode kadode mo kasumi keri

leaving the houseboat
behind me, behind me
in the mist

Or: "behind him" or "behind her." Issa doesn't specify who is leaving the houseboat.

1819

.おのが門見るやかすめばかすむとて
ono ga kado miru ya kasumeba kasumu tote

looking at my gate
the mist
even mistier

1819

.思ふまじ見まじかすめよおれが家
omoumaji mimaji kasume yo ore ga ie

don't want to remember it
or see it...
cover my house, mist!

1819

.かすむ日やしんかんとして大座敷
kasumu hi ya shinkan to shite ôzashiki

misty day--
a hush in the big
sitting room

1819

.白壁のそしられつつもかすみけり
shira kabe no soshirare tsutsu mo kasumi keri

even their white walls
are slandered!
spring mist

In one journal this haiku has the prescript, "Ueno." Ueno is a famous place for blossom viewing. In another journal, Issa prefaces it with the note, "Ueno viewed from a distance." The editors of Issa zenshû explain that the "white walls" belong to the "houses of greedy, rich people"; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1960; 2nd ed. 1972) 6.166, note 31. This explains why the walls are being bad-mouthed from afar. Poorer people are griping about the excesses of the rich: their vast mansions and "even their white walls."

1819

.古郷や朝茶なる子も春がすみ
furusato ya asa[cha] naruko mo harugasumi

my home village--
the call to morning tea
a clap in the mist

Originally, I translated naruko literally as "bird clapper": a wood and bamboo contraption that hangs from a rope over a field. The wind causes its dangling parts to clack loudly together. However, Shinji Ogawa (commenting on a similar haiku of 1816) believes that Issa uses the word to denote a clapping call to teatime.

1819

.横乗の馬のつづくや夕がすみ
yokonori no uma no tsuzuku ya yûgasumi

riding sidesaddle
one by one...
evening mist

1820

.後供はかすみ引けり加賀の守
atodomo wa kasumi hiki keri kaga no kami

his attendants behind
haul the mist...
Lord Kaga

This haiku refers to the daimyo Maeda, Lord of Kaga. There is such a long, long line of servants hauling his possessions, it seems as if they carrying even the far mist. Shinji Ogawa detects social criticism in this haiku: the feudal lord owns so much while common people are starving to death. The criticism, he notes, is subtle "because it was so dangerous...subject to capital punishment."

1820

.雉の尾に引ずりて行かすみ哉
kiji no o ni hikizurite yuku kasumi kana

dragged in
by the pheasant's tail...
spring mist

1820

.身の上の鐘としりつつ夕がすみ
mi no ue no kane to shiritsutsu yûgasumi

knowing the bell
rings away life...
evening mist

Three years later (1823) Issa revises this haiku to end with "evening cool" (yûsuzumi).

1821

.かすむ日や宗判押しに三里程
kasumu hi ya shûban [oshi] ni san ri hodo

day mist--
the census taker reckons it
about seven miles

One ri is 2.44 miles. The mist, in this haiku, extends for three ri: over seven miles.

The expression shûban oshi refers to a census taker stamping his seal; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 4.155.

1821

.灯火やかすみながらに夜が明る
tomoshibi ya kasumi nagara ni yo ga akeru

lamplight
in the spring mist...
dawn

The mist is so thick, the sun doesn't penetrate. Someone's lamp fills in for the sunrise.

1821

.御仏と一所に霞む天窓かな
mi-hotoke to isshô ni kasumu atama kana

me and Buddha--
our heads
in the mist

The image is comic yet profound. Issa and Buddha--as represented by a stone or wooden statue--are side-by-side, their heads lost in spring mist. On the surface, the connection is merely funny, but upon deeper contemplation, a spiritual connection is revealed. Even a "sinful" poet like Issa is one with the Buddha. The "mist" of Being unites them.

1822

.傘の雫ながらにかすみかな
karakasa no shizuku nagara ni kasumi kana

with the dripping
of paper umbrellas...
spring mist

1822

.傘の雫もかすむ都哉
karakasa no shizuku mo kasumu miyako kana

paper umbrellas
dripping...
misty Kyoto

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1822

.誰それとしれてかすむや門の原
taresore to shirete kasumu ya kado no hara

there's So-and-so
in the mist...
field by the gate

1822

.盗人のかすんでげけら笑ひかな
nusubito no kasunde gekera warai kana

in thick spring mist
the burglar
laughing

The editors of Issa zenshû provide two readings of the three on ("sound units") that follow kasunde ("misting") in the middle phrase: kekera and gekera (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.88; 4.336.

1822

.古郷やあれ霞あれ雪が降る
furusato ya are kasumu are yuki ga furu

my home village--
look! spring mist
look! falling snow

A humorous reference to the long, lingering winter of Issa's home province of Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture).

1822

.古郷や我を見る也うすがすみ
furusato wa ware wo miru nari usu-gasumi

at my village
they watch me...
a thin spring mist

Is Issa suggesting the alienation he felt from his fellow villagers who, due to his nearly four decades of exile, now viewed him as an outsider?

1822

.法談の手つきもかすむ御堂かな
hôdan no tetsuki mo kasumu midô kana

the preacher's
hand gestures too...
lost in temple mist

This haiku of 1822 resembles an undated one:

hôdan no temane mo miete natsu kodachi

the preacher's
hand gestures too...
summer trees

1822

.真直にかすみ給ふや善光寺
massugu ni kasumi tamau ya zenkôji

the mist forms
a straight line...
Zenko Temple

Zenkô Temple (Zenkôji) is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province.

1822

.我を見る姿も見へてうすがすみ
ware wo miru sugata mo miete usu-gasumi

that shape's watching me
watching him...
thin mist

1823

.しなの路やそれ霞それ雪が降る
shinano ji ya sore kasumu sore yuki ga furu

Shinano road--
spring mist
and snow falling

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1823

.空色の傘もかすむや女坂
sora iro no kasa mo kasumu ya onnazaka

sky-blue umbrellas
in the mist too...
gentle slope

Onnazaka is a gentle slope.

1823

.大仏は赤いかすみの衣かな
daibutsu wa akai kasumi no koromo kana

the great bronze Buddha
cloaked
in red mist

There are two huge bronze statues of the Buddha in Japan: at Kamakura and at Nara. The one at Nara, in Tôdaiji Temple, is 53 1/2 feet high and made of 400+ tons of bronze. The Kamakura Great Buddha is 37 feet high, 90+ tons.

1812

.老松や改て又幾かすみ
oi matsu ya aratamete mata iku kasumi

old pine
starting a new year...
how many spring mists?

This haiku has the prescript, "New Year's felicitations."

1812

.霞から人のつづくや寛永寺
kasumi kara hito no tsuzuku ya kan-eiji

out of mist
one by one they come...
Kan-ei Temple

1812

.夕客の行灯霞む野寺哉
yû kyaku no andon kasumu no tera kana

the night guest's lamp
in mist...
temple in a field

year unknown

.霞とや朝からさはぐ馬鹿烏
kasumu to ya asa kara sawagu baka karasu

in spring mist
from morning on a ruckus...
foolish crow

Or: "foolish crows."

year unknown

.かすむ日や大旅籠屋のうらの松
kasumu hi ya ôhatagoya no ura no matsu

misty day--
behind the big inn
a pine

year unknown

.さらばさらばの手にかかる霞かな
saraba saraba no te ni kakaru kasumu kana

farewell! farewell!
hands waving
in the mist

This undated haiku is similar to one written in 1817:

kasa de suru saraba saraba ya usu-gasumi

waving umbrella-hats
farewell! farewell!
thin mist

In both poems, Issa paints a picture of people bidding each other farewell in spring mist. Because of the mist, their hand gestures and their bowing heads are hard to see. As one walks away from the other, his shape soon is swallowed by the mist, and is seen no more. In both of these haiku, Issa captures the delicate emotion that the Japanese called sabi, a sort of existential loneliness that the great poet Bashô valued highly.

year unknown

.たつぷりと霞と隠れぬ卒塔婆哉
tappuri to kasumu to kakurenu sotoba kana

well hidden
by the spring mist...
grave tablet

There are two definitions for sotoba: (1) a Buddhist shrine constructed to contain Buddha's ashes, used in memorial services for the dead; (2) a wooden grave tablet; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 946. Sakuo Nakamura and Gabi Greve believe that Issa has the second meaning in mind when he uses this term. In my first translation, I read the nu in kakurenu as a negative: "not quite hidden." Shinji Ogawa tells me, in this case, nu makes the perfect tense: "hidden."

year unknown

.湖のとろりとかすむ夜也けり
mizuumi no torori to kasumu yo nari keri

the lake is slowly
lost in mist...
evening falls

1791

.陽炎やむつましげなるつかと塚
kagerô ya mutsumashigenaru tsuka to tsuka

heat shimmers--
they look like dear friends
the two graves

The ending, gena (genaru here), is the equivalent of rashii or yôda in modern Japanese; it denotes a presumption or estimation. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 567.

This haiku appears in Issa's earliest travel diary, Kansei san nen kikô, following a prose passage that reveals who the owners of the two grave mounds are: Kumagai no Jirô Naozane and Taira no Atsumori. In 1184 Naozane killed fifteen-year old Atsumori in a battle between the Genji and Heike clans. Naozane later became a Buddhist, taking the Buddhist name of Renjô and founding a temple. According to his wishes, he was buried next to the grave of Atsumori, his old enemy. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.18; and Jean Cholley, En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 233, note 2.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1793

.陽炎に敷居を越る朝日哉
kagerô ni shiki-i wo koeru asahi kana

heat shimmers--
the morning sun
crosses the threshold

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the scene: the morning sun warms the ground, causing heat shimmers to rise. The higher the sun rises, the farther its light travels, crossing the threshold and entering the room where Issa sits. Sakuo adds, "The movement of the sun shows the dynamic transformation of time and space ... a great, dramatic haiku, isn't it?"

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1802

.陽炎や小藪は雪のまじまじと
kagerô ya ko yabu wa yuki no maji-maji to

heat shimmers--
snow in the little thicket
winking

The word maji-maji has three meanings: "blinkingly," "hesitantly" and "brazenly." The first seems to fit this context.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1804

.陽炎によしある人の素足哉
kagerô ni yoshi aru hito no suashi kana

in heat shimmers
the holy man's
bare feet

The subject of the haiku is a "good person" (yoshi aru hito); I think that by this Issa might mean a Buddhist arhat.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1805

.陽炎の内からも立葎哉
kagerô no nai kara mo tatsu mugura kana

standing deep inside
the heat shimmers...
weeds

The plant in question is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1805

.陽炎やいとしき人の杖の跡
kagerô ya itoshiki hito no tsue no ato

heat shimmers--
traces of a dear friend's
walking stick

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1805

.陽炎や笠の手垢も春のさま
kagerô ya kasa no teaka mo haru no sama

heat shimmers--
umbrella-hat's handprints too
a sign of spring

Sakuo Nakamura believes that the finger-smudged umbrella-hat might be Issa's own; it makes the poet think of starting his spring travels.

1806

.陽炎や蚊のわく薮もうつくしき
kagerô ya ka no waku yabu mo utsukushiki

heat shimmers--
the mosquito-breeding thicket
is pretty too

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1803

.陽炎や子をなくされし鳥の顔
kagerô ya ko wo nakusareshi tori no kao

heat shimmers--
having lost a child
the bird's face

Issa later revises this image in human terms:

kagerô ya ko wo kakusareshi oya no kao

heat shimmers--
missing a child
the parent's face

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

year unknown

.陽炎や子をかくされし親の顔
kagerô ya ko wo kakusareshi oya no kao

heat shimmers--
missing a child
the parent's face

In an earlier haiku (1803) the subject is a mother bird:

kagerô ya ko wo nakusareshi tori no kao

heat shimmers--
having lost a child
the bird's face

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1807

.陽炎にさらさら雨のかかりけり
kagerô ni sara-sara ame no kakari keri

through heat shimmers
the murmuring
rain

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1807

.陽炎やあの穴たしかきりぎりす
kagerô ya ano ana tashika kirigirisu

heat shimmers--
in that hole perhaps?
a katydid

The word tashika indicates that the katydid is "perhaps" in the hole. The insect is singing somewhere near. The wavering air of the heat shimmers accentuates the poet's uncertainty as to the insect's location.

A kirigirisu (katydid) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69. Shinji Ogawa suggests that the insect in this particular haiku is a cricket. He explains, "Crickets live on the ground. Katydids, at least Japanese katydids, prefer to live in tall grass. The word ana or 'hole' indicates that the word kirigirisu refers to cricket." If this is true the haiku loses its shock value. I prefer to imagine that Issa is noticing a katydid in an unusual place.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1808

.陽炎の手の皺からも立にけり
kagerô no te no shiwa kara mo tachi ni keri

heat shimmers rise
even from my hand's
wrinkles!

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1808

.陽炎や翌の酒価の小柴垣
kagerô ya asu no sakane no ko shiba-gaki

heat shimmers--
tomorrow's sake price
on a little brushwood fence

Issa enjoyed his sake.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1808

.陽炎やきのふ鳴たる田にし殻
kagerô ya kinou nakitaru tanashi-gara

heat shimmers--
yesterday it sang
pond snail shell

Shinji Ogawa believes that the song of the deceased pond snail was the sound of it spitting water. Debi Bender theorizes that it was the hissing of its shell in a cooking pot, "making a noise, something like air escaping a tea-kettle, only not as loud." She imagines that this haiku was written "the day after dinner--when only the pond snail's shell was left--after the cooking, the snail now passed nutritiously through Issa's satisfied digestive system."

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1808

.陽炎や人に聞れし虫の殻
kagerô ya hito ni kikareshi mushi no kara

heat shimmers--
someone listening to
a snail shell

Just as one holds a seashell to one's ear to hear the ocean, a person (hito) is listening to the husk (kara) of a mushi: a general term for insects, bugs, worms, and the like. In this case, I think Issa is definitely referring to a pond snail because of the haiku that immediately precedes this one in his diary:

kagerô ya kinou nakitaru tanashi-gara

heat shimmers--
yesterday it sang
pond snail shell

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1809

.陽炎ににくまれ蔓の見事也
kagerô ni nikumare tsuru no migoto kana

in heat shimmers
the vines people loathe...
beautiful

Or: "the vines I loathe."

1809

.陽炎やきのふは見へぬだんご茶屋
kagerô ya kinou wa mienu dango chaya

heat shimmers--
yesterday it wasn't there
tea-and-dumpling shop

Issa states that the shop was "unseen yesterday" (kinou wa mienu): does this mean that it was there and he didn't notice it, or has a new shop sprung up overnight? French translator L. Mabesoone assumes the latter, referring to it as ("l'étalage/ D'un nouveau marchand de gâteaux" ("the shop-window of a new cake merchant"); Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 40. Shinji Ogawa agrees. He writes, "There were two types of tea-and-dumpling shop: permanent ones and temporary ones. I think the shop Issa is talking about is the temporary one. The most temporary tea-and-dumpling shops in Issa's day consisted of a shade with four poles, or no shade at all, with one or two benches ... no table, no walls."

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1811

.陽炎や道灌どのの物見塚
kagerô [ya] dôkan dono no monomi tsuka

heat shimmers--
Lord Dokan's
lookout mound

In one text Issa adds this prescript: "First Month, 29th day, a meeting at Hongyô Temple. The lookout mound of Lord Dôkan, seven foot high, thirty feet in circumference, is found at Hongyôji; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.105, note 1.

Shinji Ogawa translates monomi-tsuka as 殿 watch mound for a military purpose."

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1812

.陽炎に何やら猫の寝言哉
kagerô ni nani yara neko no negoto kana

heat shimmers--
how the cat talks
in her sleep!

Or: "in his sleep."

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1812

.陽炎にめしを埋たる烏哉
kagerô ni meshi wo ume[ta]ru karasu kana

in heat shimmers
covering the rice...
crows

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1812

.陽炎や見むく奴がうしろから
kagerô ya mimuku yatsu ga ushiro kara

heat shimmers--
the lackey turns to look
behind him

In one text this haiku has the prescript, "18th day [of First Month], Hongyôji (Hongyô Temple)." Yatsu ("lackey") is a deprecating name for a person or animal; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1664.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1813

.陽炎に成つても仕舞へ草の家
kagerô ni natte mo shimae kusa no ie

you, too, turn to
heat shimmers...
my thatched house

Or: "thatched house" (without the "my"). Issa doesn't say that it is his house, but this might be inferred.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1813

.陽炎や臼の中からま一すじ
kagerô ya usu no naka kara ma hito suji

heat shimmers--
from inside the rice cake tub
one more

Literally, Issa sees "one more strand" of heat shimmer. See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 176, note 890.

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1813

.陽炎や鍬で追やる村烏
kagerô ya kuwa de oiyaru mura-garasu

heat shimmers--
chasing the village crow
with a hoe

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1813

.陽炎や子に迷ふ鶏の遠歩き
kagerô ya ko ni mayou tori no tô aruki

heat shimmers--
the child's lost chicken
struts in the distance

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1814

.陽炎にぐいぐい猫の鼾かな
kagerô ni gui-gui neko no ibiki kana

in heat shimmers
the cat snores
deeply

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1814

.陽炎や縁からころり寝ぼけ猫
kagerô ya en kara korori neboke neko

heat shimmers--
off the verandah tumbles
the half-asleep cat

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1815

.陽炎に扇を敷いて寝たりけり
kagerô ni ôgi wo shiite netari keri

in heat shimmers
paper fan spread wide
he sleeps

Or: "she sleeps."

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1815

.陽炎に子を返せとや鳴く雀
kagerô ni ko wo kaese to ya naku suzume

in heat shimmers
"Give back my child!"
a sparrow sings

In 1822, Issa writes:

oya suzume ko wo kaese to ya neko wo ou

"Give back my child!"
mother sparrow chases
the cat

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1815

.陽炎や狐の穴の赤の飯
kagerô ya kitsune no ana no aka no meshi

heat shimmers--
at the fox's hole
red beans and rice

The food is an offering left for the fox--a powerful spirit that, if not placated, could possess people. In his translation Lucien Stryk refers to the food offering as "red rice"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 32.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1815

.陽炎や敷居でつぶす髪虱
kagerô ya shiki-i de tsubusu kami-jirami

heat shimmers--
in the threshold crushing
hair lice

This is a perfect example of a slice-of-life haiku.

1815

.陽炎の猫にもたかる歩行神
kagerô no neko ni mo takaru aruki-gami

a cat in heat shimmers
also follows
the God of Wandering

The God of Wandering, Aruki-gami, entices people to leave their homes and walk about. Issa, like the cat, feels drawn to the road--as if stirred by a divine force. Two versions of the opening phrase appear in Issa zenshû: "kagerô ya" (1.92) and "kagerô no" (3.350). See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79).

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1815

.陽炎や馬糞も銭に成にけり
kagerô ya ma-guso mo zeni ni nari ni keri

heat shimmers--
even horse dung
becomes money

The horse dung will be gathered and sold as fuel.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1815

.さむしろや銭としきみと陽炎と
samushiro ya zeni to shikimi to kagerô to

little straw mat--
coins, offered branches
heat shimmers

This haiku has the prescript, "Sensô Temple." Branches of the shikimi tree are placed on Buddhist graves. The coins are temple offerings.

1816

.陽炎にまぎれ込だる伏家哉
kagerô ni magire kondaru fuseya kana

vanishing
in the heat shimmers...
my humble hut

Or: "the humble hut." Issa doesn't specify that it is his, but this might be inferred.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1816

.陽炎や大の字形に残る雪
kagerô ya dai no ji nari ni nokoru yuki

heat shimmers--
shaped like a cross
the leftover snow

Literally, the snow has melted into the shape of the Japanese character "big" (dai no ji).

1818

.陽炎のとり付て立草家哉
kagerô no toritsuite tatsu kusaya kana

possessed
by the heat shimmers...
thatched hut

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1818

.陽炎や歩行ながらの御法談
kagerô ya aruki nagara no o-hôdan

heat shimmers--
walking along he preaches
his sermon

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1818

.陽炎や庇の草も花の咲く
kagerô ya hisashi no kusa mo hana no saku

heat shimmers--
among grasses of the eaves
flowers

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1819

.陽炎の中にうごめく衆生かな
kagerô no naka ni ugomeku shujô kana

squirming
amid the heat shimmers
people

The word shujô can mean all living beings or human beings. In an earlier haiku (1812) Issa uses it plainly to refer to humans:

saku hana no naka ni ugomeku shujô kana

squirming
through the blossoms...
people

This haiku, part of a series on the Six Ways of Buddhist reincarnation, is Issa's portrait of human existence.

1819

.陽炎や手に下駄はいて善光寺
kagerô ya te ni geta haite zenkôji

heat shimmers--
wooden clogs on his hands
at Zenko Temple

Zenkô Temple (Zenkôji) is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1819

.陽炎や掃捨塵も銭になる
kagerô ya hakisute-gomi no zeni ni naru

heat shimmers--
someone's thrown-out garbage
for sale

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1820

.陽炎の内からも立つ在郷哉
kagerô no uchi kara mo ta[tsu] zaigo kana

out of heat shimmers
taking shape...
my hick province

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1821

.陽炎や目につきまとふ笑い顔
kagerô ya me ni tsukimatô warai-gao

heat shimmers--
his laughing face
lingers

Shortly after New Year's, 1821, Issa's third child, the infant boy Ishitaro, died of suffocation while bundled on his mother's back. This haiku, written shortly after the tragedy, refers to Ishitaro.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1822

.陽炎の立や垣根の茶ん袋
kagerô no tatsu ya kakine no chan-bukuro

heat shimmers rise--
on the fence
a pouch of tea

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1823

.陽炎や庵の庭のつくば山
kagerô ya iori no niwa no tsukuba yama

heat shimmers--
from the hut's garden
Mount Tsukuba

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture. Yamagichi-san writes that "Issa stayed at some acquaintance's home in present Nagareyama city in Chiba Prefecture where, I think, Mt. Tsukuba was really viewed."

1823

.陽炎やそば屋が前の箸の山
kagerô ya sobaya ga mae no hashi no yama

heat shimmers--
in front of the noodle shop
a chopstick mountain

The noodles in question are soba, buckwheat noodles--a favorite food in Issa's province.

1825

.陽炎や薪の山の雪なだれ
kagerô ya takigi no yama no yukinadare

heat shimmers--
an avalanche
on firewood mountain!

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

year unknown

.陽炎や犬に追るるのら鼠
kagerô ya inu ni owaruru nora nezumi

heat shimmers--
a field mouse chased
by the dog

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

year unknown

.陽炎や草の上行くぬれ鼠
kagerô ya kusa no ue yuku nure nezumi

heat shimmers--
to the top of the weed
a wet mouse

Or: "to the top of the blade of grass." Kusa can signify "grass" or "weed." In this case, it must be a stout plant (stout enough for a mouse to climb it), certainly not the type of grass that grows in most suburban lawns.

1820

.さほ姫の染損なひや斑山
saohime no some sokonai madara yama

the goddess of spring
missed a few spots...
mottled mountain

Saohime and her sister, Tatsutahime, were Chinese imports, not part of the native Japanese pantheon. Saohime ruled spring; Tatsutahime, autumn. Saohime's particular task was to supervise the greening of fields and mountains. However, in the case of this particular mountain, her dyeing job has been spotty.

1802

.凍解や敷居のうちのよひの月
ite-doke ya shiki-i no uchi no yoi no tsuki

ice melting--
in the threshold
early evening's moon

1822

.凍どけの盛りに果し談義哉
ite-doke no sakari ni hateshi dangi kana

at the peak
of the ice's melting it finishes...
sermon

1822

.凍解や山の在家の昼談義
ite-doke ya yama no zaike no hiru dangi

ice melting--
the mountain holy man's
noon sermon

1793

.里の子が枝川作る雪解哉
sato no ko ga edagawa tsukuru yukige kana

the village child
makes a river branch...
melting snow

1803

.雪どけや麓の里の山祭
yuki-doke ya fumoto no sato no yama matsuri

melting snow--
at the foot of the mountain
a festival!

1804

.雪汁のかかる地びたに和尚顔
yuki-jiru no kakaru jibita ni oshôgao

splashed with slush
close to the ground...
a monk's face

In a prose passage of his journal preceding this haiku, Issa declares that he felt pity to see a monk chained to a pillory near Nihonbashi bridge in Edo. Passersby, walking through the slush, splashed his face. Jean Cholley notes that the monk was being punished for seducing a member of the congregation: chained in a kneeling position, hands behind his back, head nearly touching the ground; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 236, n. 29.

1809

.雪どけや門の雀の十五日
yuki-doke ya kado no suzume no jûgo nichi

snow melting--
for sparrows at the gate
good as a harvest moon!

1809

.雪解や門は雀の御一日
yuki-doke ya kado wa suzume no o-ichi nichi

snow melting--
at the gate the sparrows'
New Year's bash!

1810

.片隅に烏かたまる雪げかな
kata sumi ni karasu katamaru yukige kana

in one spot
the crows congregate...
snow is melting!

1810

.雁起よ雪がとけるぞとけるぞよ
kari oki yo yuki ga tokeru zo tokeru zo yo

the geese awake
"snow is melting!
melting!"

1810

.長々の雪のとけけり大月夜
naga-naga no yuki no toke keri ôtsuki yo

a winter's worth of snow
melting...
a humongous moon

Shinji Ogawa notes that the word naga-naga ("long-long" = "long time"), in this context, means "all winter long," not "all night long"--as I had originally translated. More importantly, he adds, it is an adjective for the "snow," not an adverb for the "melting."

1810

.雪とけてくりくりしたる月よ哉
yuki tokete kuri-kuri shitaru tsuki yo kana

snow melting--
tonight a fat round
moon

1810

.雪どけや順礼衆も朝の声
yuki-doke ya junrei shû mo asa no koe

melting snow--
the morning voices
of pilgrims

1810

.雪どけや巣鴨辺りのうす月夜
yuki-doke ya su kamo hotori [no] usu tsuki yo

snow melting--
where ducks are nesting
soft moonlight

Shinji Ogawa notes that there is a section of Edo (today's Tokyo) called Sugamo (literally, "duck's nest"). It's possible that Issa is referring to this place name, not to actual nesting ducks. In this case, the haiku might be translated, "Snow melting/ in Sugamo's sky/ soft moonlight."

1810

.雪とけるとけると鳩の鳴木かな
yuki tokeru tokeru to hato no naku ki kana

"Snow's melting! Melting!"
pigeons celebrate
in the tree

1813

.庵の雪下手な消やうしたりけり
io no yuki hetana keshiyô shitari keri

my hut's snow
not very good
at dying

1813

.雁鴨に鳴立られて雪げ哉
kari kamo ni naki taterarete yukige kana

geese and ducks
honking, quacking it away...
melting snow

Shinji Ogawa notes, "The phrase naki taterarete means "being chased away by the quacks."

1813

.しなのぢや雪が消れば蚊がさはぐ
shinano ji ya yuki ga kiereba ka ga sawagu

Shinano road--
when the snow finally melts
mosquitoes whine

1813

.雀来よ四角にとけし門の雪
suzume ko yo yosumi ni tokeshi kado no yuki

come, sparrows
in all four corners the gate's
snow is melting!

1813

.大切な雪がきへけり朝寝坊
taisetsuna yuki ga kie keri asanebô

the momentous snow
has melted away...
late riser

The late riser (Issa?) has missed the fun of watching the snow melt.

1814

.今解る雪を流や千曲川
ima tokeru yuki wo nagasu ya chikuma kawa

the snow melting
now flows away...
Chikuma River

1814

.沙汰なしに大雪とれし御山哉
sata nashi ni ôyuki toreshi o-yama kana

without fanfare
the great snow has left...
mountain

Shinji Ogawa explains that sata nashi means "without news from acquaintance(s)." Issa notes that the snow has melted without sending out letters announcing this fact.

1814

.十ばかり鍋うつむける雪げ哉
jû bakari nabe utsumukeru yukige kana

about ten cooking pots
upside-down...
snow is melting!

1814

.丸い雪四角な雪も流れけり
marui yuki yosumina yuki mo naga[re] keri

the round patches
the square patches...
snow floats away!

Issa seems to be looking at a river.

1814

.薮村や雪の解るもむづかしき
yabu mura ya yuki no tokeru mo muzukashiki

in the remote village
snow melting also
is not easy

Literally, the village is in a "thicket" (yabu).

1814

.雪とけて村一ぱいの子ども哉
yuki tokete mura ippai no kodomo kana

snow melting
the village brimming over...
with children!

Kai Falkman singles out this poem to illustrate "the mechanism of surprise in haiku." He explains, "The first line provides a factual picture of melting snow. The second line excites the imagination: there is so much melting snow that the village is flooded. The third line brings the surprise: with children"; see Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 38.

Comedians understand Falkman's "mechanism of surprise," since the same mechanism is at work in a good joke. A master joke-teller, Issa sets up the situation: "snow melting/ the village brimming over..." and then hits the reader with the unexpected punch line: "with children!" The children have been cooped inside during the long, cold winter. Now, as the snow melts, they burst outside, "flooding" the village, shouting and laughing.

Shinji Ogawa believes that "this is one of the best haiku Issa made ... with simple words and in a simple way [it] depicts the joy of spring so well that it paradoxically shows us how difficult it is to make a good haiku."

1815

.朝夕にせつてふされて残る雪
asa yû ni sechô sarete nokoru yuki

morning and night
bullied about...
leftover snow

Shinji Ogawa believes that sechô sarete may be a corruption of sesshô; the meaning is to "torment and harass."

1815

.残る雪雀に迄もなぶらるる
nokoru yuki suzume ni made mo naburaruru

the last snow pile--
even the sparrows
make fun of it

1815

.世に住めばむりにとかすや門の雪
yo ni su[me]ba muri ni tokasu ya kado no yuki

such is life--
the gate's snow is forced
to melt

Shinji Ogawa comments, "Issa is sympathetic not only to little birds and insects but also to non-living things like snow. Of course, it is his fictional value system or poetic value system... we cannot believe it too literally."

1815

.我庵や貧乏がくしの雪とける
waga io ya bimbô gakushi no yuki tokeru

my hut--
the poverty-hiding snow
melts away

1815

.我門や此界隈の雪捨場
waga kado ya kono kaiwai no yuki suteba

my gate--
the neighborhood's
snow dump

1815

.我雪も連に頼むぞ千曲川
waga yuki mo tsure ni tanomu zo chikuma kawa

my snow too
entrusted to join
Chikuma River

year unknown

.我雪も連て流れよ千曲川
waga yuki mo tsurete nagare yo chikuma kawa

float away
my snow too...
Chikuma River

Shinji Ogawa offers this wonderful translation:

Take my snow too
into your flow...
Chikuma River

1816

.わかい衆よ雪とかしても遊ぶのか
wakai shu yo yuki tokashite mo asobu no ka

young folk--
even melting snow
is fun, no?

Shinji Ogawa explains that wakai shu means "young men, slightly older than young boys."

1817

.旅浴衣雪はくりくりとけにけり
tabi yukata yuki wa kuri-kuri toke ni keri

travelers in bathrobes--
snow has melted
clean away!

Or: "a traveler in his bathrobe." Spring has arrived. At an inn, the travelers (Issa included?) enjoy a hot bath.

1817

.とけ残る雪や草履がおもしろい
toke nokoru yuki ya zôri ga omoshiroi

the last snow pile--
straw clogs make it
a delight

1817

.町並や雪とかすにも銭がいる
machinami ya yuki tokasu ni mo zeni ga iru

a row of houses--
even melting snow
costs money

1818

.町住や雪とかすにも銭がいる
machizuma ya yuki tokasu ni mo zeni ga iru

city life--
even melting snow
costs money

1817

.雪どけや大手ひろげし立ち榎
yuki-doke ya ôtehirogeshi ta[chi] enoki

snow has melted--
plenty of elbow room
for the nettle tree

Without snow around its trunk and clogging its branches, the nettle tree seems to extend more, spatially (te-hirogeshi).

1817

.雪どけや鷺が三疋立臼に
yuki-doke ya sagi ga sambiki tachi usu ni

snow melting--
three herons perch
on the rice cake tub

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

1818

.大川に四角な雪も流けり
ôkawa ni yosumina yuki mo nagare keri

in the big river
square slabs of snow, too
float away

"Big River" (ôkawa) commonly refers to the Sumida River in Edo (today's Tokyo) and to the Yodo River in Osaka. Issa most likely is referring to Sumida River.

1818

.門の雪四角にされて流けり
kado no yuki shikaku ni sarete nagare keri

the gate's snow
in a perfect square
flows away

Shinji Ogawa explains that sarete signifies the passive voice: the snow is "being cut square."

1818

.小庇に薪並おく雪解哉
kobisashi ni maki narabe oku yukige kana

firewood laid out
on the eaves...
snow is melting!

1818

.小庇の薪と猫と雪解哉
kobisashi ni maki to neko to yukige kana

on the eaves
firewood and a cat...
snow is melting!

1818

.里犬の渡て見せる雪げ哉
sato inu no wattate miseru yukige kana

the village dog
shows the river crossing
melting snow

Shinji Ogawa notes that wattate miseru means "to demonstrate crossing (the river through a bridge or without a bridge)." He adds, "The melting snow suggests that the water level of the river is high."

1818

.雀迄かち時作る雪げ哉
suzume made kachidoki tsukuru yukige kana

even the sparrow
gives a victory cry...
snow is melting!

1818

.雪解や貧乏町の痩せ子達
yuki-doke ya bimbô machi no yase kodachi

snow melting--
the thin children
of the slum

Before the snow melted, it hid the hunger and poverty of the slum. But now, as it melts in the spring sun, the children come outside to play, their thin frames revealing how hard winter was, how little they had to eat. Stills, one imagines the children playing their happy games, feeling none of the heaviness that the reader, as a well-fed outsider, feels. The children, after all, are children: reveling in the moment.

1818

.六尺の暖簾ひたひた雪げ哉
roku shaku no noren hita-hita yukige kana

six feet of curtain
flapping...
the snow is melting!

Christine de Jong writes, "It is just beautiful imagery of the present moment, the image of a huge curtain you hear and see moving, and the silent dripping of melting snow; you can picture it totally and also hear the sound."

1819

.愛らしく両手の跡の残る雪
airashiku ryôte no ato no nokoru yuki

lovely--
in the leftover snow
both handprints

1819

.鍋の尻ほし並たる雪解哉
nabe no shiri hoshi narabetaru yukige kana

cooking pots bottoms up
dry in a row...
snow is melting

1819

.昔なり両手の跡の残る雪
mukashi nari ryôte no ato no nokori yuki

olden times--
two handprints worth
of leftover snow

1819

.門前や子どもの作る雪げ川
monzen ya kodo[mo] no tsukuru yukigegawa

at the gate
children dig a channel...
river of melting snow

The village children, future farmers, carve a river's course through mud and snow for spring's fresh, trickling snowmelt. One day, this skill will be important, when they grow up and need to design irrigation channels for their rice fields, but today their digging is pure fun.

year unknown

.門前や杖でつくりし雪げ川
monzen ya tsue de tsukurishi yukigegawa

before the gate--
my cane makes a river
of melting snow

1819

.薮の雪ちよつととけるもけむり哉
yabu no yuki chotto tokeru mo kemuri kana

in the thicket
snow melts easily...
smoke

1819

.雪どけや大旅篭屋のうらの松
yuki-doke ya ôhatago[ya] no ura no matsu

snow is melting!
the pine tree behind
the inn

1819

.雪の道片方とけてやみにけり
yuki no michi kata kata tokete yami ni keri

snowy road--
on one side melts
to darkness

Originally, I translated the last phrase, "melting to nothing." Chibi suggested the changed version, which is closer to a literal definition of yami ("darkness," "gloom").

1820

.浅ましや一寸のがれに残る雪
asamashi ya chotto nogare ni nokoru yuki

what a shame--
cheating fate for the moment
leftover snow

I first translated asamashi as "pitiful," but Shinji Ogawa detects no sympathy for the snow on Issa's part. Shinji suggests: "shameful.../ clinging by inches/ the last snow."

Does Issa's attitude, in a comic way, express a Buddhist disdain for those who cling to life and to the things of this world?

1821

.本堂の上に鶏なく雪げ哉
hondô no ue ni tori naku yukige kana

atop the main temple
a rooster crows
"Snow's melting!"

1822

.梅の木の連に残るや門の雪
ume no ki no tsure ni nokoru [ya] kado no yuki

keeping company
with the plum tree--
the gate's last snow

1822

.嫌れた雪も一度に消へにけり
kirawareta yuki mo ichi do ni kie ni keri

the snow I hated
all at once
has melted away

In my first translation of this haiku, I ended with present tense "melts away," but Shinji Ogawa notes that kie ni keri is actually past perfect tense: "has gone." In Issa's vision, the snow is completely gone, so in this case I've followed Shinji's advice and changed to the past perfect, "has melted away." As a general principle I try to avoid the past perfect reading of verbs (with keri) as much as possible, since haiku in English sounds cleaner and more immediate in present tense. To cite an example from another poem of Issa's: "From the mist cows emerge" is an image suitable to English haiku, but the technically more accurate, "from the mist cows have emerged" lessens the immediacy of the image by adding a distance of elapsed time between the viewer and the action.

1822

.小便の穴だらけ也残り雪
shôben no ana darake nari nokori yuki

riddled with piddle
the last
snow pile

In Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa I write about this haiku in conjuction with similar ones that bring together the beautiful and the profane:

On one level, these haiku perform as jokes, ironic juxtapositions that shock the reader with the unexpected. Beneath their surface, however, Issa hints of the corrupt, present age of mappô in which beauty and purity cannot abide. However, despite this troubling undertone, the general mood in these haiku is one of quiet, smiling acceptance. At times he smiles sadly, other times happily, but always, it seems, Issa smiles (Reno/Tadoshi: Buddhist Books International, 2004) 96.

1822

.菜畠やたばこ吹く間の雪げ川
na-batake ya tabako fuku ma no yukigegawa

farm field--
from the tobacco break
a snow-melting river

1822

.のら猫の爪とぐ程や残る雪
nora neko no tsume togu hodo ya nokoru yuki

the stray cat
sharpens his nails...
last snow pile

The last remnant of snow is so hard and tough, a cat can sharpen its nails on it. Is Issa lamenting how long winter has lingered, or is he admiring the tenacity of the snow, seeing in it a symbol for a hardy refusal to give up and die? Or both?

1822

.みだ堂にすがりて雪の残りけり
mida dô ni sugarite yuki no nokori keri

on Amida Buddha's
temple clinging...
leftover snow

1823

.米の字にきへ残りけり門の雪
kome no ji ni sae nokori keri kado no yuki

the gate's melting snow
forms the word
"rice!"

1823

.一押は紅葉也けり雪げ川
hito oshi wa momiji nari keri yukigegawa

one push
is all red leaves...
river of melting snow

At first, I translated hito oshi as "one push." I pictured Issa launching a red leaf, like a toy boat, into the stream of melting snow. Then, consulting my Japanese dictionary of old words and expressions, I found that oshi can also mean a "trap," which led me to conjecture that red leaves might be trapping the water, making a dam stopping its flow; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 261. Shinji Ogawa then weighed in: "The phrase, hito oshi, is very difficult to figure out. I think it means 'one push,' or 'one dump,' as you originally thought. Although there is a famous waka on a dam of red leaves over Tatsuta River, I don't think this haiku is about a dam. Since Issa's province receives heavy snow, they have to dump the snow into the river. As some snow piles on the last year's red leaves, some chunks of snow may contain a lot of red leaves."

1825

.吉日に老の頭の雪解哉
kichi nichi ni oi no atama no yukige kana

on a lucky day
the snow on the old head
has melted!

This haiku of Second Month, 1825, has a prescript that indicates Issa had his head shaved like a Buddhist monk. He was 63.

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1825

.鶏のつつきとかすや門の雪
niwatori no tsutsuki tokasu ya kado no yuki

the pecking chicken
makes it melt...
snow at the gate

year unknown

.大雪を杓子でとかす子ども哉
ôyuki wo shakushi de tokasu kodomo kana

melting the big snow
with a spoon...
a child

A shakushi is a sort of serving spoon or ladle for rice or soup; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 822.

year unknown

.親犬が瀬踏してけり雪げ川
oya inu ga sebumi shite keri yukigegawa

mother dog
testing the depth...
snow-melt river

year unknown

.門畑や米の字なりの雪解水
kado hata ya kome no ji nari no yukige mizu

garden at the gate--
forming the word "rice"
the melted snow

year unknown

.門畠や棒でほじくる雪解川
kado hata ya bô de hojikuru yukigegawa

garden at the gate--
with my cane digging
a snow-melt river

1804

.かくれ家も人に酔けり春の山
kakurega mo hito ni yoi keri haru no yama

secluded house--
even here, crowd-sick
spring mountain

Originally, I thought that someone was getting drunk in this haiku, but Shinji Ogawa set me straight. The phrase hito ni yoi keri, he explains, means "felt sick from the jostling of a crowd" or "got sick from overcrowding." Is Issa suggesting, then, that he has too many house guests--perhaps fellow poets who have come to enjoy his spring mountain?

1804

.老僧のけばけばしさよ春の山
rôsô no kebakebashisa yo haru no yama

the old priest
in his fancy clothes...
spring mountain

1812

.小酒屋の出現したり春の山
ko sakaya no shutsugen shitari haru no yama

the little tavern
open for business...
spring mountain

1812

.山々は袂にすれて青むぞよ
yama-yama wa tamoto ni surete aomu zo yo

brushed by her sleeves
every mountain
is greening!

Shinji Ogawa explains that Issa is alluding to Saohime, the goddess of spring in charge of the spring mist, the greening of mountains and fields, and such.

In a later haiku (1820), Issa writes:

saohime no some sokonai madara yama

the goddess of spring
missed a few spots...
mottled mountain

1821

.足もとに鳥が立也はるの山
ashi moto ni tori ga tatsu nari haru no yama

a bird at my feet
takes off...
spring mountain

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, ashi moto ni tori ga tatsu ("a bird flies out near my feet") is an idiom for an unexpected surprise. The phrase is normally used in busy affairs of daily life. Issa's humor, Shinji notes, is that he applies it in its literal sense.

1822

.寝ころぶや手まり程でも春の山
ne-korobu ya temari hodo demo haru no yama

lying down
they look like handballs...
spring mountains

Or: "it looks like a handball.../ spring mountain."

In his translation, Makoto Ueda imagines a single "spring hill" that looks like "a child's rag ball." Ueda points out that this verse occurs in a short haibun (prose piece with haiku) that describes an all-day party during which Issa and his friends got drunk on two gallons of sake and finally passed out; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 142.

1822

.雪国や雪ちりながら春の山
yukiguni ya yuki chiri nagara haru no yama

snow country--
snow flits down
on spring mountains

"Snow country" (yukiguni) refers to Issa's cold and wintry home province of Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture. In the haiku, snow is still falling even while the mountains turn green.

1824

.福来る門や野山の笑顔
fuku kitaru kado ya noyama no warai-gao

well-wishing at the gate--
the faces of hills and fields
laughing

This haiku has the prescript, "Salutations at the gate." The spring hills and fields are turning green; Issa perceives them as laughing faces.

Shinji Ogawa adds that "mountain laughs" (yama warau) is one of the special season words in haiku, signifying spring. He thinks that Issa is playing with this season word in the poem.

1804

.髪虱ひねる戸口も春野哉
kami-jirami hineru toguchi mo haru no kana

pinching head lice
in a doorway...
spring fields

1805

.家形に月のさしけり春の水
ie nari ni tsuki [no] sashi keri haru no mizu

moonlight halos
the house...
spring water

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to the warm waters of springtime. Issa is looking at a reflection of the moonlit house in the water. Even though "spring water" is ambiguous in English, I think it works better in the translation than "springtime water" or "water of spring."

1795

.汲みて知るぬるみに昔なつかしや
kumite shiru nurumi ni mukashi natsukashi ya

drawing water
it's tepid...
nostalgia for olden times

This haiku, written during Issa's journey to Matsuyama on Shikoku Island, was inspired by a stone monument containing a haiku by Bashô that includes the lines, "thrusting in my hands I noticed/ the urn water" (te wo irete shiru/ kame no mizu). Natsukashi, has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia.

Shinji Ogawa offers this translation of Issa's haiku:

Drawing water,
I noticed the tepidness
yearning for the olden days

Shinji notes that Issa's use of the word shiru (notice) is a conscious reflection of Bashô's statement.

1820

.鷺烏雀が水もぬるみけり
sagi karasu suzume ga mizu mo nurumi keri

herons, crows, sparrows
all enjoying
the water's warmth

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to the warm waters of springtime.

1795

.魁てうき草浮けり苗代田
sakigakete uki kusa uki keri nawashiroda

duckweed is first
to float...
rice-seedling bed

This haiku refers to the flooded field where rice is planted.

1798

.苗代の雨を見て居る戸口哉
nawashiro no ame wo mite iru toguchi kana

watching rain fall
on the rice seedlings...
from the doorway

This haiku has the prescript, "Third Month, third day." The rain is a blessing for the rice-seedling bed.

1816

.苗代や親子して見る宵の雨
nawashiro ya oyako shite miru yoi no ame

rice seedlings--
a little family watches
the evening rain

Oyako literally means "parents and child(ren)." It is a warm, intimate word that I translate here as "a little family." The spring rain falling on rice seedlings is a palpable example of Grace from Beyond; in this way Nature plays a parallel role to the Other Power of Amida Buddha upon which the devout Pure Land Buddhist depends to ensure his or her rebirth in the Pure Land. In Buddhism as in Christianity, one cannot earn salvation through one's own calculations and efforts; spiritual help from Beyond is required, and so, as Issa writes in many haiku, the best attitude vis-à-vis the universe is to "simply trust." In this poem, the little family welcomes the rain upon which their future survival depends. They didn't make it rain; they trusted a power beyond their conscious selves to shower them with this life-giving blessing, this love.

Louis Russ notes, "In the end, just like the rain, the rice seedlings are transient and impermanent."

1816

.むらのない苗代とてもなかりけり
mura no nai nawashiro totemo nakari keri

rice-seedling beds
with no unevenness...
can't be found

1818

.茶のけぶり庵の苗代青みけり
cha no keburi io no nawashiro ao[mi] keri

tea smoke--
the hut's rice seedlings
turning green

1818

.苗代も庵のかざりに青みけり
nawashiro mo io no kazari ni aomi keri

the rice seedlings
my hut's adornment...
so green!

1818

.苗代や草臥顔の古仏
nawashiro ya kutabire kao no furu-botoke

rice seedlings--
the old Buddha's
weary face

What is the connection between the rice seedlings and the weary-faced Buddha? Is an old stone Buddha empathizing with the hard-working farmer who rakes the muddy field and plants the rice? Michael Hebert proposes a different possibility: that gazing from a good vantage point, Issa "sees" the face of a weary Buddha in the patterns of the rice field, like faces in clouds.

1818

.我植た稲も四五本青みけり
waga ueta ine mo shi go hon aomi keri

the rice plants
I planted, five or six
so green!

Shinji Ogawa notes that "rice planting is hard labor, and the planted rice plants are to be counted by thousands. The humor is that Issa didn't do the job at all. Actually, his farm fields were managed by his wife, Kiku, and farmhands."

1819

.引連て代もかく也子もち馬
hikitsurete shiro mo kaku nari ko mochi uma

helping to rake
the rice-seedling bed...
horse and pony

1820

.代かくやふり返りつつ子もち馬
shiro kaku ya furikaeri tsutsu ko mochi uma

plowing the rice-seedling bed
'round and around...
horse and pony

1823

.苗代のむら直りけり夜の雨
nawashiro no mura naori keri yoru no ame

fixing the unevenness
in the rice-seedling bed...
evening rain

Issa hopes that the rain will make the rice grow, filling out the bald spots in the field.

1824

.辻堂や苗代一枚菜一枚
tsuji dô ya nawashiro ichi mai na ichi mai

a crossroads temple--
one rice seedling
one vegetable

To call the temple's garden "modest" would be an understatement!

1824

.寝心や苗代に降る夜の雨
ne-gokoro ya nawashiro ni furu yoru no ame

peaceful sleep--
on the rice-seedling bed
the evening rain

The farmer (Issa?) sleeps contentedly, knowing that the rain is watering his rice seedlings.

year unknown

.我門のかざりに青む苗代田
waga kado no kazari ni ao[mu] nawashiroda

my gate's adornment--
the rice seedlings
turning green

1807

.鬼島の涅槃の桜咲にけり
oni-jima no nehan no sakura saki ni keri

on Devil's Island
on Buddha's Death-Day...
cherry blossoms

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

1815

.ねはん会やそよとなでしこ女郎花
nehan e ya soyo to nadeshiko ominaeshi

Buddha's Death-Day--
gently blowing pinks
and maiden flowers

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

1815

.ねはん像銭見ておはす顔も有
nehanzô zeni mite owasu kao mo ari

the face of Buddha
on his Death-Day
watching the coins

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

Makoto Ueda detects satire: Issa might be making fun of greedy temple priests raking in the coin offerings. In the text that he gives for this verse, Ueda ends with the phrase, zô mo ari, an error; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 106.

1819

.小うるさい花が咲とて寝釈迦かな
ko urusai hana ga saku tote neshaka kana

a little tiresome
these blooming flowers...
the Buddha sleeps

This haiku has the prescript, "Second Month, 15th Day," the day that Gautama Buddha entered nirvana (i.e., died). Issa implies that Buddha has now gone past all worldly attachments, even to the blossoms which have become for him, in fact, a bit annoying.

1819

.寝ておわしても仏ぞよ花が降る
nete owashite mo hotoke zo yo hana ga furu

even lying down
he's Buddha!
shower of blossoms

This haiku has an unusual 7-5-5 pattern: nete owashite mo/ hotoke zo yo/ hana no furu.

It refers to the Second Month, fifteenth day commemoration of Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana. In this temple scene, offerings of blossoms trickle down upon him.

Shinji Ogawa notes that statues of the dying Gautama Buddha are positioned so that his head points to the north, his face to the west, right side down.

1819

.涅槃会や鳥も法華経法華経と
nehan-e ya tori mo hokekyô hokekyô to

Buddha's Death-Day
a bird too, sings Lotus Sutra!
Lotus Sutra!

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).
The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts.

Shinji Ogawa notes that, in the Edo era, Japanese people interpreted the song of the Japanese nigthingale (uguisu) to be the words: hô hokeyô: "Lotus Sutra."

Issa plays with this fact in his haiku. Even the nightingale seems pious on this religious day. The bird, too, is a Buddhist.

1819

.御仏や寝てござつても花と銭
mi-hotoke ya nete gozatte mo hana to zeni

the Buddha
even lying down, showered
with blossoms and coins

This haiku refers to the Second Month, fifteenth day commemoration of Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana. The statue's sublime stillness recalls the Taoist concept of wu-wei, "doing without doing." Even while Buddha lies down, he inspires the faithful, who shower him with offerings of coins and flowers. Robin D. Gill assisted with this translation.

Shinji Ogawa notes that statues of the dying Gautama Buddha are positioned so that his head points to the north, his face to the west, right side down.

1820

.死花をぱつと咲せる仏哉
shini hana wa patto sakaseru hotoke kana

dead flowers suddenly
are made to bloom...
Buddha!

This haiku refers (obscurely) to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

1820

.相伴に我らもごろり涅槃哉
shôban ni warera mo gorori nehan kana

joining in
we curl to sleep too...
reclining Buddha

This comic haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death). Following the example set by the statue of a reclining Buddha, Issa and his companions sleep also.

1823

.花の所へ雪が降る涅槃哉
hana no tokoro e yuki ga furu nehan kana

snow falls
instead of blossoms...
Buddha's Death-Day

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

Shinji Ogawa observes that, according to legend, Gautama Buddha died under a pair of sal trees which, thereafter, "bloomed white blossoms instead of the normal yellowish ones."

Note the unusual 7-5-5 syllable structure.

1826

.死時も至極上手な仏かな
shini-doki mo shigoku jôzuna hotoke kana

timing his death
extremely well...
the Buddha

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

Makoto Ueda believes that Issa is referring to spring blossoms, specifically, cherry blossoms: how the Buddha decided to die only after seeing them one last time. Ueda reads the first two kanji as shinu toki; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 166. The editors of Issa zenshû read them as shini-doki; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.101.

1826

.華の世を見すまして死ぬ仏かな
hana no yo wo misumashite shinu hotoke kana

observing well
this world of blossoms...
Buddha dies

This haiku refers to the Second Month, 15th Day festival of Buddha's Death Day, commemorating Gautama Buddha's entrance into nirvana (i.e., his death).

1802

.初午を後に聞くや上野山
hatsu uma wo ushiro ni kiku ya ueno yama

behind me I hear
the Fox Festival...
Ueno Hill

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god.

1802

.初午の聞へぬ山や梅の花
hatsu uma no kikoenu yama ya ume no hana

no Fox Festival ruckus
on this hill...
plum blossoms

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god.

1802

.初午や山の小すみはどこの里
hatsu uma ya yama no kosumi wa doko no sato

Fox Festival--
what village is this
in the mountain's nook?

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god.

1819

.はつ午や火たく畠の夜の雪
hatsu uma ya hi wo taku hata no yoru no yuki

Fox Festival night--
snow falling
on the bonfire

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god. The fire is burning in a garden/field (hata), reminding us that Inari is a harvest god. Celebrating him in early spring assures a bountiful autumn harvest.

1819

.初午に無官の狐鳴にけり
hatsu uma ni mukan no kitsune naki ni keri

Fox Festival--
the non-divine foxes
crying

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god. Issa imagines that ordinary foxes, i.e. those not belonging to the divine family of the Great Inari, are crying. In Oraga haru ("My Spring"), this haiku appears with the prescript, hatsu uma, and the first phrase, hana no yo wo ("to the world of blossoms"; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.166, note 29.

1819

.花の世を無官の狐鳴にけり
hana no yo wo mukan no kitsune naki ni keri

world of blossoms--
the non-divine foxes
crying

This haiku has the prescript, "First Horse." This refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in Second Month, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god. Issa imagines that ordinary foxes, i.e. those not belonging to the divine family of the Great Inari, are crying; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.166, note 29. Noboyuki Yuasa translates mukan no kitsune ("foxes without office"), simply, as "poor foxes"; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1960; 2nd ed. 1972) 41.

1805

.草の葉や彼岸団子にむしらるる
kusa no ha ya higan dango ni mushiraruru

blades of grass
are plucked for their sake...
equinox dumplings

Higan is the spring equinox, celebrated at Buddhist temples.

1814

.我国は何にも咲かぬ彼岸哉
waga kuni wa nannimo sakanu higan kana

in my province
nothing blooming yet...
spring equinox

The flowers of springtime in Issa's cold, mountainous province of Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture) always bloomed late.

1818

.雨に雪しどろもどろのひがん哉
ame ni yuki shidoro-modoro no higan kana

a confusing mix
of rain and snow...
spring equinox

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1818

.西方は善光寺道のひがん哉
nishi kata wa zenkôji michi no higan kana

the west lies
on the other shore
of the road to Zenko Temple

Amida Buddha's Pure Land was thought to exist somewhere in the mythic west. Zenkô Temple (Zenkôji) is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province. The season word in this haiku is higan, "spring equinox." Higan also signifies "the other shore" in Japanese. Issa plays on this double meaning, as he perceives the westward way to Amida and the Pure Land.

Another translation, highlighting the other meaning of higan:

west of the road
to Zenko Temple...
spring equinox

1818

.ばくち小屋降つぶしけり彼岸雨
bakuchi goya furitsubushi keri higan ame

the little gambling shack
is pounded...
spring equinox rain

1818

.我村はぼたぼた雪のひがん哉
waga mura wa bota-bota yuki no higan kana

in my village
snow falls pit-a-pat...
spring equinox

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province. Instead of spring rain, snow is falling. The old expression bota-bota denotes the ever-so soft sound that snowflakes or blossoms make as they fall, one after the other; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1487.

1820

.彼岸とて袖に這する虱かな
higan tote sode ni hawasuru shirami kana

in honor of the equinox
crawling into my sleeve...
a louse

Higan is the spring equinox, celebrated at Buddhist temples. Issa imagines that the louse is a pilgrim, too.

1822

.ああ寒いあらあら寒いひがん哉
aa samui ara-ara samui higan kana

damn it's cold
it's damn cold!
spring equinox

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

1822

.小筵にのさのさ彼岸虱かな
samushiro ni nosa-nosa higan shirami kana

on the straw mat
at spring's equinox
shameless lice

Or: "a louse." Higan is the spring equinox, celebrated at Buddhist temples. Nosa-nosa can denote performing an action with composure (heizen), with lighthearted nonchalance (nonki), lacking dread (habakaru tokoro no nai), or shamelessly (ôchaku). "Shamlessly" fits this situation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292.

1822

.野原にも並ぶ乞食のひがん哉
nohara ni mo narabu kojiki no higan kana

even in a field
a line of beggars...
spring equinox

The beggars line up for alms on the Buddhist holiday.

1823

.寺町は犬も団子のひがん哉
tera machi wa inu mo dango no higan kana

temple town--
for the dog, too
an equinox dumpling

Higan is the spring equinox, celebrated at Buddhist temples.

1825

.改て吹かける也ひがん雪
aratamete fukikakeru nari higan yuki

rearranged
by the wind...
spring equinox snow

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

year unknown

.御彼岸のぎりに青みしかきね哉
o-higan no giri ni aomishi kakine kana

in honor of the equinox
the hedge
turns green

Issa is referring to the spring equinox. Kakine can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." In this haiku, it is definitely a hedge.

year unknown

.袖あたり遊ぶ虱の彼岸哉
sode atari asobu shirami no higan kana

heading for my sleeve
to play...
spring equinox louse

1815

.花咲くや在家のみだも御開帳
hana saku ya zaika no mida mo o-kaichô

spring blossoms--
even in a farmhouse
Amida Buddha on display

The Buddha is normally displayed at temples, but in this case, a humble farmhouse fills the bill.

1820

.開帳に逢ふや雀もおや子連れ
kaichô ni au ya suzume mo oyako-zure

visiting the temple
for the showing of the image...
sparrow families

1820

.咲花をあてに持出す仏かな
saku hana wo ate ni mochidasu hotoke kana

they carry him
to the spring blossoms...
Buddha

This haiku refers to the exhibition of Buddha's image at a temple. Perhaps the blossoms are in the temple, in vases; perhaps the priests are carrying the image outdoors.

1821

.散る花に順礼帳も開帳哉
chi[ru] hana ni junreichô mo kaichô kana

into the scattering blooms
pilgrims
and Buddha

An image of Buddha is being carried from a temple to be displayed outside. A Gabi Greve points out, junreichô is a pilgrim's stamp book. For Issa's audience, familiar with such books that pilgrims carried from temple to temple, the image of stamp books would have been natural and significant. In English translation, this detail is obscure and distracting--and so I render the second phrase simply as "pilgrims."

1815

.飴売も花かざりけり終御影講
ame uri [mo] hana kazari keri mieikô

even the candy stand
decked with flowers...
the Founder's image

In the old Japanese calendar, Third Month, 21st day, a sacred image of the founder of Shingon Buddhism was shown at the temples of this sect. In this haiku, such an image appears even in a candy stand.

1815

.こんにやくも拝まれにけり御影講
konnyaku mo ogamare ni keri mi-eikô

the festive jelly
is prayed to too...
the Founder's image

In the old Japanese calendar, Third Month, 21st day, a sacred image of the founder of Shingon Buddhism was shown at the temples of this sect.

Shinji Ogawa explains that konnyaku might be translated, "devil's tongue jelly." Konnyaku is kneaded devil's tongue root (Amorphophallus Rivieri).

1815

.御影講や泥坊猫も花の陰
mieikô ya dorobô neko mo hana no kage

Founder's image on display--
even the thief cat
in blossom shade

In the old Japanese calendar, Third Month, 21st day, a sacred image of the founder of Shingon Buddhism was shown at the temples of this sect. Here, a cat joins the celebration, shaded by the flowers that fill it.

1821

.御影供にも御覧に入るさくら哉
miekô ni mo goran ni iru sakura kana

the Founder's image on display
along with...
cherry blossoms!

In the old Japanese calendar, Third Month, 21st day, a sacred image of the founder of Shingon Buddhism was shown at the temples of this sect.

1788

.出代りや蛙も雁も鳴別れ
degawari ya kawazu mo kari mo naki wakare

migrating servants--
even frogs and geese
cry when they part!

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1809

.出代の己が一番烏かな
degawari no ono ga ichiban karasu kana

"I'm the first
of the migrating servants!"
a crow

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Here, Issa imagines that the crow is taking credit for being the first servant to hit the road.

1813

.けふぎりや出代る隙の凧
kyôgiri ya degawa[ru] hima no ikanobori

servants take a break
from their migration...
kite flying

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1813

.出代やいづくも同じ梅の花
degawari ya izuku mo onaji ume no hana

migrating servants--
wherever you go, the same
plum blossoms!

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1814

.大原に出代駕の通りけり
ôhara ni degawari kago no tôri keri

across the wide plain
a migrating servant
in a palanquin

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Unlike the others, this particular servant doesn't need to walk. She is a geisha or a courtesan, riding in a palanquin carried by other servants. The contrast of the unseen woman in her little closed box and the vast plain stretching in all directions is powerful. Issa's heart goes out to her.

1815

.さてもさても六十顔の出代りよ
sate mo sate mo roku jû kao no degawari yo

well, well
his face looks sixty...
the laid-off servant

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month. Shinji Ogawa corrected my first translation. Instead of sixty faces, there is just one face in the haiku: that of a sixty-year old. He explains, "The degawari was a method through which the haves exploited the have-nots. Issa's penetrating eyes seem to sympathize with his own class, the have-nots."

1815

.出代が駕にめしたる都哉
degawari ga kago ni meshitaru miyako kana

one migrating servant
rides a palanquin...
Kyoto

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo. The "servant" in the palanquin is a geisha or courtesan.

1815

.出代の市にさらすや五十顔
degawari no ichi ni sarasu ya go jû kao

a laid-off servant at market--
his fifty year-old face
exposed

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Shinji Ogawa corrected my earlier translation. Instead of fifty faces (as I had assumed), there is just one fifty year-old face.

1823

.出代や山越て見る京の空
degawari ya yama koshite miru kyô no sora

migrating servants
crossing the mountain see...
Kyoto's sky

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1819

.鋲打の駕で出代る都哉
byôuchi no kago de degawaru miyako kana

a studded palanquin
for the migrating servant...
Kyoto

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo. The migrating worker in this haiku is a geisha or courtesan. She is riding in a "riveted" (byôuchi) palanquin.

1822

.門雀なくやいつ迄出代ると
kado suzume naku ya itsu made degawaru to

gate's sparrow singing--
until when
a migrating servant?

I use the word "servant" in my translation because the editors of Issa zenshû include this haiku in the degawari ("Servants Being Laid Off") section (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.104. In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month. Issa humorously applies the human term to the migration of the sparrow.

1822

.出代つてなりし白髪やことし又
degawatte narishi shiraga ya kotoshi mata

the servant's hair
made white by migrating...
this year too

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "The migration made your hair white this year too." In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1822

.出代や江戸をも見ずにさらば笠
degawari ya edo wo mo mizu ni saraba-gasa

the migrating servants
never really saw Edo...
umbrella-hats wave farewell

Shinji Ogawa helped me understand Issa's meaning here. The servants depart "without seeing the sights of Edo." In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month. In this touching poem, Issa notes that the servants who have toiled there so long never had the leisure time to see and enjoy the Shogun's great city. Now, with all that they own on their shoulders, they trudge home.

The phrase, saraba-gasa ("umbrella hats waving farewell") is the title of one of Issa's earliest books (1798).

1822

.出代や江戸の見物もしなの笠
degawari ya edo no kembutsu mo shinano-gasa

migrating servants--
in Edo, too
Shinano's umbrella-hats

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Issa's home province was Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture). He notices people wearing umbrella-hats from home among the throng of new servants entering Edo.

1822

.出代や両方ともに空涙
degawari ya ryôhô tomo ni sora namida

migrating servants--
both of them shed
crocodile tears

In my first translation of this haiku, I read sora as the "sky" instead of as "empty." Shinji Ogawa explains that sora namida ("empty tears") signifies "crocodile tears." Why are the two servants crying such tears? Are they only pretending to mourn their departure from the big city, secretly happy to be returning to their home villages? In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1822

.としよりもあれ出代るぞことし又
toshiyori [mo] are degawaru zo kotoshi mata

old men
among the migrating servants...
this year too

In my first English version, I had a single "old man" among the migrating servants, but Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is depicting several. Trusting his ear and deep understanding of Issa, I've made the change. In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1822

.鳩鳴や爺いつ迄出代ると
hato naku ya jijii itsu made degawaru to

the pigeon coos
"Old man, how much longer
a migrating servant?"

Or: "pigeons coo."

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1823

.男なればぞ出代るやちいさい子
otoko nareba zo degawaru ya chiisai ko

becoming a man
this migrating servant...
a little child

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

This haiku has an unusual 7-5-5 syllable structure.

1823

.五十里の江戸を出代る子ども哉
go jû ri no edo [wo] degawaru kodomo kana

a hundred miles to Edo
and his new job...
the child servant

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Literally, the child must travel 50 ri: 122 miles (196.5 kilometers).

When he was a child of fifteen, Issa left his home province on a similar journey to Edo (today's Tokyo).

1823

.旅笠や唄で出代るぞえど見坂
tabi-gasa ya uta de degawaru edo misaka

with traveling umbrella-hats
migrating servants sing...
Edo hillside

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Misaka is an honorific term for a slope or a hill; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1556.

1823

.出代や十ばかりでもおとこ山
degawari ya jû bakari demo otoko yama

migrating servants--
about ten
on the steep slope

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

I assume that otoko yama ("man mountain") refers to a steep slope, since onnazaka ("woman hill") is a gentle slope.

1824

.今の世やどの出代の涙雨
ima no yo ya dono degawari no namida ame

this world today--
migrating servants' teardrops
the rain

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

Life is hard enough for the servants. As if to add insult to injury, they must travel in the rain. "This world today" (ima no yo) suggests, in Pure Land Buddhist terms, the present age of corruption. Shinji Ogawa notes that raining and crying are poetically associated in Japan.

1824

.越後衆や唄で出代る中仙道
echigo shu ya uta de degawaru nakasendô

a throng from Echigo
singing songs, down the highway
they go

Or: more accurately, "they migrate." The province of Echigo is called Niigata Prefecture today. In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month. Shinji Ogawa notes that Nakasendô was one of major highways of Japan. He adds that Echigo was known as a province rich with folk songs.

1824

.大連や唄で出代る本通り
ôzure ya uta de degawaru hondôri

a long procession--
migrating servants singing
on the main road

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

year unknown

.出代や六十顔をさげながら
degawari ya roku jû-zura wo sage nagara

a migrating servant
laid off
at age sixty

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month. In this haiku, Shinji Ogawa explains, roku jû-zura means a sixty-year-old face and sage nagara means carrying around. The old servant, with his sixty-year old face, finally returns to his home village after many, many years.

1819

.隠れ屋や猫のもすえる二日灸
kakureya ya neko ni mo sueru futsukakyû

secluded house--
even the cat gets a dose
of burning wormwood

The last phrase of this haiku, futsukakyû, signifies "burning wormwood on the second day of Second Month." On this day of the traditional Japanese calendar, sharp sticks of wormwood are stuck into various parts of the body and burned to ensure good health for the rest of the year. Whether or not Issa's cat actually stood still for such an operation is unknown!

Issa repeats this haiku in his poetic diary, Oraga haru ("My Spring") using a different verb: the cat "celebrates or commemorates the day" (iwau) with the wormwood treatment.

1821

.褒美の画先へ掴んで二日灸
hôbi no e saki [e] tsukande futsukakyû

gnawing the edge
of the prize painting...
burning wormwood

The last phrase of this haiku, futsukakyû, signifies "burning wormwood on the second day of Second Month." On this day of the traditional Japanese calendar, sharp sticks of wormwood are stuck into various parts of the body and burned to ensure good health for the rest of the year. I picture a child gnawing on a picture that he has won as a prize ... to cope with the pain.

1805

.山陰も桃の日あるか砂糖売
yama kage mo momo no hi aru ka satô uri

even in mountain shade
is it Peach Day?
sugar vendor

This haiku refers to the annual Peach Festival.

1808

.雛の日もろくな桜はなかりけり
hina no hi mo rokuna sakura wa nakari keri

by Doll Festival time
not a decent cherry tree
blooming anywhere

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1804

.苔桃も節句に逢ふや赤い花
kokemomo mo sekku ni au ya akai hana

kokemomo berries too
at the festival...
red flowers

At first I read the first two characters as two words: koke ("mushrooms") and momo ("peaches"). Shinji Ogawa explains that this is actually one word, signifying a type of plant that produces red berries.

1818

.桃の日や深草焼のかぐや姫
momo no hi ya fukakusa yaki no kaguya hime

Peach Festival--
a doll of Princess Kaguya
fired in Fukakusa

"Peach Day" (momo no hi) refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Lewis Mackenzie explains that "Kaguya-hime was a fairy child, found in a shining bamboo tree by a woodcutter." Fukakusa is the place where a famous doll maker, Kamo Koyemon [Mackenzie spells it "Kouemon"], once created figures with unglazed Fushimi-ware, a type of pottery fired in a kiln; The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984) 94.

1804

.かつしかや昔のままの雛哉
katsushika ya mukashi no mama no hiina kana

in Katsushika
like olden times, unchanged...
Doll Festival

The Doll Festival takes place on the third day of Third Month. Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

1806

.妹が家も田舎雛ではなかりけり
imo ga ya mo inaka hina de wa nakari keri

in my dear one's house
not one provincial doll
on Doll's Day

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454. Issa didn't marry until a decade later, in 1814. The woman in question evidently had sophisticated taste, preferring fancy city-made dolls over the crude clay dolls of the country. Since Issa came from a poor province, perhaps there is another layer to this haiku: perhaps he is the "country doll" that has no place in this woman's house ... or life.

1806

.古郷は雛の顔も葎哉
furusato wa hina no kao mo mugura kana

my home village--
even the doll's face
made of weeds

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. In Issa's poor village, weeds supply the material for doll-making--no porcelain faces to be had. In an earlier version I rendered mugura as "goose-grass," but I now believe that its sense is more correctly conveyed as "weeds." See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1807

.角力取も雛祭に遊びけり
sumotori mo hina matsuri ni asobi keri

even the sumo wrestler
has a blast...
Doll Festival

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. The burly, macho wrestler enjoys this quintessential "Girls' Festival."

1808

.煙たいとおぼしめすかよ雛顔
kebutai to oboshimesu ka yo hiina kao

do you think
it's too smoky in here?
face of the doll

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Kebutai or kebutashi is an old word meaning to suffocate on smoke; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 570.

1810

.おぼろげや同じ夕をよその雛
oboroge ya onaji yûbe wo yoso no hina

this same hazy night
somewhere else...
the Doll Festival

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1810

.乞食子がおろおろ拝む雛哉
kojiki ko ga oro-oro ogamu hiina kana

the beggar child prays
with trembling voice...
for a doll

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1810

.むさい家との給ふやうな雛哉
musai ya to no tamau yôna hiina kana

looking like she's enduring
my crappy house...
the doll

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

The beautiful doll seems out of place in the "crappy house" (musai ya), evidently Issa's.

1813

.後家雛も一つ桜の木の間哉
goke hina mo hitotsu sakura no ki no ma kana

the widow, too
leaves a doll
among the cherry trees

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1814

.家並や土の雛も祭らるる
ienami ya tsuchi no hina mo matsuraruru

every house on the street
celebrates the festival...
clay dolls

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1814

.けふの日や山の庵も雛の餅
kyô no hi ya yama no iori mo hina no mochi

today
even in the mountain hut
rice cake for a doll

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1814

.笹の家や雛の顔へ草の雨
sasa no ya ya hiina no kao e kusa no ame

thatched house--
on the doll's face dripping
rain

Literally, the house is thatched with bamboo-grass (sasa). This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1814

.雛棚やたばこけぶりも一気色
hina-dana ya tabako keburi mo hito keshiki

a shelf of dolls
and pipe smoke...
one scene

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1814

.薮村の雛の餅つくさわぎ哉
yabu mura no hina no mochi tsuku sawagi kana

remote village--
they pound rice cakes
for their dolls

Literally, the village is in a "thicket" (yabu). This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1815

.雨漏を何とおぼすぞ雛達
amamore wo nanto obosu zo hiinatachi

what do you think
of my leaking roof?
Doll Festival dolls

Today the word for "roof leak" is pronounced amamori. Issa would have pronounced it amamore--according to the editors of Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.107). This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1815

.ちる花に御目を塞ぐ雛哉
chiru hana ni on-me wo fusagu hiina kana

closing her eyes
to the scattering blossoms...
the doll

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms." Shinji Ogawa comments, "Due to the lunar calendar used in Issa's time, the blooming season of the cherry blossoms was over by the third day of March. In modern Japan, the Doll Festival on the third day of March in the solar calendar is too early for cherry blossoms." Shinji prefers to imagine several dolls in this scene: "for the scattering cherry blossoms/ closing their eyes/ the dolls." He notes that the traditional Doll Festival set contains several dolls. Still, I think that the haiku in English is more intense if focused on a particular doll.

1815

.土人形もけふの祭りに逢にけり
tsuchi ningyô mo kyô no matsuri ni ai ni keri

clay dolls too
are gathering today...
festival

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Issa suggests that it is a day to be celebrated not only by the rich with their fancy, city-made dolls, but also by the poor.

1818

.いとこ雛孫雛と名の付合ふ
itoko hina mago hina to na no tsuki tamau

"Cousin Doll"
and "Grandchild Doll"
she names them

Issa is a great child's poet. This haiku deftly and wonderfully captures a child's perspective, child's reality. The Doll Festival was celebrated on the third day of Third Month.

1819

.片すみに煤け雛も夫婦哉
kata sumi ni susu[ke] hiina mo meoto kana

in one corner
soot-covered dolls...
husband and wife

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1819

.煤け雛しかも上座をめされけり
susuke hina shikamo jôza wo mesare keri

a soot-covered doll
but displayed in the seat
of honor

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1819

.土雛は花の木かげに隠居哉
tsuchi hina wa hana no kokage ni inkyo kana

the clay doll
shaded by blossoms...
hermit

Literally, the doll is enjoying his or her "retirement" (inkyo). This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1819

.土雛も祭の花はありにけり
tsuchi hina mo matsuri no hana wa ari ni keri

even the clay doll
is decked with flowers...
festival

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Issa suggests that it is a day to be celebrated not only by the rich with their fancy, city-made dolls, but also by the poor.

1819

.花の世や寺もさくらの雛祭
hana no yo ya tera mo sakura no hina matsuri

blossom world--
even in a temple's cherry grove
the Doll Festival

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1819

.ひな棚にちよんと直りし小猫哉
hina-dana ni chon to naorishi ko neko kana

landing plop! on all fours
on the shelf of dolls...
kitten

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1819

.へな土の雛も同じ祭り哉
henatsuchi no hina mo onaji matsuri kana

even for a doll
made from black muck...
the same festival

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Issa suggests that it is a day to be celebrated not only by the rich with their fancy, city-made dolls, but also by the poor with their dolls kneaded from black river mud.

1819

.我こねた土のひなでも祭り哉
waga koneta tsuchi no hina demo matsuri kana

though my doll of clay
is homemade...
Girls' Festival

This haiku might be paraphrased: "I kneaded this clay doll by myself, but at least I'm celebrating the festival." The Doll Festival takes place on the third day of Third Month. Issa may be poor, but he does his best.

In my first translation, I ended with "the festival," but Gabi Greve believes that this doesn't supply enough information to English readers, most of whom will not immediately understand which festival is being referred to. She suggests "Girls' Festival" as a sharper conclusion.

Gabi adds, "It is the custom to have nice dolls for one's daughters; Issa is really sad he can not buy one." Nevertheless, he shows his "love for his child, even if he is poor."

This haiku was written in Second Month of 1819: a month previous to the first Doll Festival for Issa's baby daughter, Sato. Perhaps the poet is imagining the future. As Sakuo Nakamura points out, he looks forward with "great pleasure" to display a doll for her.

1820

.桜木や花の小隅に隠居雛
sakura ki ya hana no kosumi ni inkyo hina

cherry tree--
ensconced among blossoms
the hermit doll

Literally, the doll is enjoying his or her "retirement" (inkyo). This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1822

.居並んで達磨も雛の仲間哉
inarande daruma mo hina no nakama kana

lined up too
among the dolls...
Dharma

Dharma (Bodhidharma) is the patriarch who brought Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism from India to China. On this day of the spring Doll Festival, the stern master finds himself surrounded by brightly costumed dolls.

The daruma doll comes with white, blank eyes. The idea is to make a wish while drawing in the pupil of one of its eyes. When the wish is fulfilled, one draws the other eye.

Shinji Ogawa adds, "The daruma doll has a weight on the bottom so that it rises by itself from a fall, and so is regarded as a lucky doll."

1822

.雛達に咄しかける子ども哉
hina-dachi ni hanashi shikakeru kodomo kana

giving her dolls
a good talking-to...
the child

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. On this day, it is customary to give one's daughters nice dolls. In the poem the doll itself, then, is a palpable sign of parental love. The little girl is busy playing at being a mother herself, scolding the dolls for some unknown offense in a most motherly tone. The haiku captures a light and playful moment that, upon deep inspection, reveals the continuity of life and love passing down through the generations.

1823

.雛棚に糞をして行く雀哉
hina-dana ni hako wo shite yuku suzume kana

to the doll's shelf
he comes crapping...
sparrow

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1824

.うら店も江戸はえど也雛祭り
uradana mo edo wa edo nari hina matsuri

even in a back-alley house
Edo is Edo...
the Doll Festival!

This festival takes place on the third day of Third Month. Edo is today's Tokyo. Shinji Ogawa points out that Issa lived in a "back-alley house" in Edo, which he left in Sixth Month of 1817, never to return. This, then, is a haiku of nostalgia.

1824

.大猫も同坐して寝る雛哉
ôneko mo dôza shite neru hiina kana

the big cat sleeps
in the same seat...
with the doll

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1824

.吉日の御顔也けり雛達
kichi jitsu no o-kao nari keri hiina-tachi

wearing their lucky day
faces...
the dolls

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1824

.後家雛も直にありつくお江戸哉
goke hina mo sugu ni aritsuku o-edo kana

even the widow's doll
is served right away...
great Edo

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

Aritsuku can mean to "to find"; "to come upon" or "to get" something, such as a meal. In my first translation I used the first definition: Issa has "come upon" the widow's doll. However, it's also possible that the widow's doll is being served a food offering. Issa uses aritsuku to refer to food in this haiku of 1824:

ôie ya inu mo aritsuku hatsu-gatsuo

a big house--
even for the dog
summer's first bonito

1824

.雛棚や隣づからの屁のひびき
hina tana ya tonari zukara no he no hibiki

the dolls on the shelf
neighbors...
to my fart

Issa loved comic juxtaposition. The fancy dolls on the shelf are "neighbors to" (tonari zukara no) his farting. This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month.

1824

.古雛やがらくた店の日向ぼこ
furu hina ya garakuta tana no hinata-boko

the old doll
in the junk store window
sunning herself

Or: "the old dolls...sunning themselves." This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. The shop sells odds and ends (garakuta).

1805

.猿も来よ桃太郎来よ草の餅
saru mo koyo momotarô koyo kusa no mochi

come, monkey!
come, Peach Boy!
herb cakes

According to R. H. Blyth in Haiku, a woman was washing clothes by a stream one day, "when a huge peach (momo) came floating down. She took it home, and when she and her husband cut it open, they found a little boy, Momotarô, inside" (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition), 2.418.

Issa playfully invites the monkey(s) and the famous Peach Boy to have some herb cake.

1805

.我宿の餅さへ青き夜也けり
waga yado no mochi sae aoki yo nari keri

even at my home
herbs for cake turn green...
evening

1810

.草餅を先吹にけり筑波東風
kusamochi wo masu fuki ni keri tsukuba kochi

first one to blow
on the hot herb cakes...
Mount Tsukuba's east wind

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture.

1810

.蓬餅そのの鶯是ほしき
yomogi mochi sono no uguisu kore hoshiki

herb cakes--
the garden's nightingale
wants this one

Or: "she."

The herb in question is yomogi ("mugwort").

The cakes are ready to eat. Issa fancies that the nightingale wants one. Shinji Ogawa explains that kore hoshiki means "to want this one."

1811

.けふの日や庵の小草も餅につく
kyô no hi ya io no ko kusa mo mochi ni tsuku

today
my hut's little herbs too
become cakes

1812

.草餅にいつか来ている小蝶哉
kusamochi ni itsuka kite iru ko chô kana

herb cakes--
when did you get here
little butterfly?

1815

.おらが世やそこらの草も餅になる
oraga yo ya sokora no kusa mo mochi ni naru

my world--
those herbs over yonder
become my cake

Or: "becomes our cake."

In two texts, this haiku has the prescript, "Noblemen delight in the moon and grieve for the [fallen] blossoms." Issa was proud that he was not a nobleman. Humble grasses were good enough to become his "rice cake" (mochi).

Makoto Ueda notes that herbal rice cakes were made from the herbs that grew wild in Issa's home province; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 104.

1815

.草餅や臼の中から蛙鳴
kusamochi ya usu no naka kara kawazu naku

herb cakes--
inside the mixing tub
a croaking frog

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

1816

.草餅の桜の花にまぶれけり
kusamochi no sakura no hana ni mabure keri

herb cakes--
cherry blossoms sprinkled
on top

1818

.小筵や畠の中の蓬餅
samushiro ya hatake no naka no yomogi mochi

little straw mat--
in the middle of a field
eating herb cakes

The herb in question is yomogi ("mugwort").

The word "eating" does not appear in Issa's original but might be inferred.

1819

.草餅を鍋でこねてもいはひ哉
kusamochi wo nabe de konete mo iwai kana

in the herb cake pan
also kneading in
a prayer

Sometimes translated as "celebration," "congratulations" or "festival," Iwai refers to the observance of an auspicious event in honor of a god; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 153.

1820

.子ありてや蓬が門の蓬餅
ko arite ya yomogi ga kado no yomogi mochi

they must have kids--
herbs at the gate
for herb cakes

In reference to a different haiku that begins with the same phrase, Shinji Ogawa explains that the ya is not a cutting word but rather "a particle to make a conjecture."

The herb in question is yomogi ("mugwort").

1822

.人形の口へつけるや草の餅
ningyô no kuchi e tsukeru ya kusa no mochi

she offers a piece
to her doll...
herb cake

Issa refers to the New Year's tradition of herb cakes for luck and health.

1824

.草餅や片手は犬を撫ながら
kusamochi ya katate wa inu wo nade nagara

herb cake--
while one hand
pets the dog

What is the person doing with the other hand: making an herb cake or perhaps eating one?

Gloria Jaguden speculates, "Issa is petting the dog to placate and keep it away from the cake in his other hand."

1824

.草餅や地蔵の膝においてくふ
kusamochi ya jizô no hiza ni oite kuu

the herb cakes
I put on holy Jizo's lap
then eat

An herb cake (kusamochi) has been left as an offering in the lap of a stone (or wood) Jizô. In this haiku, Shinji Ogawa explains, Issa is using Jizô's lap as a dining table. He adds, "Jizô might be disappointed." Before the last word of the haiku, kuu ("eat"), the scene seems to be conventionally pious: someone is placing an offering cake in Jizô's lap. Issa, however, comically replaces piety with gluttony.

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

1824

.草餅や芝に居つて犬を友
kusamochi ya shiba ni suwatte inu wo tomo

herb cake--
squatting on the lawn
I join the dog

Issa shares his cake with his friend.

1814

.盃よ先流るるな三ケの月
sakazuki yo mazu nagaruru na mika no tsuki

oh sake cup
don't go floating away!
a sickle moon

Jean Cholley explains that this haiku alludes to an old Chinese poetry and drinking game that took place under a "three-day moon" (just a sliver). Cups filled with wine would come floating down a stream in a garden; one would need to compose a poem before the cup floated out of reach and, as a reward, drink it; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 241.

1812

.米蒔くも罪ぞよ鶏がけあふぞよ
kome maku mo tsumi zo yo tori ga keau zo yo

even tossing rice
is a sin...
sparring chickens

Feeding the birds is a "sin" (tsumi), for it has caused a violent kicking match (keai) among them. This haiku appears with a long prescript:

On a temple-visit to Tôkaiji in Fuse [no Benten], chickens followed me inexpediently. At a house in front of the temple gate, I bought just a bit of rice, which I scattered among the violets and dandelions. Before long though, a fight broke out. Meanwhile, groups of pigeons and sparrows came flying down from the branches, eating with tranquil hearts, but when the chickens returned, back to the trees they quickly fled. The pigeons and sparrows would have liked the kicking-fight to have lasted longer. Samurai, farmers, artizans, and merchants all make their living in this manner (Issa zenshû, Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 6.52).

Issa views the squabbling birds at the temple gate as a microcosm of human society.

1804

.女から先へかすむぞ汐干がた
onna kara saki e kasumu zo shiohigata

the mist covers up
the women first...
shell gathering

Or: "woman." Shinji Ogawa interpets the poem to be saying that the mist is moving in, covering the women who are gathering shells. There's a hint of annoyance in the poem, since the mist is depriving Issa of a fine view of the women's legs. Shinji writes, "In Issa's day, it was a very special occasion to see a woman's legs."

William J. Higginson (assisted by Emiko Sakurai) interprets the haiku differently: a woman "leads into the mist"; The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (Tokyo: Kodansha International,1985) 18. In Higginson's vision, the woman is moving; in Ogawa's vision, the mist is moving.

1804

.淋しさや汐の干る日も角田河
sabishisa ya shio no hiru hi mo sumida-gawa

solitude--
even on a low tide day
Sumida River

Sumida River flows through Edo (today's Tokyo) and into Tokyo Bay. Its level is affected by the tides.

1804

.汐干潟雨しとしとと暮かかる
shiohi-gata ame shito-shito to kure kakaru

low tide
in a soft, soft rain...
darkness coming

The season word ("tideland at low tide": shiohi-gata) suggests that there are people in the scene, hunched over, searching for shellfish. The day is growing dark, and rain is falling. Issa evokes a slice of life, with a world of feeling and implications, with a few deft strokes of his writing brush.

1804

.汐干潟女のざいに遠走り
shiohi-gata onna no zai ni toppashiri

low tide--
to my woman's house
a long way to go

In modern Japanese, toppashiri means "long-distance flight."

Shinji Ogawa explains that zai in this haiku means "a place." He paraphrases: "low tide.../ to my lover's house/ long run."

1804

.汐干潟しかも霞むは女也
shiohi-gata shikamo kasumu wa onna nari

low tide--
the mist wrecks my view
of the women

Or: "the woman." The women (or woman) are gathering shellfish at low tide. As Shinji Ogawa explains, shikamo in this context means, "why on earth" or "oh well." Issa doesn't like the spring mist that obscures his view, interfering with his girl-watching.

1804

.汐干潟松がなくても淋しいぞ
shiohi-gata matsu ga nakute mo sabishii zo

low tide
without pine trees...
lonelier still

1804

.住吉や汐干過ても松の月
sumiyoshi ya shiohi sugite mo matsu no tsuki

at Sumiyoshi
all through the low tide...
moon in the pine

Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka. Shinji Ogawa notes that sugiru has two meanings: "to pass through a space" and "to pass through time." He believes that the latter applies better in this case: that the moon is still above the pine after the low tide.

1804

.折角の汐の干潟をざんざ雨
sekkaku no shio no hi-gata wo zanza ame

waited so long
for the low tide...
a driving rain

Zanza is an old word that describes an energetic and swift action; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 735. And Shinji Ogawa notes that sekkaku no can mean "special" or "long-awaited." The latter makes better sense in this case. People have waited patiently and long for the low tide and the opportunity to collect shellfish, but now a hard rain is falling.

1804

.鶏のなく家も見へたる汐干哉
tori no naku ie mo mietaru shioi kana

a house
with a rooster crowing...
low tide

1804

.降雨や汐干も終に暮の鐘
furu ame ya shiohi mo tsui ni kure no kane

rain falling--
for the low tide gatherers at last
the sunset bell

Originally, I suspected that tsui meant "carelessly" or "thoughtlessly"; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1074. However, Shinji Ogawa notes that in this context tsui ni means "at last." And though Issa only mentions the low tide, he implies a group of sea shell hunters who have been working hard all day, gathering shells. The sunset bell is a relief and a blessing.

1804

.御寺から直に行るる汐干哉
mi-tera kara sugu ni yukaruru shioi kana

from the temple
easy access...
shell gathering

Shinji Ogawa corrected my translation of this haiku. Here's his paraphrase of Issa's original: "From the temple, we can in a short period reach (the sea) for shell gathering at low tide."

1806

.染色の傘のちらちら汐干哉
some-iro no kasa no chira-chira shiohi kana

their colorful umbrellas
fluttering...
low tide

The people under the umbrellas are looking for shellfish.

1807

.人一人二人汐干の小すみ哉
hito hitori futari shioi no kosumi kana

by ones and twos
in little nooks they crouch...
low tide

"Crouch" does not appear in the original poem. I have added it to convey the image of people hunting for shellfish.

1807

.深川や桃の中より汐干狩
fukagawa ya momo no naka yori shiohi-gari

Fukagawa--
from a peach tree gathering
low tide shells

Fukagawa is a neighborhood in Edo (today's Tokyo) on Sumida River's east bank. The great haiku poet Bashô lived there in his Bashô-an ("Banana-leaf hermitage").

1808

.そろそろと蝶も雀も汐干哉
soro-soro to chô mo suzume mo shioi kana

the butterfly and sparrow
creep along with it...
low tide

1808

.麦の葉に汐干なぐれの烏哉
mugi no ha ni shiohi nagure no karasu kana

some stay behind
in the barley...
low tide crows

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Nagure is the same as nagori ("vestiges," "remains"); see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1213. The crows at low tide are doing the same thing as their human counterparts: looking for shellfish. A few linger behind in the field.

year unknown

.青の葉は汐干なぐれの烏哉
ao no ha wa shiohi nagure no karasu kana

some stay behind
in the green leaves...
low tide crows

Nagure is the same as nagori ("vestiges," "remains"); see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1213. The crows at low tide are doing the same thing as their human counterparts: looking for shellfish. A few linger behind in trees and field.

1810

.鶯の嘴の先より汐干哉
uguisu no hashi no saki yori shioi kana

from the tip
of the nightingale's beak
the tide rushes out

Shinji Ogawa translates the first two phrases: "as the tip of the nightingale's beak/ guides..."

The bird's beak points the way for the receding tide. In one of his most creative juxtapositions of the small and vast, Issa suggests that the great ocean is taking directions from a little nightingale.

1810

.雀鳴庭の小隅も汐干哉
suzume naku niwa no kosumi mo shiohi kana

sparrows chirp
in a garden nook, here too...
low tide

This haiku has the prescript, "Fukagawa." Fukagawa was the riverside district of Edo (today's Tokyo).

1811

.妹が子やけふの汐干の小先達
imo ga ko ya kyô no shiohi no ko sendatsu

my child--
today's low tide
little guide

The rhyme in my translation is accidental but, I think, pleasant. The little girl is guiding the poet on a hunt for shellfish at low tide. The phrase, imo ga ko ("sister's child") means, in literary usage, "my wife's child," ergo, "my child." (Shinji Ogawa).

When Issa wrote this haiku in 1811 he was unmarried and had no children (he didn't marry until 1814; his first child was born in 1816). The little girl cannot, therefore, really be his child. Perhaps this is an example of wishful thinking; Issa longs to have a child, and so he depicts the little girl of the poem as such. In any case, in this haiku he returns to one of his favorite themes: children showing grown-ups the way. The child is not only wise as to the best places for finding shellfish; she provides Issa, and us, with an instructive example of how to live: innocent, curious, spontaneous, loving.

1811

.深川や五尺の庭も汐干狩
fukagawa ya go shaku no niwa mo shiohi-gari

Fukagawa--
even in a five-foot garden
low tide shell-gathering

Fukagawa is a neighborhood in Edo (today's Tokyo) on Sumida River's east bank. The great haiku poet Bashô lived there in his Bashô-an ("Banana-leaf hermitage").

1812

.晴天の又晴天の汐干哉
seiten no mata seiten no shiohi kana

blue skies
nothing but blue skies...
low tide

A happy scene: it often is pouring down rain in Issa's haiku about low tide shell-gathering, but today's sky is glorious.

1815

.松の木に笠をならべる汐干哉
matsu no ki ni kasa wo naraberu shioi kana

in a pine tree
umbrella-hats in a row...
low tide

Shinji Ogawa helped me visualize this haiku. People are gathering shellfish at low tide. They have hung their umbrella-hats, in a row, on the branch of a pine.

1816

.のさのさと汐干案内や里の犬
nosa-nosa to shiohi anai ya sato no inu

my intrepid guide
on the low tide beach...
village dog

Nosa-nosa can denote performing an action with composure (heizen), with lighthearted nonchalance (nonki), lacking dread (habakaru tokoro no nai), or shamelessly (ôchaku). "Intrepid" seems to fit this situation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292.

1816

.松の葉に足拭ふたる汐干哉
matsu no ha ni ashi nuguutaru shioi kana

wiping my feet
on pine needles...
low tide

1820

.晴天のとつぱづれ也汐干がた
seiten no toppa[zu]re nari shiohi-gata

all the way
to the blue sky's edge...
low tide

Shinji Ogawa notes that seiten no toppazure means "on the edge of the blue sky."

Issa is looking out at the horizon.

1820

.人まねに鳩も雀も汐干かな
hito mane ni hato mo suzume mo shiohi kana

acting like people
pigeons and sparrows
at low tide

I picture the birds hunched forward like human shell-gatherers.

1820

.深川や御庭の中の汐干狩
fukagawa ya o-niwa no naka no shiohi-gari

Fukagawa--
in the shrine's garden
low tide shell-gathering

Fukagawa is a neighborhood in Edo (today's Tokyo) on Sumida River's east bank. The great haiku poet Bashô lived there in his Bashô-an ("Banana-leaf hermitage").

1814

.鶏が先踏んでみる炉蓋哉
niwatori ga saki funde miru robuta kana

the chicken tries
walking on it first...
lid on the sunken hearth

On the last day of Third Month in the old calendar, the sunken fireplace was covered.

1824

.ふらんどや桜の花をもちながら
furando ya sakura no hana wo mochi nagara

swinging on the swing
clutching
cherry blossoms

In his translation Makoto Ueda puts "a child" in the swing; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 157.

This is a natural assumption, but it rules out that possibility that Issa, a grown man with a child's heart, is the swinger. Ueda reads the first word, burando ("swinging"); the editors of Issa zenshû give it as furando; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.112).

1805

.草つみのこぶしの前の入日哉
kusa tsumi no kobushi no mae no irihi kana

the herb picker
reaches...
for the setting sun

Shinji Ogawa helped me understand the perspective in this haiku. From where Issa watches, the setting sun is "in front of" (mae ni) the fist of the herb picker. The picker seems to be "about to pick the setting sun."

1812

.草つみや狐の穴に礼をいふ
kusa tsumi ya kitsune no ana ni rei wo iu

picking herbs--
the fox's hole gets
a "Hello!"

1812

.里の子や草つんで出る狐穴
sato no ko ya kusa tsunde deru kitsune ana

the village child
picking herbs, reveals
a foxhole

Or: village children. Shinji Ogawa believes that the phrase tsunde deru ("pick and emerge") signifies that the foxhole emerged because of the children痴 herb picking."

1813

.草つみや羽織の上になく蛙
kusa tsumi ya haori no ue ni naku kawazu

picking herbs--
on my coat a croaking
frog

Or: "on his coat" or "on her coat." Someone (I picture Issa) bends low to pick lucky and healthful New Year's herbs when, suddenly, a frog is noticed, croaking and clinging to the herb picker's winter coat (haori). The seasonal context is important. On the first day of a new year and new spring, the frog appears out of nowhere, as if to proclaim, "I'm back!" He has survived the cold stasis of winter and now brims with vigor to start life anew. One can guess that the frog's feelings in the haiku might also be Issa's.

1822

.むさしのの草をつむとてはれ着哉
musashi no no kusa wo tsumu tote haregi kana

picking herbs
in Musashi Plain, dressed
to the nines

1824

.今の世は草をつむにも晴着哉
ima no yo wa kusa wo tsumu ni mo haregi kana

the world today--
even while gathering herbs
dressed to the nines

As S. Yamagishi points out, "this world today" (ima no yo) is most likely referring directly to the festival days of the New Year's season.

1825

.つみ草を母は駕から目利哉
tsumi kusa wo haha wa kago kara mekiki kana

picking herbs--
Mother from her palanquin
watches

The woman must be rich, to be riding in a palanquin. Even so, she doesn't pass the opportunity to have free herbs picked for her.

1807

.茶をこくやふくら雀の顔へ迄
cha wo koku ya fukura suzume no kao e made

threshing tea--
leaves fly at a fat sparrow's
face too

Shinji Ogawa explains that fukura suzume refers to sparrows that are fat and round or due to cold weather.

1808

.うぐひすもうかれ鳴する茶つみ哉
uguisu mo ukare naki suru cha tsumi kana

the nightingale, too
has a merry song...
tea pickers

1809

.夕暮の笠も小褄もこき茶哉
yûgure no kasa mo kozuma mo koki cha kana

umbrella-hat and skirt
in the evening...
threshing tea leaves

1810

.折ふしは鹿も立添茶つみ哉
orifushi wa shika mo tachisou cha tsumi kana

now and then the deer
stand close by...
tea pickers

1811

.なむあみだなむあみだとてこき茶哉
namu amida namu amida to[te] koki cha kana

"Praise Amida!
Praise Amida!"
threshing tea leaves

1811

.二番茶にこき交られしつつじ哉
ni ban cha ni [ko]ki mazerareshi tsutsuji kana

mixed in
with the second tea harvest
azaleas

1813

.古笠へざくりざくりとこき茶哉
furu kasa e zakuri-zakuri to koki cha kana

on the old umbrella-hat
smack! smack!
threshing tea leaves

1814

.欠にも節の付たる茶つみ哉
akubi ni mo fushi no tsukitaru cha tsumi kana

even while yawning
she keeps the tune...
tea picking

The tea pickers sing as they work.

1814

.しがらきや大僧正も茶つみ唄
shigaraki ya ôsôjô mo cha tsumi uta

Shigaraki--
even the high priest sings
a tea-picking song

Shigaraki is a town with a Buddhist temple.

1814

.だまつてもつまぬや尻の茶の木藪
damatte mo tsumanu ya shiri no cha no kiyabu

in the thicket
behind the house, silence...
no one picking tea

1815

.負た子が花ではやすや茶つみ唄
ôta ko ga hana de hayasu [ya] cha tsumi uta

the child on her back
beats time with a flower...
tea-picking song

On a symbolic level, the baby is joining human society. Bundled on his (or her) mother's back, he (or she) participates in the communal song of the tea leaf pickers. Though still unable to sing the song, the child keeps its rhythm with a flower.

1815

.ぶつぶつと大念仏でつむ茶哉
butsu-butsu to ônembutsu de tsumu cha kana

grumbling his praise
to Amida Buddha...
tea picker

Or: "their praise ... tea pickers." The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

1816

.川霧のまくしかけたり茶つみ唄
kawa kiri no makushikaketari cha tsumi uta

in the river fog
a boisterous noise...
tea-picking song

Makushikaku is an old verb meaning to raise one's voice forcefully and energetically; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1512.

1816

.正面はおばば組み茶つみ唄
shômen wa o-baba-gumi nari cha tsumi uta

led by a gang
of grannies...
the tea-picking song

1818

.一対に並ぶ茶つみの儀式哉
ittsui ni narabu cha tsumi no gishiki kana

lined up double file
the tea pickers'
ritual dance

Gishiki is a ritual service or ceremony. I believe that Issa is using the word metaphorically: the two lines of tea pickers going about their business appear to him like a ritualized ballet.

1818

.小袋に米も少々扱茶哉
ko-bukuro ni kome mo shôshô koku cha kana

in his little bag--
rice and few
tea leaves

This haiku has the prescript, "Poor priest." The poor Buddhist priest has very little provisions in his bag: just a bit of rice and some stripped tea leaves, the latter of which serves as the haiku's season word. Tea is picked in spring.

1818

.僧正が音頭とる也茶つみ唄
sôjô ga ondo toru nari cha tsumi uta

the high priest
joins right in...
tea-picking song

1820

.茶もつみぬ松もつくりぬ丘の家
cha mo tsuminu matsu mo tsukurinu oka no ie

tea leaves picked
and pines trimmed...
house on the hill

In my first translation of this haiku, I had "no one" picking the tea or tending to the pines. I had assumed that the nu endings made these verbs negative. Shinji Ogawa corrected me: in this case nu is the auxiliary verb, "have."

1822

.ぬり笠へばらりばらりと扱き茶哉
nurigasa e barari-barari to koki cha kana

fluttering onto
the lacquered umbrella-hat...
tea leaves

A haiku about threshing tea leaves.

1822

.婆どのの目がねをかけて茶つみ哉
baba dono no megane wo kakete cha tsumi kana

granny puts on
her spectacles...
tea picking

Shinji Ogawa explains that megane wo kakete signifies, "putting her glasses on."

1824

.御仏の茶も一莚ひろげけり
mi-hotoke no cha mo hito mushiro hiroge keri

the Buddha's tea, too
fills one straw mat...
spread out

By "Buddha's tea," Is Issa referring to tea that has been picked nearby a stone Buddha, or to tea that has been picked on temple grounds?

Shinji Ogawa writes, "It is almost impossible to figure out Buddha's tea exactly. It may be one of the following: (1) the tea is separated because it is sold to, or donated to, the temple; (2) the tea has been picked on the temple field (some temples are big land owners)."

1798

.夕立に賑はしき野火山火かな
yûdachi ni nigiwashiki nobi yamabi kana

crackling in the rainstorm--
field fires
mountain fires

The spring fires that have been set to clear away dead grass are nigiwashiki: lively, bustling, noisy, happy, prosperous. Originally, I translated nigiwashiki as "happy," but Shinji Ogawa believes that this word doesn't fit the scene. His hunch is that Issa "means 'noisy' or, in an expanded sense, 'confused'."

1803

.焚残る巣をくわへ行烏哉
taki nokoru su wo kuwae yuku karasu kana

saved from the fire
a nest in its beak...
the crow moves on

This haiku has the prescript, "Dead grass burning on a journey." Issa is referring to the burning of dead grass--a spring event. Shinji Ogawa notes that takinokoru means "smoldering." The crow is hurrying along with a smoldering nest in its beak.

1804

.鳥の巣を見し辺りぞや山を焼
tori no su wo mishi atari zo ya yama wo yaku

where I've seen
birds nesting...
they burn the mountain

Fires are set in the mountains to clear away dead brush and prepare the fields for tilling.

1805

.うつくしい鳥見し当よ山をやく
utsukushii tori mishi ate yo yama wo yaku

where I saw
a pretty bird...
they burn the mountain

Fires are set in the mountains to clear away dead brush and prepare the fields for tilling. Shinji Ogawa believes that the haiku should be read as utsukushii tori mishi atari yo yama wo yaku, but the editors of Issa zenshû read the fourth kanji as ate (not atari), making possible a 5-7-5 pattern: u-tsu-ku-shi-i / to-ri mi-shi a-te yo / ya-ma wo ya-ku (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.114; 2.270.

1805

.又一つ山をやく也おぼろ也
mata hitotsu yama wo yaku nari oboro nari

another mountain
set on fire...
the haze thickens

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass.

1805

.山やくや眉にはらはら夜の雨
yama yaku ya mayu ni hara-hara yoru no ame

dead grass burning--
on my eyebrows pattering
evening rain

Burning dead grass is a spring event. I thank Hiroshi Kobori for helping to translate this.

1808

.鳥をとる鳥の栖も焼れけり
tori wo toru tori no sumika mo yakare keri

even bird-eating birds
lose their nests
in the burning grass

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass. It begins with an example of Issa's playful use of syllable music: tori wo toru tori.

1813

.山烏手伝ふてやく小藪哉
yama-garasu tetsudaute yaku ko yabu kana

a mountain crow
helps the fire setters...
little thicket

Fires are set in the mountains to clear away dead brush and prepare the fields for tilling. How is the crow helping with this? I assume that it is squawking encouragement.

1813

.山やけや畠の中の水風呂へ
yama yake ya hatake no naka no suifuro e

grass fire on its way
to the hot tub
in the field

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass.

1818

.豊年のほの字にやけよしなの山
hônen no ho no ji ni yake yo shinano yama

a fruitful year's
letter "F" burning...
Shinano mountain

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass. The fire on the mountain has made the hiragana character, "ho," which Issa playfully interprets as a good omen: hônen, a "fruitful year." Shinano was his home province.

1818

.山焼の明りに下る夜舟哉
yama yaki no akari ni kudaru yobune kana

lit by mountain fires
floating downriver...
night boat

Shinji Ogawa notes that kudaru means "to go down the river."

1819

.山焼や仏体と見へ鬼と見へ
yama yaki ya buttai to mie oni to mie

fires on the mountain--
look like Buddhas
look like devils

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass.

1819

.山焼や夜はうつくしきしなの川
yama yaki ya yo wa utsukushiki shinano-gawa

fires on the mountain
make it pretty at night...
Shinano river

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass. Shinano was Issa's home province.

1793

.命也焼く野の虫を拾ふ鳥
inochi nari yaku no no mushi wo hirou tori

such is life--
the burning field's bugs
a feast for birds

Shinji Ogawa explains that nari in the first phrase is a kireji (cutting word) "which has many functions. In this case, the wording inochi nari (life...) implies a phrase like 'It is a way of life that...' The scene is of the burning field, the running bugs and the feasting birds all in one."

1808

.寝蝶や焼野の煙かかる迄
neru chô ya yakeno no kemuri kakaru made

the butterfly sleeps--
until the burning field's smoke
covers it

I first imagined that this haiku is a hyperbole: the field is so smoky, Issa's butterfly is clinging only to smoke. Unfortunately, I misread Issa's syntax. Shinji Ogawa has clarified it.

1812

.猿が猿に負れて見たるやけの哉
saru ga saru ni owarete mitaru yakeno kana

monkey on the monkey
watches...
the burning field

"Monkey on the monkey" suggests a baby monkey riding on its mother's back.

1813

.子どもらが遊ぶ程ずつやくの哉
kodomora ga asobu hodo-zutsu yaku no kana

the children
make it a playground...
burnt field

In a later rewrite of this haiku, Issa substitutes "the crane and the tortoise" (tsuru kame) for the children.

year unknown

.鶴亀の遊ぶ程ずつやくの哉
tsuru kame no asobu hodo-zutsu yaku no kana

the crane and the tortoise's
playground...
burnt field

In an earlier version of this haiku, the burnt field was the playground of "children" (kodomora). The crane and tortoise, emblems of longevity, contrast pointedly with the transience of the field's grass that has gone up in smoke.

1813

.里人のねまる程づつやく野哉
sato-bito no nemaru hodo-zutsu yaku no kana

as if the villagers
are frozen...
burning field

My translation is provisional. Nemaru is an old word that can mean to sleep or to stay in one place; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1285. I believe that the villagers seem "as if they froze in their tracks" (nemaru hodo-zutsu), but I welcome other opinions on what Issa is seeing in this haiku.

1813

.野火山火夜も世の中よいとやな
nobi yama hi yoru mo yo [no] naka yoi to ya na

fire on field and mountain--
at night this world
ain't bad!

Literally, Issa ends with the expression, "good, isn't it?" (yoi to ya na).

1814

.烏等も恋をせよとてやく野哉
karasura mo koi wo seyo tote yaku no kana

make love, crows
while you can!
burning fields

In his translation of this haiku, Lewis Mackenzie has Issa addressing "birds" instead of "crows." This is due to a misprint in his Japanese text. The first word in Issa's original haiku is karasura ("crows"), but Mackenzie has it as tori ("bird")--an easy mistake to make in Japanese, since the two kanji are nearly identical; compare "bird" [鳥] with "crow" [烏]. The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 69; 114.

1814

.わらんべも蛙もはやす焼の哉
waranbe mo kawazu mo hayasu yaku no kana

children and frogs
raise a cheer...
the field on fire

A raucous, jubilant scene. The verb hayasu can mean "to hurry" or "to cheer." Originally, I imagined that the fire was causing the children and frogs to rush madly about. Shinji Ogawa is convinced--and has convinced me--that the second meaning applies. Children cheer with excitement as farmers burn a field in preparation for spring planting. The frogs raise their voices too, as if joining the chorus.

year unknown

.風雲ややけ野の火より日の暮るる
kazagumo ya yakeno no hi yori hi no kururu

windblown clouds--
the fires of burning fields
bring sunset

1801

.空錠と人には告よ田打人
karajô to hito ni wa tsuge yo ta uchi hito

his lock is worthless
he's told...
plowing the rice field

A humorous haiku. Some trespasser (Issa?) has entered a field via a gate with a non-functioning lock, boldly reporting the malfunction to the hard-working farmer.

1806

.田を打てば露もおりけり門の口
ta wo uteba tsuyu mo ori keri kado no kuchi

plowing the rice field
dewdrops fall too...
entrance gate

I think the last image, "gate" (kado no kuchi), reveals the viewer's perspective in this haiku. Issa is standing at a gate, contemplating the work in a nearby field.

1811

.田を打つて弥々空の浅黄哉
ta wo utte iyo-iyo sora no asagi kana

plowing the rice field--
the sky a paler and paler
blue

1819

.ざくざくと雪かき交ぜて田打哉
zaku-zaku to yuki kakimazete ta uchi kana

crunch! crunch!
plowing the rice field
snow

This haiku makes fun of the long, hard winter of Issa's mountainous home province. Though it is time for spring plowing, there is still plenty of snow to contend with.

1821

.一鍬に雪迄返す山田哉
hito kuwa ni yuki made kaesu yamada kana

the same hoe
plows the snow too...
mountain rice field

1821

.松を友鶴を友なる田打哉
matsu wo tomo tsuru wo tomo naru ta uchi kana

friend of the pine
friend of the crane...
he plows his field

1822

.ざくざくと雪切交る山田哉
zaku-zaku to yuki kirimazaru yamada kana

crunch! crunch!
a mountain rice field
mixed with snow

This haiku alludes to the crunching or chopping sound made by a plow.

1822

.雪ともに引くり返す山田かな
yuki tomo ni hikurikaesu yamada kana

plowing as much snow
as earth...
mountain rice field

Shinji Ogawa notes that hikurikaesu means "turns over." The plow is turning over snow along with the dirt. A revision of a haiku written a year earlier, in 1821:

hito kuwa ni yuki made kaesu yamada kana

the same hoe
plows the snow too...
mountain rice field

1823

.人通る道を残して田打哉
hito tôru michi wo nokoshite ta uchi kana

leaving just enough room
for a man to walk...
plowing the rice field

1792

.畠打が焼石積る夕べかな
hata uchi ga yakeishi tsumeru yûbe kana

the plowman stacks
volcanic rocks...
evening

Shinji Ogawa pictures the scene: "The field may be located close to a volcanic mountain. The farmer piles up the volcanic rocks, which he found during plowing, on the side of the field."

1793

.畠打が近道教ゆ夕べ哉
hata uchi ga chikamichi oshiyu yûbe kana

the plowman
shows me a shortcut...
evening

A generous gesture. The farmer, often portrayed in Japanese literature as selfish and suspicious, lets Issa cut through his precious field.

1806

.畠打や祭々も往く所
hata uchi ya matsuri-matsuri mo iku tokoro

plowing fields--
festivals, festivals
all over!

Along with spring plowing comes a myriad of agricultural festivals in honor of the appropriate gods.

1808

.畠打やかざしにしたる梅の花
hata uchi ya kazashi ni shitaru ume no hana

giving shade
for the farmer's plowing...
plum blossoms

This haiku has two spring season words: "plowing" and "plum blossoms." As Shinji Ogawa points out, kazashi (sometimes spelled kanzashi) has two meanings: "shade," and "ornamental hairpin." Another possible translation, then, would be: "the plowman/ making them a hairpin/ plum blossoms."

1809

.畠打の顔から暮るつくば山
hata uchi no kao kara kururu tsukuba yama

a plowman facing
sunset...
Mount Tsukuba

This haiku is similar to an earlier one written in 1804:

naku hibari hito no kao kara hi no kururu

a skylark sings--
a man facing
sunset

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture.

1811

.畠打や手洟をねぢる梅の花
hata uchi ya tebana wo nejiru ume no hana

plowing the field
wiping snot
on plum blossoms

Shinji Ogawa comments, "This haiku may not present a pretty scene but a real scene. Realism was the undercurrent of haiku poetry in opposition to the elegant waka poetry in Issa's time. The realism may not be, socially and philosophically, as deep as that of Europe. The realism of haiku was, nevertheless, a result of haiku masters' conscious efforts in the feudal society in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, isolated from the rest of the world. This haiku was composed in 1811, whereas European realism was started in the mid-nineteenth century."

1814

.雲に似て山の腰起す畠哉
kumo ni nite yama no koshi okosu hatake kana

following a cloud
he plows...
the mountain's hip

1814

.畠打の真似して歩く烏哉
hata uchi no mane shite aruku karasu kana

mocking the farmer
plowing, the strutting
crow

1814

.畠打や腕の先のにほの海
hata uchi ya kaina no saki no nio no umi

he plows his field
an arm's length away...
sea of grebes

A grebe (nio or kaitsuburi) is a fish-catching waterfowl.

1814

.畠打やざぶりと浴る山桜
hata uchi ya zaburi to abiru yama-zakura

plowing the field--
a shower of mountain
cherry blossoms

Originally, I had pictured the farmer plowing through fallen blossoms; Robin D. Gill has convinced me that the petals are still in the process of falling in the haiku moment.

Emma writes, "This haiku conveys so much to the reader. There is the man plowing. This implies sod being turned over and brown earth uncovered. He is plowing a mountain, an uphill, arduous undertaking. His task is a practical and necessary one: to feed himself and others is part of the cycle of life, as well as the year's cycle. He is struggling yet moving forward. Then, there is this shift to the
ethereal and beautiful: he is performing this humble Spring task beneath a shower of cherry blossoms falling on him and the earth he plows. Like the farmer the cherry trees follow nature's cycle. They are in harmony with each other and with nature. On a metaphysical level, the cherry blossoms may be viewed as a beneficent blessing on the man and his work, the mountain as a symbol of things which are above the human plane. At the visual level there is the mountain, the soil, the human, the plow, the cherry trees and the pink falling blossoms. It is a small masterpiece to contemplate."

1815

.君が代は女も畠打にけり
kimi ga yo wa onna mo hatake uchi ni keri

Great Japan!
a woman, also
digs with a plow

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time.

1817

.畠打や尾上の松を友として
hata uchi ya onoe no matsu wo tomo to shite

plowing the field
he keeps the mountain ridge pine
company

A depiction of loneliness and solidarity: the lone plowman and the lone pine, because they have each other, are not alone.

1818

.畠打や足にてなぶる梅の花
hata uchi ya ashi nite naburu ume [no] hana

plowing the field
crushed underfoot...
plum blossoms

Shinji Ogawa notes that naburu, means to "treat badly." The farmer is treating the blossoms in this way. Shinji writes, "I think Issa is trying to show us the contrast between the traditional elegance of plum blossoms that poets are so eager to admire, and the harsh reality that the farmers are facing." Alastair believes that Shinji's commentary is too harsh: "It's just the day-to-day reality of seasonal farming activity. In this death (of petals) there is life (new crop)," suggesting "a Buddhist view of cyclic life."

1818

.山畠や人に打たせてねむる鹿
yama hata ya hito ni utasete nemuru shika

mountain field--
a man plows it
for the sleeping deer

Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, hito ni utasete as "having a man plow the field." In this humorous haiku, the farmer appears to be doing the bidding of his "landlord," a deer, who naps while his minion works. Is Issa implying that, once a crop appears, the deer will feast on it?

1819

.浅間根のけぶる側迄畠かな
asama ne no keburu soba made hatake kana

at the verge
of Mount Asama's smoke...
a farmer's field

Mount Asama is a volcano in Issa's home province of Shinano, active during the poet's lifetime. The eruption of 1783, when Issa was twenty-one years old and living in Edo (today's Tokyo), killed 1,151 people.

1819

.畠打や子が這ひ歩くつくし原
hata uchi ya ko ga hai-aruku tsukushi-bara

plowing the field--
a child crawls through
horsetails

While the farmer works, his or her child crawls through a patch of tsukushi: bottle-brush or "false" horsetails.

1821

.朝顔の畠起して朝茶哉
asagao no hata okoshite asa cha kana

tilling the morning-glory
field...
morning tea

The pointed repetition of "morning" occurs also in Issa's Japanese: asagao ("morning-face" blossom) and asa cha ("morning tea"). The plowman enjoys a tea break.

1823

.菜の畠打や談義を聞ながら
na [no] hata uchi ya dangi wo kiki nagara

plowing the field
listening to
the sermon

An itinerant Buddhist priest is preaching, possibly on the subject of Amida Buddha's saving power.

1823

.畠打や通してくれる寺参
hata uchi ya tôshite kureru tera mairi

the plowman lets me
cross his field...
temple pilgrimage

This is similar to a haiku of 1819:

na-batake wo tôshite kureru jûya kana

he lets me cross
his field...
night of winter prayers

1823

.山人や畠打に出る二里三里
yamaudo ya hata uchi [ni] deru ni ri san ri

mountain man--
off to plow his field
five, six miles away

One ri is 2.44 miles. The mountain farmer's field is "two or three" ri way: 4.88 to 7.32 miles. Yamaudo, literally, a "mountain person," also can signify a hermit.

1824

.菊畠や一打ごとに酒五盃
kiku hata ya hito uchi goto ni sake go hai

chrysanthemum garden--
one chop of the hoe
five cups of sake

For this translation I am indebted to participants of the Haiku Society of America's quarterly meeting held in Long Beach, California on Dec. 1, 2001. Though Issa doesn't specify the farm implement, it is apparently a sort of hoe (not plow, as in my original translation). There was some controversy as to how I should render the verb uchi: half of those present voted for "chop," the other half for "strike." And one participant suggested, "whack."

Shinji Ogawa observes, "The mum garden must be Issa's. If an ordinal farmer drinks five cups at every chop, he cannot maintain himself in the business."

1824

.立板の岨や畠に拵へる
tateita no soba ya hatake ni koshiraeru

plowing a slope
like a standing board...
mountain becomes farm

1824

.畠打や鍬でをしへる寺の松
hata uchi ya kuwa de oshieru tera no matsu

with his hoe the farmer
shows the way...
temple pine

This haiku recalls a famous one that Issa wrote ten years earlier, in 1814:

daiko hiki daiko de michi wo oshie keri

with a just-yanked
radish
pointing the way

In the later haiku, the farmer indicates the location of the temple by pointing out its pine (or pines).

1824

.畠打や寝聳て見る加賀の守
hata uchi ya nesobette miru kaga no kami

farmers plowing--
lying down I watch
Lord Kaga pass

This haiku refers to the daimyo Maeda, Lord of Kaga. When he passed by, common folk had to drop what they were doing and grovel. In my first translation of this haiku, I assumed that the plowmen are the ones lying down, but Shinji Ogawa notes that the person watching the daimyo's parade in a lying-down position cannot possibly be the plowmen. He concludes, "It must be Issa who is in his house watching the parade in this lazy position." Issa's house was close to the major highway, hokkoku kaido, on which the daimyo traveled during his annual journeys to and from Edo (today's Tokyo). Shinji adds, "The point of this haiku is that Issa watches Lord Kaga (or, at least, his parade) disrespectfully."

1805

.草蒔や肴焼香も小昼過
kusa maku ya sakana yaku ka mo ko-biru sugi

sowing herbs--
the smell of fish cooking
a little past noon

Someone is preparing lunch for the farmer(s).

1806

.うら道や草の上迄種を蒔く
ura michi ya kusa no ue made tane wo maku

back road--
even on top of grasses
sowing herbs

1806

.山畠や種蒔よしと鳥のなく
yama hata ya tane maki yoshi to tori no naku

mountain field--
"Nice job of seeding!"
sing the birds

Shinji Ogawa helped me revise this translation. Originally, I had the birds singing, "Hooray! He's sowing seeds!" This rendering is slightly off; the greedy birds are complimenting the farmer's sowing, calling it "good" (yoshi).

1807

.鍋ずみに一際蒔る草葉哉
nabezumi ni hito kiwa makeru kusaba kana

sowing seeds to the edge
of the kettle's soot-pile...
herbs

I picture a place in the garden where the soot from the kettle has been scraped off into a pile. For this reason, I add "pile" to my translation, a word not found in Issa's original text.

1813

.我蒔いた種をやれやれけさの霜
waga maita tane wo yareyare kesa no [shimo]

where I planted seeds
oh well!
morning frost

In Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.118) this haiku ends with the word, tsuyu (dew). However, I follow Fujimoto in believing that Issa intended to write shimo (frost)--a similarly constructed character that makes much better sense in the context. See Fujimoto Jitsuya, Issa no kenkyû (Tokyo: Meiwa Insatsu, 1949) 427.

1812

.松苗や一つ植ては孫の顔
matsu nae ya hitotsu uete wa mago no kao

planting one
pine sapling...
my grandchild's face

Issa writes, simply: "pine sapling--/ planting one/ grandchild's face." I assume that he is imagining that one day, when the pine has grown, his grandchild will be standing under it, perhaps admiring it, with a happy face. Since Issa wasn't married yet (in 1812), his imagination is stretching, like the life of the pine, far into the future.

year unknown

.松苗の花咲くころは誰かある
matsu nae no hana saku koro wa dare ka aru

when this pine sapling
grows to flower...
who'll be here?

While Issa plants the pine, he wonders who will stand under its shade, one day, when it reaches maturity.

1807

.御僧の其後見へぬつぎ木哉
on sô [no] sono nochi mienu tsugiki kana

the blessed priest
won't see it in his next life...
grafted tree

A Buddhist priest is grafting a fruit tree at a temple. Issa reflects on the fact that the priest will not see the blossoming tree in his future life. Grafting it is, therefore, a selfless gift to whomever shall come to this place.

1807

.なく烏門のつぎ穂を笑ふらん
naku karasu kado no tsugiho wo warauran

at my gate
the crow laughs
at the branch I grafted

Issa's original is more speculative: the crow "may be laughing" (warauran).

1808

.鶯の鳴とばかりにつぎ穂哉
uguisu no naku to bakari ni tsugiho kana

just hearing a nightingale
is enough...
grafting a branch

Hearing the nightingale is enough to motivate Issa to get busy with spring activities, such as grafting branches.

1808

.鶯の寝所になれとつぎ穂哉
uguisu no nedoko ni nare to tsugiho kana

become the nightingale's
sleeping place...
my grafted tree

1808

.夜に入れば直したくなるつぎ穂哉
yo ni ireba naoshitaku naru tsugiho kana

after dark
now I want to fix it...
grafted tree

A humorous haiku, capturing one of life's frustrating moments. Issa would like to fiddle with the grafting of his fruit tree, but it has grown dark.

1812

.へら鷺がさしつかましてつぎ木哉
herasagi ga sashi-tsukamashite tsugiki kana

snatched
by the spoonbill...
the grafted branch

1812

.山烏おれがつぎ木を笑ふ哉
yama-garasu ore ga tsugiki wo warau kana

the mountain crow
laughs at the branch
I grafted

1813

.鶏の番をしているつぎ木哉
niwatori no ban wo shite iru tsugiki kana

the chicken
is standing guard...
my grafted tree

Or: "the chickens/ are standing guard..." Issa doesn't say that the tree is his, but this might be inferred.

1818

.梅持つて接木の弟子が御時宜哉
ume motte tsugiki no deshi ga o-jigi kana

a plum branch in his hand
the tree-grafting apprentice
bows

The apprentice is evidently a tree-grafting apprentice. In Issa's diary this haiku is immediately preceded by: "garden's entrance--/the tree-grafting apprentice/ brings the tea." Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1818

.接木する我や仏に翌ならん
tsugiki suru ware ya hotoke ni asu naran

grafting a branch--
I might be dead
tomorrow

Shinji Ogawa notes that hotoke ("Buddha"), in this context, signifies "a dead man." One must wait many years to see the result of a grafting, but, as Issa points out, he may be a dead man tomorrow.

A more literal, and my first translation of this haiku, reads:

grafting a branch--
tomorrow I might
be a Buddha

The problem with this translation is that one might conclude that Issa's act of creaturely kindness--grafting the branch--will earn him enlightenment, an impossibility in the faith-focused Pure Land Buddhism that he practiced. Shinji notes: "Issa felt that he might be a Buddha not because of the reward of doing the grafting but despite his wish to live longer."

1818

.庭先や接木の弟子が茶をはこぶ
niwa saki ya tsugiki no deshi ga cha wo hakobu

garden's entrance--
the tree-grafting apprentice
brings the tea

1818

.のらくらが三人よれば接木哉
norakura ga sannin yoreba tsugiki kana

when three loafers
happen to meet...
grafting branches

This haiku perhaps celebrates a specific happening: Issa and two of his friends are the "loafers" (norakura) grafting tree branches.

1818

.餅腹をこなしがてらのつぎほ哉
mochi hara wo konashi gatera no tsugiho kana

to help digest
the rice cakes, grafting
the tree

The suffix -gatera, equivalent to -katagata, means "while" or "at the same time."

1820

.石の上に蝋燭立てつぎ穂かな
ishi no ue ni rôsoku tatete tsugiho kana

a candle standing
on the rock...
grafting the branch

1820

.歯ももたぬ口に加へてつぎ穂哉
ha mo motanu kuchi ni kuwaete tsugiho kana

his toothless mouth
holds it...
the branch for grafting

Or: "my toothless mouth..." Issa lost his last tooth nine years earlier.

1811

.真直に人のさしたるしきみかな
massugu ni hito no sashitaru shikimi kana

he grafts the branch
perfectly straight...
sacred shikimi

Branches of the shikimi tree are placed on Buddhist graves.

1812

.山烏おれがさし木を笑ふ哉
yama-garasu ore ga sashi-gi wo warau kana

mountain crow--
he sees my grafted tree
and laughs

Evidently, Issa hasn't done a very good job grafting the fruit tree.

1818

.謹で犬がつくばふさし木哉
tsutsushinde inu ga tsukubau sashi-gi kana

the dog bows to it
with reverence...
grafted tree

1818

.へたへたと蛙が笑ふさし木哉
heta-heta to kawazu ga warau sashi-gi kana

"A clumsy job!"
a frog laughs
at my grafted tree

Or: "at the grafted tree." Issa doesn't specify that he's the one who did such a poor job, but this can be inferred. Shinji Ogawa notes that heta-heta, in this context, means "clumsy, clumsy!"

1820

.かりの世のかり家の門にさし木哉
kari no yo no kari ie no kado ni sashi-gi kana

in an ephemeral world
at an ephemeral house's gate...
grafting a branch

In Japanese, kari can mean "ephemeral" and "rented." In my first translation, I envisioned "a rented house's gate/ in an ephemeral world..." Shinji Ogawa, however, believes that "ephemeral" or "temporal" applies equally to the house and world, since at the time of the poem's composition, Issa had a home and no longer had to rent one. Of course, it's possible that he's describing someone else's rented house and punning with the double meaning of kari.

1805

.妻乞や一角とれしのらの猫
tsuma-goi ya hito kado toreshi nora no neko

his looking for a wife
makes him sociable...
stray cat

Shinji Ogawa notes that hito kado toreshi, literally, "round off the angle," is an idiom which means to "become sociable."

1805

.のら猫も妻かせぎする夜也けり
nora neko mo tsuma kasegi suru yo nari keri

the stray cat too
goes wife-hunting...
nightfall

Issa suggests that he, like the tomcat, is in search of female companionship this night.

1805

.山猫も恋は致すや門のぞき
yama neko mo koi wa itasu yo kado nozoki

even the wild cat
looks for sex...
peeking in the gate

Literally, the would-be lover is a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1805

.山猫や恋から直に里馴るる
yama neko ya koi kara sugu ni sato naruru

wild cat--
after making love
he's the town pet

Literally, a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1807

.のら猫も妻乞ふ声は持にけり
nora neko mo tsuma kou koe wa mochi ni keri

even the stray cat
begging
for a wife!

1808

.梅がかにうかれ出けり不精猫
ume ga ka ni ukare ide keri bushô neko

plum blossom scent
sends him off carousing...
lazy cat

French translator Jean Cholley imagines that the lazy cat, stirred to amorous action by the plum blossom scent, belongs to Issa: mon chat ("my cat"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 75.

1809

.有明や家なし猫も恋を鳴
ariake ya ie nashi neko mo koi wo naku

at dawn
the homeless cat, too
cries for love

1809

.恋猫の源氏めかする垣根哉
koi neko no genji mekasuru kakine kana

the lover cat
dandied up like Genji
at the fence

The haiku spoofs a scene from The Tale of Genji (Chapter 5), wherein Prince Genji peers through a wattle fence and catches sight of ten-year old Murasaki. Later that year he abducts her and begins training her to be his ideal woman. Issa's sly poem can be seen to elevate the mate-seeking cat--by equating him with an archetypal romantic lover--and yet also to denigrate Genji, suggesting slyly that the "shining prince" was just a sexually excited animal, in fact, a predator.

1812

.猫なくや中を流るる角田川
neko naku ya naka wo nagaruru sumida-gawa

cats' love calls--
between them flows
Sumida River

Shinji Ogawa helped me to visualize what is happening in this haiku: two cats ready for lovemaking separated by the wide river.

Following almost immediately in Issa's journal is this verse:

edo neko no awatadashisa yo sumida-gawa

the Edo cat
in a frenzy...
Sumida River

1812

.江戸猫のあはただしさよ角田川
edo neko no awatadashisa yo sumida-gawa

the Edo cat
in a frenzy...
Sumida River

Edo is present-day Tokyo. The cat's predicament is clarified by this verse that precedes it on the same page of Issa's journal:

neko naku ya naka nagaruru sumida-gawa

cats' love calls--
between them flows
Sumida River

1812

.火の上を上手にとぶはうかれ猫
hi no ue wo jyôzu ni tobu wa ukare neko

jumping so well
over the fire...
the love-crazed cat

The expression, ukare neko ("carousing cat"), indicates the spring season, the time for cats to mate. This particular feline is literally jumpy with seasonal, sexual excitement.

1812

.むさしのや只一つ家のうかれ猫
musashi no ya tada hitotsu ya no ukare neko

Musashi Plain--
just one house
one love-crazed cat

1813

.庵の猫玉の盃そこなきぞ
io no neko tama no sakazuki soko naki zo

hut's cat
deep in the sake goblet
yowling!

Tama no sakazuki is a "beautiful" or "treasured" sake pitcher.

1813

.大猫よはやく行け行け妻が鳴く
ô neko yo hayaku ike ike tsuma ga naku

hey big cat
shake a leg!
the wife calls

1813

.なの花にまぶれて来たり猫の恋
na no hana ni maburete kitari neko no koi

smeared with flowering
rape, here comes
the lover cat

Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

1813

.菜の花も猫の通ひぢ吹とぢよ
na no hana mo neko no kayoiji fukitoji yo

O flowering mustard
blow the cat's prowling route
shut!

Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

Toji is derived from tojimari: closing a door. Issa commands the wind to blow the rape flowers, blocking the entrance to the cat's prowling route. Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku is a parody of tanka #872 of Kokinwaka shu, compiled in 905: "Heavenly wind, please blow and shut the cloud's route for I want to hold the view of the maiden for a while." This tanka is especially popular in Japan because it was chosen one of the Hundred Tanka, a popular New Year's card game: a hundred cards on which the last 14 on ("sound units") of tanka are written and, when the first 17 on are read, players compete to pick up as fast as possible the right card. Shinji adds that mo ("too") implies that "not only the heavenly wind but you too, my flowering mustard, blow and shut the cat's prowling route."

1814

.あまり鳴て石になるなよ猫の恋
amari naite ishi ni naru na yo neko no koi

such yowling
don't turn to stone!
lover cat

A year earlier (in 1813) Issa writes:

semi naku ya waga ya mo ishi ni naru yô ni

cicadas chirr--
my hut, too, changed
to stone

This haiku, in turn, alludes to Bashô's haiku:

shizukasa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe

silence--
boring into the rock
cicada song

Bashô wrote that the cicada song was so piercing that it drilled into rock. Issa takes it a step further, claiming that his hut has become stone. In the present haiku, the high-pitched yowling of the cat, Issa playfully suggests, will produce a similar effect.

1814

.うかれ猫奇妙に焦れて参りけり
ukare neko kimyô ni jirete mairi keri

the love-crazed cat
strangely on edge
wanders off

I assume that mairi keri means that the cat has wandered off. In his French translation Jean Cholley pictures the irritated cat returning; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 141.

1814

.梅のきず桜のとげや猫の恋
ume no kizu sakura no toge ya neko no koi

plum trees are eyesores!
cherry trees have thorns!
cats in heat

Or: "cat in heat."

Lovely trees are blooming, but their ethereal beauty is utterly lost on cats in mating season. Their yowls sound painful.

1814

.つりがねのやうな声して猫の恋
tsurigane no yôna koe shite neko no koe

with a voice
like a temple bell...
the lover cat

1814

.猫の恋打切棒に別れけり
neko no koi bukkirabô ni wakare keri

the lover cats
bluntly go
their separate ways

Shinji Ogawa notes, "The point this haiku shows is the blunt separation after the lovemaking. A pair of lover cats, when their biological desires have been satisfied, bluntly part from each other."

1815

.浮かれ猫いけんを聞いて居たりけり
ukare neko iken wo kiite itari keri

the love-crazed cat
listens
to my scolding

Issa leaves unstated who exactly is talking, but Shinji Ogawa believes it is Issa. He writes, "No matter what subject one composes on, the haiku is, in a sense, a self-portrait. Knowing this, Issa doesn't mention himself in the haiku. That is haiku."

Shinji adds, ("iken means, normally, 'opinion,' but in this context it means 'remonstrance.' Issa might be saying, 'We've got to talk about your recent behavior...' and, to his amusement, the lover cat seems to be listening."

1815

.うかれ猫狼谷を通りけり
ukare [neko] ôkami tani wo tôri keri

love-struck cat--
down into Wolf Valley
he goes

The tomcat will go to great lengths to mate--even risk his life.

1815

.嗅で見てよしにする也猫の恋
kaide mite yoshi ni suru nari neko no koi

they stop sniffing
and go their separate ways...
lover cats

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "after sniffing (he or they) dropped the whole thing ... lover cat (or lover cats)." The phrase, yoshi ni suru means "decided to quit." In other words, no romance. Makoto Ueda, however, sees this stoppage of sniffing as a "sign of consent" on the female cat's part; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 106. Of the two possibilities, I think that Shinji must be correct: the humorous scene of two cats sniffing then parting company is worthy of Issa. If we read it the other way, as "they stopped sniffing and got down to business," the haiku has less of a punch.

1815

.恋序よ所の猫とは成にけり
koi tsuide yoso no neko to wa nari ni keri

love-smitten
my cat becomes
the neighbor's pet

Or: "the cat becomes..."

Shinji Ogawa translates: koi tsuide ("as the consequence of the love affair"), yoso no neko ("other house's cat"), to wa ("it is indeed"), nari ni keri ("to have become"): "as the consequence of a love affair/ the cat becomes/ other house's pet."

1815

.恋ゆへにぬすつと猫と呼れけり
koi yue ni nusutto neko to yobare keri

because of love
they call him
"thieving cat!"

1815

.鼻先に飯粒つけて猫の恋
hana saki ni meshi tsubu tsukete neko no koi

a grain of rice
stuck to his nose...
lover cat

1815

.我窓は序に鳴や猫の恋
waga mado wa tsuide ni naku ya neko no koi

while at my window
a yowl...
the lover cat

1816

.うかれ猫どの面さげて又来たぞ
ukare [neko] dono tsura sagete mata kita zo

the lover cat
with a shameless face
has returned

Jean Cholley lists this haiku of 1813; it was actually written in 1816. En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 106-7.

Issa makes fun of the cat's innocent look after a night of "sin." This haiku, written in the First Month of 1816, might also be a self-portrait of Issa. Issa married his first wife Kiku in 1814. In 1815, he was traveling, away from her, in Edo, from the 12th day of Ninth Month to the 28th day of Twelfth Month.

1817

.有明にかこち顔也夫婦猫
ariake ni kakochi kao nari meoto neko

at daybreak
what grouchy faces...
Mr. and Mrs. Cat

Kakochi is an old word that signifies "grumbling" or "complaining." See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 348.

1817

.庵の猫しやがれ声にてうかれけり
io no neko shagare koe nite ukare keri

my hut's cat
with a hoarse voice
goes carousing

Issa implies that his cat has ruined his voice from previous nights of yowling for a mate

1817

.うかれきて鶏追まくる男猫哉
ukare kite tori oimakuru oneko kana

so love-crazed
he chases a chicken...
tomcat

1817

.浄はりの鏡見よ見よ猫の恋
jôhari no kagami mi yo mi yo neko no koi

into hell's mirror
look! look!
lover cat

According to Japanese myth, Emma, the king of hell, has a magic mirror that reflects the sins of all new arrivals to his realm. The lover cat, about to go prowling or returning from a night of amorous adventures, will see his own lust if he looks in Emma's mirror--or so Issa jokingly implies. As an added bit of humor the words mi yo mi yo (look! look!) sound like meow-meow. When I first translated this haiku I missed its Buddhist significance; Issa: Cup-of-Tea Poems (Berkeley: Asian Humanities, 1991) 20.

1817

.竹の雨ざつぷり浴て猫の恋
take no ame zappuri abite neko no koi

the rain in bamboo
a drenching bath...
lover cat

Zappuri is an old expression that means: (1) to cut something forcefully, cleanly; or (2) to pour on a large quantity of water, to drench. The second meaning applies here. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 708. In his original text Issa adds a needless -te after zappuri.

1817

.寝て起て大欠して猫の恋
nete okite ôakubi shite neko no koi

he sleeps, he wakes
has a big yawn...
the cat goes courting

1817

.ばか猫や身体ぎりのうかれ声
baka neko ya shintai-giri no ukare koe

fool cat--
putting his whole body
into his yowl

The cat is calling for a mate. Using poetic license, Lewis Mackenzie refers to this cat as a "Broken beggar." See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 86.

1817

.屋根の声見たばかり也不精猫
yane no koe mita bakari nari bushô neko

just a glance
at the yowler on the roof...
lazy cat

The listless cat only glances at its peer on the roof: whether it's a rival challenging or a potential mate calling. The do-nothing cat reflects the poet's own way of being: kono mama ("just as I am").

1817

.山寺や祖師のゆるしの猫の恋
yamadera ya soshi no yurushi no neko no koi

mountain temple--
with the Founder's blessing
cats make love

This humorous haiku alludes to the founder of Issa's Jôdoshinshû sect, Shinran, who rejected celibacy as a requirement for being a priest. The temple cats' lovemaking thus has Shinran's official blessing. Shinran scoffed at following rules and precepts. According to Shinran, one can achieve rebirth in the Pure Land only through trust in the Other Power of Amida Buddha, not by following rules.

Six years earlier (1811), Issa writes a similar poem:

hana saite soshi no yurushi no sakana kana

cherry blossoms--
with the Founder's blessing
eating fish

1817

.よい所があらば帰るなうかれ猫
yoi tokoro ga araba kaeru na ukare neko

if he finds a good place
he won't return...
love-crazed cat

1817

.我猫が盗みするとの浮名哉
waga neko ga nusumi suru to no ukina kana

my cat is known
as a thief of hearts
scandalous!

Shinji Ogawa notes that ukina in most cases means "love affair," but not always. He proposes an alternate translation:

my cat
the talk of the town
for stealing

I think that the "scandal" (ukina) in the haiku probably connects to the cat's love life, since the editors of Issa zenshû include it in the neko no koi ("cats making love") section; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.122. If they are correct in this assignment, then the humor of the haiku flows from its application of human morals ("scandalous!") to the Nature-following cat.

However, if the editors of Issa zenshû have misplaced this haiku (meaning that it is actually a haiku of no season), then the middle phrase should be read, simply, "as a thief." Translation is a creative act, and, like the writing of original poetry, must be bold. Whether or not Issa's cat was just a thief, or a thief of hearts, there's no denying that the translation, referring to him as a "thief of hearts," is a fine haiku.

1818

.朝飯を髪にそよそよ猫の恋
asameshi wo kami ni soyo-soyo neko [no] koe

breakfast rice
stuck in his whiskers...
lover cat in a rush

Shinji Ogawa believes that soyo-soyo may be equivalent with sowa-sowa ("flurried"). The cat is so restless, so eager to seek a mate, he hasn't bothered to groom himself.

1818

.闇より闇に入るや猫の恋
kuraki yori kuraki ni iru ya neko no koi

from darkness
into darkness
the lover cat

The editors of Issa zenshû have two different opinions on the reading of the haiku's first kanji. It appears in Shichiban nikki ("The Seventh Diary") in an entry for First Month, 1818. On the page in which it appears (Volume 3, p. 510) the editors do not provide a reading for the kanji, but they index it in the back of the book under the spelling yami. However, in the first volume, the one that contains all of Issa's haiku arranged by season words, the editors provide a different reading and index it as kuraki--a reading that makes the poem conform to the 5-7-5 pattern of sound units or on; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.122.

The second kanji in the haiku is an exact repeat of the first: kuraki ("darkness"). The cat comes from darkness; the cat returns to darkness on his night of amorous prowling. I don't know why the version provided in Stephen Addiss's A Haiku Menagerie presents an alternate version of yami / kurai for the second kanji, but in any case, this doesn't affect the meaning (New York: Weatherhill, 2006).

1818

.面の皮いくらむいてもうかれ猫
tsura no kawa ikura muite mo ukare neko

though everyone knows
his secret, still
a love-crazed cat

Shinji Ogawa explains that tsura no kawa ikura muite mo ("no matter how we peel his face skin") is an idiom meaning, "no matter how we expose his secrets."

The cat's secret is out (that he is a sex fiend), but he continues on, unconcerned with public opinion.

1818

.攣れて来て飯を食する女猫哉
tsurete kite meshi wo kuwasuru me neko kana

tagging along
for the meal...
the cat's lady friend

1818

.盗喰する片手間も猫の恋
nusumi-gui suru katadema mo neko no koi

a food thief
in his spare time...
lover cat

1818

.ばか猫や縛れながら恋を鳴く
baka neko ya shibarare nagara koi wo naku

fool cat
though tethered still crying
for love

Hope springs eternal.

1820

.おどされて引返す也うかれ猫
odosarete hikikaesu nari ukare neko

frightened off
retracing his steps...
the love-crazed cat

A bigger or meaner cat has made a territorial claim.

1820

.門の山猫の通ぢ付にけり
kado no yama neko no kayoiji tsuki ni keri

at my gate
the wild cat's route
for prowling

Literally, a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1820

.こがれ猫恋気ちがいと見ゆる也
kogare neko koi kichigai to miyuru nari

smitten cat--
a case of love-madness
it seems

1820

.縛れて鼾かく也猫の恋
shibararete ibiki kaku nari neko no koi

tethered now
how he snores...
the lover cat

1820

.関守が叱り通すや猫の恋
sekimori ga shikari tôsu ya neko no koi

the barrier guard
scolds him in passing...
lover cat

The guard lets the cat pass through his barrier gate, but not without a scolding.

1820

.門番が明てやりけり猫の恋
monban ga akete yari keri nako no koi

the gatekeeper
opens up...
for the lover cat

1820

.汚れ猫それでも妻は持ちにけり
yogore neko sore demo tsuma wa mochi ni keri

dirty, yes
but the cat
has a wife

Jean Cholley believes this is a humorous self-portrait, since at the time Issa was married to a younger woman, Kiku; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 246, note 133.

1821

.恋猫や恐れ入たる這入口
koi neko ya osore-itaru hairiguchi

the lover cat
filled with remorse
at my door

Or: "at the door."

Shinji Ogawa translates the middle phrase, osore-itaru, "remorseful."

What does the cat have to feel guilty about? Is Issa poking fun at nighttime sinners who repent in the morning?

1821

.のら猫の妻乞声は細々と
nora neko no tsuma kou-goe wa hoso-boso to

the stray cat's
yowl for love
a bit weak

At first, I read the third phrase as koma-goma: "minutely detailed." Shinji Ogawa explains that the correct reading, in this context, is hoso-boso: "weak."

1821

.のら猫の妻のござるはなかりけり
nora neko [no] tsuma no gozaru wa nakari keri

the stray cat's wife
fails
to make her entrance

Issa's Japanese is humorous, using ultra-polite language, referring to the cat's wife. She fails to make her grand entrance (gozaru wa nakari).

Karma Tenzing Wangchuk offers this (hilarious) translation:

the alley cat's
honorable wife no. 1
cancels her appearance

1822

.大猫が恋草臥の鼾かな
ôneko ga koi kutabire no ibiki kana

the big cat
worn out from lovemaking
snores

1822

.大猫や呼出しに来て作り声
ôneko ya yobi-dashi ni kite tsukuri-goe

the big cat
comes yowling for love
falsetto

1822

.恋猫の鳴かぬ顔してもどりけり
koi neko no nakanu kao shite modori keri

the lover cat
with a poker face
comes home

The cat returns from his amorous adventures with a "I'm not talking face" (nakanu kao shite).

year unknown

.恋猫のぬからぬ顔でもどりけり
koi neko no nukaranu kao de modori keri

the lover cat
his face so innocent
comes home

This haiku was written in 1824-25. It is a rewrite of a haiku of 1822, in which the cat returns from his amorous adventures with an "I'm not talking face" (nakanu kao shite).

1822

.恋猫や互に天窓はりながら
koi neko ya tagai ni atama hari nagara

the cats are courting
bumping
heads

Originally, I read hari (a form of the verb haru) as "stretch," but Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa's meaning, in this context, is "hit." The amorous cats are "hitting each other's heads."

1822

.恋猫や竪横むらを鳴歩行
koi neko ya tate yoko mura wo naki-aruku

the lover cat
crisscrosses the village
yowling

1822

.さし足やぬき足や猫も忍ぶ恋
sashiashi ya nukiashi ya neko mo shinobu koi

sly steps, tiptoe--
the cat, too
a secret Romeo

Issa implies that cats are not different from people in this department. Of course, he didn't know of Shakespeare's character. A more literal translation of shinobu koi is "sneaky love."

1822

.四五尺の雪かき分て猫の恋
shi go shaku no yukikaki wakete neko no koi

through five feet of snow
plowing his way...
lover cat

A determined Romeo.
Literally, the snow is 4 or 5 shaku deep; a shaku is .994 of a foot.

1822

.不精猫きき耳立て又眠る
bushô neko kikimimi tatete mata nemuru

lazy cat--
he cocks his ears
then back to sleep

It is mating season; another cat is yowling for love, but this lazy one (symbolizing Issa?) would rather sleep.

1824

.恋猫やきき耳立て又眠る
koi neko ya kikimimi tatete mata nemuru

lover cat--
he cocks his ears
then back to sleep

This is a rewrite of a haiku of 1822. The original poem begins with "lazy cat" (bushô neko).

It is mating season; another cat is yowling for love, but this one (symbolizing Issa?) would rather sleep.

1822

.山猫も作り声して忍びけり
yama neko mo tsukuri-goe shite shinobi keri

the wild cat too
yowls falsetto...
a sneaky lover

Literally, the cat in the haiku is a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1823

.雨の夜や勘当されし猫の恋
ame no yo ya kandôsareshi neko no koi

on a rainy night
banished from the house
lover cat

Shinji Ogawa explains that kandô means "disinherited."

1823

.浄破利のかがみは見ぬか猫の恋
jôhari no kagami wa minu ka neko no koi

not a peek
at hell's mirror?
lover cat

According to Japanese myth, Emma, the king of hell, has a magic mirror that reflects the sins of all new arrivals to his realm. The lover cat, home from prowling, would see his lust, should he look in Emma's mirror--or so Issa jokingly implies.

1824

.浄破利のかがみそれ見よ猫の恋
jôhari no kagami sore mi yo neko no koi

take a peek
in hell's mirror!
lover cat

A rewrite of an 1823 haiku, in which Issa poses the question: "not a peek at hell's mirror?" According to Japanese myth, Emma, the king of hell, has a magic mirror that reflects the sins of all new arrivals to his realm. The lover cat, about to prowling, will see its lust if it looks in Emma's mirror--or so Issa jokingly implies.

1824

.垣の梅猫の通ひ路咲とじよ
kaki no ume neko no kayoiji saki-toji yo

hedge's plum tree--
the cat's prowling route
blooms shut

Toji is derived from tojimari: closing a door. The plum blossoms have bloomed, closing the door to the cat's prowling route.

This is similar to a haiku of 1813, where flowering mustard in the wind closes off the cat's route.

1824

.通路も花の上也やまと猫
kayoiji mo hana no ue nari yamato neko

his prowling route
over the flowers...
a Japanese cat

Issa suggests that the cat has a sensitive Japanese soul, for it chooses to go through the blossoms. Yamato is an old word for Japan.

1824

.恋猫が犬の鼻先通りけり
koi neko ga inu no hana saki tôri keri

the lover cat
brushing the dog's nose
passes by

Originally, I pictured the cat walking along with a dog sniffing behind. Shinji Ogawa explains that the cat is passing in front of the dog's nose: an act of brazen confidence.

1824

.恋猫や口なめづりをして逃る
koi neko ya kuchi namezuri wo shite nigeru

the lover cat
licking his chops
escapes

The cat has stolen and eaten some food.

year unknown

.恋猫や口なめづりをしてもどる
koi neko ya kuchi namezuri wo shite modoru

the lover cat
licking his chops
comes home

In a similar haiku of 1824 the cat licks his chops while "escaping" (nigeru). In that poem, it would seem that the food that makes him lick his lips has been stolen. Or has the cat in this haiku found another person willing to feed him?

1824

.恋猫や答へる声は川むかう
koi neko ya kotaeru koe wa kawa mukau

the lover cat's
call is answered...
facing the river

Unfortunately, his would-be mate is on the other side. This haiku recalls one written by Issa in 1812:

neko naku ya naka nagaruru sumida-gawa

cats' love calls--
between them flows
Sumida River

1824

.猫鳴や塀をへだててあはぬ恋
neko naku ya hei wo hedatete awanu koi

cats yowling
separated by a wall--
tragic lovers

Literally, the "lovers will not or do not meet" (awanu koi).

1824

.夜すがらや猫も人目を忍ぶ恋
yo-sugara ya neko mo hitome wo shino[bu] koi

all night long
the cat, too
a secret Romeo

The haiku ends with shinobu koi ("sneaky love"), but this sounds a bit awkward to me. "Secret Romeo" is certainly not a literal translation, but I think it captures Issa's idea.

year unknown

.髭前に飯そよぐ也猫の恋
hige saki ni meshi soyogu nari neko no koi

on his whisker tips
rice grains tremble...
the lover cat

1817

.親としてかくれんぼする子猫哉
oya to shite kakurenbo suru ko neko kana

mother cat
plays hide-and-seek...
with her kittens

1818

.猫の子や秤にかかりつつざれる
neko no ko ya hakari ni kakari tsutsu zareru

the kitten
being weighed in the scales
keeps playing

1823

.女猫子ゆゑの盗とく逃よ
onna neko ko yue no nusumi toku nige yo

mother cat
steals for her kittens...
run faster!

A mother cat has stolen a bit of food. Shinji Ogawa explains that Issa is cheering her on, telling her to run away (from whoever is pursuing) even faster.

1823

.人中を猫も子故のぬすみ哉
hitonaka wo neko mo ko yue no nusumi kana

from the human race
for her kittens' sake...
mother cat steals

1825

.蝶々を尻尾でなぶる小猫哉
chôchô wo shippo de naburu ko neko kana

teasing a butterfly
with his tail...
the kitten

1824

.なりふりも親そつくりの子猫哉
narifuri mo oya sokkuri no ko neko kana

a spitting image
of her mother...
kitten

Or: "his mother."

1824

.猫の子の十が十色の毛なみ哉
neko no ko no tô ga to iro no kenami kana

ten kittens
ten
different colors

Issa implies, with a wink, that the mother cat had her share of suitors.

1813

.春日のやあくたれ鹿も角落る
kasuga no ya akutare shika mo tsuno ochiru

Kasuga Field--
even the rascally buck
sheds his antlers

Shinji Ogawa alerted me to the fact that Issa's first two kanji in this haiku (literally, "spring day") are in fact a place name, a certain field in Nara: Kasuga. Even today, tame deer abound in Nara, especially near its Buddhist temple containing a great bronze Buddha (daibutsu).

1813

.さをしかに手拭かさん角の跡
saoshika ni tenugui kasan tsuno no ato

may I offer you
a head scarf?
buck after antler-shedding

Tenugui, literally a hand towel, also refers to a scarf. Issa playfully offers one to the buck.

1813

.さをしかの桜を見てや角落る
saoshika no sakura wo mite ya tsuno ochi[ru]

the buck looks
at cherry blossoms...
shedding his antlers

1820

.大鹿のおとした角を枕哉
ôshika no otoshita tsuno wo makura kana

the antler
that the big buck shed...
my pillow

1820

.おとし角腹にさしけり山法師
otoshi-zuno hara ni sashi keri yama-bôshi

the buck shedding antlers
pokes his belly...
mountain priest

1820

.角おちて恥しげなり山の鹿
tsuno ochite hazukashige nari yama no shika

embarrassed
that he's shed his horns...
mountain buck

In 1820 Issa was 58: completely bald and toothless. Is he perhaps poking fun at himself, alluding to his own aging and, perhaps, loss of virility?

1820

.西山の月と一度やおとし角
nishi yama no tsuki [to] ichi do ya otoshi-zuno

moonrise over western mountains--
the buck
sheds his antlers

The moon comes out and the buck sheds his horns ichi do: all at once.

1820

.人鬼の見よ々鹿は角おちる
hito oni no mi yo mi yo shika wa tsuno ochiru

look you goblins!
the buck has shed
his horns

Or: "goblin." Issa implies that the goblins, too, can shed their horns: a humorous haiku about the possibility of redemption for all. As Alastair points out, deer technically have antlers, not horns; the Japanese word tsuno refers to both types of appendages. Commenting on a different poem that captures the perspective of a mother bird, Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, hito oni can mean, "the goblins called men." With this in mind, another possible translation would be: "look! you human goblins/ the buck has shed/ his horns!"

1824

.今落た角を枕に寝じか哉
ima ochita tsuno wo makura ni neji ka kana

his fresh-shed antler
his pillow...
the sleeping buck

Since Issa writes ka with hiragana and not with kanji there is no way of telling which meaning he has in mind: "Why not nap?" (neji ka) or "sleeping buck" (ne-jika). Shinji Ogawa perceives purposeful ambiguity here: as he puts it, "the glare of Issa's mischievous eyes." Shinji notes that Japanese grammar does not allow the question partical ka to appear in front of kana. However, it is possible that Issa is bending grammar here. In any case, I've decided to go with "sleeping buck" for my translation ... at least for now.

1824

.さをしかや社壇に角を奉る
saoshika ya shadan ni tsuno wo tatematsuru

on the shrine's altar
the buck offers
his antlers

Issa's image of a buck shedding his antlers on a temple mountain is allegorical. Like monks who shave their heads, the buck seems to be relinquishing worldliness. Shedding the weapons with which he earlier battered rivals in the struggle to win and keep a mate further suggests the notion of celibacy. The buck, Issa hints, has become a monk, taking his first step on the road to enlightenment.

1824

.御仏の山に落すや鹿の角
mi-hotoke no yama ni otosu ya shika no tsuno

on Buddha's mountain
he sheds them...
the buck's antlers

The buck shedding his antlers on the temple mountain seems allegorical. Like the monks who shave themselves bald, the buck seems to be relinquishing worldliness.

year unknown

.ちる桜鹿はぽつきり角もげる
chiru sakura shika wa pokkiri tsuno mogeru

cherry blossoms scatter--
snap! the buck's antlers
come off

Robin D. Gill points out that pokkiri in the Edo era connoted "the sound made when a hard thing breaks."

1793

.鳥も巣を作るに橋の乞食哉
tori mo su wo tsukuru [ni] hashi no kojiki kana

even birds
make their nests...
beggars under the bridge

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. Originally, I felt that hashi no kojiki denoted "bridge's beggars," so I rendered this, "bridge of beggars." Shinji, however, points out that the phrase depicts beggars "around (or on or at...etc.) the bridge." He imagines that the beggars are nesting under it.

1804

.巣の鳥の口明く方や暮の鐘
su no tori no kuchi aku hô ya kure no kane

toward the open mouth
of the nesting bird...
the sunset bell tolls

Issa is referring to the bell of a Buddhist temple.

1804

.つつがなき鳥の巣祝へあみだ坊
tsutsuganaki tori no su iwae amida-bô

pray good health
for the nesting bird!
Amida's priest

Amida Buddha is the Buddha most revered in the Pure Land Buddhism that Issa followed. "Amida's priest" (amida-bô) might be "Priest Issa."

1804

.鳥の巣のありありみゆる榎哉
tori no su no ariari miyuru enoki kana

the bird nest
in plain sight for all to see...
nettle tree

1804

.鳥の巣や翌は切らるる門の松
tori no su ya asu wa kiraruru kado no matsu

bird's nest--
tomorrow the pine by the gate
will be cut down

The bird builds its nest without Issa's knowledge of tomorrow. An image of Buddhist mujô: impermanence.

1805

.鳥の巣の乾く間もなし山の雨
tori no su no kawaku ma mo nashi yama no ame

no break for the bird's nest
to dry...
mountain rain

1807

.巣の鳥や人が立ても口を明く
su no tori ya hito ga tatte mo kuchi wo aku

nestling--
even when people come
opening its mouth

year unknown

.雀子や人が立ても口を明く
suzumego ya hito ga tatte mo kuchi wo aku

baby sparrow--
even when people come
opening his mouth

This undated haiku is a revision of one written in 1807. The original version starts with the phrase, "nestling" (su no tori ya).

1808

.鳥の巣をやめるつもりか夕の鐘
tori no su wo yameru tsumori ka yû no kane

are you planning
to leave your nest, little bird?
evening bell

Issa is referring to the bell of a Buddhist temple.

1808

.鳥の巣にあてがうておく垣根哉
tori no su ni ategaute oku kakine kana

anchoring
the bird's nest...
the fence

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1808

.鳥の巣に作り込れし桜哉
tori no su ni tsukuri komareshi sakura kana

adding themselves
to the bird's nest...
cherry blossoms

1815

.むつまじや軒の雀もいく世帯
mutsumaji ya noki no suzume mo iku setai

living in harmony
how many generations?
sparrows in the eaves

The word, mutsumaji, translated here as "living in harmony," denotes a sense of gentle friendliness. Shinji Ogawa notes that iku setai can be read two ways: "many generations" or "many households." Another possible translation, then, would be: "living in harmony/ how many households?/ sparrows in the eaves."

1816

.門雀見て居て玉子とられけり
kado suzume mite ite tamago torare keri

while the gate's sparrow
watches
he snatches an egg

Issa leaves to the reader's imagination the identity of the egg snatcher. A child? A cat?

1820

.鳥の巣に明渡したる庵哉
tori no su ni akewatashitaru iori kana

surrendering it
to the nesting birds...
my hut

Issa ends this haiku, simply, with "hut" (iori kana). In a revision four years later (in 1824), he clarifies his meaning by ending the haiku with "the hut that is empty because its owner is away" (rusu no io). Issa is leaving his hut for a while, generously offering it to nesting birds. Shinji Ogawa notes that the verb akewatashitaru denotes Issa's abandoning or surrending his hut.

1824

.鳥の巣に明渡すぞよ留守の庵
tori no su ni akewatashitaru rusu no io

I open my hut
for birds to make nests
while I'm gone

Shinji Ogawa assisted in this translation. In an earlier version of this haiku (1820), Issa ends it, simply, with "hut" (iori kana).

1820

.又むだに口明く鳥のまま子哉
mata muda ni kuchi aku tori no mamako kana

in vain
the baby bird begs...
a stepchild

Issa was a stepchild.

1821

.小奇麗にしてくらす也やもめ鳥
kogirei [ni] shite kurasu nari yamome tori

she keeps the nest
nice and neat...
widow bird

Though Issa is known for humor in haiku, this one tugs at the heart strings ... hard.

1821

.鳶の巣も鬼門に持や日枝の山
tobi no su mo kimon ni motsu ya hie [no] yama

the black kite's nest, too
in the unlucky direction...
Mount Hie

The "black kite" in the scene (tobi) is a bird, not the paper kind. The "unlucky direction" (kimon) is the northeast.

year unknown

.鳥の巣も鬼門に立つや日枝の山
tori no su mo kimon ni tatsu ya hie no yama

the bird's nest, too
in the unlucky direction...
Mount Hie

In an earlier version of this haiku (1821), Issa begins with "the black kite" (tobi). The "unlucky direction" (kimon) is the northeast.

1823

.君が家雀も家はもちにけり
kimi ga ie suzume mo ie wa mochi ni keri

at your house
the sparrow, too
makes a home

Or: "sparrows, too/ make a home."

1824

.切る木ともしらでや鳥の巣を作る
kiru ki to mo shirade ya tori no su wo tsukuru

unaware the tree
is destined for the axe...
nest building

1824

.鳥の巣や寺建立はいつが果
tori no su ya tera konryû wa itsu ga hate

a bird making a nest
a temple being built...
when will they finish?

1824

.鳥の巣や弓矢間にあふ柿の木に
tori no su ya yumiya ma ni au kaki no ki ni

bird's nest--
within arrow's reach
in the persimmon tree

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, yumiya ma ni au means "archery will do." In other words, the nest is "within arrow's reach"--an ominous observation.

1795

.いつの間に乙鳥は皆巣立けり
itsu no ma ni tsubakura wa mina su-dachi keri

when did they go?
all the swallows' nests
empty

1805

.其夜から雨に逢けり巣立鳥
sono yo kara ame ni ai keri su-dachi tori

from night onward
rain...
birds who've left the nest

Or: "a bird that has left the nest." Shinji Ogawa explains that sono yo kara means "from the night on." He suggests "fledglings" as a translation for su-dachi tori, but this might give the reader the impression that the birds are still safe in the nest. I read su-dachi tori literally as "birds who've left the nest." No longer protected from the hardships of the world, they learn their first lesson of life--in drenching rain.

1805

.人鬼が野山に住ぞ巣立鳥
hito oni ga no yama ni sumu zo su-dachi tori

"There's human goblins
in the fields and mountains!"
bird leaving the nest

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, hito oni means, in this context, "the goblins called men." To a young bird, a human being is a dangerous monster.

Syllableº17 notes that the nesting swallow on his porch raises "an alarm call when someone, upon leaving the house, flushes it from the nest. A regular occurrence this is - even when we tiptoe. I'd say that Issa is paraphrasing the bird's warning cry, rather than advising the bird directly."

1810

.幾日やら庵の雀も皆巣立つ
ikka yara io no suzume mo mina su ta[tsu]

what day then?
all the hut's sparrows
leave the nest

1813

.我宿は何にもないぞ巣立鳥
waga yado wa nannimo nai zo su-dachi tori

at my house
there's nothing!
the bird's left the nest

Shinji Ogawa observes that there are two ways to read this haiku: either the fledgling is talking to Issa, or vice versa.

1800

.さく花に拙きわれを呼子鳥
saku hana ni tsutanaki ware wo yobu ko tori

in the blossoms
calling to me clumsily...
a little bird

Or: "little birds."

In an earlier translation, I had "a baby bird," but Shinji Ogawa explains that ko tori means "small birds" such as sparrows and nightingales, distinguishing them from large birds such as cranes and chickens.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1824

.小日和やよし野へ人を呼子鳥
ko-biyori ya yoshino e hito wo yobu ko tori

a bit of fair weather--
little birds call people
to Yoshino

Or: "a little bird/ calls..." Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. In an earlier translation, I had "baby birds," but Shinji Ogawa explains that ko tori means "small birds" such as sparrows and nightingales, distinguishing them from large birds such as cranes and chickens.

1824

.好き好きや此としよりを呼子鳥
suki-zuki ya kono toshiyori wo yobu ko tori

a matter of taste--
the little bird calls
this old man

Or: "the little birds call..." The old man is Issa. In an earlier translation, I had "a baby bird," but Shinji Ogawa explains that ko tori means "small birds" such as sparrows and nightingales, distinguishing them from large birds such as cranes and chickens.

1824

.としよりも来いとぞ鳥の鳴にけり
toshiyori mo koi [to] zo tori no naki ni keru

even to the old man
"Come!" cries
the baby bird

The editors of Issa zenshû classify this haiku seasonally as one of "baby birds singing" (yobu ko tori); (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.127. In one of three versions of this haiku written in 1824, Issa uses the phrase "baby bird," though in this one he just refers to "the bird" or "birds" (tori).

1824

.鳥鳴くやとしより迄も来い来いと
tori naku ya toshiyori made mo koi koi to

the baby bird chirping
even to the old man
"Come! Come!"

The editors of Issa zenshû classify this haiku seasonally as one of "baby birds singing" (yobu ko tori); (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.127. In one of three versions of this haiku written in 1824, Issa uses the phrase "baby bird," though in this one he just refers to "the bird" or "birds" (tori).

1824

.山に住め山に住めとや呼子鳥
yama [ni] sume yama [ni] sume to ya yobu ko tori

"Come live, live
in the mountains!"
little birds call

Or: "a little bird calls." Shinji Ogawa explains that ko tori means "small birds" such as sparrows and nightingales, distinguishing them from large birds such as cranes and chickens.

1804

.子雀は千代千代千代と鳴にけり
ko suzume wa chiyo chiyo [chiyo] to naki ni keri

the baby sparrow
cheep! cheep! cheep!
he cries

Or: "baby sparrows...they cry." Literally, the sparrow(s) chirps, "A thousand years!"--a phrase with patriotic connotations in reference to the Emperor's reign. Issa imagines that he hears this phrase in the cheeping (chiyo chiyo). Such a chant would normally be heard on New Year's Day. So, even though he wrote it on the last day of Third Month, Issa presents the haiku as a New Year's scene. As further proof of this, he prefaces it with the head note, "Congratulations."

1804

.雀子も梅に口明く念仏哉
suzumego mo ume ni kuchi aku nebutsu kana

sparrow babies
in plum blossoms
praise Buddha!

This haiku refers to the nembutsu ("Namu Amida Butsu"--"All Praise to Amida Buddha"), a prayer of thanksgiving for, and praise of, Amida Buddha's saving power. Eons ago, Amida promised that all who rely on his saving power will be reborn in the Pure Land (the Western Paradise).

1807

.見るうちに一人かせぎや雀の子
miru uchi ni hitori kasegi ya suzume no ko

while I watch
he's off to make a living alone...
baby sparrow

1809

.穴一の穴に馴けり雀の子
ana ichi no ana ni nare keri suzume no ko

settling into
the penny toss hole...
baby sparrow

In this game, gamblers stand behind a line and toss coins at a small hole. Now, however, the target of their greed is occupied by a fledgling that has probably fallen from its mother's nest but has ended up and "gotten used to" (nare ni keri) the penny toss hole.

1809

.五六間烏追けり親雀
gorokken karasu oi keri oya suzume

chasing the crow
ten or twelve yards...
mother sparrow

Or: "father sparrow." One of the baby sparrows' parents protectively chases away a crow for "five or six ken." A ken is a unit of length of about two yards.

1809

.雀子や人のこぶしに鳴初る
suzumego ya hito no kobushi ni naki someru

baby sparrow
inside a person's fist
its first cry

Shinji Ogawa writes, "Since the word 'inside' does not appear in the original, this haiku may be translated in this way also: 'The baby sparrow starts crying at (or against, in despite of) the person's fist.' The word kobushi literally means knuckles...The expression, 'inside a fist' is rather odd." However, in old Japanese, the word that Issa uses, kobushi, signified not only "fist" but also a "clenched fist" (nigiri kobushi); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 647. This seems to be Issa's picture: an adult's big hand completely encircles the baby sparrow, so that all that can be seen is a fist. However, instead of the violence that the word can imply, this particular fist provides a loving cradle for the orphan bird that has possibly fallen from its nest. Inside the protective human hand, the little bird utters its first "cheep!"

1809

.巣放れの顔を見せたる雀哉
su hana[re] no kao wo misetaru suzume kana

fledgling faces
peek out the nest...
sparrows

Shinji Ogawa perceives two possible meanings in Issa's orginal: (1) "The (baby) sparrows (in their nest) show their fledgling faces"; or (2) "The fledglings visit me...sparrows." He prefers the second option; I prefer the first.

1810

.鳴よ鳴よ親なし雀おとなしき
nake yo nake yo oya [na]shi suzume otonashiki

sing, sing!
orphan sparrow...
so quiet

Originally, I translated this so that the sparrow is singing "quietly," but Robin D. Gill has convinced me that the abandoned bird is in fact being quiet, which suggests an even more pitiful scene: it has given up, not even attempting to sing for food.

1810

.人鬼に鳴かかりけり親雀
hito oni ni naki-kakari keri oya suzume

she cries and attacks
the human goblins...
mother sparrow

Or: "father sparrow." Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, hito oni means, in this context, "the goblins called men." Issa captures the parent bird's perspective perfectly. To a bird guarding its nest, a human being is a dangerous monster.

1810

.人鬼よおによと鳴か親雀
hito oni yo oni yo to naku ka oya suzume

"Beware the human goblins!"
is that what you're chirping?
mother sparrow

Or: "father sparrow." Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, hito oni means, in this context, "the goblins called men." To a bird guarding its nest, a human being is a dangerous monster.

1810

.むつまじき二親もちし雀哉
mutsumajiki futaoya mochishi suzume kana

living in harmony--
the sparrow has
both parents!

The word, mutsumaji, translated here as "living in harmony," denotes a sense of gentle friendliness.

1810

.夕暮や親なし雀何と鳴
yûgure ya oya nashi suzume nanto naku

evening--
how the orphan sparrow
cries!

1811

.赤馬の鼻で吹きけり雀の子
aka uma no hana de fuki keri suzume no ko

blown by the red
horse's nose...
baby sparrow

1811

.大勢の子に疲たり雀哉
ôzei no ko ni tsukaretari suzume kana

children crowded 'round
wear her out...
mother sparrow

My first translation of this haiku was influenced by R. H. Blyth, who pictures an "exhausted sparrow" surrounded by a "crowd of children"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 2.522. I imagined that a fledgling had fallen from its nest, which would explain why it didn't simply fly away. Shinji Ogawa, however, offers a different way of reading the poem: the "children" crowded 'round are baby sparrows, wearing out their mother. My translator's instinct tells me that this is the scene Issa is describing--with characteristic humor and sympathy. Instead of the "suffering and death" that Blyth perceives in the poem, its mood is light: a celebration of the sometimes wearying joy of parenting.

1811

.晴天に産声上る雀かな
seiten ni ubugoe ageru suzume kana

rising to the blue sky
baby sparrow's
first cry

In this haiku, a little bird's first song is described as ubugoe, a Japanese word for the first cry of a newborn infant. By applying this human term to the bird, Issa suggests a warm, emotional closeness to it. Its first little "cheep!" rises to the vast, blue sky like a prayer rising to the heavens. This juxtaposition of tiny and large--baby sparrow and great sky--adds an interesting element to the poem. The great blue heavens smile down on the new life; and the new life, with its first breath, is singing, "Thank you!"

1811

.夕暮とや雀のまま子松に鳴
yûgure to ya suzume no mamako matsu ni naku

evening falls--
a stepchild sparrow
cries in the pine

Japanese language contains the homonyms naku (the chirp or song of an animal) and naku (the cry of a person). In this particular haiku, Issa is plainly using the former word, yet I have decided to translate the bird's sound as a "cry" instead of a "chirp" or "peep." Issa, a stepchild, plainly sees himself in the abandoned bird, and he senses in its forlorn chirp emotional pain.

1812

.親雀子雀山もいさむぞよ
oya suzume ko suzume yama mo isamu zo yo

parent sparrows
baby sparrows...
a happy mountain

Issa celebrates family love in this haiku. The mountain is, literally, in "high spirits" (isamu). The joy of the sparrows, parents and babies, seems to infect everyone on the mountain, including Issa, and, in a wonderful bit of literary exaggeration, the mountain itself.

1812

.雀子や親のけん嘩をしらぬ顔
suzumego ya oya no ken[ka] wo shiranu kao

baby sparrow--
his face unaware
of his parents' fights

1813

.今生えた竹の先也雀の子
ima haeta take no saki nari suzume no ko

on the tip of the
newly sprouted bamboo...
a baby sparrow

Issa captures in this haiku a favorite theme in Japanese painting: sparrow and bamboo. But what makes this poem special and charming is the fact that these old companions in art appear together in their youth: the bamboo is a fresh, green sprout; the sparrow, just a baby. Issa celebrates in the verse not only youth, but lifelong affinity and friendship.

1813

.かはるがはる巣の番したり親雀
kawaru-gawaru su no ban shitari oya suzume

taking turns
guarding the nest...
parent sparrows

1813

.雀子を遊ばせておく畳哉
suzumego wo asobasete oku tatami kana

the baby sparrow
is allowed to play...
tatami mat

Or: "baby sparrows/ are allowed..."

1813

.雀子も朝開帳の間にあひぬ
suzumego mo asa kaichô no ma ni ainu

baby sparrows, too
arrive for the Buddha's
morning showing

An image of Buddha is being displayed at a temple. Human pilgrims abound, but Issa notices other pilgrims as well; these happen to have feathers. Of course, the skeptic exclaims, "The fledgling sparrows just happen to be in the scene; they aren't really Buddhists or pilgrims!" To this, Issa replies, "Are you sure?" In his view of the universe, all sentient beings, including little birds, are on the road to the same enlightenment, the same Western Paradise of Amida Buddha. The happy chirping of baby birds is authentic prayer--superior to most human prayers since it is utterly spontaneous and not arising out of ego or selfish calculation. As in Buddhism, Christianity, too, praises this sort of innocent piety: "Let the little children come unto me."

1813

.雀の子庵の埃がむさいやら
suzume no ko io no hokori ga musai yara

baby sparrow--
the dust in this hut
is filthy!

1813

.大仏の鼻で鳴也雀の子
daibutsu no hana de naku nari suzume no ko

in the great bronze
Buddha's nose chirping...
sparrow babies

There are two huge bronze statues of the Buddha in Japan: at Kamakura and at Nara. The one at Nara, in Tôdaiji Temple, is 53 1/2 feet high and made of 400+ tons of bronze. The Kamakura Great Buddha is 37 feet high, 90+ tons.

1814

.親のない一つ雀のふとりけり
oya no nai hitotsu suzume no futori keri

the lone orphan sparrow
nice
and plump

1814

.来い来いと腹こなさする雀の子
koi koi to hara konasasuru suzume no ko

come! come here!
digest your food
baby sparrow

1814

.参詣のたばこにむせな雀の子
sankei no tabako ni musena suzume no ko

temple visit--
don't choke on the pipe smoke
baby sparrow!

This haiku has the prescript, "Main Temple Hall."

1814

.雀の子地蔵の袖にかくれけり
suzume no ko jizô no sode ni kakure keri

baby sparrow
safe in holy Jizo's
sleeve

Or: "baby sparrows."

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children. Gabi Greve notes, "In Japanese mythology the story goes that between life and death there flows a river. This river is called Sai no Kawara. Translated it means 'Children's Limbo'; Limbo means a region on the border of hell or heaven, serving as the abode after death of unbaptized infants; Kawara is 'riverside.' According to old Japanese belief, children do not go to heaven or hell, but the souls of the dead babies play on the banks of this river, Sai no Kawara. And one of the things they have to do as their Duty (penance) there, is to stack up pebbles, and build little towers. However, while doing so, a naughty, horrible devil usually appears who disturbs their playing, breaks their towers up, and scares them. And, it is here where the long sleeves of Jizo's robe comes in handy, because Jizo is the god who protects children, and he does not fail to protect them there on the banks of the Sai no Kawara. So when scared by this devil, they all jump into the sleeve of Jizo's robe, where they hide and feel safe and warm."

Gabi's story adds a deeper meaning to the baby sparrow nestled in the statue's sleeve. Issa underscores the Buddhist belief that salvation is for all beings, not just humans.

1814

.竹に来よ梅に来よとや親雀
take ni ko yo ume ni ko yo to ya oya suzume

"Come to the bamboo!
Come to the plum tree!"
mother sparrow calls

1814

.むら雀さらにまま子はなかりけり
mura suzume sara ni mamako wa nakari keri

flock of sparrows--
and not one of them
a stepchild

Issa was a stepchild. Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602.

1814

.我と来てあそぶや親のない雀
ware to kite asobu ya oya no nai suzume

coming to play
with me...
orphan sparrow

This haiku appears in one diary with a prescript that describes how stepchild Issa was lonely and sad at age six, cruelly taunted by village children for being motherless. He would spend the long days by himself, crouched in the shade of the piled-up wood and reeds behind the garden. His life, he wrote, was all "grief and sorrow." In a different text, he supplies more details: "A parentless sparrow made himself known by singing pitifully, alone. In a little shack in the back yard, I cared for it all day." See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.147; 1.129. In this original form the sparrow is "coming to play" (kite asobu). In a later rewrite, Issa changes the verb to a command: "come and play" (kite asobe). According to Shinji Ogawa, the second version is more popular in Japan.

1819

.我と来て遊べや親のない雀
ware to kite asobe ya oya no nai suzume

come and play
with me...
orphan sparrow

A reference to Issa's own stepchild past. In its original form (1814) the sparrow is "coming to play" (kite asobu). In this rewrite, Issa changes the verb to a command: "come and play" (kite asobe). According to Shinji Ogawa, this second version is more popular in Japan.

1815

.草の戸やみやげをねだる雀の子
kusa no to ya miyage wo nedaru suzume [no] ko

at my humble hut
he begs for a present
a baby sparrow

The sparrow is treating Issa's hut like a temple. When people visit temples, they often buy little souvenirs (miyage). In this case, the "souvenir" would be a scrap of food. Shinji Ogawa has pointed out to me that kusa no to is not to be read literally as "grass door," but figuratively as "my hut."

1815

.柴門や足にからまる雀の子
shiba no to ya ashi ni karamaru suzume no ko

my humble hut--
with baby sparrows
underfoot

Or: "humble hut"--the "my" is not stated. Shinji Ogawa explains that shiba no to ("brushwood door") is an idiom for a "hut" or "my humble house." It does not mean that Issa's door is literally made of brushwood. He adds, "The haiku is in essence saying, 'There are many baby sparrows around my house'."

1815

.雀子のはや喰逃をしたりけり
suzumego no haya kûnige wo shitari [keri]

baby sparrow
so quickly you've learned
to eat and run

Or: "baby sparrows."

Shinji Ogawa notes that the baby sparrow "has already learned the adult behavior of eat-and-run." He believes that Issa's expectation is that a baby sparrow should accompany him for a while after eating (the crumbs or rice that Issa has thrown?). However, like an adult ingrate, the baby bird gobbles then flies.

1815

.雀子や銭投る手に鳴かかる
suzumego ya zeni hôru te ni naki-kakaru

in the hand
tossing coins, baby sparrow
starts cheeping

I picture a shrine or temple scene. Someone is tossing coins into an offering box.

1815

.頬べたのお飯をなくや雀の子
hohobeta [no] o-meshi wo naku ya suzume no ko

chirping for the rice
on my cheek...
baby sparrow

Originally, I pictured the little sparrow's cheeks "stuffed" with rice, but Shinji Ogawa assures me that Issa is referring to his own cheek; some sticky rice, perhaps left over from dinner, clings there in this humorous self-portrait.

1816

.朝飯の鐘をしりてや雀の子
asameshi no kane wo shirite ya suzume no ko

he knows the meaning
of the breakfast bell...
baby sparrow

Or: "she knows..." At a Buddhist temple, the baby sparrow has learned that the breakfast bell means it's time for a handout.

1816

.子どもらの披露に歩く雀哉
kodomora no hirô ni aruku suzume kana

introducing their children
to society...
strutting sparrows

1816

.善光寺へ行て来た顔や雀の子
zenkôji e itte kita kao ya suzume no ko

faces looking like
they've been to Zenko Temple
baby sparrows

1816

.手伝つて虱を拾へ雀の子
tetsudatte shirami wo hiroe suzume no ko

do me a favor
baby sparrow...
pick at my lice

1817

.雀子やお竹如来の流し元
suzumego ya otake nyorai no nagashimoto

baby sparrow
is O-Take Buddha
at the sink

R.H. Blyth explains that "O-Take Buddha" refers to a servant who was legendary for being frugal, never throwing away a single grain of rice. The baby sparrow at the sink is eating crumbs, much like its namesake. See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 2.523.

1818

.しよんぼりと雀にさへもまま子哉
shonbori to suzume ni sae mo mamako kana

dejected--
even among sparrows
a stepchild

Issa was a stepchild.

1818

.雀らもおや子連にて善光寺
suzumera mo oyako-zure nite zenkôji

sparrow parents too
bring their children...
Zenko Temple

Zenkôji is a major Pure Land Buddhist temple in Issa's home province of Shinano, today's Nagano Prefecture. Its icon of Amida Buddha, located in the Main Hall, is believed to possess enough spiritual power to guarantee one's rebirth in the Pure Land, so pilgrims throng to Zenkôji. In this haiku, little families of sparrows join the procession of pilgrims. On one level, Issa paints a "cute" portrait of birds mirroring the human world. A bit deeper though, he suggests that even parent sparrows are filled with enough religious sentiment and love for their children that they want the best for them, including the ultimate good: rebirth in Amida's Western Paradise. Salvation is for all creatures.

1818

.それ馬が馬がとやいふ親雀
sore uma ga uma ga to ya iu oya suzume

"Watch out for that horse!
Watch out!"
mother sparrow calls

1818

.やつれたよ子に疲たぞ門雀
yatsureta yo ko ni tsukareta zo kado suzume

looking haggard
from her baby-sitting...
sparrow at the gate

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "thin and tired/ from baby-sitting/ sparrow at the gate."

Issa's keen eye and sympathetic heart collaborate to make this haiku.

1819

.大勢の子を連歩く雀哉
ôzei no ko wo tsure aruku suzume kana

a troop of children
march behind her...
mother sparrow

Shinji Ogawa describes the scene: a mother sparrow is walking along, leading the crowd of her children.

1819

.ぎりのある子を呼ばるかよ夕雀
giri no aru ko wo yobaru ka yo yû suzume

are you calling
for your stepchild?
evening sparrow

Sakuo Nakamura points out that giri no aru ko means "stepchild." Issa was a stepchild.

1819

.雀子のしをしをぬれて鳴にけり
suzumego no shio-shio nurete naki ni keri

baby sparrow
pitifully, pitifully wet
he cries

Or: "she cries."

In Issa's journal, Hachiban nikki ("Eighth Diary"), this haiku is preceded by:

suzumego ya kawa no naka made oya wo yobu

baby sparrow
in the middle of the river
cries for mama

Shinji Ogawa notes that shio-shio means "with a dejected air"--an adverb to modify the verb naku ("cry"). However, the placement of shio-shio is unnatural; normal Japanese would express this: suzumego no nurete shio-shio naki ni keri." Issa puts the shio-shio front of nurete ("got wet"). Shinji suspects that Issa may be playing with the word shio-shio to imply shô-shô ("a little"): the baby sparrow "got a little wet."

On the other hand, if this is the same baby sparrow as in the previous haiku in the journal--the one crying for his mother in the middle of a river--he is more than a little wet.

1819

.雀子や川の中迄親をよぶ
suzumego ya kawa no naka made oya wo yobu

baby sparrow
in the middle of the river
cries for mama

1819

.雀の子そこのけそこのけ御馬が通る
suzume no ko soko noke soko noke o-uma ga tôru

baby sparrows
move aside!
Sir Horse passes

Or: "baby sparrow." Shinji Ogawa imagines "baby sparrows." Choosing the singular, he notes, "may clarify the focus of attention but is slightly artificial (one naturally questions what happened to the other baby sparrows)." He adds that, in Japan, this is one of Issa's most famous haiku.

Kai Falkman, commenting on another translator's versions of Issa, writes, "To call a dragonfly Mr. Dragonfly and a horse Mr. Horse might seem funny, but it diminishes Issa's haiku." He adds, "anthropomorphism is alien to haiku"; see Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 43. I disagree. Issa often and quite consciously treats animals as if they are his human peers. In this case, he gives the horse a human honorific that can be translated as "Mr." or "Sir." This treatment is in keeping with the poet's Buddhist belief that all sentient beings are "cousins" on the road to eventual enlightenment. Shinji Ogawa agrees: "Some westerners develop certain formulae for haiku, which may say 'no anthropomorphism' or 'no metaphor'. Haiku is not so simple as to fit into a formula. Anthropomorphism is real in our lives; therefore, it is real in haiku also. The word, o-uma means 'Mr. Horse'; the o is an honorific prefix, and more importantly this word is used only in baby talk. Since Issa is addressing the warning to the baby sparrows, it is very appropriate to use the childish expression, 'Mr. Horse'. Issa's attention is totally focused upon the welfare of the baby sparrows."

French translator L. Mabesoone has Issa warn the sparrow of ("Le car[r]osse" ("The carriage"); Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 41.

1819

.筍と品よくあそべ雀の子
takenoko to shinayoku asobe suzume no ko

bamboo shoots, baby sparrows
play together
gently!

Issa's word, shinayoku, seems to be a variant of shinayaka: graceful, elegant, delicate. In his haiku, he tells the baby bamboo and baby sparrows to play together delicately, gracefully.

1820

.門雀兄弟喧嘩始めけり
kado suzume kyôdai kenka hajime keri

sparrows at the gate--
a quarrel between brothers
breaks out

Shinji Ogawa notes that hajime keri means "started" in this context: "sparrows at the gate/ started a fight/ among brothers."

My question: human or sparrow brothers? While it is conceivable that sparrows somehow caused a fight among human children, I prefer to imagine that brother sparrows are fighting, perhaps over crumbs or rice that Issa is scattering.

1820

.雀子や女の中の豆いりに
suzumego ya onna no naka no mame iri ni

"Baby sparrow's
a sissy!"
playing with the girls

Literally, this haiku states: "Baby sparrow--among the women, a bean is parching." The editors of Issa zenshû explain: "When a boy is playing with girls, the expression, 'Among the women, a bean is parching', is a form of teasing banter" (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 4.136).

1822

.親雀子を返せとや猫を追ふ
oya suzume ko wo kaese to ya neko wo ou

"Give back my child!"
mother sparrow chases
the cat

My first translation of this haiku was optimistic; I pictured a mother sparrow chasing off a cat, saving her children. Shinji Ogawa, however, notes that Issa's language paints a different scene in which a cat has already caught a baby sparrow.

1823

.猫の飯相伴するや雀の子
neko no meshi shôban suru ya suzume no ko

sharing the food
in the cat's dish...
baby sparrow

This haiku presents a surprising moment of connection between "natural" enemies: the cat and the baby sparrow. Though it is likely that the cat is nowhere around when the baby sparrow pecks at the food in its dish, Issa doesn't characterize the sparrow's eating as an act of thievery. Instead, it "shares" the cat's food--implying that the cat doesn't mind extending this kindness to a fellow creature. Of course, Issa is imposing his own loving feeling on the scene. One can only imagine what his cat would really do, if it happened to come around at this moment!

1823

.牢屋から出たり入つたり雀の子
rôya kara detari ittari suzume no ko

in and out
of prison they go...
baby sparrows

Or: "he goes.../ baby sparrow." In my earlier translation, I began with "flying in and out of prison," but Shinji Ogawa thinks that the word "flying" spoils Issa's surprise. Someone is going in and out of prison, and we must wait until Issa's punch line to discover the identity of that someone: baby sparrows! The little birds know nothing about human law and punishment. They fly easily back and forth between the carefully demarcated human realms of "prison" and "freedom." Such categories mean nothing to them.

1824

.米搗は杵を枕や雀の子
kome tsuki wa kine wo makura ya suzume no ko

the rice pounder's mallet
is his pillow...
baby sparrows

Or: "baby sparrow." I orginally pictured a baby sparrow as the one in the scene who is using a rice pounder's tool as his pillow, but Shinji Ogawa notes that the mallet would be too big to serve in this capacity. He believes that the person using the kine (a wooden pestle for pounding rice) as a pillow is actually the person who should be using that tool but who instead is taking a nap. Why does Issa feel that it's important to tell the baby sparrows this fact? Shinji responds, "I think the haiku depicts a picture of spring peace. To whom did Issa want to talk about the spring peace? Of course, it must be his favorite spring companions, the baby sparrows."

1824

.慈悲すれば糞をする也雀の子
jihi sureba hako wo suru nari suzume no ko

when you hold him kindly
he poops on you...
baby sparrow

1824

.雀子に膝の飯つぶつませけり
suzumego ni hiza [no] meshi tsubu tsumase keri

help yourself
to the rice in my lap
baby sparrow

1824

.念仏者や足にからまる雀の子
nebutsusha ya ashi ni karamaru suzume no ko

he prays to Amida Buddha
a baby sparrow
underfoot

1824

.むだ鳴になくは雀のまま子哉
muda naki ni naku wa suzume no mamako kana

crying his cry
in vain...
the stepchild sparrow

Issa was a stepchild.

1825

.雀子や牛にも馬にも踏れずに
suzumego ya ushi ni mo uma ni mo fumarezu ni

baby sparrows
by the cow and the horse
untrampled

Or: "baby sparrow."

Shinji Ogawa pictures several cows and horses:

baby sparrow
without being stomped
by horses nor cows

year unknown

.雀子が中で鳴く也米瓢
suzumego ga naka de naku nari kome fukube

the baby sparrow
chirps inside it...
rice gourd

A rice gourd, according to Shinji Ogawa, can be the size of a basketball. In a haiku written in 1816 Issa has a bat chirping in the gourd.

Note the alliteration of the middle phrase, "naka de naku nari."

1802

.うぐひすのあごの下より淡路島
uguisu no ago no shita yori awaji shima

below the nightingale's
chin...
Awaji Island

1803

.鶯や松にとまれば松の声
uguisu ya matsu ni tomareba matsu no koe

when the nightingale
moves into the pine...
voice of the pine

1803

.鶯や南は鴻の嘴たたく
uguisu ya minami wa kô no hashi tataku

nightingale singing--
to the south a goose
clacking

A is a large wild goose. Literally, it is clacking its beak, an interesting sound contrast to the mellifluous song of the Japanese nightingale (uguisu).

1804

.鶯ももどりがけかよおれが窓
uguisu mo modori-gake ka yo ore ga mado

nightingale
are you also returning?
my window

1804

.鶯よこちむけやらん赤の飯
uguisu yo kochi muke yaran aka no meshi

hey nightingale
turn this way!
red beans and rice

1804

.窓あれば下手鶯も来たりけり
mado areba heta uguisu mo kitari keri

to every window
an off-key nightingale
comes too

Issa doesn't specify that they are his windows, though this might be inferred. Literally, he says "where there's a window" or "if there's a window" (mado areba) a poor-singing nightingale (i.e, its song) also comes.

1804

.痩藪の下手鶯もはつ音哉
yase yabu no heta uguisu mo hatsu ne kana

in a sparse thicket
an off-key nightingale too...
first song

1806

.鶯のあてにして来る垣ね哉
uguisu no ate ni shite kuru kakine kana

the nightingale aims
and arrives...
my fence

"My" is not stated in the haiku but might be inferred.

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1806

.山烏山のうぐひすさそひ来よ
yama-garasu yama no uguisu sasoi kiyo

mountain crows
bring the mountain nightingales
when you come

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "mountain crows/ bring with you/ nightingales of the mountain."

1807

.鶯が呑んでから汲古井哉
uguisu ga nonde kara kumu furu i kana

after the nightingale drinks
water is drawn...
old well

Issa politely allows the nightingale to drink first.

1807

.鶯が人は何とも思はぬか
uguisu ga hito wa nan to mo omo[wa]nu ka

nightingale--
what don't you know
about people?

This haiku has the prescript, "Ueno." A popular blossom-viewing spot in Edo (old Tokyo), Ueno attracted plenty of spring visitors, exposing the nightingale to all kinds of people. Issa jokes that it must be an expert on human nature.

1807

.鶯にかさい訛はなかりけり
uguisu ni kasai namari wa nakari keri

the nightingale sings--
no trace of a country
accent

Literally, the bird has no "Kasai accent" (kasai namari). A subway stop in Greater Tokyo today, in Issa's time Kasai was a farming village east of Edo.

1817

.鶯の涙か曇る鈴鹿山
uguisu no namida ka kumoru suzuka yama

is the nightingale weeping
at your cloudiness?
Mount Suzuka

Mount Suzuka is located in Mie Prefecture. This haiku was written on the second day of First Month, 1807. Perhaps Issa is transferring his own disappointment onto the nightingale.

1807

.鶯や摺小木かけも梅の花
uguisu ya surikogi kake mo ume no hana

nightingale sings
a pestle pounds...
plum blossoms

Literally, Issa only says that a nightingale and pestle are somewhere in the plum blossoms. His implication is that we know this because of their respective sounds--which is why I add the words "sings" and "pounds" to my translation.

1808

.鶯に亀も鳴たいやうす哉
uguisu ni kame mo nakitai yôsu kana

nightingale--
even the turtle wants
to break into song

1808

.鶯にだまつて居らぬ雀かな
uguisu ni damatte oranu suzume kana

not hushing up
for the nightingale...
sparrows

Or: "sparrow." The fact that the plebian sparrow(s) will not hush for the princely nightingale makes for a moment of humor as well as social satire. Issa's sympathies, I believe, lie with the sparrows.

1808

.鶯や懐の子も口を明く
uguisu ya futokoro no ko mo kuchi wo aku

nightingale--
the nursing baby also
opens her mouth

Or: "his mouth." The infant attempts to imitate the nightingale, opening his or her mouth as if to sing. Issa shows a spontaneous connection between children and Nature. He also suggests a fact about human history. As a highly imitative species, did human beings invent singing in an attempt to imitate the birds? Nature is mankind's first teacher.

1809

.鶯のだまつて聞や茶つみ唄
uguisu no damatte kiku ya cha tsumi uta

the nightingale
hushes to listen...
tea-picking song

Shinji Ogawa doesn't think much of this haiku. He comments, "This haiku is too pretentious or showy. [It] says that even the prima donna nightingale hushes to listen to the tea-picking song. This is not humor but a tickle."

1811

.鶯の足をふく也梅の花
uguisu no ashi wo fuku nari ume no hana

the nightingale
wipes his feet...
on plum blossoms

1811

.鶯のけむい顔する垣根哉
uguisu no kemui kao suru kakine kana

the nightingale
makes a face in the smoke...
fence sitting

Literally, it makes a "smoky face" (kemui kao). Is this an expression of disapproval of the poet's smoldering fire?

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1813

.鶯のけむい顔する山家哉
uguisu no kemui kao suru yamaga kana

the nightingale
makes a face in the smoke...
mountain home

A rewrite of an earlier haiku in which the nightingale sat on a fence or hedge. Literally, it makes a "smoky face" (kemui kao). Is this an expression of disapproval of the poet's smoldering fire?

1811

.鶯の鳴ておりけりひとり釜
uguisu n naite ori keri hitori kama

a nightingale
is singing...
in the kettle

1811

.鶯の法ほけ経を信濃哉
uguisu no hôhokekyô wo shinnô kana

listening to the nightingale's
Lotus Sutra...
Shinano

Shinano is Issa's mountainous home province, today known as Nagano Prefecture. The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts.

1811

.鶯や仕へ奉る梅の花
uguisu ya tsukae-matsuru ume no hana

a nightingale--
and made to order
plum blossoms

Issa uses two spring season words in the poem: nightingale and plum blossoms, a popular combination in Japanese art.

1811

.おく山も今はうぐひすと鳴にけり
oku yama mo ima wa uguisu to naki ni keri

in deep mountains too
now the nightingale
sings!

Issa rejoices in the fact that even in a poor, mountainous province far from the Emperor's Kyoto or the Shogun's Edo, the "courtly" uguisu sings ... for all.

1811

.かさい酒かさい鶯鳴にけり
kasai sake kasai uguisu naki ni keri

drinking country sake--
a country nightingale
singing

Literally, the haiku refers to Kasai sake and a nightingale of Kasai. A subway stop in Greater Tokyo today, in Issa's time Kasai was a farming village east of Edo.

1811

.鍬のえに鶯鳴くや小梅村
kuwa no e ni uguisu naku koume mura

on the hoe's handle
a nightingale sings...
Little-Plum village

Little-Plum village was located near Edo (today's Tokyo) on the Sumida River. See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 97, note 451.

1811

.信濃なる鶯も法ほけ経哉
shinano naru uguisu mo hohokekyô kana

even the nightingale
of Shinano sings it...
Lotus Sutra

Or: "even the nightingales/ of Shinano..."
The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts.

Issa's home province was Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture. Shinji Ogawa notes that hohokekyô (Lotus Sutra) onomatopoetically suggests the sound of a nightingale's warble. Hence, the haiku alludes to the countrified dialect of Issa's Province; Issa marvels that the nightingales of Shinano, too, warble hohokekyô in the standard (bird) language.

1811

.三日月やふはりと梅にうぐひすが
mikazuki ya fuwari to ume ni uguisu ga

sickle moon--
through plum blossoms softly
the nightingale

The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

1812

.鶯のひとり娘か跡で鳴
uguisu no hitori musume ka ato de naku

are you the nightingale's
only daughter
behind the others, singing?

Issa chides the bird for being a shrinking violet.

1812

.鶯のやれ大面もせざりけり
uguisu no yare ôzura mo sezari keri

nightingale--
his face doesn't look
like a big shot's

Literally, the nightingale doesn't have a "big face" (ôzura). Issa reworks this haiku ten years later, changing his description of the face to not "stuck up" (takaburi). In light of the later version, I believe that "big face" might suggest that someone is acting like a bigshot. Yet, on closer inspection, he seems just like an ordinary bird, despite his courtly reputation.

1813

.跡なるは鶯のひとり娘哉
ato naru wa uguisu no hitori musume kana

staying behind--
the nightingale's only
daughter

This haiku is a reshuffling of one written the previous year (in 1812), which asks, "Are you the nightingale's only daughter?" (uguisus no hitori musume ka). It has an irregular syllable count of 5-8-5. Issa chides the bird for being a shrinking violet.

1813

.鶯にあてがつておく垣ね哉
uguisu ni ategatte oku kakine kana

nightingale
this fence is reserved
for you

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1813

.鶯の御気に入けり御侍
uguisu no o-ki ni iri keri o-samurai

catching the spirit
of the nightingale's song...
samurai

1813

.鶯のかたもつやうな雀哉
uguisu [no] kata motsu yôna suzume kana

he seems to have
the nightingale's back...
sparrow

To have someone's back (kata wo motsu) means the same thing in Japanese as it does in English. The common sparrow lends support to the courtly nightingale.

1813

.鶯の苦にもせぬ也ばくち小屋
uguisu no ku ni mo senu nari bakuchi goya

the nightingale
not at all concerned...
little gambling shack

Human vice doesn't bother the nightingale, singing above it all.

year unknown

.鶯の苦にもせぬ也茶のけぶり
uguisu no ku ni mo senu nari cha no keburi

the nightingale
not at all concerned...
tea smoke

year unknown

.鶯の苦にもせぬ也辻ばくち
uguisu no ku ni mo senu nari tsuji bakuchi

the nightingale
not at all concerned...
gambling at the crossroads

This haiku is a rewrite of one that Issa composed in 1813. He ends the original version with "little gambling shack" (bakuchi goya).

1813

.鶯の真似して居れば鶯ぞ
uguisu no mane shite ireba uguisu yo

while imitating
a nightingale...
a nightingale!

A delightful haiku surprise. The person doing birdcalls is answered by the real thing.

1813

.鶯や何が不足ですぐ通り
uguisu ya nani ga fusoku de sugu tôri

hey nightingale--
why the rush
to go so soon?

Issa writes a syntactically similar haiku in 1810:

sakura hana nani ga fusoku de chiri isogu

hey cherry blossoms--
why the rush
to scatter so soon?

About the above haiku, Shinji Ogawa comments, "The word fusoku in this context means 'discontent' or 'dissatisfaction'..."

1813

.鶯よたばこにむせな江戸の山
uguisu yo tabako ni musena edo no yama

nightingale, don't suffocate
from the pipe smoke!
Edo mountain

1813

.武士や鶯に迄つかはるる
samurai ya uguisu ni made tsukawaruru

samurai--
even the nightingale
gives orders

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. He comments, "In Issa's day, the living of samurai, especially the samurai of low rank, was not so dignified. They lived with rigid rules and customs with small pay." Here, even a nightingale seems to be bossing one of them around.

Makoto Ueda speculates that a feudal lord is keeping a bush warbler (Japanese nightingale) in a cage. The samurai who serves him must "wait on the bird." A comic image: the fierce warrior feeding a bird or cleaning its cage; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 96.

1813

.鳴けよ鳴けよ下手でもおれが鶯ぞ
nake yo nake yo heta demo ore ga uguisu zo

sing! sing!
though off key
my nightingale

1813

.寝ながらや軒の鶯うぐひすな
ne nagara ya noki no uguisu uguisu na

trying to sleep--
that nightingale on the eaves
is a nightingale!

Shinji Ogawa writes, "I cannot comprehend this haiku." He translates: "listening while drowsing/ the nightingale at the eaves/ is indeed a nightingale." But, he adds, "it doesn't make sense." I wonder if Issa might have been sleepily listening to the bird's song wondering if it could be a nightingale. Then, in a flash of recognition, he realizes, "Yes! It is!"

1813

.宮様の鶯と云ぬばかり哉
miyasama no uguisu to iwanu bakari kana

he's a prince
of a nightingale!
you could say

According to Shinji Ogawa, the phrase iwanu bakari is an idiom meaning, "as if saying so."

1814

.赤い実を咥た所が鶯ぞ
akai mi wo kuwaete toko ga uguisu zo

a red berry
in its beak posing...
nightingale

The word toko in this context does not mean "place" (as I originally thought) but "the moment" or "the state"--according to Shinji Ogawa.

1814

.鶯が呑ぞ浴るぞ割下水
uguisu ga nomu zo abiru zo wari gesui

the nightingale
drinks and bathes...
sewage canal

According to Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa is referring to Old Edo's sewer system: two nine-foot wide canals running north and south through the city Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 204, note 1058.

1814

.鶯に仏の飯のけぶりけり
uguisu ni hotoke no meshi no keburi keri

in the nightingale's
song, steam
from the Buddha's rice

Shinji Ogawa writes, "The word keburi ('smoke') means, in this context, 'steam.' In Japan, we never cook anything for Buddha's sake; we offer a portion of our food, whatever we have, to Buddha. The rice offered to Buddha is still hot and steaming."

1814

.鶯の袖するばかり鳴にけり
uguisu no sode suru bakari naki ni keri

nightingale--
only an off-the-cuff
song

Sode ni suru ("doing in the sleeve") is an old idiom for performing an action negligently; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 944.

1814

.鶯のぬからぬ顔や京の山
uguisu no nukaranu kao ya kyô no yama

the nightingale's
"I'm perfect" face...
Kyoto's mountain

The verb nukaru in Issa's time meant to commit a careless blunder; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1270. Issa uses its negative form (nukuranu) to modify the bird's face: the nightingale has an expression that is "not blundering."

year unknown

.鶯のぬからぬ顔や東山
uguisu no nukaranu kao ya higashi yama

the nightingale's
"I'm perfect" face...
Higashi Mountains

The verb nukaru in Issa's time meant to commit a careless blunder; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1270. Issa uses its negative form (nukuranu) to modify the bird's face: the nightingale has an expression that is "not blundering."

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

1814

.鶯のふいふい田舎かせぎ哉
uguisu no fui-fui inaka kasegi kana

the nightingale
flitting about makes his living
in the country

Fui-fui is an old expression that denotes (1) a movement like shaking in a light wind, and (2) staggering or wavering without settling down; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1425.

1814

.鶯やあのものといふやうな顔
uguisu ya ano mono to iu yôna kao

nightingale--
just a run-of-the-mill
face

Issa isn't impressed by the bird's face. Ano no mono no is an old expression for are ya kore ya ("one thing or another", "this or that matter"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 50. In a similar haiku written the same year (1814), Issa makes the same comment about the nightingale's "way of speaking" (kuchitsuki).

1814

.鶯があのものといふ口つきぞ
uguisu ya ano mono to iu kuchitsuki zo

nightingale--
just a run-of-the-mill
voice

Ano no mono no is an old expression for are ya kore ya ("one thing or another", "this or that matter"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 50. In a similar haiku written the same year (1814), Issa makes the same comment about the nightingale's "face" (kao).

1814

.鶯や田舎の梅も咲だんべい
uguisu ya inaka no ume mo saku-danbei

a nightingale--
plum trees in the countryside
should be blooming

Danbei is the equivalent of -darô ("should be"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1037. Issa is saying: "Hearing your song, nightingale, I wonder why the plum trees in the countryside aren't in bloom." One sign of spring is present; one is missing. Issa uses two spring season words in the poem: nightingale and plum blossoms, a popular combination in Japanese art.

1814

.鶯や田舎廻りが楽だんべい
uguisu ya inaka mawari ga raku-danbei

a nightingale--
touring the countryside
should be fun

Danbei is the equivalent of -darô ("should be"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1037. Issa is saying: "Now that I hear a nightingale singing, it's a perfect time for touring the countryside." In other words, trees should be blooming.

1814

.鶯や会釈もなしに梅の花
uguisu ya eshaku mo nashi ni ume no hana

the nightingale
doesn't bow...
plum trees in bloom

The courtly nightingale seems to take the plum blossoms for granted, not bowing to them--unlike, one presumes, Issa. Issa uses two spring season words in the poem: nightingale and plum blossoms, a popular combination in Japanese art.

1814

.鶯やかさい訛りもけさの空
uguisu ya kasai namari mo kesa no sora

nightingales--
country accents, too
in the morning sky

Or: "a nightingale--/ a country accent, too... Issa leaves to the reader's imagination whether there are one or many nightingales in the morning sky. The bird or birds have ""Kasai accent"" (kasai namari). A subway stop in Greater Tokyo today

1814

.鶯や泥足ぬぐふ梅の花
uguisu ya doro ashi nuguu ume no hana

a nightingale wipes
his muddy feet...
plum blossoms

Anita Virgil points out that the plum blossom was the emblem of the Maeda family. Hence, this haiku might be a "veiled jab" at the daimyo Maeda, Lord of Kaga. See "Issa: The Uses of Adversity." Snow on the Water: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku (Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 1998) 139.

Whether or not there's a hidden political message, the image of the bird wiping his muddy feet on the blossoms reminds us of similar comic images in Issa's poetry--like that of granny blowing her nose in moon blossoms.

Sakuo Nakamura likes to read this haiku allegorically. The nightingale is Issa, wiping his feet after a journey at the door of an inn. When I pointed out to Sakuo that the haiku was written in Eleventh Month, 1814--the same month that Issa married his first wife, Kiku--Sakuo suggested that perhaps the plum blossoms represent the poet's young wife.

1814

.鶯や鳴けども鳴けども里遠き
uguisu ya nake [do]mo nake [do]mo sato tôki

hey nightingale
sing! sing!
the town's far away

1814

.なけよなけ下手鶯もおれが窓
nake yo nake heta uguisu mo ore ga mado

sing! sing!
off-key nightingale
at my window

1814

.山崎や山鶯も下々の客
yamazaki ya yama uguisu mo gege no kyaku

Yamazaki--
the nightingale from the mountain, too
a third-class guest

Issa, a man from the mountains, is staying at an inn in the cheapest and worst of rooms. He imagines that the nightingale from the mountains is receiving similar treatment.

1814

.我友の後家鶯よ鶯よ
waga tomo no goke uguisu yo uguisu yo

my friend's widow--
a nightingale!
a nightingale!

Is the widow forgetting her grief, delighting in the song of the nigthingale?

1815

.家跡や此鶯に此さくら
ie ato ya kono uguisu ni kono sakura

behind the house--
this nightingale
these cherry blossoms

In my first translation of this haiku I read the ni in kono uguisu ni as signifying "on" or "over": "over this nightingale." Shinji Ogawa, however, translates the phrase, simply, as "this nightingale," without implying a spatial relationship between the bird and the tree or blossoms. He translates the third phrase as, "this cherry tree." I picture the tree blooming, so I prefer to end with "these cherry blossoms." This would make two spring season words in the poem: nightingale and cherry blossoms--a double shot of spring, which, I believe, might be Issa's point.

1815

.鶯や雨だらけなる朝の声
uguisu ya ame darake naru asa no koe

nightingale--
his rain-drenched
morning voice

Kai Falkman writes that the feathers, not the voice, are rain-drenched. I read the syntax differently; Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 89.

Shinji Ogawa agrees with me. He writes, "If it meant that the feathers were wet, it would be a dull report rather than a haiku." He adds, "It might be rationalized that the nightingale's voice is being heard through the pitter-patter sound. However, I prefer 'drenched voice'."

1815

.鶯や此声にして此山家
uguisu ya kono koe ni shite kono yamaga

nightingale--
this voice for this
mountain home

Is Issa marveling at the juxtaposition of elegant song and humble mountain home?

Shinji Ogawa thinks so. He writes, "It is the juxtaposition of a princely nightingale and the humble mountain home. The obvious humor is that Issa applies the human value system to nature."

1815

.鶯や花なき家も捨ずして
uguisu ya hana naki ie mo sutezu shite

nightingale--
not neglecting even a house
without blossoms

The house is probably Issa's. Issa uses two spring season words in the poem: nightingale and "blossoms" (hana), which is shorthand in haiku for cherry blossoms.

1815

.鶯よ何百鳴いた飯前に
uguisu yo nan-byaku naita meshimae ni

nightingale--
how many hundreds of songs
before you eat?

1816

.鶯がちよいと隣の序哉
uguisu ga choi to tonari no tsuide kana

my neighbor for a moment
the nightingale
moves on

1816

.鶯がばくち見い見い鳴にけり
uguisu ga bakuchi mii mii naki ni keri

the nightingale watching
watching the gamblers...
sings

1816

.鶯の朝飯だけを鳴にけり
uguisu no asameshi dake wo naki ni keri

nightingale's breakfast--
only for this
it sang

Shinji Ogawa assisted with the translation, providing this paraphrase: "The nightingale/ warbled/ only for the breakfast." I may be way off, but here's what I picture: hearing the bird, Issa feeds it crumbs, after which it flies back into the trees, now silent. If I'm right, the haiku is a gentle complaint: the bird has warbled only to be fed.

1816

.鶯のかせぎて鳴くや飯前に
uguisu no kasegite naku ya meshimae ni

the nightingale toils
at his singing...
before eating

The bird "sings for his supper."

1816

.鶯の尻目にかけしばくち哉
uguisu no shirime ni kakeshi bakuchi kana

while the nightingale
looks askance...
they gamble

1816

.鶯の毎旦北野参り哉
uguisu no maiasa kitano mairi kana

to Kitano
every morning, the nightingale's
pilgrimage

Kitano ("North Field") is a major shrine in Kyôto.

1816

.鶯や今に直らぬ木曽訛
uguisu ya ima ni naoranu kiso namari

nightingale--
you still haven't lost
your Kiso accent

In other words, the bird sounds like a country bumpkin--like Issa! The Kiso Mountains are found in today's Nagano and Gifu Prefectures.

1816

.鶯やたまたま来たにばくち客
uguisu ya tama-tama kita ni bakuchi kyaku

a nightingale arrives
unexpectedly...
gamblers

The gamblers are playing outside, perhaps on the grass under a tree. A nightingale (uguisu) joins them. As Shinji Ogawa points out, tama-tama in this context means "unexpectedly." He paraphrases what he expects to be Issa's meaning: "What a pity that the nightingale's unexpected visit is spoiled by the gamblers!" The gamblers' loud voices drown out the nightingale's singing.

1816

.鶯や糞しながらもほつけ経
uguisu ya kuso shi nagara mo hokkekyô

nightingale--
even while pooping, sings
Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. Issa imagines that the bird is chirping passages from it, intimating that birdsong, to Issa, is natural prayer.

In an undated revision, the bird piddles.

year unknown

.鶯や尿しながらもほつけ経
uguisu ya shito shi nagara mo hokkekyô

nightingale--
even while pooping, sings
Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. Issa imagines that the bird is chirping passages of it, intimating that birdsong, to Issa, is natural prayer.

This is an undated revision of a haiku written in 1816. In the original poem, the bird poops.

1816

.鶯よ咽がかはかば角田川
uguisu yo nodo ga kawakaba sumida-gawa

nightingale--
if your throat gets dry
there's Sumida River

1816

.鶯や枝に猫は御ひざに
uguisu ya eda ni neko wa on-hiza ni

nightingale
on a branch, in her lap
a cat

Shinji Ogawa suspects that Issa might be depicting a lady of high society (the "nightingale"). Otherwise, it's hard to imagine a cat sitting in a bird's lap!

This haiku has an irregular structure of 5-6-5 on ("sound units").

1816

.木の股の弁当箱よ鶯よ
ki no mata no bentôbako yo uguisu yo

a box lunch
in a tree's crotch...
a nightingale sings

Someone, perhaps a farmer, has left his bentô lunchbox in a tree's crotch (mata)--the place where branches diverge. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1816

.雀程でもほけ経を鳴にけり
suzume hodo demo hokekyô wo naki ni keri

no bigger than a sparrow
yet he warbles
the Lotus Sutra!

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. The editors of Issa zenshû identify the singer as a nightingale: uguisu (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.135. However, since Issa doesn't spell this out, I have kept the "he" in my translation unspecified. Shinji Ogawa notes that hokekyô (Lotus Sutra) onomatopoetically suggests the sound of a nightingale's warble. He adds that the nightingale is warbling "big words, which a sparrow cannot."

1817

.鶯が命の親の御墓哉
uguisu ga inochi no oya no o-haka kana

nightingale
a fount of life
at the grave

The second kanji in this haiku can be read as mikoto ("prince") or as inochi ("life"). Shinji Ogawa believes that the second makes more sense in context, since inochi no oya ("parents of life") is an idiom for "essential." He adds: the nightingale is the "sole comfort" for the grave.

In Issa's Japanese, there is a stark juxtaposition of life and death: inochi and o-haka. In my translation, I attempt to preserve this aspect of the haiku, though a more literal translation of the middle phrase would read: "essential."

1817

.鶯も添て五文の茶代哉
uguisu mo soete go mon no chadai kana

a nightingale singing
included in the price...
five-penny tea

Though it may sound cheap today, five pennies (mon) was expensive for a cup of tea, especially to poor Issa. The song of the princely nightingale perfectly suits this extravagance.

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. In this haiku, the eight mon represents a modern equivalent of approximately two dollars (U.S.).

1817

.鶯や大盃のぬれ色に
uguisu ya ôsakazuki no nure iro ni

nightingale
in the big sake cup's
wet color

Shinji Ogawa explains that this haiku can be read in two ways:

nightingale (resembles or becomes)
as the color
of the big wet cup

nightingale (came to sing)
for the color
of the big wet cup

He concludes: "In either way it is not interesting."

I wonder, if the bird's reflection might be adding to the color of the wetness in the cup? Shinji responds: "Yes, it is quite possible that a bird's reflection is on the sake. The haiku ends with a adverb, ni, omitting some verb or adjective to follow. In the most of the cases, to figure out what is omitted is easy, but on this one I have no clue. My brain is not resonating with this haiku."

1817

.鶯やたばこけぶりもかまはずに
uguisu ya tabako kemuri mo kamawazu ni

nightingale--
he doesn't mind
my pipe smoke

Or: "our pipe smoke."

In an earlier haiku (1813) Issa adopts the opposite view, telling a nightingale, "don't suffocate/ from the pipe smoke" (tabako ni musena)!

1817

.鶯よ弥勒十年から来たか
uguisu yo miroku jû nen kara kita ka

nightingale--
did you come ten years after
the Future Buddha?

According to the Shingon sect, Miroku Bodhisattva would become Maitreya Buddha far in the future, to save all beings who could not achieve enlightenment. According to folk belief, Miroku Year 2 occurred in 1507, which would make Miroku Year 10 1515. Issa asks the nightingale if he came after that year--a comic exaggeration.

1818

.鶯や朝々おがむ榎から
uguisu ya asa-asa ogamu enoki kara

nightingale--
morning after morning
in the nettle tree I pray to

Originally, I thought that the nightingale was doing the praying, but Shinji Ogawa observes that ogamu enoki is "the nettle tree (to which) I pray." He adds, "In Japan, big trees are regarded sacred in Buddhism as well as in Shintoism."

1818

.鶯や桶をかぶつて猫はなく
uguisu ya oke wo kabutte neko wa naku

nightingale--
the cat under the bucket
meows

A playful example of juxtaposition in Issa.

1818

.鶯や垣踏んで見ても一声
uguisu ya kaki funde mite mo hitotsu koe

nightingale--
even strutting on the fence
a song

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1818

.鶯や廻り廻て来る庵
uguisu ya mawari mawarite kuru iori

nightingale--
after his rounds
back to my hut

1818

.鶯よけさは弥太郎事一茶
uguisu yo kesa wa yatarô koto issa

hey nightingale!
from this morning on Yataro
is Issa

Yatarô was Issa's given name. In this haiku he celebrates his "rebirth" as Issa, which literally means "One [cup of] tea."

1818

.うら窓やはつ鶯もぶさた顔
ura mado ya hatsu uguisu mo busata kao

back window--
the first nightingale too
a blank face

Busata has the contemporary meaning of "no news"--an expression used in letter-writing (one apologizes for busata: taking so long to write). In Issa's time it meant carelessness, a lack of preparedness, a lack of discretion, negligence; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1435. I have translated busata kao as "blank face"--but I welcome other suggestions.

1818

.薮超の乞食笛よ鶯よ
yabu goshi no kojiki fue yo uguisu yo

wafting through trees
a beggar's flute
a nightingale's song

1819

.今の世も鳥はほけ経鳴にけり
ima no yo mo tori wa hokekyô naki ni keri

world of corruption
but a bird still sings
the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. Though Issa only refers to it as a "bird" (tori), the editors of Issa zenshû assume that the bird in question is a nightingale (uguisu), and so they list this haiku among the nightingale poems (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.136). It has the prescript, "Heavenly Music." Originally, I translated the opening phrase, "the world today," but, as Shinji Ogawa points out, the mo in the haiku carries the meaning of "even though." Despite that fact that we are living in the age of mappô ) the latter days of Dharma), a bird still sings piously.

1819

.鶯の兄弟連れか同じ声
uguisu no kyôdai zure ka onaji koe

are those nightingales
brothers?
identical voices!

1819

.鶯の馳走にはきしかきね哉
uguisu no chisô ni hakishi kakine kana

in the nightingale's honor
sweeping off
the fence

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

In his translation of this haiku Nobuyuki Yuasa doesn't identify the bird as a "nightingale" (uguisu); he refers to it simply as "my bird." Also, strangely, he doesn't mention the fence/hedge; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru, 2nd Edition (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1972) 49.

1819

.鶯の鳴かげぼしや明り窓
uguisu no naku kageboshi ya akari mado

a nightingale's shadow
singing...
bright window

1819

.鶯の目利してなくわが家哉
uguisu no mekiki shite naku waga ya kana

the nightingale
sizes it up, singing...
my house

1819

.鶯も上鶯のいなかかな
uguisu mo jô uguisu no inaka kana

even among nightingales
royalty
and bumpkins

year unknown

.鶯も上鶯の垣根かな
uguisu mo jô uguisu no kakine kana

even among nightingales
royalty
on the fence

In an earlier version of this haiku, written in 1819, Issa ends with inaka kana: "the countryside." In other words, some nightingales are bumpkins.

1819

.鶯や男法度の奥の院
uguisu ya otoko hatto no oku no in

hey nightingale--
no men allowed
in the harem!

In Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, the "inner sanctuary" (oku no in) is a sacred place where the main image or divine spirit is enshrined; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 257. Shinji Ogawa, however, writes that oku no in in this context means "the back section of a palace" or "women's quarters," where the Shogun's wife and lovers lived.

1819

.君が代は鳥も法華経鳴にけり
kimi ga yo wa tori mo hokkekyô naki ni keri

Great Japan!
where a bird sings
the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. "Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time.

1819

.来るも来るも下手鶯ぞおれが垣
kuru mo kuru mo heta uguisu zo ore ga kaki

one by one they come
off-key nightingales
to my fence

Shinji Ogawa explains that kuru mo kuru mo signifies a repeated action. One after another, the nightingales come, though Issa isn't impressed by their singing.

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1819

.なつかしや下手鶯の遠鳴は
natsukashi ya heta uguisu no tô naki wa

missing home--
an off-key nightingale's
faraway song

Natsukashi, has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia. The poorly singing bird reminds Issa of his own home village--a sly dig at the town that gave him such little support in his inheritance struggle?

year unknown

.鶯のまてにまはるや組屋敷
uguisu no mate ni mawaru ya kumiyashiki

the dragnet of nightingales
closes in...
police station

Usually pronounced made, mate signifies "both hands"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1527.

According to Shinji Ogawa, there is an old Japanese phrase, te ga mawaru ("hands are circulated" or "hands are in circulation"). This means that a thief is being pursued; that police are "closing in." In this haiku, nightingales substitute for the police. Ironically, they "besiege the police quarter."

1820

.鶯や弥陀の浄土の東門
uguisu ya mida no jôdo no higashi kado

a nightingale sings--
the east gate
of Amida's Pure Land

Since the mythical Pure Land is located in the far west, its east gate would be the nearest one to this world, i.e. its entrance. The nightingale seems to coax the listener to Paradise here-and-now. This haiku has the prescript, Tennôji (Tennô Temple).

1821

.鶯がふみ落しけり家の苔
uguisu ga fumi-otoshi keri ie no koke

nightingale stomping
knocks it down...
the house's moss

The moss is growing on the roof. In another haiku of 1821, Issa writes that a crow knocks moss blossoms off of the house's ridge pole:

ya no mune ya karasu ga otosu koke no hana

house's ridge-pole--
the crow flings down
moss blossoms

1821

.鶯も人ずれてなく上野哉
uguisu mo hitozurete naku ueno kana

the nightingale sings
like he's been around...
Ueno

Ueno is a famous place for blossom viewing. In the original version of this haiku, Issa begins, uguisu mo ("the nightingale, too"), but he revises it later to: uguisu no ("the nightingale's"). My translation follows the revision. Otherwise, it would begin: "the nightingale also sings..."

1821

.鶯もほぼ風声ぞ梅の花
uguisu mo hobo kazagoe zo ume no hana

the nightingale, too
a bit hoarse from a cold...
plum blossoms

Issa uses two spring season words in the poem: nightingale and plum blossoms, a popular combination in Japanese art.

1821

.鶯やあきらめのよい籠の声
uguisu ya a[ki]rame no yoi kago no koe

the nightingale
resigned to his fate...
voice in a cage

1822

.鶯の気張て鳴くやたびら雪
uguisu no ki harite naku ya tabira yuki

the nightingale sings
tensely...
flitting snowflakes

A spring bird, the nightingale sounds a bit nervous in the falling snow. Tabira yuki is an old expression that connotes a light, flitting snow; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1019.

1822

.鶯の高ぶり顔はせざりけり
uguisu no takaburi kao wa sezari keri

nightingale--
his face doesn't look
stuck up

In an earlier haiku (1812), Issa writes that the nightingale's face isn't "big" (ôzura).

1822

.鶯の名代になく雀かな
uguisu no myôdai ni naku suzume kana

a substitute singer
for the nightingale...
sparrow

1822

.鶯も素通りせぬや窓の前
uguisu mo sudôri senu ya mado no mae

hey nightingale
don't pass without stopping!
my window

1822

.鶯やざぶざぶ雨を浴びて鳴く
uguisu ya zabu-zabu ame wo abite naku

the nightingale
splish-splash, sings
in the shower

In Issa's Japanese the word that I have translated as "shower" is strictly rain; I couldn't resist this English double entendre.

1822

.鶯や少し勿体つけてから
uguisu ya sukoshi mottai tsukete kara

the nightingale sings
after putting on airs
a bit

Issa rewrites this haiku the same year (1822), ending with koe ("voice"). This helps to clarify the meaning of the original version. After putting on airs, what does the nightingale do? He sings.

1823

.鶯のこそと掃溜栄やう哉
uguisu no koso to hakidame eyô kana

the nightingale's secret--
the rubbish heap
is a luxury

Koso to is an alternative form of kossori to ("on the sly", "secretly"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 620. The courtly nightingale is sneaking into the rubbish heap for food, just like common birds.

1823

.鶯の若い声なり苔清水
uguisu no wakai koe nari koke shimizu

the nightingale's voice
sounds young...
pure water over moss

1824

.いかな日も鶯一人我ひとり哉
ikana hi mo uguisu hitori ware hitori kana

whatever the day brings
the nightingale's alone
I'm alone

Ikana is an old word that has the modern equivalent, dono yôna or donna ("what sort of"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 100. Issa wrote this haiku in Second Month, 1824. The timing is significant; as Shinji Ogawa points out, the poet was left alone in the world by the deaths of his wife and son the year before, and he had not yet married his second wife (this would happen later in 1824, in Fifth Month). Shinji paraphrases: "Whatever the day is (busy, or uneventful, or happy, or sad; one thing is certain:) the nightingale's alone and I'm alone."

1824

.鶯の弟子披露する都哉
uguisu no deishi hirô suru miyako kana

the nightingale presents
his apprentice...
Kyoto

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

An older nightingale is training a younger "apprentice" (deishi) in the art of singing.

1824

.鶯も弟子を持たる座敷哉
uguisu mo deisho wo mochitaru zashiki kana

even the nightingale
has an apprentice...
sitting room

An older nightingale is training a younger "apprentice" (deishi) in the art of singing. In a "sitting room" (zashiki) Issa enjoys the lesson.

1824

.鶯や悪たれ犬も恋を鳴
uguisu ya akutare inu mo koi wo naku

nightingale--
even the rascally dog
howls for love

The dog is barking or howling for a mate, apparently affected by the nightingale's romantic song.

1824

.鶯や御前へ出ても同じ声
uguisu ya gozen e dete mo onaji koe

nightingale--
for the emperor too
the same song

In Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa, I write:

Spring's nightingale warbles the same for rich and poor, oppressor and oppressed. Its song cannot be bought, commanded, meddled with, or taxed. It is one of Nature's gifts to the beauty-loving human spirit, and, as such, suggests a realm of being beyond feudal hierarchy and class warfare. The nightingale sings with the "same voice" (onaji koe) for the emperor and for everyone else (Reno/Tadoshi: Buddhist Books International, 2004) 50.

1824

.鶯の子に鳴せては折々に
uguisu ya ko ni nakasete wa ori-ori ni

the nightingale sings
to his children
now and then

Or: "to her children"? Do both male and female nightingales sing?

1824

.鶯や而後弟子の声
uguisu ya shikaushite nochi deishi no koe

nightingale--
after him his apprentice
sings

An older nightingale is training a younger "apprentice" (deishi) of the "next generation" (nochi) in the art of singing.

Shikaushite is an old word meaning sôshite or sorekara ("then," "next," "after that"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 750.

1824

.鶯や雀は竹にまけぬ声
uguisu ya suzume wa take ni makenu koe

nightingale--
in bamboo the sparrow sings
not conceding

Or: "sparrows sing."

The song of the courtly uguisu ("nightingale") is lovely, but the humble sparrow does not admit defeat.

1824

.鶯や猫は縛られながらなく
uguisu ya neko wa shibarare nagara naku

nightingale--
the cat, tied up
is yowling

The nightingale's romantic song affects even the cat.

1824

.鶯や糞まで紙につつまるる
uguisu ya hako made kami ni tsutsumaruru

nightingale--
even his shit
gets wrapped in paper

The caged nightingale is receiving princely treatment.

1824

.鶯や山育でもあんな声
uguisu ya yama sodachi demo anna koe

nightingale--
raised in the mountains
but such a voice!

Issa, too, was raised in the mountains. This haiku celebrates the blooming of art even in rustic, backwards provinces...like the poet's Shinano. The nightingale is Issa's comrade poet.

1824

.大名の鶯弟子に持にけり
daimyô no uguisu deishi ni mochi ni keri

the war lord's
nightingale
is an apprentice

An older nightingale is training a younger "apprentice" (deishi) in the art of singing. Both are caged birds, belonging to the daimyo ("domain lord"). Shinji Ogawa notes, "It is true that a young caged nightingale is placed beside a experienced warbler to learn how to warble better. In modern days, tape recorders are used." He paraphrases the haiku: "Someone has the lord's nightingale as an apprentice."

1811

.有明や鶯が鳴く綸が鳴る
ariake ya uguisu ga naku rin ga naru

daybreak--
a nightingale sings
a bell rings

Shinji Ogawa believes that this haiku depicts a morning scene at an inn, not an ordinary household, since "a bell was a very special object in Issa's day." Sakuo Nakamura believes that rin in this context is a bell used at a Buddhist altar, suggesting either a temple scene or someone's home altar.

1825

.鶯や家半分はまだ月夜
uguisu ya ie hambun wa mada tsuki yo

nightingale--
half of the house is still
moonlit

1825

.鶯や雀はせせる報謝米
uguisu ya suzume wa seseru hôsha kome

nightingale--
the sparrow pecking
the rice for the god

Someone has left a "thanksgiving present" (hôsha) at a shrine. In my first translation, I envisioned both the nightingale and sparrow helping themselves to the rice. However, Shinji Ogawa notes that ya functions as a cutting word here and cannot be treated the same as "and." Besides, he adds, "it may be more interesting to picture the scene in which the nightingale is warbling and the sparrow is busy pecking the rice."

1825

.鶯やりん打ば鳴うてばなく
uguisu [ya] rin uteba naku uteba naku

nightingale--
the bell rings, he sings
the bell rings, he sings

Someone (Issa?) is hitting a small bell. Each time it rings, the nightingale answers. Shinji Ogawa pictures someone, "probably Issa, reciting a sutra using a bell to keep the rhythm."

1825

.ほけ経を鳴ば鳴也辻ばくち
hokekyô wo nakeba naku nari tsuji bakuchi

when he sings he sings
the Lotus Sutra...
gambling at the crossroads

Though the identity of the singer isn't mentioned, the editors of Issa zenshû assume that it is a nightingale; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.139. The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. The pious bird sings the Buddhist text while gamblers sin below.

1826

.鶯の野にして鳴くや留主御殿
uguisu no no ni shite naku ya rusu goten

a nightingale sings--
the empty palace
his field

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "The nightingale is warbling, making the vacant palace his field." Since it is hard to imagine a vacant palace, Shinji believes that Issa might be referring humorously to his own house.

year unknown

.鶯の幾世顔也おく信濃
uguisu no ikuyo kao nari oku shinano

many generations
had your face, nightingale...
deep Shinano

Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, was Issa's home province.

year unknown

.鶯のはねかへさるるつるべ哉
uguisu no hanekaesaruru tsurube kana

the nightingale
is bouncing about...
well bucket

I picture a nightingale landing on a hanging bucket that starts rocking wildly up and down: an ephemeral moment captured in haiku.

year unknown

.鶯も水を浴せてみそぎ哉
uguisu mo mizu wo abisete misogi kana

the nightingale
splashes too...
purification font

The bird bathes in the font that holds water for hand-washing purification at a shrine

year unknown

.鶯や隅からすみへ目を配り
uguisu ya sumi kara sumi e me wo kubari

nightingale--
from one corner to another
his searching eyes

1802

.湯の里とよび初る日やむら燕
yu no sato to yobi-somuru hi ya mura tsubame

today they're flying
in the bathhouse town...
swallow swarm

Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602.

1805

.浅草や乙鳥とぶ日の借木履
asakusa ya tsubame tobu hi no kari bokuri

Asakusa--
on the day the swallows fly
rented clogs

There is a Buddhist temple, Sensôji, at Asakusa in Edo, today's Tokyo. Bokuri are geta: wooden clogs.

1805

.草の葉のひたひた汐やとぶ乙鳥
kusa no ha no hita-hita shio ya tobu tsubame

blades of grass
swish in the tide...
a swallow flies

Hita-hita denotes "quickly," "speedily," "in a hurry"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1391. I have translated this, "swish," to describe the movement of the grasses in the tide.

1805

.草の葉や燕来初てうつくしき
kusa no ha ya tsubame kisomete utsukushiki

blades of grass--
swallows start arriving
so pretty

1805

.さし汐も朝はうれしやとぶ乙鳥
sashishio mo asa wa ureshi ya tobu tsubame

high tide
and a happy morning...
swallows flying

Or: "a swallow flies."

1805

.乙鳥のけぶたい顔はせざりけり
tsubakura no kebutai kao wa sezari keri

a swallow--
not at all bothered
by my smoke

Or: "swallows" or "the smoke." I add "my" in the translation for the following reason. Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, kebutai kao as "to frown at the smoke." Kebutai or kebutashi is an old word meaning to suffocate on smoke; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 570. The swallow's face doesn't seem bothered by the smoke at all--a statement which implies that somebody is bothered. I assume that this somebody is Issa. The smoke could therefore be from his own cooking fire or smudge pot. It's blowing in his face, making him suffocate and scowl. The swallow, however, seems unperturbed.

1805

.乙鳥もことし嫌ひし葎哉
tsubakura mo kotoshi kiraishi mugura kana

the swallows, too
avoid it this year...
patch of weeds

Is the weed patch Issa's yard? The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1806

.巣乙鳥や草の青山よそにして
su tsubame ya kusa no aoyama yoso ni shite

hey nesting swallows--
grassy green mountains
are elsewhere

Issa is informing the birds that green spring mountains are somewhere else. Winter weather lingers.

1806

.とぶ燕君が代ならぬ草もなし
tobu tsubame kimi ga yo naranu kusa mo nashi

flying swallows--
wherever there's grass
hail Great Japan!

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. He notes that kimi ga yo naranu kusa mo nashi is a double negative that makes a positive: "no grass without praising/ Great Japan."

1807

.島々も仏法ありて燕哉
shima-jima mo buppô arite tsubame kana

even on the little islands
Buddha's law...
swallows

The image in this haiku is simple: green, piney islands jut up from the blue sea; swallows fly overhead. But what makes the verse especially interesting, and mysterious, is Issa's comment that "Buddha's law" (buppô) is in effect here, too. Buddha's law encompasses many things; in fact, it encompasses all things, for it is the law of the universe. Buddha's law might also be construed to mean, in this context, Buddhism. Is Issa suggesting that he sees a temple or image of the Buddha on one of the islands? Does he hear someone on one of the islands chanting the nembutsu prayer? Or does he see in the quick flight of the swallows an emblem of Buddha's law of transience: that nothing lasts, that everything fades to nothing? Johnette Downing writes, "I interpret it to mean that according to Buddha, no matter how big or small, all things are equal."

1807

.巣乙鳥の目を放さぬや暮の空
su tsubame no me wo hanasanu ya kure no sora

baby swallows in the nest--
eyes glued
on the evening sky

The nestlings wait their mother, watching the sky with eager anticipation.

1807

.山里は乙鳥の声も祝ふ也
yama-zato wa tsubame no koe mo iwau nari

mountain village--
even the swallows sing
in celebration

Issa implies that a festival is going on. The swallows seem to join in the ruckus.

1807

.夕燕我には翌のあてはなき
yûtsubame ware ni wa asu no ate wa naki

evening swallows--
no hope for tomorrow
for me

An emotional haiku of internal feeling. Yuzuru Miura translates its key phrase, "My heart teems with cares and anxieties"; Classic Haiku: A Master's Selection (Boston/Tokyo: Tuttle, 1991) 48.

1808

.巣乙鳥や何をつぶやく小くらがり
su tsubame ya nani wo tsubuyaku ko kuragari

nesting swallows
what are you grumbling about?
darkness

1812

.今来たと顔を並べる乙鳥哉
ima kita to kao wo naraberu tsubame kana

lining up
with newcomers' faces...
swallows

1812

.乙鳥や小屋のばくちをべちやくちやと
tsubakura ya ko ya [no] bakuchi wo becha-kucha to

at the little gambling shack
the swallow
prattles

1813

.久しぶりの顔もつて来る燕哉
hisashiburi no kao motte kuru tsubame kana

arriving with faces that say
it's been a long time...
swallows

1814

.今植た木へぶら下る乙鳥哉
ima ueta ki e burasagaru tsubame kana

dangling over
the fresh-planted tree...
a swallow

Issa's "dangling" lark is a strange image. I imagine that it could be soaring in the sky--perhaps facing into the wind so that it seems to be motionless, just hanging from the sky.

1814

.起よ起よあこが乙鳥鳩すずめ
oki yo oki yo ako ga tsubakura hato suzume

wake up! wake up! my children--
swallows, pigeons
sparrows

Ako is an old word meaning "my child"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 20.

1814

.乙鳥よ是はそなたが桃の花
tsubakura yo kore wa sonata ga momo no hana

swallows--
these peach blossoms belong
to you

Or: "swallow." Sonata is an old word meaning hômen: "a direction" or "a side." Here, it is a formal way of saying "you"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 946.

1814

.乙鳥とぶや二度とふたたび来ぬふりに
tsubame tobu ya nido to futa tabi konu furi ni

flying swallows--
as if there's no turning back
for them

Or: "a swallow flies--/ ... / for him."

1814

.とび下手は庵の燕ぞ燕ぞよ
tobi heta wa io no tsubame zo tsubame zo yo

not much of a flyer
my hut's
swallow!

Or: "the hut's swallow." Issa doesn't identify it as his hut, but this can be inferred. In his original text, he repeats the word "swallow, a repetition that doesn't add much to the English translation; in fact, I think it detracts from it, so I've left it out.

1814

.まあな尻ついと並る乙鳥哉
mamena shiri tsui to naraberu tsubame kana

their cute butts suddenly
all in a row...
swallows

Tsui to can mean satto ("suddenly") or migaru ni ("with agility"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1075. Here, the first meaning fits.

1814

.飯前に京へいて来る乙鳥哉
meshimae ni kyô e ite kuru tsubame kana

before dinner
off to Kyoto and back...
swallows

"The capital" (kyô) was the city of Kyoto in Issa's day.

1814

.我庵や先は燕のまめな顔
waga io ya mazu wa tsubame no mamena kao

at my hut, first thing--
the healthy face
of a swallow

Or: "the healthy faces/ of swallows." Issa writes, literally, "bean-sized face" (mamena kao). Commenting on a similar haiku, Shinji Ogawa informs me that mame signifies "healthy" when it is used as an adjective.

1815

.いざこざをじつと見て居る乙鳥哉
izakoza wo jitto mite iru tsubame kana

keeping a steady eye
on the quarrel...
the swallow

The soaring bird takes note of the human strife below.

1815

.急度した宿もなくて夕乙鳥
kitto shita yado mo naku[te] yû tsubame

no definite place
to spend the night...
evening swallow

Or: "evening swallows." French translator Jean Cholley chooses the plural, arondes; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 135.

I prefer to picture a single swallow making its way across the evening sky: a lone traveler, like Issa.

1815

.京も京々の五条の乙鳥哉
kyô mo kyô kyô no go jô no tsubame kana

Kyoto, Kyoto!
on Kyoto's Fifth Avenue...
swallows

"The capital" (kyô) was the city of Kyoto in Issa's day. Shinji Ogawa explains that in this haiku is not "line" (as I assumed in my first translation), but "avenue."

1815

.乙鳥やゆききの人を深山木に
tsubakuro ya yuki[ki] no hito wo miyamagi ni

swallows watch the people
come and go...
deep wooded mountains

Issa leaves the action that the birds are performing up to the reader's imagination. We know only that the receivers of the unnamed verb are the traveling "people" (hito). Shinji Ogawa believes that the action is watching: the birds are watching people from their perches in the mountain trees.

1815

.やよ燕細いけぶりを先祝へ
yayo tsubame hosoi keburi wo saki iwa[e]

hey swallows!
for my thin, rising smoke
congratulate me first

Or: "hey swallow!"

Yayo is word used when calling out to someone; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1679. Issa doesn't specify that it is his smoke, but this can be inferred. It connects the poet on the land with the bird(s) in the sky. The fact that Issa wants his smoke to be congratulated "first" (saki) implies that other, more robust pillars fill the sky. Issa's smoke, like Issa himself (at least in his self-portraits), is not as well-fed as its neighbors.

1815

.世がよいぞよいぞ野燕里つばめ
yo ga yoi zo yoi zo no tsubame sato tsubame

a good world! good world!
country swallows
and town swallows

In the sky, Issa sees harmony: the birds of the countryside and the village fly together.

1819

.乙鳥を待つてみそつく麓哉
tsubame wo matte miso tsuku fumoto kana

waiting for the swallows
pounding bean-paste...
mountain's foot

The "bean paste" is miso: the main ingredient in miso soup.

1821

.日本に来て紅つけし乙鳥哉
nippon ni kite beni tsukeshi tsubame kana

arriving in Japan
wearing rouge...
the swallows

Or: "the swallow."

The red coloration of the bird(s) reminds Issa of rouge.

1821

.紅紛付てずらり並ぶや朝乙鳥
beni tsukete zurari narabu ya asa tsubame

wearing rouge
lined up in a row...
morning swallows

The swallows are red-tinted by the morning sun. Issa fancies that they have put on their morning make-up.

1822

.大仏の鼻から出たる乙鳥哉
daibutsu no hana kara detaru tsubame kana

from the great bronze
Buddha's nose...
a swallow!

Or: "swallows!" Bob Jones, in a translation that appears in Modern Haiku (27, No. 3, 1996), imagines otherwise: swallows "pour forth" from the Great Buddha's nose.

If Issa's bird is solitary, the feeling in the haiku is more comic, I believe, like the old adage about a mountain laboring to give birth to a mouse. Lacking contextual clues from Issa's diary, we must admit that there could be one swallow, there could be many. Any single translation, either way it goes, is semantically incomplete. Personally, I like both versions, mine and Bob's, but they are indisputably different poems.

There are two huge bronze statues of the Buddha in Japan: at Kamakura and at Nara. The one at Nara, in Tôdaiji Temple, is 53 1/2 feet high and made of 400+ tons of bronze. The Kamakura Great Buddha is 37 feet high, 90+ tons. The poem is a wonderful study in contrasts: vast Buddha, tiny bird(s); stillness and movement.

When he wrote this haiku, Issa was living in his home province of Shinano, hundreds of kilometers from the Great Buddha statues at Kamakura and Nara, so he must have either remembered the scene, or, what I believe is more likely, invented it. Either way, the haiku is a great one, because it reveals the truth of the universe. And, it's written in a way that makes us feel that we are "right there," seeing the action unfold: the great, ponderous statue sneezing out a bird. It doesn't matter whether this "really" happened or not. It's real.

1822

.田を打によしといふ日や来る乙鳥
ta wo utsu ni yoshi to iu hi ya kuru tsubame

a good day
for plowing the rice field...
swallows return!

Or: "swallow."

1822

.乙鳥来る日を吉日の味そ煮哉
tsubame kuru hi wo kichi nichi no misoni kana

to honor the swallows arriving
I boil my lucky day
bean-paste

The "bean paste" is miso: the main ingredient in miso soup.

1822

.どれもどれもどれも口まめ乙鳥哉
doremo doremo doremo kuchimame tsubame kana

each one
has plenty to say...
swallows

All of the swallows are "talkative" or "loquacious" (kuchimame).

1824

.今参りましたぞ夫婦乙鳥哉
ima mairi mashita zo meoto tsubame kana

now they swoop
straight down...
Mr. and Mrs. Swallow

1824

.鶏の隣をかりるつばめ哉
niwatori no tonari wo kariru tsubame kana

renting a place
next door to the chickens...
swallows

1824

.鼠とは隣ずからの乙鳥哉
nezumi to wa tonarizukara no tsubame kana

he's the mouse's
bosom buddy...
a swallow

Tonarizukara is an old word for "fellow companion"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1173.

The companionship of a mouse and a swallow is strange. Issa seems to be exaggerating to reveal a connection between the lowly and the lofty: an earth-dwelling mouse and a swallow soaring in the sky. I wonder if this haiku has personal meaning. Is Issa perhaps speaking of one of his own friendships, in which he plays the mouse's role?

1824

.店かりて夫婦かせぎの乙鳥哉
mise karite meoto kasegi no tsubame kana

renting the shop
they set up house...
Mr. and Mrs. Swallow

The editors of Issa zenshû offer two different readings of the first kanji: mise (in volume 1) and tana in the index; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.142; index 62. Whichever way one pronounces this word, it means "shop." Two swallows have built their nest there.

1826

.乙鳥子のけいこにとぶや馬の尻
tsubame-go no keiko ni tobu ya uma no shiri

the baby swallow's
flying lesson...
off the horse's rump

Or: "over the horse's rump." Issa ends the haiku, simply, with "horse's rump" (uma no shiri). It's up to the reader's imagination to fill in the details.

1793

.夕されば凧も雲雀もをりの哉
yû sareba tako mo hibari mo ori no kana

evening falls--
the kite and the lark
come down

The "kite" (tako) in this haiku is the paper kind, not a bird.

1795

.天に雲雀人間海にあそぶ日ぞ
ten ni hibari ningen umi ni asobu hi zo

larks in the sky
people in the sea...
a holiday

This haiku is similar to one written two years earlier, in 1793:

kumo ni tori ningen umi ni asobu hi zo

birds in the clouds
people in the sea...
a holiday

Jean Cholley believes that the people in the above haiku are gathering shellfish. Perhaps this is what is going on in the present haiku as well; see En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 9.

Sakuo Nakamura notices the "interesting contrast" between the vertical (birds in the clouds) and the horizontal (the sea). And the poem ends, he adds, with the psychological: it's a holiday, no work!

1803

.松島はどれが寝よいぞ夕雲雀
matsushima wa dore ga ne yoi zo yû hibari

pine islands--
which one's good for sleeping
evening lark?

Issa is referring to Matsushima, the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. While the Japanese reader will instantly get a mental picture from the proper name, Matsushima, the English reader may or may not. For this reason I have translated the name literally as "pine island."

1803

.夕雲雀どの松島が寝所ぞ
yû hibari dono matsushima ga ne-dokoro [zo]

evening lark--
which pine island's
your sleeping place?

Issa is referring to Matsushima, the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. While the Japanese reader will instantly get a mental picture from the proper name, Matsushima, the English reader may or may not. For this reason I have translated the name literally as "pine island."

year unknown

.夕雲雀どの松島が寝よいぞよ
yû hibari dono matsushima ga ne yoi zo yo

evening lark--
which pine island's
good for sleeping?

This is a revision of an 1803 haiku in which Issa asks the lark, "which pine island's/ your sleeping place?" (dono matsushima ga ne-dokoro). Issa is referring to Matsushima, the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. While the Japanese reader will instantly get a mental picture from the proper name, Matsushima, the English reader may or may not. For this reason I have translated the name literally as "pine island."

1804

.片山は雨のふりけり鳴雲雀
kata yama wa ame no furi keri naku hibari

on the mountain
rain falling
lark singing

1804

.住吉に灯のとぼりけり鳴雲雀
sumiyoshi ni hi no tobori keri naku hibari

at Sumiyoshi
lamps are burning
larks are singing

Or: "a lark is singing." Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka.

1804

.鳴雲雀人の顔から日の暮るる
naku hibari hito no kao kara hi no kururu

a skylark sings--
a man facing
sunset

Or: "a woman."

1804

.鳴雲雀貧乏村のどこが果
naku hibari bimbô mura no doko ga hate

singing skylark
where is this poor village's
border?

Issa seems to be requesting aerial reconnaissance.

1804

.野大根も花咲にけり鳴雲雀
no daiko mo hana saki ni keri naku hibari

even the field's
radishes are blooming...
the lark singing!

year unknown

.野大根も花となりにけり鳴雲雀
no daiko mo hana to nari keri naku hibari

even the field's
radishes blooming...
the lark singing!

Originally, I had the radishes "becoming flowers," but Shinji Ogawa points out that radishes, being roots, do not themselves bloom.

1804

.雲雀鳴通りに見ゆる大和哉
hibari naku tôri ni miyuru yamato kana

the lark sings
as it flies along...
Great Japan!

Yamato is the ancient name for Japan. Because of its patriotic overtones, I have translated it "Great Japan!"

1804

.故郷の見へなくなりて鳴雲雀
furusato no mienaku narite naku hibari

my home village
no longer in sight...
singing lark

The village is out of sight, but to whom? In his translation, Lewis Mackenzie implies that the village is out of sight to Issa, but he can still hear the lark there; The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984) 55.

Shinji Ogawa lists four ways to picture this haiku: (1) Issa's home village is out of sight to Issa. Issa hears the skylarks that are plentiful in his village, reminding him of it. (2) After his home village is out of sight, Issa notices the singing lark. (3) The singing lark flies high, trying but no longer able to see its home village. (4) Issa's home village is no longer in sight to Issa. But from the vantage point of the singing lark, Issa's village may be visible. Shinji comments, "Due to the short form, ambiguity is one of haiku's properties. In my opinion, haiku poets should minimize ambiguity. Implication and ambiguity are two different things."

R. J. writes, "Perhaps Issa sees his new situation in its enormity at once with its perils, yet with its obverse coming into focus he can't help but sing."

The same year (1804) Issa writes:

oya no ie mienaku narinu natsu [no] yama

my parents' house
no longer in sight...
summer mountain

1804

.夕急ぐ干潟の人や鳴雲雀
yû isogu higata no hito ya naku hibari

evening rushes in--
someone on the tideland
a lark singing

The person in the scene is most likely gathering shellfish at low tide.

1804

.夕雲雀野辺のけぶりに倦るるな
yû hibari nobe no keburi ni akaruru na

evening lark
don't let the field's smoke
annoy you

More literally, Issa is asking the lark not to let the smoke from the brushfires to "bore" or "tire" the bird.

1807

.売布を透かす先より雲雀哉
uri nuno wo sukasu saki yori hibari kana

through a gap
in the cloths for sale...
a skylark

1807

.鳴雲雀朝から咽のかわく也
naku hibari asa kara nodo no kawaku nari

singing since morning
skylark, your throat
is parched

1807

.鳴雲雀小草も銭に成にけり
naku hibari o-gusa mo zeni ni nari ni keri

singing lark--
little grasses too
become money

Why does Issa feel compelled to point out this economic fact to the skylark? Is it because it soars so high above the mundane world of buying and selling?

Shinji Ogawa writes, "Certain grasses gathered at the mountain side are delicacies, like mushrooms. I think that the haiku depicts the vitality of spring with singing larks and people's economic activities."

Sakuo Nakamura notes that the word "money" (zeni) seems unpoetic, and yet with it Issa expresses how poor people are enjoying the warm spring day.

1808

.なまけ日をさつさと雲雀鳴にけり
namake hi wo sassa to hibari naki ni keri

speeding along
a lazy day, the singing
of a skylark

1806

.野烏に藪を任せて鳴雲雀
no-garasu ni yabu wo makasete naku hibari

entrusting the thicket
to the field crow...
the lark sings

1810

.浅草や家尻の不二も鳴雲雀
asakusa ya yajiri no fuji mo naku hibari

Asakusa--
behind the house Mount Fuji
and a singing lark

This haiku seems to refer to a house where Issa stayed in the Asakusa section of Edo (today's Tokyo). Mount Fuji was visible in the far distance and, to make the scene perfect, a lark was singing in the sky.

1812

.うつくしや雲雀の鳴し跡の空
utsukushi ya hibari no nakushi ato no sora

lovely--
the sky after a lark
has sung

1812

.うつくしや昼の雲雀の鳴し空
utsukushi ya hiru [no] hibari no nakushi sora

lovely--
the sky where a noon lark
is singing

1812

.おりよおりよ野火が付いたぞ鳴雲雀
ori yo ori yo nobi ga tsuita zo naku hibari

come down! come down!
brushfires have started...
singing lark

Shinji Ogawa notes that the lark's nest is on the ground, hence the urgency of Issa's warning.

1812

.けふもけふも竹のそちらや鳴雲雀
kyô mo kyô mo take no sochira ya naku hibari

today too, today too
over in the bamboo
a lark sings

1810

.けふもけふも一つ雲雀や亦打山
kyô mo kyô mo hitotsu hibari ya matchi yama

today too, today too
a single skylark...
Mount Matchi

1812

.二三尺人をはなるる雲雀哉
ni san jaku hito wo hanaruru hibari kana

missing people
by two or three feet...
skylarks

This haiku is open to various interpretations. One might picture the larks swooping down from the sky, feasting on insects, or perhaps they are nesting on the ground and shooting up into the sky when people dreaw too near. Or, as one reader suspects, the flying larks could be pooping, narrowly missing the people below.

1812

.はたご屋のおく庭見へて鳴雲雀
hatagoya no oku niwa miete naku hibari

seeing the inn's
inner garden, the lark
sings

Or: "the larks sing."

Shinji Ogawa explains: "The inner garden is visible because all the sliding-doors are open, implying that it is a warm day."

1812

.細ろ次のおくは海也なく雲雀
hosoroji no oku wa umi nari naku hibari

down a narrow alley
the ocean...
a singing lark

1812

.山人は鍬を枕や鳴雲雀
yamaudo wa kuwa wo makura ya naku hibari

the mountain man's
hoe is his pillow...
singing lark

Yamaudo, literally, a "mountain person," also can signify a hermit. R. H. Blyth translates this, "The mountain villager"; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.368.

1813

.大井川見へてそれから雲雀哉
ôigawa miete so[re] kara hibari kana

seeing Oi River
and then...
a lark

Or: "larks." In his translation, R. H. Blyth pictures several "skylarks"; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.372.

The Oi river (ôigawa) flows between Mount Fuji and Nagoya. Shinji Ogawa offers this paraphrase of the haiku: "The Ôi River came in sight (first), and then a lark."

1813

.釣舟は花の上こぐ雲雀哉
tsuri-bune wa hana no ue kogu hibari kana

a fishing boat rows
over blossoms...
a skylark

1813

.昼飯をたべに下りたる雲雀哉
hirumeshi wo tabe ni oritaru hibari kana

coming down
to eat his lunch...
skylark

Or: "her lunch." Issa must have liked this haiku; it appears in eight manuscripts.

1814

.から腹と人はいふ也朝雲雀
kara hara to hito wa iu nari asa hibari

people call it
"empty belly" hunger...
morning lark

The word "hunger" doesn't appear in the haiku. However, this is what the expression "empty belly" denotes. The lark, in the morning, is as hungry as its human counterparts.

1814

.人は蟻と打ちらかつて鳴雲雀
hito wa ari to uchi-chirakatte naku hibari

people scatter
like ants...
the lark sings

An interesting haiku in which Issa adopts the larks' eye-in-the-sky perspective. It recalls an earlier haiku of 1810 in which people look like ants to a pheasant.

1814

.むさし野にたつた一ッの雲雀哉
musashi no ni tatta hitotsu no hibari kana

over Musashi Plain
only one...
skylark

1814

.門番が花桶からも雲雀哉
kado ban ga hana oke kara mo hibari kana

from the gate sentinel's
flowerpot...
a skylark!

1814

.薮尻はまだ闇いぞよ鳴雲雀
yabu-jiri wa mada kurai zo yo naku hibari

the rear of the thicket
still dark...
a lark sings

1815

.大地獄小じごくからも雲雀哉
ô[ji]goku ko jigoku kara mo hibari kana

from great hell
and from little hell--
skylarks

This haiku seems to refer to a painting that Issa viewed, most probably at a temple. In his diary, the haiku that precedes it opens with the phrase, "in the hell painting..."

Shinji Ogawa believes that the skylarks are not actually in the painting. He explains, "Skylarks are a symbol of joy. As an optimist, Issa could not help but place skylarks in the sky over hell."

1815

.子を捨し藪を離れぬ雲雀哉
ko wo suteshi yabu wo hanarenu hibari kana

sticking to the thicket
where she left her children...
skylark

Shinji Ogawa believes that this haiku alludes to the cruel practise of abandoning babies, especially girls. Indeed, Issa uses the verb suteshi: the children have been "abandoned," literally "thrown away." However, the parent bird stays near the thicket that hides the nest--so, perhaps the baby birds have not been abandoned, after all. Ties of parental love forbid the mother or father skylark to fly away.

1815

.地獄画の垣にかかりて鳴雲雀
jigoku e no kaki [ni] kakarite naku hibari

in the hell painting
perched on a fence...
a lark sings

Stanford M. Forrester comments: "Being a Pure Land Buddhist myself, I believe, but am not sure, that Heaven and Hell are both in the Pure Land. Each one of us creates our own heaven and hell. I think that was what Shinran generally said. Here is my guess without seeing the painting... Fences are dividers, and though the fence is in Hell it must be dividing one area or realm from another. The lark who sings might function as a reminder that even in Hell there is a Pure Land and it is up to us to decide which side of the fence to be on. The lark calls to us. Calls to us to become enlightened. The lark is Amida Buddha."

Another visitor to the website, Sakuo Nakamura, observes, "In springtime with a singing lark we feel as if we are in paradise. Looking at this painting of hell, in which a lark is sitting on the fence, we realize that a lark could sing in heaven as well as in hell. We realize the uncertainty of life."

Shinji Ogawa believes that the lark is not actually in the painting, but rather a "symbol of joy" that Issa, as an optimist, added in.

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1815

.野ばくちが打ちらかりて鳴雲雀
no bakuchi ga uchi-chirakarite naku hibari

gamblers in the field
scatter below...
a lark sings

This haiku recalls one written a year earlier (1814), in which Issa imagines the lark's perspective: "people scatter/ like ants..." (hito wa ari to uchi-chirakatte).

1816

.有明や雨の中より鳴雲雀
ariake ya ame no naka yori naku hibari

at dawn
deep in the rain
a lark is singing

1816

.蛤も大口明くぞ鳴雲雀
hamaguri mo ôkuchi aku zo naku hibari

the clam too
opens wide...
a lark is singing

1816

.むさしのや野屎の伽に鳴雲雀
musashi no ya no-guso no togi ni naku hibari

Musashi Plain--
while he poops entertained
by a lark

Or: "while I poop..."

1818

.あらかんの鉢の中より雲雀哉
arakan no hachi no naka yori hibari kana

out of the saint's
big pot...
a lark

This haiku has the prescript, "Nihon Temple." Hachi can be a rice tub or a large pot for planting trees. An arakan is a Buddhist holy man or arhat.

1818

.追分の一里手前の雲雀哉
oiwake no ichi ri temae no hibari kana

two miles to go
to Oiwake...
a skylark!

One ri is 2.44 miles. Shinji Ogawa notes that oiwake, literally "fork road," is the name of a famous station town in Issa's home province of Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture). There, two major highways, Nakasendô and Hokkokukaidô, merge.

Issa wrote this haiku in Second Month, 1818. Earlier that year, in First Month, he wrote:

oiwake no ichi ri temae no aki no kure

two miles to go
to Oiwake...
autumn dusk

1818

.小島にも畠打也鳴雲雀
kojima ni mo hatake utsunari naku hibari

on a tiny island, too
plowing
to the lark's song

1818

.坂本はあれぞ雲雀と一里鐘
sakamoto wa are zo hibari to ichi ri kane

"Sakamoto's that way!"
says the lark and temple bell
two miles off

Sakamoto is located at the base of Hiei Mountain near Kyoto. The temple bell belongs to Enryakuji. The place is one ri away; one ri = 2.44 miles.

1818

.小な市の菜の祭り雲雀哉
chiisana ichi no na no matsuri hibari kana

at a tiny market's
vegetable festival...
a skylark

This haiku has an unusual structure of 7-5-7 sound units (on-ji).

1818

.松島やあちの松から又雲雀
matsushima ya achi no matsu kara mata hibari

Matsushima--
from yonder isle
another lark

Matsushima is a famously lovely bay of Japan known for its picturesque pine islands, a place that Issa's role model, the poet Bashô, visited but found too beautiful to write a suitable haiku about.

Shinji Ogawa notes that there are 260 isles in Matsushima. Issa's phrase matsu kara literally denotes, "from the pine," but in this context implies, "from the [pine] isle."

1818

.松島やかすみは暮て鳴雲雀
matsushima ya kasumi wa kurete naku hibari

island of pines--
while mist turns dark
a skylark singing

Matsushima is a famously lovely bay of Japan known for its picturesque pine islands. A year later, in 1819, Issa writes:

matsushima no ko sumi wa kurete naku hibari

darkness settles
over a tiny isle of pines...
a skylark singing

1819

.松島や小隅は暮て鳴雲雀
matsushima no ko sumi wa kurete naku hibari

darkness settles
over a tiny isle of pines...
a skylark singing

Matsushima is a famously lovely bay of Japan known for its picturesque pine islands. A year earlier, in 1818, Issa writes:

matsushima ya kasumi wa kurete naku hibari

island of pines--
while mist turns dark
a skylark singing

1818

.蓑を着て寝たる人より雲雀哉
mino wo ki[te] netaru hito yori hibari kana

a man sleeping
in a straw raincoat...
the lark's wake-up call

1819

.子をかくす薮の廻りや鳴雲雀
ko wo kakusu yabu no meguri ya naku hibari

circling the thicket
that hides her children...
a lark sings

Issa captures in this haiku of 1819 a scene of parental love in the world of birds. The mother lark protectively circles a grove of trees that hides her nest. The fact that she is singing adds an element of joy to the moment. Her song in the sky is a celebration of life and love.

1819

.横のりの馬のつづくや夕雲雀
yokonori no uma no tsuzuku ya yûhibari

riding sidesaddle
on horse after horse...
an evening lark

In his translation, Nobuyuki Yuasa leaves out the fact that the people are riding side-saddle; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru, 2nd Edition (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1972) 52. The editors of Issa zenshû speculate that Issa might be referring to a group of farmers riding home from the firelds or else, perhaps, to packhorse drivers; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.167, note 57.

1821

.蟻程に人のつづくや夕雲雀
ari hodo ni hito [no] tsuzuku ya yûhibari

looking like ants
person after person...
an evening lark

Issa adopts the lark's aerial perspective.

1822

.おりおりに子を見廻つては雲雀哉
ori-ori ni ko wo mi-mawatte wa hibari kana

circling now and then
to eye the children...
skylark

1822

.来よ雲雀子のいる藪が今もゆる
ko yo hibari ko no iru yabu ga ima moyuru

come, skylark!
your children's thicket
is on fire!

1822

.漣や雲雀の際の釣小舟
sazanami ya hibari no kiwa no tsuri kobune

ripples on water--
beside the larks
a little fishing boat

year unknown

.漣や雲雀に交る釣小舟
sazanami ya hibari ni majiru tsuri kobune

ripples on water--
mingling with the larks
a fishing boat

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation.

1822

.吹れ行く舟や雲雀のすれ違ひ
fukare yuku fune ya hibari no surechigai

a wind-blown boat
a skylark
crossing paths

In one text, Issa copies this haiku with the prescript, "Lake water," and in another, "On a lake."

1822

.湖におちぬ自慢や夕雲雀
mizuumi ni ochinu jiman ya yû hibari

"I won't fall
in the lake!"
brags the evening lark

The skillfull lark swoops dangerously close to the water's serface; Issa imagines its bragging.

year unknown

.湖におちぬ自慢やなくひばり
mizuumi ni ochinu jiman ya naku hibari

"I won't fall
in the lake!"
the lark sings

This haiku is a rewrite. In the original poem (1822), Issa ends with "evening lark" (yû hibari).

1822

.山猫のあつけとられし雲雀哉
yama neko no akke torareshi hibari kana

the wild cat
looks astonished...
a skylark

Literally, a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1824

.鶏にさらばさらばと雲雀哉
niwatori ni saraba saraba to hibari kana

farewell! farewell!
to the chicken...
the skylark flies away

year unknown

.臼からも松の木からも雲雀哉
usu kara mo matsu no ki kara mo hibari kana

from the rice cake tub
from the pine...
skylarks

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

year unknown

.墓からも花桶からも雲雀哉
haka kara mo hana oke kara mo hibari kana

from the grave
and from the flowerpot...
skylarks!

1791

.雉鳴て梅に乞食の世也けり
kiji naite ume ni kojiki no yo nari keri

pheasant crying--
it's a plum blossom-filled
beggar's world now!

In Third Month of 1791, at age 29, Issa left Edo on his first walking tour. "Beggar's world" (kojiki no yo) refers to the fact that Issa intended to beg for his meals and lodging along the way. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.24, note 19. Shinji Ogawa notes that the prescript for this haiku paraphrases a passage from Bashô's Oku no hosomichi("Narrow Road to the Far Provinces"). Issa, who lost his haiku master [Chikua] the previous year, was determined to set off on a walking tour to claim his destiny as a haiku master. Shinji writes, "the last line, 'it's a world of the beggar with the plum blossoms' may mean, 'It's my world now!'"

1804

.雷に鳴あはせたる雉哉
kaminari ni naki awasetaru kigisu kana

mingling
with the thunder--
a pheasant's cry

1804

.雉なくや千島のおくも仏世界
kiji naku ya chishima no oku mo butsu sekai

a pigeon cries--
even deep in the Thousand Islands
it's Buddha's world

Literally the "Thousand Islands," Chishima refers to the Kurile Islands.

1805

.あさぢふは夜もうれしや雉なく
asajiu wa yoru mo ureshi ya kigisu naku

a happy night
even among the rushes...
a pheasant cries

Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1805

.雉なくやきのふは見へぬ山畠
kiji naku ya kinou wa mienu yama hatake

a pheasant cries--
yesterday it wasn't there
mountain field

Perhaps the field is freshly plowed, startling the pheasant (in Issa's imagination) with a sight that wasn't here yesterday.

1805

.雉なくや立草伏し馬の顔
kiji naku ya tachi kusa fuseshi uma no kao

a pheasant cries--
bedded down in tall grass
a horse's face!

1805

.草山に顔おし入て雉のなく
kusa yama ni kao oshi-irete kiki no naku

poking his face
into the haystack...
a pheasant cries

Or: "her face." "Haystack" is my translation for kusa yama ("grass mountain").

1806

.足がらの片山雉子靄祝へ
ashigara no kata yama kigisu moya iwae

Mount Ashigara's
mountain pheasant,
celebrate the haze!

Or: "pheasants." Shinji Ogawa explains that Ashigara is the name of a mountain.

1806

.丘の雉鷺の身持をうらやむか
oka no kiji sagi no mimochi wo urayamu ka

hilltop pheasant
are you jealous of the heron's
style?

More literally, Issa wonders if the pheasant is jealous "of the way the heron carries himself" (sagi no mimochi).

1806

.昼比やほろほろ雉の里歩き
hiru-goro ya horo-horo kiji no sato aruki

around noon, squawking
the pheasant walks
through town

Though horo-horo can signify the falling of leaves or tears, it has a special meaning in conjunction with pheasants: it evokes the sound of their singing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1498.

1806

.山陰も畠となりてなく雉子
yama kage mo hatake to narite naku kigisu

even in mountain shade
a plowed field!
the pheasant cries

Issa fancies that the pheasant is crying out with surprise and delight.

1807

.馬の呑水になれたる雉哉
uma no nomu mizur ni naretaru kigisu kana

getting used to drinking
the horse's water...
a pheasant

1807

.雉鳴て姥が田麦もみどり也
kiji naite uba ga ta mugi mo midori nari

a pheasant crying
the old woman's plot of wheat, too
all green

Is the pheasant congratulating the woman?

1807

.雉なくやきのふ焼れし千代の松
kiji naku ya kinou yakareshi chiyo no matsu

a pheasant cries--
burnt black yesterday
this ancient pine

This haiku has the prescript, "Kogane Field." Issa imagines that the pheasant's cry is one of lament for the burned tree.

1807

.雉子なくや気のへるやうに春の立
kiji naku ya ki no heru yô ni haru no tatsu

the pheasant's cry sounds
half-hearted...
spring begins

1807

.痩臑にいきみをつける雉哉
yase-zune ni isami wo tsukeru kigisu kana

giving these skinny legs
new life...
a pheasant

Or: "his skinny legs" or "her skinny legs." Most likely, however, Issa is describing himself. The calling pheasant, a sign of spring, puts zest in his stride. Or ... could the legs belong to the bird?

1808

.雉なくや彼梅わかの涙雨
kiji naku ya kano ume waka no namida ame

a pheasant cries--
the teardrop rain
of Umewaka Day

In the old Japanese calendar Umewakaki or Umewaka Matsuri was a religious festival held on the 15th day of Third Month at the Buddhist temple, Mokuboji, in Edo. If it rained on that day, the rain was referred to as umewaka no namida ame ("The teardrop rain of Umewaka"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 227. In his haiku, Issa uses this conventional phrase. Shinji Ogawa adds that Umewaka, according to an old tale, was kidnapped in Kyoto and brought to Edo (today's Tokyo), where he died beside the Sumida River. Umewaka was the illegitimate son of an emperor during the Heian period. Soami wrote a Noh play about his tragic life.

1808

.尻尾から月の出かかる雉哉
shippo kara tsuki no dekakaru kigisu kana

its tail points
to the rising moon...
pheasant

1808

.野の雉の隠所の庵哉
no no kiji no kakure-dokoro no iori kana

the field pheasant's
hiding place...
my hut

Or: "the hut." Issa doesn't identify it as his hut, but this might be inferred.

1808

.木母寺は暮ても雉の鳴にけり
mokuboji wa kurete mo kiji no naki ni keri

Mokubo Temple--
even at dusk the pheasant
still crying

1808

.山寺や雪隠も雉のなき所
yamadera ya setchin mo kiji no naki-dokoro

mountain temple--
in the outhouse too
a pheasant cries

Sakuo Nakamura writes, "This haiku shows the stillness of the temple, and how is it far from the village and lonesome."

1808

.我門や何をとりえに雉の鳴
waga kado ya nani wo torie ni kiji no naku

at my gate
what's your point?
crying pheasant

Perhaps Issa is implying that he has no food to give the "crying" pheasant.

1809

.むら雨を尾であしらひし雉哉
murasame wo o de ashiraishi kigisu kana

accompanying the rain
with its tail...
a pheasant

1810

.青山を拵へてなく雉哉
ao yama wo koshiraete naku kigisu kana

completing
the green mountain
a pheasant cries

Literally, the pheasant is making or creating the mountain (koshiraete).

1810

.蟻程に人は暮れしぞ雉の鳴
ari hodo ni hito wa kureshi zo kiji no naku

looking like ants
people at dusk...
a pheasant cries

Is Issa adopting the pheasant's perspective? Like ants, people form lines as they march home at dusk after another working day. In a later haiku that refers to people looking like ants (1814), a singing lark is the apparent viewer.

1810

.酒桶や雉の声の行とどく
sake oke ya kigisu no koe [no] yuki-dokoro

the sake bucket--
where the pheasant
goes to sing

1810

.鳴く雉や尻尾でなぶる角田川
naku kiji ya shippo de naburu sumida-gawa

the crying pheasant
teases it with his tail...
Sumida River

Or: "her tail."

1810

.我庵のけぶり細さを雉の鳴
waga io no keburi hososa wo kiji no naku

my hut's thin
thread of smoke...
a pheasant's cry

Shinji Ogawa has a "hunch" that the pheasant's cry is "expressing" the thin thread of smoke.

If this is true, the haiku is similar in conception to a later composition (of 1819):

kumo wo haku kuchi tsukishitari hikigaeru

with that mouth
he could vomit a cloud...
toad

If a pheasant can sing smoke into being, a toad can vomit clouds.

1810

.我夕や里の犬なく雉のなく
waga yû ya sato no inu naku kiji no naku

my evening--
a village dog barks
a pheasant cries

1811

.小社や尾を引つかけて夕雉
ko yashiro ya o wo hikkakete yû kigisu

at a little shrine
dragging his tail...
evening pheasant

1811

.祠から頭出して鳴きぎす哉
hokora kara kao dashite naku kigisu kana

poking his head
out the little shrine
crying pheasant

Or: "her head."

1812

.雉うろうろうろ門を覗くぞよ
kigisu uro-uro-uro kado wo nozoku yo

a pheasant
loitering about, peeks
in my gate

Or: "in the gate." Issa doesn't say that it's his gate, but the perspective of the haiku suggests that the poet is inside the gate, seeing the pheasant peeking in.

1812

.雉と臼寺の小昼は過にけり
kiji to usu tera no kobiru wa sugi ni keri

crying pheasant, pounding mill
morning till noon
at the temple

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. Whichever type Issa meant, I think he is referring to its grinding or pounding sound, just as I assume that he is referring to the cries of a pheasant. Literally, the "forenoon" (kobiru) of the Buddhist temple has passed with "pheasant and mill" (kiji to usu). I assume that Issa is hearing the sounds of both, on and on and on...

1812

.雉鳴や関八州を一呑に
kiji naku ya kanhasshû wo hito nomi ni

crying pheasant--
swallow the Eight Provinces
in a gulp!

This haiku resembles another one written that same year (1812):

hototogisu hana no o-edo wo hito nomi ni

oh cuckoo--
swallow blossom-filled Edo
in a gulp!

In both cases, Issa imagines that the bird's mouth is open so wide in song, it could swallow anything.

1812

.雉なくや見かけた山のあるやうに
kiji naku ya mikaketa yama no aru yô ni

the pheasant cries
as if catching sight
of a mountain

Issa hears, in the cry of the pheasant, a tone of astonishment. He attributes to the bird the kind of "human" emotion that one feels when, suddenly, a mountain in all its grandeur comes into view. In this poem he returns to one of his favorite themes: calling into question the imaginary line of demarcation between humans and animals.

1812

.走る雉山や恋しき妻ほしき
hashiru kiji yama ya koishiki tsuma hoshiki

a pheasant rushing
to the mountain, missing
his darling wife

1813

.きじ鳴や汁鍋けぶる草の原
kiji naku ya shiru nabe keburu kusa no hara

a pheasant cries--
soup steam wafts over
wild grasses

Literally, the steam rises over a "grassy field" (kusa no hara).

1813

.野社の赤過しとやきじの鳴
no yashiro no aka sugoshi to ya kiji no naku

"The shrine in the field
is too red!"
the pheasant cries

Shinji Ogawa agrees with the pheasant: "Due to its Chinese origin, the red color in shrines and temples is very excessive for the Japanese sense."

1813

.昼ごろや雉の歩く大座敷
hiru goro ya kigisu no aruku ôzashiki

around noon a pheasant
passes through...
the big sitting room

1813

.焼飯は烏とるとやきじの鳴
yakimeshi wa karasu toru to ya kiji no naku

"The crow took
the fried rice!"
the pheasant cries

Issa imagines that the pheasant is a tattle-tale.

1813

.夕雉の寝所にしたる社哉
yû kiji no ne-doko ni shitaru yashiro kana

the evening pheasant's
sleeping place...
a little shrine

1813

.夕きじの走り留まりや草と空
yû kiji no hashiri-domari ya kusa to sora

the evening pheasant
runs then stops...
grass and sky

In his French translation, Jean Cholley proposes a causal relationship: the grass and the sky make the pheasant stop running. I'm not sure; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 109.

1814

.朝寝坊が窓からのろり雉哉
asanebô ga mado kara norori kigisu kana

a late riser
he's slow to leave my window...
pheasant

1814

.石川をざぶざぶ渡る雉哉
ishi-gawa wo zabu-zabu wataru kigisu kana

splish splash
across the shallow river...
a pheasant!

The word ishi-gawa can mean a dried-up river with a predominantly stony bottom; Issa zenshû; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.173, note 252. In this case, due to the splashing sound, I translate it as "shallow river." A clue that the ishi-gawa can have water is provided in a haiku of 1813, where Issa has melons cooling in it.

1814

.大筵雉を鳴せて置にけり
ômushiro kiji wo nakisete oki ni keri

laying out my big mat
I make a pheasant
cry

1814

.大屋根の桶の中から雉哉
ôyane no oke no naka kara kigisu kana

from the bucket
on the big roof...
a pheasant

1814

.立臼に片尻かけてきじの鳴く
tachi usu ni kata shiri kakete kiji no naku

on the rice cake tub
tail hanging
the pheasant cries

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

1814

.野の雉起給へとや雉の鳴く
no no kiji oki tamae to ya kiji no naku

go wake the pheasants
in the field!
crying pheasant

Early in the morning, Issa doesn't appreciate the pheasant's wake-up call.

1814

.花のちるちるとてきじの夜鳴哉
hana no chiru-chiru tote kiji no yo naku kana

"Blossoms are falling!
falling!" the pheasant's
night cry

1814

.髭どのを伸上りつつきじの鳴
hige dono wo nobi-agaritsutsu kiji no naku

Sir Whiskers gets an earful--
on tiptoe
the pheasant cries

In an earlier translation, I rendered hige dono as "Mr. Long Beard." Robin D. Gill prefers "Sir Whiskers," since it might connote a nobleman or samurai; in Robin's word, "a bigshot."

1814

.一星見つけたやうにきじの鳴
hitotsu boshi mitsuketa yô ni kiji no naku

as if it just spotted
a star
the pheasant cries

1814

.びんづるの御膝に寝たる雉哉
binzuru no o-hiza ni netaru kigisu kana

in Holy Binzuru's lap
sound asleep...
a pheasant

According to Kazuhiko Maruyama, Binzuru is a Buddhist saint, one of the 16 Enlightened Ones. Folk custom dictates that if one prayerfully rubs his image, he or she will recover from illness; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 223, note 1169.

1814

.本堂に首つつ込んで雉の鳴
hon dô ni kubi tsutsu konde kiji [no] naku

sticking their necks
into the temple hall
pheasants sing

1814

.山きじの妻をよぶのか叱るのか
yama kiji no tsuma wo yobu no ka shikaru no ka

mountain pheasant
are you calling the wife?
scolding her?

1814

.山の雉あれでも妻をよぶ声か
yama no kiji are demo tsuma wo yobu koe ka

mountain pheasant--
is that your wife-calling
voice?

1816

.野談義や大な口へ雉の声
no dangi ya ôkina kuchi e kiji no koe

sermon in the field--
the priest's wide-open mouth
a pheasant's voice

Literally, a pheasant's voice is going toward or into a large mouth, presumably that of the priest. I picture a Buddhist priest opening his mouth wide for the next sentence of his sermon, when suddenly a pheasant cries out, as if taking over the preaching.

1816

.山雉子袖をこすつて走りけり
yama kigisu sode wo kosutte hashiri keri

a mountain pheasant
ruffling my sleeve
runs away

1818

.加賀どのの御先をついと雉哉
kaga dono no osaki wo tsui to kigisu kana

an impromptu audience
with Lord Kaga...
a pheasant

This haiku refers to the daimyo Maeda, Lord of Kaga.

In his translation, Makoto Ueda pictures the pheasant crossing a road in front of the daimyo; a rudeness for which a human would be executed; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 115-16.

Tsui to can mean satto ("suddenly") or migaru ni ("with agility"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1075. Here, the first meaning fits.

1818

.雉なくや臼と盥の間から
kiji naku ya usu to tarai no aida kara

a pheasant cries--
from the rice cake tub
from the wash tub

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here. The next question about this haiku that the reader must answer: How many pheasants are there? In my translation, I picture one pheasant, singing in the rice cake tub and then, a bit later, from the wash tub. Perhaps, though, there are two pheasants in the scene: one in each tub.

1818

.雉なくや座頭が橋を這ふ時に
kiji naku ya zatô ga hashi wo hau toki ni

a pheasant cries
just when the blind man
crawls across the bridge

Zatô could be a blind minstrel. In this comic haiku the pheasant's outburst has come at a bad time. One hopes that the blind man doesn't lose his balance. The figure of a blind man crossing a bridge recalls a series of at least eight zenga (Zen paintings) by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768). In these monochrome paintings, the number of blind men on the bridge ranges from one to nine. In the verse that accompanies two of these images, Hakuin writes, Both inner life and the floating world outside us/ Are like the blind man's round log bridge--/ An enlightened mind is the best guide" (Two Blind Men on a Bridge

1818

.雉鳴や寺の座敷の真中に
kiji naku ya tera [no] zashiki no man naka ni

a pheasant cries
in the temple room's
dead center

1820

.雉鳴や是より西は庵の領
kiji naku ya kore yori nishi wa io no ryô

a pheasant cries--
"From here to the west
your hut's territory!"

Issa imagines that the pheasant is addressing him, asigning territory. By implication, the pheasant's domain is everywhere other than "from here to the west" (kore yori nishi).

1820

.さをしかのせなかをかりて雉の鳴
saoshika no senaka wo karite kiji no naku

borrowing the buck's
back, the pheasant
cries

1820

.野仏の袖にかくれてきじの鳴
no-botoke no sode ni kakurete kiji no naku

hiding in the field
Buddha's sleeve
a pheasant cries

1821

.関守の口真似するや雉の声
sekimori no kuchi mane suru ya kiji no koe

mocking the barrier
guard's voice...
pheasant

1822

.夕雉の寝にもどるとや大声に
yû kiji no ne ni modoru to ya ôgoe ni

the evening pheasant
back to sleep
with a great cry

1823

.金の蔓でも見つけたか雉の声
kane no tsuru demo mitsuketa ka kiji no koe

is it a golden vine
you've found?
pheasant's cry

Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is reflecting on the abruptness of the pheasant's cry. He paraphrases: "did you find/ a golden vine/ my dear pheasant?"

1823

.引明や鶏なき里の雉の声
hikiake ya tori naki sato no kiji no koe

daybreak--
in a rooster-less village
a pheasant's cry

1824

.雉なくや藪の小脇のけんどん屋
kiji naku ya yabu no kowaki no kendonya

a pheasant cries--
tucked alongside the thicket
a noodle shop

A kendonya is a shop that sells noodles, sake, and simple meals such as tea and rice; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 580.

1824

.寝た牛の腹の上にて雉の声
neta ushi no hara no ue nite kiji no koe

on the sleeping cow's
belly...
a pheasant cries

1824

.我庵にだつまて泊れ夜の雉
waga io ni damatte tomare yoru no kiji

if you stay at my hut
you'll need to shut up!
night pheasant

year unknown

.おれを見るや雉伸上り伸上り
ore [wo] miru ya kiji nobi-agari nobi-agari

looking at me
the pheasant on tiptoe
on tiptoe

Though nobi-agari literally means "on tiptoe," a secondary meaning is "arrogantly." The pheasant seems to be looking at the poet with haughty disdain.

year unknown

.雉鳴くやころり焼野の千代の松
kiji naku ya korori yakeno no chiyo no matsu

a pheasant cries
in the burned field, look!
an ancient pine

Chiyo no matsu signifies "a thousand year-pine." Shinji Ogawa notes that korori can be translated as "suddenly" or "abruptly." I believe that Issa is modifying the pheasant's surprise as it suddenly seems to notice the old, lonely pine.

year unknown

.草原を覗れてなく雉子哉
kusabara wo nozokarete naku kigisu kana

peeking into
the grassy meadow...
a pheasant cries

Shinji Ogawa sees the pheasant's cry as its protest. Issa is saying, "How do you feel when strangers peep into your house?"

1802

.夕暮の松見に来しをかへる雁
yûgure no matsu mi ni koshi wo kaeru kari

stopping to watch
the evening pines...
geese flying north

Or: "evening pine." Issa fancies that the geese have poetic souls, like him.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.雨だれの有明月やかへる雁
amadare no ariake tsuki ya kaeru kari

the dawn moon in raindrops
from the eaves...
the geese depart

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. Shinji Ogawa notes that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

year unknown

.雨だれは月よなりけりかへる雁
amadare wa tsuki yo nari keri kaeru kari

the bright moon in raindrops
from the eaves...
the geese depart

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.行灯で飯くふ人やかへる雁
andon de meshi kuu hito ya kaeru kari

eating my rice
by lamplight...
the geese depart

Or: "eating his rice."

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.一度見度さらしな山や帰る雁
ichi do mitaki sarashina yama ya kaeru kari

all eager to see
Mount Sarashina...
departing geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). Mount Sarashina is another name for Ubasute or Obasute: a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1803

.小田の雁一つとなりて春いく日
oda [no] kari hito[tsu] to narite haru iku hi

the rice field geese
all head north...
a lucky spring day

Iku hi is an old expression for a lucky day upon which Shinto festivals were held; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 107. As Shinji Ogawa notes, Issa is punning with it, since it also means "a going day" or "day of departure," which is connected to the geese. He paraphrases, "the geese in the rice field/ are going to the northern country as a flock/ a lucky spring day!"

1803

.かへる雁駅の行灯かすむ也
kaeru kari umaya no ando kasumu nari

geese flying north--
the stage barn's lamplight
in mist

Umaya refers to a barn or stable for horses at a stage station. The geese will not stop at the station for a rest.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

According to the editors of Issa's collected works, the word, andon ("lamp"), should be read, ando, thus preserving a middle phrase of seven on ("sound units"): u-ma-ya-no-a-n-do; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.150.

1803

.帰る雁何を咄して行やらん
kaeru kari nani wo hanashite yukuyaran

departing geese
what are you
gabbing about?

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.帰る雁北陸道へかへる也
kaeru kari hokurokudô e kaeru nari

departing geese
over Hokuroku Road
departing

Hokurokudô was one of the seven great roads of Old Japan, running north from the capital, Kyoto. Here, the geese seem to be following it like everyone else. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1483.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.帰る日も一番先や寡雁
kaeru hi mo ichiban saki ya yamome kari

on the day of departure, too
she leads...
the widow goose

This touching haiku has the prescript, kôgan: a species of large wild geese (also called ôtori).

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.門口の行灯かすみてかへる雁
kado-guchi no andon kasumite kaeru kari

the gateway's lamp
in mist...
the geese depart

I assume that kasumite is the gerund form of kasumu (to mist); in modern Japanese it would be kasunde. Issa uses both forms in his poetry.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.草の雨松の月よやかへる雁
kusa no ame matsu no tsuki yo ya kaeru kari

rain-drenched grass
moon in the pine...
the geese depart

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1806

.行雁や更科見度望みさへ
yuku kari ya sarashina mitai nozomi sae

geese fly north--
how they yearn to see
Mount Sarashina

Mount Sarashina is another name for Ubasute or Obasute: a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1804

.朝雨を祝ふてかへれ小田の雁
asa ame wo iwaute kaere oda no kari

celebrate the morning rain
then off you go!
rice field geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaere in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave" (command). Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). However, before they depart, Issa recommends that they celebrate the morning rain--as he does, in the haiku.

1804

.跡立は雨に逢ひけりかへる雁
atodachi wa ame ni ai keri kaeru kari

the last in line
hits the rain...
departing geese

Atodachi is an old word referring to the last one in a procession, parade, or queue; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 47.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.かへる雁翌はいづくの月や見る
kaeru kari asu wa izuku no tsuki ya miru

departing geese
where will you moon-gaze
tomorrow?

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.立雁のぢろぢろみるや人の顔
tachi kari no jiro-jiro miru ya hito no kao

the departing goose
stares the man
in the face

Shinji Ogawa comments, "It may be 'geese' instead of 'goose' because it is unrealistic to establish a one-to-one relationship with a wild goose in most circumstances."

The expression jiro-jiro miru connotes the idea of sizing up someone or something. This comic haiku shows a goose (geese?) staring boldly at a person (most likely Issa), appraising him coldly.

The editors of Issa's collected works suggest a reading of tachi kari for the first two kanji of this haiku; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.151. Shinji Ogawa asserts that tatsu kari is "more natural in Japanese pronunciation."

1804

.田の雁のかへるつもりか帰らぬか
ta no kari no kaeru tsumori ka kaeranu ka

are the rice field's geese
planning to fly north?
planning not to?

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.田の人の笠に糞してかへる雁
ta no hito no kasa ni hako shite kaeru kari

pooping on the farmer's
umbrella-hat
the goose departs

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.はげ山も見知ておけよかへる雁
hage yama mo mishirite oke yo kaeru kari

the bald mountain, too
memorize by sight!
geese flying north

Hageyama literally means, "bald mountain." French translator Jean Cholley chooses to visualize several bald mountains in the scene; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 53.

1804

.一ッでも鳴て行也かへる雁
hitotsu demo naite yuku nari kaeru kari

just one
but he goes honking...
departing goose

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.行雁に呑せてやらん京の水
yuku kari ni nomasete yaran kyô no mizu

geese taking off
have a drink on me...
Kyoto's water

Kyoto was Japan's capital in Issa's time. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "I'll give the flying-north geese a drink of Kyoto's water."

1804

.行雁やきのふは見へぬ小田の水
yuku kari ya kinou wa mienu oda no mizu

traveling geese--
those rice fields weren't flooded
yesterday

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "Geese are flying north. I didn't see the water in rice fields yesterday." Japanese rice fields are dry until planting time. Issa is suggesting that today the fields are being flooded so that rice can be planted. Though Shinji sees the seeing as Issa's action ("I didn't see the water"), I think it might be possible that the poet is imagining the aerial perspective of the geese, as they look down at the land and comment on its changes.

1804

.行な雁廿日も居れば是古郷
yuku na kari hatsuka [mo] ireba kore kokyô

don't go geese!
after twenty days
this is your home

Shinji Ogawa corrected my way-off-the-mark translation of this haiku by providing this paraphrase: "don't leave geese!/ having stayed for more than twenty days/ it's your hometown now."

1804

.我恋はさらしな山ぞかへる雁
waga koi wa sarashina yama zo kaeru kari

"My love
is at Mount Sarashina!"
the goose departs

Or: "geese fly north."

I assume that this statement is being made by the goose (or geese), not Issa, hence the quotation marks. Issa wrote this haiku the previous year (1803):

ichi do mitaki sarashina yama ya kaeru kari

all eager to see
Mount Sarashina...
departing geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). Mount Sarashina is another name for Ubasute or Obasute: a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1805

.菜の花がはなれにくいか小田の雁
na no hana ga hanare nikui ka oda [no] kari

is it hard leaving behind
the rape flowers?
rice field geese

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "Geese in the rice field, it's time for you to leave Japan. Are you hesitating? Is it hard for you to leave rape-blossoming Japan behind?"

1806

.見知られし雁もそろそろ立田哉
mishirareshi kari mo soro-soro tatsu ta kana

the geese I know
by sight, are they gone?
rice field of Nara

Tatsu ta refers to a place in Nara Prefecture, located north of the river; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1007.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning in this haiku: "The word tatsu means 'to stand up' and 'to depart.' Tatsu ta (Tatsuta) is the name of the place in Nara Prefecture and also means 'departed.' The word soro-soro means, in this context, 'by now.' Hence, the haiku says, 'Have the geese we are acquainted with departed by now?'"

1807

.雁行つて人に荒行草葉哉
kari itte hito ni areyuku kusaba kana

geese have gone--
the field's grass chafing
people

The last phrase of this haiku, kusaba kana, literally reads, "leaves of grass."

Shinji Ogawa notes, "The haiku depicts a natural progression of the season; the weeds grow thicker. However, Issa's subtle humor is, I think, to let the readers think: 'Does the absence of geese make the grasses behave rough?'"

1807

.立雁が大きな糞をしたりけり
tatsu kari ga ôkina hako wo shitari keri

the departing goose
drops an enormous
crap

Shinji Ogawa notes that tatsu kari means "a departing goose," not "a standing goose," as I originally translated this haiku.

Issa provides a wonderfully down-to-earth view of a traditionally sublime poetic scene.

1807

.藪蕎麦のとくとく匂へかへる雁
yabu soba no toku-toku nioe kaeru kari

smell the buckwheat
in the thicket!
departing geese

In Issa's time toku-toku could signify the falling motion of drops of water or tears--or it could mean "in a rush." This means that the fragrance of the buckwheat is either (1) trickling out of the thicket or (2) rushing out of the thicket; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1160.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1807

.行雁がつくづく見るや煤畳
yuku kari ga tsuku-zuku miru ya susu tatami

the traveling geese
check it out thoroughly...
sooty mat

The mat is a tatami mat made of woven straw. The fact that it is sooty implies that it belongs to "beggar" Issa.

1807

.行雁や人の心もうはの空
yuku kari ya hito no kokoro mo uwa no sora

traveling geese--
the human heart, too
soars

Though I am happy with my translation, I realize that there are levels of meaning in the original Japanese that aren't getting across. First, there's the problem of kokoro, which can be rendered "heart" or "mind." In this case I chose "heart," but I could have said, "the human mind, too/ soars"--conveying a completely different meaning in English. Second, the expression uwa no sora (upper sky) is part of a Japanese idiom for absent-mindedness. Figuratively speaking, Issa could be saying something like:

traveling geese--
the human mind, too
drifts

1808

.雁にさへとり残されし栖哉
kari ni sae tori-nokosareshi sumika kana

even the wild geese
leave it alone...
my home

Another of many haiku in which Issa mocks his pitiful-looking house. The geese fly over it, refusing to land.

1809

.雁立つた跡を見に行小松哉
kari tatta ato wo mi ni yuku ko matsu kana

seeing off
the departing geese...
little pines

Or: "the little pine."

1809

.大切の廿五日やかへる雁
taisetsu no nijûgo nichi ya kaeru kari

an auspicious
twenty fifth day...
the geese depart

This haiku was written on the tenth day of First Month, 1809. The twenty-fifth day, however, makes for a nice seven-sound unit line in Japanese (ni jû go nichi ya). See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.522. Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa may be referring to the memorial day of Hônen, the founder of Jôdoshû (Pure Land Buddhism), who died on January 25th, 1212.

Shinji adds that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1809

.行雁や我湖をすぐ通り
yuku kari ya waga mizuumi wo sugu tôri

traveling geese
my lake is crossed
in no time

1810

.有明や念仏好の雁も行
ariake ya nembutsu suki no kari mo yuku

dawn--
a Buddha-praising goose
flies too

The middle phrase, literally, identifies the migrating goose as one that "loves the nembutsu" (nembutsu suki no). The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

1810

.いざさらばさらばと雁のきげん哉
iza saraba saraba to kari no kigen kana

in a mood for farewell
farewell!
the wild geese

1810

.帰る雁我をかひなき物とやは
kae[ru] kari ware wo kainaki mono to ya wa

to the returning geese
I'm just a useless
so-and-so

Issa imagines that the hard-traveling geese look down at his lazy lifestyle with disdain. To them he is kainaki: in vain, without success, not worthwhile.

1810

.雁行な今錠明る藪の家
kari yuku na ima jô akeru yabu no ie

don't go, geese!
now I'm unlocking
the house in the trees

In my first translation I wrote that the house is "unlocked today," but Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is describing an action in process.

1810

.念仏をさづけてやらん帰る雁
nembutsu wo sazukete yaran kae[ru] kari

teaching how to
praise Buddha...
the geese depart

The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu": "All praise to Amida Buddha!" Issa observes that the honking geese are teaching this all-important Pure Land Buddhist chant, demonstrating the unthinking naturalness of his ideal of piety.

The verb sazukeru can mean "to teach" or "to confer" (as in conferring a favor). I believe that Issa is using it in the sense of teaching, but it is possible that he is conferring a prayer for the benefit of the geese; this is Jean Cholley's interpretation; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 87.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1811

.三月や三十日になりて帰る雁
sangetsu ya misoka ni narite kae[ru] kari

Third Month--
come the 30th day
the geese depart

The humor of this haiku lies in two facts: (1) the Third Month is the last month of spring in the old lunar calendar, and (2) "returning geese" is a spring season word. The geese have started north at the last possible moment: the day before summer.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1812

.青柳も見ざめのしてや帰る雁
ao yagi mo mizame [no] shite ya kaeru kari

the green willow too
tires of watching...
departing geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1812

.帰る雁人はなかなか未練也
kae[ru] kari hito wa naka-naka miren nari

departing geese--
human beings miss them
terribly

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). Shinji adds that miren in this haiku signifies "irresolute to forget," in other words, the people are missing the geese.

1812

.雁行や跡は本間の角田川
kari yuku ya ato wa honma no sumida-gawa

after the geese depart
back to normal...
Sumida River

Shinji Ogawa explains that honma in this haiku is synonymous with hontô ("true," "real"). Here, it signifies that the river has returned to its original state.

1813

.かしましや江戸見た雁の帰り様
kashimashi ya edo mita kari no kaeri-sama

clamorous
wild geese who saw Edo
returning home

The geese returning from their long migration might signify Issa's own homecoming to his home village after years of exile. See Fujimoto Jitsuya, Issa no kenkyû (Tokyo: Meiwa Insatsu, 1949) 448.

Syllable 17 writes, "As he so often does, Issa is presenting more than one perspective to the reader. Through their eyes we are excited geese upon seeing Edo way down below - a final landmark to our destination. So too, Issa feels swell at the sight of Tokyo, as he also, perhaps, returns from his own travels. We share this parallel vision, experienced by the author, prior to him composing this spring haiku. We are also reminded that looking through the eyes of birds is fun!"

1813

.善光寺も直ぐ通りして帰る雁
zenkôji mo sugu tôri shite kae[ru] kari

Zenko Temple, too
quickly passed over...
geese flying north

Zenkô Temple (Zenkôji) is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1813

.又かとて鹿の見るらん帰る雁
mata ka tote shika no miruran kaeru kari

once again
the deer see them off..
geese flying north

Robin D. Gill detects humor in the phrase, mata ka tote, which "makes it seem like the deer are saying to themselves, 'Are they doing it again?'"

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1813

.行な雁どつこも茨のうき世ぞや
yuku na kari dokko mo bara no ukiyo zo ya

don't go geese!
everywhere it's a floating world
of sorrow

Issa uses "floating world" (ukiyo) in the old Buddhist sense: the world is temporary and imperfect. Literally, he advises the geese (or goose) that it's the same imperfect world of "thorns" (bara) everywhere, implying that there's no point in moving on. The following translation is freer but captures Issa's meaning in more contemporary language:

don't go, geese!
the world sucks
everywhere

1814

.辛崎の松はどう見た帰る雁
karasaki no matsu wa dô mita kae[ru] kari

how did the pine
of Karasaki look?
returning geese

Issa is referring here to an immense, famous pine tree in Karasaki, a town on the shore of Lake Biwa, the subject of Hiroshige's painting, Night Rain on the Karasaki Pine (circa 1833-35).

1814

.我顔にむつとしたやら帰る雁
waga kao ni mutto shita yara kae[ru] kari

all in a huff
seeing my face...
migrant goose

Or: "migrant geese."

1815

.朝もやの紛に雁の立にけり
asa moya no magire ni kari no tachi ni keri

under the cover
of morning's haze
geese taking off

1815

.小田の雁長居はおそれおそれとや
oda no kari naga-i wa osore osore to ya

rice field geese
if you stay too long
danger! danger!

1815

.釣人のぼんの凹より帰る雁
tsuribito no bon no kubo yori kaeru kari

behind the fisherman's neck
departing
geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). Shinji writes, "This haiku is enigmatic. It says: 'From the recess of the fisherman's tray, geese are departing'."

Perhaps, however, Issa is using bon no kubo, as he sometimes does, to mean the nape of someone's neck. If so, the fisherman hears the geese depart behind him, as he watches (and fishes) in the opposite direction.

1815

.どこへなと我をつれてよ帰る雁
doko e na to ware wo tsure[te] yo kaeru kari

wherever you like
lead me along...
departing geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1815

.念仏がうるさいとてや雁帰る
nembutsu ga urusai tote ya kari kaeru

our praising Buddha
is a nuisance! the geese
depart

Or: "my praising..."

The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!" As Shinji Ogawa points out, the "noisy prayer" has annoyed the geese, and so they fly away, continuing their migration.

I picture a temple scene.

1816

.帰る雁浅間のけぶりいく度見る
kae[ru] kari asama no keburi iku do miru

departing geese--
how many times have you seen
Mount Asama's smoke?

Mount Asama is a volcano in Issa's home province of Shinano, active during the poet's lifetime. The eruption of 1783, when Issa was twenty-one years old and living in Edo (today's Tokyo), killed 1,151 people.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1816

.帰る雁花のお江戸をいく度見た
kae[ru] kari hana no o-edo wo iku do mita

departing geese--
how many times have you seen
blossom-filled Edo?

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1816

.雁よ雁いくつのとしから旅をした
kari yo kari ikutsu no toshi kara tabi wo shita

goose, wild goose
when did your
journey begin?

1816

.連もたぬ雁もとぼとぼ帰りけり
tsure motanu kari mo tobo-tobo kaeri keri

a goose without companions
plodding along
returns

year unknown

.連もたぬ雁もさつさと帰りけり
tsure motanu kari mo sassa to kaeri keri

a goose without companions
flying fast as he can
returns

In an earlier version of this haiku, composed in 1816, the lone goose is "plodding along" (tobo-tobo).

1816

.どこでどう正月をした帰る雁
doko de dô shôgatsu wo shita kae[ru] kari

where and how
did you spend First Month?
returning geese

1816

.一組は千住留りか帰る雁
hito kumi wa senju-domari ka kae[ru] kari

will one flock
stop at Senju town?
geese flying north

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

He adds, "Senju is a town located in today's Arakawa-ku; in Issa's day it was the first post town for travelers from Edo to the northern provinces. Of course, the humor of this haiku lies in Issa's application of the human traveling scale to traveling geese."

1816

.夫婦雁話して行ぞあれ行ぞ
meoto kari hanashite yuku zo are yuku zo

Mr. and Mrs. Goose
talking as they go...
they go!

The two geese, who Issa decides must be a married couple, are migrating high overhead. Alastair notes that "Adult geese (and many swans too) live as monogamous (permanent) pairs throughout the year."

1816

.木母寺の念仏さづかりて帰る雁
mokuboji no nembutsu suzukarite kae[ru] kari

learning to praise Buddha
at Mokubo Temple...
geese flying north

The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!" Issa perceives the honking of the geese to be a natural, spontaneous prayer. They evidently learned it, he fancies, in their stay at Mokuboji (Mokubo Temple).

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1816

.我家を置ざりにして帰る雁
waga ie wo okizari ni shite kae[ru] kari

finalizing the divorce
leaving my house behind...
departing geese

Okizari is a term for a husband and wife's physical separation in the divorce process of Old Japan; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 253.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1817

.けふ迄はようしんぼした門の雁
kyô made wa yô shi[m]bo shita kado no kari

up to today
such great perserverance...
goose at my gate

Or: "geese at my gate." Or: "the gate." Issa doesn't specify that it's his gate, but this might be inferred. He admires the disciplined, hard-traveling geese.

year unknown

.けふ迄のしんぼ強さよ帰る雁
kyô made no shimbo tsuyosa yo kaeru kari

up to today
such perserverance and strength!
returning geese

This haiku is a revision of one written in 1817, in which the geese (or goose) shows "great perserverance" (yô shinbo shita) and appears at Issa's gate. The poet admires the disciplined, hard-traveling geese.

year unknown

.けふ迄はよく辛抱した雁よ雁よ
kyô made wa yoku shimbo shita kari yo kari yo

up to today
such great perserverance...
wild geese! wild geese!

This haiku is a revision of one written in 1817, in which the geese (or goose) appears at Issa's gate. The poet admires the disciplined, hard-traveling geese.

1817

.夜伽してくれたる雁も帰りけり
yotogi shite kuretaru kari mo kaeri keri

after many nights
telling me bedtime stories
the geese have left

The geese have begun their "return" journey (kaeri). Shinji Ogawa explains that the mo in this haiku signifies "at last," not (as I originally thought) "also." Shinji notes that yotogi means "story telling at night," but its more common and explicit meaning is "to make love at night." He paraphrases: "after entertaining me for many nights, the geese at last have left."

year unknown

.雁鳴や今日本を放るると
kari naku ya ima nippon wo hanaruru to

geese honking--
now they leave behind
Japan

This haiku has the prescript, "Off to foreign shores."

1818

.大雨やずつぷり濡て帰る雁
ôame ya zuppuri nurete kae[ru] kari

big rain--
soaked to the skin
the returning geese

One meaning of zuppuri is to plunge one's whole body into water or a bath; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 885.

1818

.帰り度雁は思ふやおもはずや
kaeri taku kari wa omou ya omowazu ya

are the geese yearning
to depart...
or not?

More literally, it's "time to return" (kaeri taku). This haiku has the prescript, "Takanashi Town." Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: (1) "The geese wish to depart, don't they?" (2) "I wonder whether the geese wish to depart or not?"

I wonder if the humor of this haiku, in Japanese, has to do with the indecisiveness of the flock. Is Issa saying: "Stay or go, make up your minds!"?

Shinji responds, "To me it seems that Issa is simply wondering whether the geese have the same thinking process as us. Usually, when Issa a has hidden intention, or 'twist', he lets the words betray it. I do not see any such intention in this haiku. It's so simple and pure."

1818

.帰る雁細い煙を忘るるな
kae[ru] kari hosoi keburi wo wasururu na

geese flying north
don't neglect to stop
for my thin smoke!

Literally, Issa tells the returning geese not to forget the "thin smoke" (hosoi keburi). I assume that he is referring to the chimney smoke of his own humble abode, urging the geese to descend for a visit.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1818

.雁にさへ袖引雨は降りにけり
kari ni sae sode-hiku ame wa furi ni keri

on the geese, too
the seductive rain
falling

The expression, sode hiku, literally denotes dragging one by the sleeve; metaphorically, it refers to seduction. The migrating geese enjoy the rain enough to linger another day.

1818

.こんな日も旅立よしか帰る雁
konna hi mo tabi tatsu yoshi ka kae[ru] kari

is today a good day
to journey too?
returning geese

1818

.松の木を置去にして帰る雁
matsu no ki wo okizari [ni] shite kae[ru] kari

divorcing
the pine tree...
geese on the move

Okizari is a term for a husband and wife's physical separation in the divorce process of Old Japan; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 253. Two years earlier (1816) Issa writes a similar haiku in which the geese "divorce"

his house. Literally, "the geese return" (kaeru kari), but the word "return" could mislead the English reader to think that the migrating geese are coming back to the place of the haiku. This is why I use the phrase "geese on the move" to close the poem.

1818

.我村はいく日に通る帰る雁
waga mura wa iku hi ni tôru kaeru kari

on what day
will you pass my village?
geese flying north

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

About this particular haiku, Shinji notes that iku hi ni means "on what day of the month." Issa is asking the geese: "On what day of the month will you pass my village?"

Like the geese, then, Issa too is traveling, thinking about his native village somewhere to the north: a fact that adds much to the haiku's emotional tone.

1819

.小社を三遍舞て帰る雁
ko yashiro wo san-ben maite kaeru kari

three times 'round
the little shrine...
departing geese

A Shinto shrine.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that the geese seem to be praying for their safe return journey.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1819

.早立は千住留りか帰る雁
haya tatsu wa senju-domari ka kaeru kari

rising early
will you stop at Senju town?
departing geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

He adds, "Senju is a town located in today's Arakawa-ku; in Issa's day it was the first post town for travelers from Edo to the northern provinces."

1820

.親と子の三人連や帰る雁
oya to ko no sannin-zure ya kaeru kari

parents and child
three in a row...
the geese depart

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

Of course, Issa has no idea as to which geese are related. Shinji points out that they breed, in summer, in Russia. Therefore, it is entirely Issa's opinion whether a grouping of three geese constitute parents and a child. Shinji adds, "We must recollect that Issa lost his children in 1816 and in 1819 to understand why he sees the three geese as the parents and a child."

1820

.辛崎を三遍舞て帰る雁
karasaki wo san-ben maite kaeru kari

three times 'round
Karasaki...
departing geese

Karasaki is a town on Lake Biwa. A year earlier (1819) Issa writes a similar haiku in which the geese fly three times 'round a little Shinto shrine.

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1820

.すつぽんも羽ほしげ也帰る雁
suppon mo hane hoshige nari kae[ru] kari

even the turtle
wants feathers...
the geese depart

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1820

.闇の夜も道ある国や帰る雁
yami no yo mo michi aru kuni ya kaeru kari

in the dark night, too
finding their way...
the geese depart

Literally, "the province has a road" (michi aru kuni ya).

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1821

.なくな雁いつも別は同じ事
naku na kari itsumo wakare wa onaji koto

don't cry, geese
parting is always
the same thing

1822

.大組の後やだまつて帰る雁
ôgumi no ato ya damatte kaeru kari

after the big flock
silence...
geese flying north

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1822

.此国のものに成る気か行ぬ雁
kono kuni no mono ni naru ki ka ikanu kari

are you planning
to stay in this province?
goose

1822

.なくな雁とても一度は別れねば
naku [na] kari tote mo ichi do wa wakareneba

don't cry, geese!
in the end our parting
is inevitable

1822

.何事ぞ此大雨に帰る雁
nanigoto zo kono ôame ni kaeru kari

what a thing!
in this deluge
the geese depart

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1822

.満月の図を抜しとや帰る雁
mangetsu no zu wo nukeshi to ya kaeru kari

straight out of a full moon
painting...
the geese depart

I believe that Issa is saying that the migrating geese have flown straight out of some painter's picture of full moon and migrating geese: life imitating art.

Shinji Ogawa concurs with this interpretation. He writes, "It is a typical Japanese painting that a line of flying geese crosses a full moon." He adds that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1822

.雪の降る拍子に雁の帰りけり
yuki no furu hyôshi ni kari no kaeri keri

to the rhythm
of the falling snow
the geese depart

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

It is ironic that this spring event takes place amid snow--an allusion, perhaps, to the famous coldness of Issa's home province.

1822

.行雁の下るや恋の軽井沢
yuku kari no oriru ya koi no karuizawa

traveling geese
go down to make love...
the town of Karuizawa

Shinji Ogawa explains that, in Issa's day, Karuizawa, close to the Mount Asama, "was a prosperous post town. Consequently, there might have been many prosititutes in the town. After the modern railroad passed it by, the town was forgotten for a while. However, an English missionary discovered the area as a good summer resort in 1886. Now it is the most famous summer resort area in Japan."

1823

.江戸の水呑みおふせてやかへる雁
edo no mizu nomi ôsete ya kaeru kari

drinking Edo's water
at last...
returning geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

Edo is the old name for today's Tokyo.

Issa wrote this haiku in Fifth Month, 1823. In First Month, 1824, he writes a similar one:

edo no mizu nonde koe shite kaeru kari

honking while they drink
Edo's water...
returning geese

1824

.江戸の水呑んで声してかへる雁
edo no mizu nonde koe shite kaeru kari

honking while they drink
Edo's water...
returning geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

Edo is the old name for today's Tokyo.

Issa wrote this haiku in First Month, 1824--even though the editors of Issa zenshû, in Volume 1, erroneously attribute it to 1822; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.156. The previous year, in Fifth Month, he wrote:

edo no mizu nomi ôsete ya kaeru kari

drinking Edo's water
at last...
returning geese

1824

.朝雨や雁も首尾よく帰る声
asa ame ya kari mo shubi yoku kaeru koe

morning rain--
geese, too, celebrate
their successful return

Literally, the geese's migration has been well-done "from head to tail" (shubi).

Who else is returning from a journey, making a happy noise? Perhaps Issa?

1824

.痩雁や友の帰るを見てはなく
yase-gari ya tomo no kaeru wo mite wa naku

scrawny goose--
honking at his friends
flying north

Or: "at her friends."

Shinji Ogawa describes the scene: a scrawny goose, seeing his friends depart, cries out to them.

Is Issa implying that the skinny goose is too weak for the migration? The sad feeling of being left behind is something everyone can relate to.

year unknown

.みちのくの田植見てから帰る雁
michi no ku no taue mite kara kaeru kari

after seeing rice planting
in remote provinces...
the geese depart

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

year unknown

.行たいか雁伸上り伸上り
yukitai ka kari nobi-agari nobi-agari

thinking of taking off?
goose on tiptoe
on tiptoe

1793

.雲に鳥人間海にあそぶ日ぞ
kumo ni tori ningen umi ni asobu hi zo

birds in the clouds
people in the sea...
a holiday

French translator Jean Cholley sees this as a scene of people gathering shellfish at low tide. At the end of Third Month seabirds have migrated north ("in the clouds"), leaving good pickings for the humans; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 9.

Issa later (1795) revises this to begin with "larks in the sky" (ten ni hibari). Larks are not migratory birds.

Whatever the species of bird, Issa paints a happy picture of natural harmony: birds soar in the clouds; people crouch in the water. He opens himself to an ordinary moment of life, and the result is a one-breath poem that unfolds a breath-taking panorama of life.

1824

.穴を出る蛇の頭や猫がはる
ana wo deru hebi no atama ya neko ga haru

from his hole
the snake pokes his head...
the cat slaps it

Or: "her hole...her head."

Shinji Ogawa notes that haru in this context means "hit." The cat hits the snake's poking-out head with its paw.

1824

.大蛇やおそれながらと穴を出る
ôhebi ya osore nagara to ana wo deru

big snake--
with trepidation coming out
his hole

Or: "her hole."

1824

.苦の娑婆や蛇なのりて穴を出る
ku [no] s[h]aba ya hebi nanorite ana wo deru

world of corruption--
Sir Snake slithers
from his hole

1824

.けつこうな御世とや蛇も穴を出る
kekkôna miyo to ya hebi mo ana wo deru

a splendid world!
even the snake
leaves his hole

Or: "her hole." In this poem of springtime joy, Issa implies that he, like the snake, has left the "hole" of his winter seclusion.

1824

.人鬼や蛇より先に穴を出る
hito oni ya hebi yori saki ni ana wo deru

human goblins--
leaving their holes
before the snakes

Issa might count himself among the number of "goblins called men" who, like the snakes, leave the "holes" of their winter seclusion.

1791

.青梅に手をかけて寝る蛙哉
aoume ni te wo kakete neru kawazu kana

resting his hands
on the green plum, asleep...
a frog

This is one of Issa's first frog poems, recorded in his first travel journal, Kansei san nen kikô ("Third Year of Kansei Era Diary")--1791.

1793

.岩が根に蛙の眠る真昼哉
iwa ga ne ni kawazu no nemuru mahiru kana

at the rock's base
the frog's siesta...
high noon

1795

.蛙鳴き鶏なき東しらみけり
kawazu naki tori naki higashi shirami keri

frogs sing, roosters sing
the east
turns light

According to the prescript, Issa set out before dawn with a Buddhist priest, Hôzen, as his traveling companion. He composed this haiku en route.

1802

.よひ闇の一本榎なくかはづ
yoiyami no ippon enoki naku kawazu

darkening dusk--
in one nettle tree
croaking frogs

1803

.かりそめの娶入月よやなく蛙
karisome no yomeri tsuki yo ya naku kawazu

a fleeting moonlit
wedding night...
frogs singing

This haiku has the prescript, cho (in Chinese, pronounced zhu) a word that literally means a "literary work." It is the title of Song 98 from the most ancient collection of Chinese poetry, Shi Jing of the Zhou Dynasty. It is written from the point of view of a young woman, and begins with the line, "He was waiting for me between the door and the screen." In Eighth and Ninth Month of 1803 Issa wrote a series of over thirty haiku inspired by poems from Shi Jung (Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.117-31. This one alludes to a brief but romantic night of love but comically replaces the human lovers with frogs.

1803

.つるべにも一夜過ぎけりなく蛙
tsurube ni mo hito yo sugi keri naku kawazu

even in the well bucket
croaking all night...
a frog

This haiku has the prescript, "Heaven, Wind, Coupling": a reference to Chinese divination, specifically to Hexagram 44 of the I Ching. When Heaven (Qian) is the upper trigram and Wind (Xun) is the lower, the resulting hexagram is Gou (Japanese = ), the sign for copulation or "coming to meet." Issa's geomantic joke is on the frog, singing his mating song all night, eager to copulate, yet without much chance of success inside the well bucket.

1803

.鳴ながら蛙とぶ也草の雨
naki nagara kawazu tobu nari kusa no ame

while croaking he jumps--
frog in the rainy
grass

An example of Issa's emerging mature style: writing from life and from the heart. This haiku is an exuberant description of the here-and-now, compelling in its simplicity

1804

.油火のうつくしき夜やなく蛙
aburabi no utsukushiki yo ya naku kawazu

a lovely night lit
with oil lamps...
croaking frogs

1804

.蛙なくや始て寝たる人の家
kawazu naku ya hajimete netaru hito no ie

croaking frogs--
my first night
visiting this house

Shinji Ogawa explains that this is Issa's "first sleep" at a house he is visiting. Perhaps the raucous frogs are keeping him up?

1804

.鍋ずみを目口に入てなく蛙
nabe-zumi wo meguchi ni irete naku kawazu

the kettle's soot
in his mouth and eyes...
croaking frog

Is the frog annoyed by this human-made pollution?

1804

.初蛙梢の雫又おちよ
hatsu kawazu kozue no shizuku mata ochi yo

spring's first frog--
another drop falls
from the twig

I believe that the water drops are falling onto the frog's head. Is he perturbed? Astonished? Accepting the drops with Buddhist equanimity? The reader must decide.

1805

.あさぢふや目出度雨になく蛙
asajiu ya medetai ame ni naku kawazu

celebrating the rain
in the reeds
croaking frogs

The rain is "auspicious" (medetai). Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1805

.入相は蛙の目にも涙哉
iriai wa kawazu no me ni mo namida kana

sunset--
tears shine in a frog's eyes
too

The most important word in this haiku is "too" (mo). The frog's eyes look shiny, as if filled with tears. The "too" suggests someone else in the scene, and that someone else has to be Issa. Why are there tears in the poet's eyes? He doesn't say. Instead, he shows us, simply, a sunset and a frog. The day is over. Is the frog sad about this? Regretful? And what if the whole scene is symbolic, sunset suggesting death and the day that is almost gone, a lifetime? Then, the frog's and Issa's tears become even more significant and poignant. Together they weep for what has been and will never be again.

1805

.片ひざは月夜也けり夕蛙
katahiza wa tsuki yo nari keri yû kawazu

on one knee
the moonlight...
frog in the evening

1805

.蛙とぶ程はふる也草の雨
kawazu tobu hodo wa furu nari kusa no ame

looks almost
like frogs hopping!
rain on the grass

A striking image. The raindrops hit the grass and rebound...like hopping frogs.

1805

.草陰にぶつくさぬかす蛙哉
kusa kage ni butsukusa nukasu kawazu kana

in grassy shade
such rude grumbling...
a frog

1805

.草かげや何をぶつくさゆふ蛙
kusa kage ya nani wo butsukusa yû kawazu

in grassy shade
what's that grumbling?
evening frog

1805

.なく蛙此夜葎も伸ぬべし
naku kawazu kono yo mugura mo nobinu-beshi

frogs singing--
"Tonight let the weeds
grow taller!"

The plant in question is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1805

.葉がくれに鳴ぬつもりの蛙哉
ha-gakure ni nakanu tsumori no kawazu kana

in leafy shade
deciding not to croak...
a frog

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1805

.痩藪も己が夜也なく蛙
yase yabu mo ono ga yoru nari naku kawazu

even in a sparse thicket
"This is our night!"
croak the frogs

The thicket isn't very thick, but it will do. Shinji Ogawa notes that, even though it's a humble thicket, the frogs in it are celebrating their lives: "This is our world, this is our night!"

1806

.蛙なくやとりしまりなき草の雨
kawazu naku ya torishimarinaki kusa no ame

frogs croaking--
"This rain on the grass
is unsanctioned!"

The phrase, torishimarinaki, is an old expression for being negligent (darashi no nai) or lax (shimari ga nai)--especially, as Shinji Ogawa points out, in the sense of lax government. The rain is falling with "no government regulation."

1807

.あさぢふや臼の中よりなく蛙
asajiu ya usu no naka yori naku kawazu

from the tub in the reeds
a croaking
frog

Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25. There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

1807

.影ぼふし我にとなりし蛙哉
kagebôshi ware ni tonari shi kawazu kana

next to my shadow
that
of a frog

I imagine the sun in this scene to be setting: the shadows of Issa and the frog are slowly lengthening as the day comes to a peaceful end.

1807

.なく蛙夜はあつけなく成にけり
naku kawazu yo wa akkenaku nari ni keri

frogs croaking
the nights becoming
shorter

Shinji Ogawa corrected my misreading of atsukenaku; this should be read akkenaku, meaning "brief" or "too short."

1807

.葉隠に年寄声の蛙哉
ha-gakure ni toshiyori koe no kawazu kana

in leafy shade
an old man's voice...
a frog!

An example of bait-and-switch humor: Issa seems to be talking about a person but in the punch line reveals who the "old man" really is.

1807

.葉隠の椿見つめてなく蛙
ha-gakure no tsubaki mitsumete naku kawazu

in leafy shade
gazing at the camellia...
croaking frog

1807

.むさい家の夜を見にござれなく蛙
musai ya no yo wo mi ni gozare naku kawazu

"Come see
the crappy house at night!"
croak the frogs

Or: "croaks the frog." Shinji Ogawa translates musai ya no yo as "the night of the crappy house." The house is most likely Issa's. He imagines the frogs hawking it.

1807

.夕蛙葎の雨に老をなく
yû kawazu mugura no ame ni oi wo naku

an evening frog
in rainy weeds sings
of old age

Or: "evening frogs...sing." Kawazu (the old word for "frog") can be singular or plural. I prefer to imagine one frog in the scene: Issa's aging counterpart.

The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1807

.我門のしはがれ蛙鳴にけり
waga kado no shiwagare kawazu naki ni keri

at my gate
the hoarse frog
keeps singing

Or: "the hoarse frogs/ keep singing." I perfect to imagine one persistent frog: Issa's fellow "poet."

1808

.梅の木を鳴古したる蛙哉
ume no ki wo naki furushitaru kawazu kana

that croaking at the plum tree
is growing old...
frog

1808

.浦人のお飯の上もかはづ哉
urabito no o-meshi no ue mo kawazu kana

even atop
the seaside dweller's rice...
a frog

Whereas English has one word for rice, Japanese has two. The rice in the haiku (o-meshi) is rice that has been harvested and cooked, not rice in a field, which would be called kome. This makes the haiku more comic in its original Japanese than in English translation, as we are led to picture a frog that has landed--plop!--in a bowl or kettle of food. The humorous implication of the particle mo ("even" or "too") is that frogs appear everywhere in the scene, even atop the seaside dweller's rice!

1808

.ちる花を口明て待かはづ哉
chiru hana wo kuchi akete matsu kawazu kana

his mouth open
for the falling blossoms...
a frog

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms." The frog's mouth gapes as if to eat the drifting-down petals. Or, might we assume that his expression is one of wide-mouthed awe at the delicate beauty of the scene? Or, is the frog yawning with boredom, suggesting that he's had enough of cherry-blossom season? Issa invites us to contemplate the moment and arrive at our own answers.

1808

.昼顔にうしろの見ゆるかへる哉
hirugao ni ushiro no miyuru kaeru kana

ensconced behind
the day flower...
a frog

Issa is admiring a blooming hirugao. Suddenly, behind it and its foliage, the poet sights a frog sitting quietly. His blossom-viewing becomes, in a wondrous instant of refocussing, a frog-viewing.

1808

.山の鐘蛙もとしのよりぬべし
yama no kane kawazu mo toshi no yorinubeshi

mountain temple bell--
the frog too
must feel old

Literally, it is a "mountain bell" (yama no kane) clanging, but Issa's original Japanese readers understand that this refers to the bell of a Buddhist temple which, for them as for the Buddhist poet, is a reminder of life's transience.

The suffix -beshi indicates that the action of the verb is probable: a guess on the poet's part; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1469.

1808

.我を見てにがひ顔する蛙哉
ware wo mite nigai-gao suru kawazu kana

watching me
with a grumpy face...
a frog

1810

.花びらに舌打したる蛙哉
hanabira ni shitauchi shitaru kawazu kana

on a flower petal
clucking his tongue...
a frog

In his translation, Jean Cholley pictures the frog clucking his tongue at the petals (aux pétales des fleurs); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 87. I prefer to picture the frog sitting on the petals, clucking his tongue reprovingly at Issa or, perhaps, at life in general ... like a cranky old man.

1810

.藪並や仕様事なしに鳴蛙
yabu nami ya shiyô koto nashi ni naku kawazu

stand of trees--
the inevitable croaking
frog

Or: "frogs." Either way, Issa remarks on the inevitability of frog song in every row or clump of trees. At the height of mating season, the sound is frenzied and chaotic, the feeling one of springtime ebullience.

1810

.夕陰や連にはぐれてなく蛙
yûkage ya tsure ni hagurete naku kawazu

evening shadows--
separated from his friends
a frog croaks

1811

.タふや歩きながらになく蛙
asajiu ya aruki nagara ni naku kawazu

in cogon grass
croaking while walking...
a frog

Asajiu means a place where asaji, an early spring grass, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1811

.象潟や桜を浴てなく蛙
kisagata ya sakura wo abite naku kawazu

Kisa Lagoon--
bathing in cherry blossoms
croaking frog

Kisa Lagoon (Kisagata) was ravaged by an earthquake in Sixth Month, 1804. The effect, according to Shinji Ogawa, was that the seabed was raised and the "beautiful scenery like a miniature archipelago suddenly became dry land."

1811

.我庵や蛙初手から老を鳴く
waga io ya kawazu shote kara oi wo naku

frogs at my hut
from the beginning have sung
"We grow old!"

Or: "the frog at my hut/ from the beginning has sung/ "I grow old!"

1812

.からさきの松真黒に蛙かな
karasaki no matsu makkuro ni kawazu kana

in the Karasaki pine
jet black...
a frog

Issa is referring here to an immense, famous pine tree in Karasaki, a town on the shore of Lake Biwa. In Hiroshige's woodblock print, Night Rain on the Karasaki Pine, the tree looms hugely in a rainstorm, its propped-up branches overshadowing buildings and extending over the lake. In Issa's haiku a tiny, black tree frog clings to the colossal pine, a juxtaposition of small and vast that reminds us of his haiku about a snail on Mount Fuji. The sacred tree and sacred mountain could symbolically stand for the universe, but Issa's mind notices--and his heart goes out to--a little black frog and a small, persistent snail. In the great scheme of things, we are like these unassuming creatures, engaged in our humble pilgrimages through a vastness that our minds can never grasp.

1812

.草陰に蛙の妻もこもりけり
kusa kage ni kawazu no tsuma mo komori keri

in grassy shade
the frog's wife also lives
in seclusion

1812

.小便の滝を見せうぞ鳴蛙
shôben no taki wo mishô zo naku kawazu

get ready to see
my piss waterfall!
croaking frog

1812

.づうづうし畳の上の蛙哉
zûzûshi tatami no ue no kawazu kana

brazenly squatting
on the tatami mat...
a frog

1812

.どち向も万吉とやなく蛙
dochi muku mo yorozu yoshi to ya naku kawazu

in every direction
ten thousand blessings...
croaking frogs

1812

.逃足や尿たれながら鳴蛙
nige ashi ya shito tare nagara naku kawazu

taking flight
and a leak...
croaking frog

1812

.橋わたる盲の跡の蛙哉
hashi wataru mekura no ato no kawazu kana

crossing the bridge
behind the blind man...
a frog

The figure of a blind man crossing a bridge recalls a series of at least eight zenga (Zen paintings) by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768). In these monochrome paintings, the number of blind men on the bridge ranges from one to nine. In the verse that accompanies two of these images, Hakuin writes, "Both inner life and the floating world outside us/ Are like the blind man's round log bridge--/ An enlightened mind is the best guide" (Two Blind Men on a Bridge, Manyoan Collection, unknown translator); see also Audrey Yoshiko Seo and Stephan Addiss, The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin (Boston: Shambhala 2010) 139-41. The blind men, moving from right to left, strive to leave the world behind and reach, on the other side of the precarious bridge, enlightenment. In Issa's haiku, the blind man's faithful follower toward enlightenment is a frog.

1812

.花の根へ推参したる蛙哉
hana no ne e suisan shitaru kawazu kana

paying a visit
to the flower's root...
a frog

Issa comically describes the frog's journey to the bottom of a flower in terms of human language and etiquette: he is paying a formal visit (suisan shitaru).

1812

.蕗の葉に片足かけて鳴く蛙
fuki no ha ni kata ashi kakete naku kawazu

one foot
on the butterbur leaf...
croaking frog

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, kata ashi kakete, means "putting a foot on something."

1812

.山吹の御味方申す蛙かな
yamabuki no o-mikata mô[su] kawazu kana

the yellow rose's
honorable ally...
a frog

Yamabuki has two meanings: a type of yellow rose and an old Japanese golden coin, otherwise known as a koban. Literally, the yamabuki of the haiku is a spring flower, but its other meaning as a coin adds a satirical resonance. The samurai-frog gallantly or avariciously pledges his support to the golden rose/coin, possibly because of its beauty, possibly because his sword is for sale to the highest bidder.

1812

.夕空をにらみつけたる蛙哉
yûzora wo nirami tsuketaru kawazu kana

scowling
at the evening sky...
a frog

Issa writes yet another haiku that attributes "human" emotion to an animal. In 1805, he depicted a frog shedding tears at sunset, but this frog of 1812 is cranky and curmudgeonly--like Issa?

1812

.夕不二に尻を並べてなく蛙
yû fuji ni shiri wo narabete naku kawazu

next to evening's Mount Fuji
his butt...
croaking frog

In his translation Lucien Stryk pictures several frogs "back to back"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 12. Shinji Ogawa, however, reads this as a poem of perspective. When one views Mount Fuji from a far distance and a frog is close, the two can seem to be the same size, side by side. This image suggests, with comic iconoclasm, that the sacred mountain is no bigger (no more important?) than the backside of a frog.

1813

.浅草の不二を踏へてなく蛙
asakusa no fuji wo fumaete naku kawazu

trampling Asakusa's
little Fuji...
a croaking frog

The highest and most sacred of Japan's peaks, Mount Fuji was the home of the great kami-sama or gods. Buddhists believed it was a mystical gateway between earth and heaven. Climbing it was a sacred pilgrimage. However, not everyone could make the climb. Therefore, imitation Mount Fujis (small, sculpted hills) were built at various temples so that one could reap spiritual benefit by climbing them. Issa's frog treads on one of these pseudo-mountains in Asakusa.

1813

.狗にここ迄来いと蛙哉
enokoro ni koko made koi to kawazu kana

"Hey puppy
come here!" croaks
the frog

In a related haiku of 1819, Issa has a frog calling to the puppy. We picture an excited, curious puppy exploring the world. One moment, his attention is drawn to a frog; another moment, to a cicada. In Issa's imagination, the frog's croak and the cicada's chirr summon the puppy: "Come over here!"

1813

.草の葉にかくれんぼする蛙哉
kusa no ha ni kakurenbo suru kawazu kana

in leaves of grass
playing hide-and-seek...
a frog

1813

.ちる花にあごを並べる蛙哉
chiru hana ni ago wo naraberu kawazu kana

chin-deep
in the fallen blossoms...
a frog

In Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa I write about this poem: "Like the frog, we find ourselves chin-deep in a world that owes much of its beauty to the fact that nothing in it will last" (Reno/Tadoshi: Buddhist Books International, 2004) 71.

1813

.なの花に隠居してなく蛙哉
na no hana ni inkyo shite naku kawazu kana

in his retreat
in the flowering mustard
a croaking frog

Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

1813

.のさのさと恋をするかの蛙哉
nosa-nosa to koi wo suru ka no kawazu kana

enjoying your sex
so shamelessly?
frogs

The haiku's key expression, nosa-nosa, has several meanings. It can denote performing an action with composure (heizen), with lighthearted nonchalance (nonki), lacking dread (habakaru tokoro no nai), or shamelessly (ôchaku). In other, later haiku, Issa uses the expression to describe a village dog guiding him across a low-tide beach (1816), lice on a straw mat (1822), lice in his blossom-viewing robe (1822), and a big toad at a rice-planting drinking party (1822). The images of lice suggest a sense of shamelessness; the images of the dog and toad suggest a sense of bold resolve. Taking these later haiku into consideration, we can conclude that Issa sees the lovemaking of the frogs as bold and shameless: happily unhampered by human modesty; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292.

1813

.疱瘡のさんだらぼしへ蛙哉
hôsô no sandara-boshi e kawazu kana

onto a straw lid
marked "Smallpox"
hops a frog

A haiku of remarkable juxtaposition. Sandara-bôshi is another word for sandawara: a round straw lid used on both ends of straw rice bags; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 739-40. Shinji Ogawa believes that the haiku depicts a scene of exorcism where a round straw lid is released in a river to carry the smallpox god away.

Comically, a frog chooses this surface as his raft.
Like the captain of a tiny ship, the frog drifts away, heroically taking with him the disease of a city or village.

In an undated version of the scene, Issa writes:

imo kami no sandara-boshi ni kawazu kana

on the straw lid
of the smallpox god...
a frog

1818

.いも神のさんだらぼしに蛙哉
imo kami no sandara-boshi ni kawazu kana

on the straw lid
of the smallpox god...
a frog

Sandara-bôshi is another word for sandawara: a round straw lid used on both ends of straw rice bags; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 739-40. Shinji Ogawa notes that imo kami means a "god of smallpox." He believes that the haiku depicts a scene of exorcism where a round straw lid is released in a river to carry the smallpox god away.

Comically, a frog chooses this surface as his perch.

In an earlier version, composed in 1813, the frog sat on a lid of a bag marked, "Smallpox."

1813

.むきむきに蛙のいとこはとこ哉
muki muki ni kawazu no itoko hatoko kana

facing every-which way
frog cousins
and second cousins!

Issa uses familial terms normally applied to people, shortening the distance between human and nonhuman animal. The frogs are cousins and second-cousins not only to each other but to Issa, and to us.

1813

.むだ口は一つも明ぬ蛙哉
muda kuchi wa hitotsu mo akenu kawazu kana

never opening
their mouths in vain...
frogs

Or: "never opening/ his mouth in vain . . ./ the frog." Is Issa perhaps reflecting on the utility of the frogs' song, in attracting a mate? Shinji Ogawa notes that the nu in akenu means "not" or "never." Literally, hitotsu mo akenu denotes, "not open even once."

Issa notes that frogs open their mouths only for good reasons. What might these reasons be? Certainly, we recognize that catching a fly or some other tasty morsel justifies mouth-opening, but might Issa also be thinking of the frog's use of "language"? Science tells us that frogs sing with their mouths tightly shut, relying vocal pouches that inflate and resonate at the sides of their heads--a phenomenon of which patient, observant Issa must have been aware. Nevertheless, he might be using "mouth" to imply speech, suggesting that frogs sing only for the good reason of attracting a mate. If we read the haiku in this way, Issa slyly pokes fun at homo sapiens: a species filled with individuals who open their mouths constantly, "in vain."

1813

.木母寺の花を敷寝の蛙哉
mokuboji no hana wo shikine no kawazu kana

at Mokubo Temple
bunking on a flower...
a frog

Human guests at the Buddhist temple sleep on mats (shikine). Issa imagines that the frog has spread his shikine on the flower, and now sleeps on it.

1813

.いうぜんとして山を見る蛙哉
iuzen to shite yama wo miru kawazu kana

serene and still
the mountain-viewing
frog

This haiku appears in Hachiban nikki, 1813, without prescript, but Issa recopies it six years later in Oraga haru with a prose preface: "In the summer evening, spreading my straw mat, I call 'Lucky! Lucky!' and soon he comes crawling out from his hiding place in the thicket, enjoying the evening cool just like a person." "Lucky" (Fuku) is a pet name for toads.

Issa's first two phrases echo a well-known, pre-Tang Chinese poem by Tao Qian, also known as Tao Yuanming. His poem, "I Built My House Near Where Others Dwell," has the lines: "I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,/ And gaze afar towards the southern mountains." The ancient Chinese poem is about a hermit poet gazing upon distant mountains and flying birds, sensing within these things an ineffable "hint of Truth." Tao Qian's tone, Shinji Ogawa notes, is "serene and refined," but in Issa's parody this tone is comically shattered, moving from classical heights down . . . to a frog! [Chinese translation by William Acker in T'ao the Hermit, Sixty Poems by T'ao Chi'en (London: Thames and Hudson, 1952).]

1813

.世の中は是程よいを啼蛙
yo [no] naka wa kore hodo yoi wo naku kawazu

even around here
the world is good!
frogs croaking

1814

.うす縁にばりして逃る鳴蛙
usuberi [ni] bari shite nigeru naku kawazu

piddling on the mat
as he flees...
croaking frog

Usuberi is a fine tatami mat to which a fancy, decorative border has been sewn: plainly an indoors mat. In the haiku, the frog invades the human world with brazen aplomb, leaving piddle in his wake.

1814

.草陰につんとしている蛙かな
kusa kage ni tsunto shite iru kawazu kana

in grassy shade
acting stuck-up...
a frog

1814

.ちる花にのさばり廻る蛙哉
chiru hana ni nosabari mawaru kawazu kana

lording over
the scattering blossoms...
a frog

Nosabaru is an old word that means to behave selfishly or in an arrogant manner; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1814

.菜畠に妻やこもりて鳴蛙
na-batake ni tsuma ya komorite naku kawazu

in the farm field
his wife hides...
croaking frog

This haiku was written in First Month, 1814. At age 53, Issa married his first wife, Kiku (age 28), a little later this year, in Fourth Month. One wonders if this might be a poem of anticipation; is the poet thinking that he, too will not be alone for long?

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1814

.一ッ星見つけたやうになく蛙
hitotsu boshi mi-tsuketa yô ni naku kawazu

like he just now
spotted a star...
croaking frog

Of course, biologists who inform us of the frog's poor eyesight might doubt that such a creature could notice the dim, distant light of a star. Issa, if presented with this challenge, would smile, I suspect. The deeper truth of his whimsical poem is that frogs, just as much as humans, are fully part of this universe.

1814

.我一人醒たり顔の蛙哉
ware hitori sametari kao no kawazu kana

for me all alone
his sober face...
a frog

Sameru can mean to be awake, be disillusioned, or to be sober. In this context, I have chosen the third definition.

1815

.御地蔵の手に居へ給ふ蛙かな
o-jizô no te ni sue tamau kawazu kana

safe in holy
Jizo's hand, squats
a frog

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

1815

.亀どのに負さつて鳴蛙哉
kame dono ni obusatte naku kawazu kana

hitching a ride
on Mr. Turtle...
a croaking frog

1815

.炬をはやし立てや鳴蛙
taimatsu wo hayashi tatete ya naku kawazu

raising a cheer
for the torches...
croaking frogs

Evidently, a night scene.

1815

.ちる梅をざぶりと浴てなく蛙
chiru ume wo zaburi to abite naku kawazu

bathing in the fallen
plum blossoms...
a croaking frog

1815

.天下泰平と居並ぶ蛙かな
tenka taihei to i-narabu kawazu kana

sitting in a row
peace on earth...
frogs

Perhaps Issa's point is that the frogs aren't fighting. For the moment, peace prevails.

This haiku has an unusual enjambment of the first and middle phrases.

1815

.人を吐やうに居て鳴く蛙
hito wo haku yô ni suwatte naku kawazu

squatting like he's vomiting
a man!
croaking frog

Five years later, in 1820, Issa writes a similar haiku:

umisôna hara wo kakaete naku kawazu

giving birth
with that belly?
croaking frog

1815

.目出度の煙聳へてなく蛙
medetasa no keburi sobiete naku kawazu

celebratory smoke
rising, the croaking
frogs

1816

.亀どのに上座ゆづりて鳴蛙
kame dono no jôza yuzurite naku kawazu

yielding the seat of honor
to Mr. Turtle...
croaking frog

1816

.来かかりて一分別の蛙かな
ki-kakarite hitofunbetsu no kawazu kana

he comes to visit
with such gravitas...
a frog

Three years earlier, in 1813, Issa used the same term hitofunbetsu ("careful consideration"--or, as I translate it here, "gravitas") to describe the actions of a snail.

1816

.車座に居直りて鳴く蛙哉
kurumaza ni i-naorite naku kawazu kana

sitting up straight
in their circle...
croaking frogs

1816

.小仏の御首からも蛙かな
ko-botoke no o-kashira kara mo kawazu kana

the little Buddha's head
a launch pad too...
frogs

Or: "the frog."

Issa writes this haiku in First Month, 1816. Later that same year, in Fourth Month, he would have his own "little Buddha": his first-born son, Sentarô.

Sakuo Nakamura detects a subtle spiritual lesson in this haiku: Nature is "free from religion to which people turn, asking help to be saved. Nature, including life or death, goes beyond Buddha and Buddhism."

1816

.ことしや世がよいぞ小蛙大蛙
kotoshi ya yo ga yoi zo ko kawazu ôkawazu

"This year the world is good!"
little frogs
big frogs

I imagine that the frogs, big and small, are croaking the first phrase, hence the quotation marks.

1816

.西行のやうに居て鳴蛙
saigyô no yô ni suwatte naku kawazu

like Saigyo
squatting, croaking
frog

Saigyô was a Japanese poet-priest (1118-90).

1816

.笹の家の小言の真似を鳴蛙
sasa no ya no kogoto no mane wo naku kawazu

copying the nagging
in the thatched house...
croaking frogs

The house is thatched with bamboo grass (sasa).

1816

.叱つてもしやあしやあとして蛙哉
shikatte mo shaa-shaa to shite kawazu kana

despite the scolding
composed and shameless...
frog

I picture Issa's wife, Kiku, scolding an unwanted visitor, but the frog maintains his shameless composure (shaa-shaa to).

1816

.上人の口真似してやなく蛙
shônin no kuchi mane shite ya naku kawazu

taking up the holy man's
chant...
croaking frogs

1816

.小便を致しながらもなく蛙
shôben wo itashi nagara mo naku kawazu

taking a leak
he keeps on croaking...
frog

1816

.順々に座につきてなく蛙
jun-jun ni za ni tsukite naku kawazu kana

one by one
they take their seats...
croaking frogs

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The phrase za ni tsukite means 'to sit in the seat'."

1816

.住吉の神の御前の蛙哉
sumiyoshi no kami no mimae no kawazu kana

in the divine presence
of Sumiyoshi's gods...
a frog

Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka where several powerful kami-sama are enshrined, most notably the legendary Empress Jingû and Hachimanshin, the god of war and Japan's protector.

1816

.同音に口を明たる蛙かな
dôon ni kuchi wo aketaru kawazu kana

with one voice
their mouths open wide...
frogs

1816

.なむなむと口を明たる蛙かな
namu namu to kuchi wo aketaru kawazu kana

praising Buddha
mouths gaping wide...
frogs

The Buddha is Amida Buddha.

1816

.逃しなに何をぶつくさ夕蛙
nigeshina ni nani wo butsu-kusa yuu kawazu

running away
grumbling, mumbling...
evening frog

The old word butsu-kusa denotes muttering or grumbling sounds made with the mouth; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1445.

1816

.女房を追なくしてや鳴く蛙
nyôbô wo ou naku shite ya naku kawazu

chasing a lady
who gets away...
croaking frog

Or: "my wife." Literally, nyôbô denotes a lady or ladies of the court. Shinji Ogawa points out that this is an idiom for "wife." Issa was married to his first wife, Kiku, when he wrote this haiku.

1816

.花蓙や先へ居りている蛙
hana goza ya saki e suwarite iru kawazu

blossom-viewing mat--
squatting at its front
a frog

I assume that hana goza (literally, "blossom mat") is a sitting mat used for blossom viewing. Is the frog facing out, gazing at the blossoms, or facing in, staring at the blossom viewer, Issa? The first possibility gives the haiku a sublime feeling: that even a frog appreciates the beauty of the spring blossoms. The second possibility makes the haiku comic. Reader's choice.

1816

.痩蛙まけるな一茶是に有り
yasegaeru makeru na issa kore ni ari

scrawny frog, hang tough!
Issa
is here

In his diary, Issa explains, "I stooped to watch a frog scuffle on the 20th day of Fourth Month." Since he likes to describe himself as impoverished and hungry, Issa feels a special kinship with the scrawny frog battling for a mate.

Shinji Ogawa notes, "Issa made many haiku on frogs. This is the most famous."

In my earlier translation, I presented Issa as the frog's would-be savior:

scrawny frog, fight on!
Issa
to the rescue

Keizo Kuramoto, however, objects that we should not imagine that Issa jumped into the pond to help the skinny frog with which he so deeply identified. The frog must fight his own battles. Issa's assurance that he is there implies: "Life is tough. Don't give up. I feel for you." Based on Keizo's comments, I re-translated the haiku, removing my overly interpretive "Issa to the rescue" and presenting the more literal "Issa is here."

1816

.山吹や先御先へととぶ蛙
yamabuki ya mazu o-saki e to tobu kawazu

yellow rose--
please, you go first
frog jumping

In Shinji Ogawa's view, this humorous haiku is an allusion to Bashô's famous haiku, furu ike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto:

old pond--
a frog jumping into water
sound

According to legend, Kikau, one of Bashô's disciples, suggested that the first line of this haiku could be "yellow rose" (yamabuki ya), an image conventionally associated with frogs. Bashô, however, rejected this and decided to begin with "old pond" (furu ike ya). Shinji believes that Issa is alluding to this legend. The frog is a noble descendent of Bashô's frog who naturally deserves to go first.

year unknown

.古池や先御先へととぶ蛙
furu ike ya mazu o-saki e to tobu kawazu

old pond--
please, you go first
frog jumping

This haiku has the prescript, "Looking at the ruins of Bashô's hut." The opening phrase, "old pond" (furu ike ya), is a playful reference to Bashô's famous haiku: furu ike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto:

old pond--
the frog jumps in
with a splash

Shinji Ogawa adds, "I would like to point out the humor Issa put into the haiku. The old pond is not any pond but the pond of the great haiku master Bashô. Therefore, there must be the descendants of Bashô's frog [in the pond]. The ordinary frogs, perhaps Issa's, must pay respect to the frogs of high birth. When it comes to this type of humor, Issa towers above the rest."

1816

.夕やけにやけ起してや鳴蛙
yûyake ni yakeokoshite ya naku kawazu

in evening's glow
they glow...
frogs croaking

1816

.我庵に用ありそうな蛙哉
waga io ni yô ari sôna kawazu kana

in my hut
on urgent business...
a frog

In another version of this haiku, written the same year, Issa uses the phrase, "a frog has come" (kuru kawazu).

1816

.我庵や用ありそうな来る蛙
waga io ya yô ari sôna kuru kawazu

my hut--
a frog has come
on urgent business

In another version of this haiku, written the same year, Issa omits the word "come" (kuru) and ends with, simply, "a frog" (kawazu kana).

1816

.我門へしらなんで這入る蛙哉
waga kado e shiranande hairu kawazu kana

entering my gate
unknowingly
a frog

1818

.足下の月を見よ見よ鳴蛙
ashi moto no tsuki wo mi yo mi yo naku kawazu

the moon at your feet
look!
croaking frog

A reflection on water?

1819

.有明や火を打つまねを鳴く蛙
ariake ya hi wo utsu mane wo naku kawazu

dawn--
mimicking me striking fire
croaking frog

This haiku is difficult to picture and, therefore, to translate. My best guess is that Issa is starting a fire at dawn. Every time he hits a "fire chip" (tsukegi-tsuki)--a chip of cypress wood coated with sulphur--a nearby frog answers with a croak.

1818

.大蛙から順々に座とりけり
ô kawazu kara jun-jun ni za tori keri

after the big frog
one by one
they take their seats

1818

.散花を奪とりがちになく蛙
chiru hana wo baitorigachi ni naku kawazu

falling blossoms...
"I'll conquer you!"
croaks the frog

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."
Issa imagines that the frog is singing as if he plans to "snatch" or "take by force" the falling blossoms. The bai in baitorigachi comes from verb ubau.

1818

.爪先は夜に入にけり鳴く蛙
tsumasaki wa yo ni iri ni keri naku kawazu

standing on tiptoe
as night falls...
croaking frog

1818

.蕗の葉を引つかぶりつつ鳴蛙
fuki no ha wo hikkaburi tsutsu naku kawazu

tucking themselves in
under butterbur leaves...
croaking frogs

Literally, the frogs are pulling the blanket of leaves over their heads: tucking themselves in.

1818

.三ケ月を白眼つめたる蛙哉
mikazuki wo nirami tsumetaru kawazu kana

scowling
at the sickle moon...
a frog

In two other versions of this haiku, Issa has a dragonfly and a cicada husk as the scowlers. The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

1816

.夕不二に手をかけて鳴蛙哉
yû fuji [ni] te wo kakete naku kawazu kana

his hands hanging
in Mount Fuji's evening
a croaking frog

1819

.おれとしてかがみくらする蛙かな
ore to shite kagamikura suru kawazu kana

squatting low
eye to eye...
with the frog

Issa produced two manuscripts of Hachiban nikki, and this haiku appears in both, though in slightly different versions. In this first version, the middle seven phrase is kagamikura suru, which denotes "squatting low to look at" the frog; see Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 4.37, note 3. In the second version, the middle phrase is niramekura suru: "having a staring contest."

1819

.おれとして白眼くらする蛙かな
ore to shite niramikura suru kawazu kana

locked in a staring contest
me...
and a frog

Issa produced two manuscripts of Hachiban nikki ("Eighth Diary"), and this haiku appears in both, though in slightly different versions. In both versions the haiku is prefaced with the phrase, "Sitting alone." In Oraga haru ("My Spring") a lengthy anecdote about the drowning of an eleven year-old child precedes it. Issa attended the child's cremation, and was so moved that he composed a waka in which he compares the boy to fresh, new grass turned to smoke so soon after it sprouted. He then wonders out loud, "Will not even trees and plants one day become Buddhas?" He answers, "They, too, will acquire Buddha nature"; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 4.236; 6.137.

In Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa I write:

Issa and the frog are not only fellow travelers on the road to enlightenment; they are essentially the same traveler. To put it another way, "Issa" and "frog" are constructs that exist in separateness only within the either-or framework of human linguistic thinking. To an enlightened perspective--a perspective that transcends either-or thinking and can therefore be talked about only in the language of poetic image and metaphor--there is just one traveler, one struggling point of consciousnesss, one "I" on a journey to ultimate realization..." (Reno/Tadoshi: Buddhist Books International, 2004) 130.

1819

.親分と見えて上座に鳴蛙
oyabun to miete jôza ni naku kawazu

looks like the boss
in the seat of honor...
croaking frog

Alastair observes, "It has been my understanding that 'taking the high seat' is a well-known Zen term for the master in his (high) chair delivering his Dharma talk to the (student) monks on their zafus. Perhaps Issa was drawing this parallel, maybe with a little cynicism/satire (croaking!), or perhaps the Dharma is to be found in 'nature'."

Shinji Ogawa responds, "In order to understand Japanese culture, it is important to understand the intense consciousness among Japanese of their social status. Learned people may attribute it rather to Confucianism than to Zen. But if we observe a group of chickens, they establish their pecking order without Confucianism or Zen."

1819

.蛙鳴や狐の嫁が出た出たと
kawazu naku ya kitsune no yome ga deta deta to

frogs croaking--
"There goes fox's bride!
fox's bride!"

Shinji Ogawa explains, "Unknown lights in the night are called a fox's wedding."

1819

.鶺鴒の尻ではやすや鳴蛙
sekirei no shiri de hayasu ya naku kawazu

the wagtail beats time
with his butt...
croaking frogs

The wagtail (sekirei) is a bird with long, wagging tail feathers.

1819

.其声で一つをどれよなく蛙
sono koe de hitotsu odore yo naku kawazu

as long as you're singing
go ahead, dance!
frog

1819

.木母寺の鐘に孝行かはづ哉
mokuboji no kane ni kôkô kawazu kana

Mokubo Temple's bell
fills him with filial piety...
the frog

The temple bell is a reminder of life's impermanence, including the loss of one's beloved parents. Perhaps Issa's intent is to lighten an otherwise heavy haiku by comically imputing its emotion of "filial piety" to a frog. Or, perhaps he is suggesting that all creatures in some fashion miss their parents, even parents (in the frog's case) that they have never seen.

1820

.産みさうな腹をかかえて鳴蛙
umisôna hara wo kakaete naku kawazu

like giving birth
with that belly!
croaking frog

1820

.江戸川にかはづもきくやさし出口
edogawa ni kawazu mo kiku ya sashideguchi

at Edo River
even among frogs...
rude talk

Someone has made "an un-called for remark" (sashideguchi). At first I assumed that the frogs "heard" (kiku) gthe remark, but Shinji Ogawa ntes that in this case kiku can signify "to talk." He thinks that Issa is ridiculing
the people in Edo, especially the haiku poets in Edo.

This is the second of a series of three haiku, written back-to-back in Issa's journal (in Eighth Month, 1820) on this subject.

1820

.江戸川にさし出て鳴く蛙かな
edogawa ni sashidashite naku kawazu kana

at Edo River
a lot of rude talk...
croaking frogs

This is the first of a series of three haiku, written back-to-back in Issa's journal (in Eighth Month, 1820) on this subject.

1820

.榎迄春めかせけりなく蛙
enoki made haru mekase keri naku kawazu

even the nettle tree
dressed for spring...
croaking frogs

Issa humorously applies the human action of "adorning one's self" (mekase keri) to the tree's greenery.

1820

.蛙らや火縄ふる手の上を飛ぶ
kawazura ya hinawa furu te no ue wo tobu

frogs--
over my hand fanning a fuse
they hop

Or: "over a hand fanning a fuse."

Issa is referring to hinawa, a cord infused with saltpeter that was used for starting fires, as in, for example, lighting a pipe; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1405.

1820

.元の座について月見る蛙哉
moto no za ni tsuite tsuki miru kawazu kana

in his regular seat
for moon gazing...
a frog

Or: "her regular seat."

1821

.山吹に差出口きく蛙哉
yamabuki ni sashideguchi kiku kawazu kana

in yellow roses
making rude remarks...
a frog

The frog has made "an un-called for remark" (sashideguchi). Shinji Ogawa notes that kiku in this contest means to talk, not to listen.

This is the third of a series of three haiku, written back-to-back in Issa's journal (in Eighth Month, 1820) on this subject. The first two haiku begin with the phrase, Edo River (edogawa).

1820

.江戸川に差出口きく蛙哉
edogawa ni sashideguchi kiku kawazu kana

at Edo River
a lot of rude talk...
frogs

Or: "a frog."

This is Issa's fourth version of this haiku, written in Second Month, 1821. The first three versions were written back-to-back in Eighth Month, 1820.

1820

.夕暮に蛙は何を思案橋
yûgure ni kawazu wa nani wo shian-bashi

evening frog
what are you meditating on?
Meditation Bridge

Shian-bashi, literally translated, is "Meditation Bridge." In Japanese, Issa very creatively blends his question to the frog with the name of the bridge.

1821

.梅の花笠にかぶつて鳴蛙
ume no hana kasa ni kabutte naku kawazu

with a plum blossom
umbrella-hat, croaking
frog

A wonderful, whimsical image.

1821

.つめびらきする顔付の蛙哉
tsumebiraki suru kao-zuku no kawazu kana

his face all ready
for negotiation...
a frog

The word tsumebiraki, according to the editors of Issa zenshû, refers to a negotiation or the granting of an interview (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 4.227, note 3. Shinji Ogawa agrees, and he notes the connection between this poem and one that Issa wrote a bit later in his journal (same month: Twelfth Month, 1821):

hito rikutsu iu ki de suwaru kawazu kana

he prepares to state
his case...
squatting frog

1821

.一理屈いふ気で居る蛙哉
hito rikutsu iu ki de suwaru kawazu kana

he prepares to state
his case...
squatting frog

The frog seems as if he is in a mood to present a "reason" or "argument" (rikuktsu).

1822

.雨降と槍が降とも鳴かわづ
ame furu to yari ga furu to mo naku kawazu

whether rain falls
or the sky
frogs keep croaking

Shinji Ogawa explains that ame furu to yari ga furu tomo, which literally means "whether rain is falling or spears," is equivalent to the English idiom, "rain or shine." Issa is saying, in essence, "rain or shine, the frogs croak."

In English, "rain or shine" is a dull cliché, not a dynamic image like that of rain or spears falling. The Japanese idiom suggests that the frogs possess samurai spirit. They persist with their song no matter what. In my translation, I attempt to capture this idea and feeling by playing off the English expression made famous by Chicken Little.

1822

.入相の尻馬にのる蛙哉
iriai no shiriuma ni noru kawazu kana

blindly following
the setting sun...
a frog

Shiriuma ni noru, literally, "riding the horse in the rear," means to blindly follow.

1822

.かり橋にそりの合ふてや鳴く蛙
karibashi ni sori no aute ya naku kawazu

on a makeshift bridge
we make friends...
croaking frog

Issa is reversing the expression, sori ga awanu: "to not hit it off" with someone. He and the frog "hit it off" (I.e., become friends).

1822

.散花をはつたとにらむ蛙哉
chiru hana wo hatta to niramu kawazu kana

glaring steadily
at the scattering blossoms...
a frog

A profound haiku. The frog stares coldly at the truth of all things embodied in the falling blossoms: that everything--all beauty, all life--dies.

One of the several meanings of hatta to is nasa: "firmly" or "steadily"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1335.

1822

.なむなむと蛙も石に並びけり
namu-namu to kawazu mo ishi ni narabi keri

they praise Buddha too--
frogs on a rock
in a row

The frogs seem to be chanting the first word of the nembutsu prayer, "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

1822

.なむなむと田にも並んでなく蛙
namu-namu to ta ni mo narande naku kawazu

praising Buddha
in a row in a rice field...
frogs

The frogs seem to be chanting the first word of the nembutsu prayer, "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

1824

.五百崎や庇の上になく蛙
iosaki ya hisashi no ue ni naku kawazu

Iosaki--
on top of the eaves
a croaking frog

Iosaki is a coastal city located 27 miles west of Kobe.

1824

.大形をしてとび下手の蛙哉
ônari wo shite tobi-beta no kawazu kana

being so fat
he's not a good jumper...
frog

Or: "she's..."

1824

.親蛙ついと横座に通りけり
oya kawazu tsui to yokoza ni tôri keri

father frog
quickly takes the seat
of honor

Tsui to can mean satto ("suddenly") or migaru ni ("with agility"). Here, the first meaning fits. Yokoza is a synonym for jôza ("high seat"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1075, 1705.

1824

.仙人の膝と思ふか来る蛙
sennin no hiza to omou ka kuru kawazu

do you think my lap
is a hermit's?
frog jumps on

Issa asks the frog if it believes his lap to be that of an "otherworldly hermit" (sennin).

1824

.散花に首を下る蛙哉
chiru hana ni kôbe wo sageru kawazu kana

bowing his head
in the scattering blossoms...
frog

1824

.掌に蛙を居るらかん哉
tenohira ni kawazu wo sueru rakan kana

a frog squats
in his open palm...
a holy man

The "holy man" (rakan) is a Buddhist arhat...one who has attained enlightenment.

1824

.天文を考へ顔の蛙哉
temmon wo kangae kao no kawazu kana

with a face
like he's contemplating the stars...
a frog

Or: "she's..." More literally, the frog has the face of an "astronomer" (temmon).

1824

.鳥井からえどを詠る蛙哉
torii kara edo wo nagamuru kawazu kana

from the shrine's entrance gate
eyeing Edo...
a frog

Edo is today's Tokyo. A year later, in 1825, Issa rewrites this haiku to have the frog positioned "on top of a stake."

Shinji Ogawa notes that nagamuru, as Issa writes it, can mean to "melodiously stretch the voice in a sing-song way." In this reading the frog would be "singing a song of Edo." However, Shinji suspects that the poet might actually mean nagameru ("to gaze at")--a verb written with a different kanji. "We should read Issa beyond the dictionary," he advises.

I agree. Issa uses nagamuru in a different haiku (1810), where the verb must signify the act of gazing:

uzumibi no mochi wo nagamuru karasu kana

eyeing the rice cake
on the banked fire...
crow

1824

.野仏の手に居へ給ふ蛙哉
no-botoke no te ni sue tamau kawazu kana

in the field Buddha's
stone hand, squatting
frog

1824

.昼過や地蔵の膝になく蛙
hiru sugi ya jizô no hiza ni naku kawazu

midday passes--
on holy Jizo's lap
a croaking frog

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

1824

.蕗の葉にとんで引くりかへる哉
fuki no ha ni tonde hikkurikaeru kana

onto the butterbur leaf
landing upside-down...
a frog

Issa writes "frog" using the hiragana word kaeru in this haiku. In others, he more typically uses the older pronunciation for frog, kawazu. Shinji Ogawa notes that he had good reason to do this. Hikkurikaeru means to fall upside-down. Issa is punning with the kaeru at the end of this verb and kaeru meaning "frog."

1824

.名々に鳴場を座とる蛙哉
mei-mei ni nakuba wo za toru kawazu kana

one by one
they take their croaking seats...
frogs

1824

.吉原やさはぎに過て鳴かはづ
yoshiwara ya sawagi ni sugite naku kawazu

Yoshiwara--
passing time raising a ruckus
frogs

Yoshiwara was the licensed brothel district near Edo (today's Tokyo). In this haiku, the boisterous frogs are out-clamoring the human revelers.

1825

.じつとして馬に嗅るる蛙哉
jitto shite uma ni kagaruru kawazu kana

stone still
for the smelling horse...
a frog

1825

.どつさりと居り込だる蛙哉
dossari to suwari kondaru kawazu kana

down he sits
with a great thump...
frog

In an earlier translation, I began with "he comes in." I pictured the frog entering a place (perhaps a room), and sitting with a thump. Shinji Ogawa notes, however, that Issa doesn't say that the frog is coming inside, just that he is sitting down. I've rephrased this to be more literally faithful. Dossari can mean "thump"/"plop" or "a large quantity." The first definition applies here; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1169.

1825

.棒杭に江戸を詠る蛙哉
bôgui ni edo wo nagamuru kawazu kana

on top of a stake
eyeing Edo...
a frog

Edo is today's Tokyo. A year before, in 1824, Issa has the frog watching "from the shrine's entrance gate."

Shinji Ogawa notes that nagamuru, as Issa writes it, can mean to "melodiously stretch the voice in a sing-song way." In this reading the frog would be "singing a song of Edo." However, Shinji suspects that the poet might actually mean nagameru ("to gaze at")--a verb written with a different kanji. "We should read Issa beyond the dictionary," he advises.

I agree. Issa uses nagamuru in a different haiku (1810), where the verb must signify the act of gazing:

uzumibi no mochi wo nagamuru karasu kana

eyeing the rice cake
on the banked fire...
crow

1825

.山吹へ片手で下る蛙哉
yamabuki e katate de sagaru kawazu kana

hanging from the yellow rose
with one hand...
a frog!

Issa is perhaps reflecting on the precariousness of life. The frog, hanging by one hand, might symbolize all of us, dangling for a brief time over the abyss the death. But before letting go, we are happy to appreciate Nature's gifts, including her yellow roses.

1826

.じくなんで茨をくぐる蛙哉
jikunande ibara wo kuguru kawazu kana

taming the flesh
he moves through thorns...
a frog

Shinji Ogawa glosses jikunande as an expression meaning "for self-discipline": ji = "self"; kunan = "hardship"; de = "ly" (in English to make the word adverbial).

year unknown

.今の間に一喧嘩して啼かはづ
ima no ma ni hito kenka shite naku kawazu

now they're quarreling
the croaking
frogs

year unknown

.薄緑やどさり居て鳴く蛙
usumidori ya dosari suwatte naku kawazu

pale green
sitting down with a thump...
croaking frog

Dossari (in this case shortened to dosari) can mean "thump"/"plop" or "a large quantity." The first definition applies here; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1169.

year unknown

.大榎小楯に取つて啼かはづ
ôenoki kotate ni totte naku kawazu

the big nettle tree
as his shield...
croaking frog

A kotate (also pronounced kodate) is a type of shield; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 622. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

year unknown

.御地蔵の膝にすわつてなく蛙
o-jizô no hiza ni suwatte naku kawazu

in holy Jizo's lap
squatting, croaking
frog

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

year unknown

.御社へじくなんで入るかはづ哉
o-yashiro e jikunande iru kawazu kana

taming the flesh
he enters a shrine...
frog

The frog appears (comically) as a flesh-taming arhat.

Shinji Ogawa glosses jikunande as an expression meaning "for self-discipline": ji = "self"; kunan = "hardship"; de = "ly" (in English to make the word adverbial). In an 1826 haiku Issa uses jikunande to describe a frog moving through a thorn bush.

year unknown

.けふ明し窓の月よやなく蛙
kyô akeshi mado no tsuki yo ya naku kawazu

in the open window
a bright moon
croaking frogs

year unknown

.供部屋にさはぎ勝なり蛙酒
tomobeya ni sawagi katsu nari kawazu sake

the uproar in the servants' room
beats the frogs...
drinking party

This undated haiku resembles one that Issa wrote in 1825:

tomobeya ga sawagi katsu nari nenshi sake

the uproar in the servants' room
wins out...
New Year's toasts

year unknown

.寝た牛の頭にすはるかはづかな
neta ushi no atama ni suwaru kawazu kana

squatting on the head
of a sleeping cow...
a frog

1788

.舞蝶にしばしは旅も忘けり
mau chô ni shibashi wa tabi mo wasure keri

dancing butterflies--
my journey forgotten
for a while

Or: "butterfly." One of Issa's earliest travel poems, this haiku is found in a collection called Fifty-three Post Towns; there were 53 post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto.

1794

.窓明て蝶を見送る野原哉
mado akete chô wo mi-okuru no hara kana

opening the window
I see the butterfly off...
into the field

Issa ends the haiku with, simply, "the field" (no hara), leaving to the reader's imagination the butterfly's relationship to the field. French translator Jean Cholley visualizes the butterfly flitting into the field; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 37.

Shinji Ogawa agrees. He notes that mi-okuru means to "see it off." Issa has opened the window, releasing the trapped butterfly. He watches it flit off into the field.

1795

.蝶と共に吾も七野を巡る哉
chô to tomo ni ware mo nana no wo meguru kana

a butterfly my companion
through Nana Field
we wander

1795

.寝ころんで蝶泊らせる外湯哉
ne-koronde chô tomaraseru soto yu kana

lying down
with a visiting butterfly...
outer hot spring

This haiku has the prescript, "Close by Dôgo Hot Spring." The hot spring Issa enjoyed that day was an open air pool of overflow water just to the west of Dôgo Spa in Matsuyama. Issa didn't realize that the pool was intended for horses and cows, not people. I thank Takashi Kasegawa, president of the Shiki Museum in Matsuyama, for helping me to grasp this poem. Shinji Ogawa helped translate the prescript.

1802

.草の蝶大雨だれのかかる也
kusa no chô ôamadare no kakaru nari

a meadow butterfly
bombarded by big raindrops
from the eaves

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. Shinji Ogawa assisted with the translation of this haiku.

1802

.辻風の砂にまぶれし小てふ哉
tsujikaze no suna ni mabureshi ko chô kana

flecked with sand
from the whirlwind...
little butterfly

Tsujikaze is another word for tsumuji kaze, "whirlwind"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1090.

1802

.むら雨やきのふ時分の草のてふ
murasame ya kinou jubun no kusa no chô

rain shower--
yesterday at this time
meadow butterflies

Or: "a meadow butterfly."

1804

.あたふたに蝶の出る日や金の番
atafuta ni chô no deru hi ya kane no ban

on a hurry-scurry
butterfly day
guarding the money

A study in contrasts: butterflies bustling here and there while a person watches over his (or more likely, his master's or employer's) money.

1804

.今上げし小溝の泥やとぶ小蝶
ima ageshi ko mizo no doro ya tobu ko chô

fresh-scooped mud
from the little ditch...
a little flitting butterfly

The connection between the mud and the butterfly is obscure to me. Shinji Ogawa explains that ima ageshi signifies, "newly scooped up."

Gil Rognstad writes, "It seems to me that a child might scoop mud from a little ditch, and flit about playing as well. Perhaps Issa is watching the child at play. It seems less likely to me that the poet or another adult scooped mud out of a little ditch (for what reason?) and then noticed a literal butterfly fluttering by. But who knows...?"

Gil's comment makes me wonder if Issa might not be the mud-scooping person in the scene--playing like a child. Or, as Gil suggests, the scooper could be a real child. Issa leaves a lot to the reader's imagination here, to connect the dots.

In 1819 Issa writes:

mugura kara an[na] ko chô ga umare keri

from the weeds
that little butterfly
is born!

I wonder if, in the present haiku, Issa might be suggesting that the mud has given birth to the butterfly? The butterfly is depicted in other haiku as a creature made of dust.

1804

.うそうそと雨降中を春のてふ
uso-uso to ame furu naka wo haru no chô

nervously
through the raindrops...
spring butterfly

Uso-uso can mean "uneasily" or "full of anxiety"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 196.
Michael Hebert writes, "Unease or anxiety is an 'unskillful' mental state in Buddhist thought. In the past scholars translated dhukka as suffering, as in the Four Noble Truths: 1. Life is suffering. I have read modern scholars who note that the word dhukka is based on a root word that means a wheel out of balance, and infer that instead of suffering, something more akin to unease, unsatisfactoriness is a better understanding of the meaing of the word. Perhaps Issa is empathizing with the anxious butterfly, knowing that he too, is anxious?"

1804

.川縁や蝶を寝さする鍋の尻
kawaberi ya chô wo nesasuru nabe no shiri

riverbank--
the butterfly's bed
a kettle's bottom

The kettle has been washed and left upside-down to dry.

1804

.手のとどく山の入日や春の蝶
te no todoku yama no irihi ya haru no chô

the mountain sunset
within my grasp...
spring butterfly

Or: "spring butterflies." French translator Jean Cholley chooses the plural here; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 55.

1804

.通り抜ゆるす寺也春のてふ
tôrinuke yurusu tera nari haru no chô

a shortcut through
the temple with permission...
spring butterfly

1804

.とぶ蝶や溜り水さへ春のもの
tobu chô ya tamari mizu sae haru no mono

flitting butterfly
even stagnant water
a spring thing

1804

.初蝶のいきおひ猛に見ゆる哉
hatsu chô no ikioi mou ni miyuru kana

the year's first
butterfly
full of swagger

Hiroshi Kobori offers this translation:

a butterfly
this year's first--
straight, bold

In his translation Lucien Stryk renders the key phrase, "Moment of/ fierceness"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 17.

1804

.吹やられ吹やられたる小てふ哉
fuki yarare fuki yararetaru ko chô kana

blowing along
blowing along...
a little butterfly

1804

.又窓へ吹もどさるる小てふ哉
mata mado e fuki-modosaruru ko chô kana

blown to the window
again
little butterfly

1804

.湖の駕から見へて春の蝶
mizuumi no kago kara miete haru no chô

from a palanquin
at the lake, watching
spring butterflies

Some noble personage sits in the palanquin, enjoying the spring scene.

1804

.目の砂をこする握に小てふ哉
me no suna wo kosuru kobushi ni ko chô kana

rubbing sand from his eyes
in my hand...
little butterfly

Literally, the butterfly is in his "fist" (kobushi), but since Issa can see the butterfly in it rubbing its eyes, his fist isn't closed. I picture his hand cupped open.

1804

.行人のうしろ見よとや風のてふ
yuku hito no ushiro mi yo to ya kaze no chô

to the man walking
"Look behind you!"
windblown butterfly

I imagine that the butterfly is calling to the man, hence the quotation marks.

1804

.よしずあむ槌にもなれし小てふ哉
yoshizu amu tsuchi ni mo nareshi ko chô kana

getting used to
the screen weaver's hammer...
little butterfly

The weaver is braiding reed screens.

1805

.糸屑にきのふの露や春のてふ
itokuzu ni kinou no tsuya ya haru no chô

in the waste threads
yesterday's dewdrops...
spring butterfly

1805

.すのへりにひたとひつつく小てふ哉
su no heri ni hitato hittsuku ko chô kana

clinging to the edge
of the reed mat...
little butterfly

1805

.すりこ木の舟にひつつく小てふ哉
surikogi no fune ni hittsuku ko chô kana

clinging to
the pestle's trough...
little butterfly

The word fune, literally a "boat," can also signify a trough.

1805

.蝶とぶや二軒もやひの痩畠
chô tobu ya ni ken mo yahi no yase hatake

a butterfly flits--
two houses with piss-poor
gardens

Or: "butterflies flit."

The gardens are "sparse" (yase) and "vulgar, low-class" (yahi). I have a hunch that one of them is Issa's.

1805

.蝶とぶや夕飯過の寺参り
chô tobu ya yûmeshi sugi no tera mairi

flitting butterfly--
after dinner, a temple
pilgrimage

1805

.とぶ蝶に追抜れけり紙草履
tobu chô ni oi-nukure keri kami zôri

a flitting butterfly
outstrips me...
paper sandals

Walking along in his paper sandals (kami zôri), Issa is passed by a butterfly.

1805

.鳥もなき蝶も飛けり古畳
tori mo naki chô mo tobi keri furu tatami

birds singing
butterflies flitting...
old tatami mat

Or: "a butterfly flitting." Shinji Ogawa points out that naki means "sang" in this haiku, not, as I originally thought, "devoid of." With his correction, the haiku now makes perfect sense. Issa sits on his old tatami mat, enjoying the spring day along with the birds and butterflies.

1805

.二三本茄子植ても小てふ哉
ni sanbon nasubi uete mo ko chô kana

even when planting
two or three eggplants...
little butterflies

Or: "a little butterfly."

1805

.文七とたがひ違ひに小てふ哉
bunshichi to tagai chigai ni ko chô kana

now on, now off
the hairdresser...
little butterfly

Shinji Ogawa defines bunshichi as a hairdresser or a craftsman who produces hair bands or strings out of white paper.

1805

.町口ははや夜に入し小てふ哉
machiguchi wa haya yo ni irishi ko chô kana

at Machiguchi
night falls so fast...
little butterfly

1805

.豆程の人顕れし小てふ哉
mame hodo no hito arawareshi ko chô kana

a little person
enters the scene...
a little butterfly

Or: "little butterflies." The person is "bean-like" (mame hodo), which I take to mean "tiny," hence, a child.

1805

.我庵は蝶の寝所とゆふべ哉
waga io wa chô no nedoko to yûbe kana

my hut
the butterfly's sleeping place
tonight

1806

.あだしのに蝶は罪なく見ゆる也
adashi no ni chô wa tsumi naku miyuru nari

in Adashi Field
the butterflies seem
sinless

Or: "a butterfly seems..." Adashi Field is a place near Kyoto.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning in this haiku. Adashino means "Adashi Field" and "guilty field." The butterflies seem sinless, despite being in "Sinful Field."

Gabi Greve explains that Adashi Field adjoins the Adashino Nembutsu-ji, a famous temple and cemetery on the outskirts of Kyoto. With over 8,000 grave markers, it is a place that, Gabi writes, evokes the Buddhist concept of "the brevity and fragility of life."

1806

.跡のてふ松原西へ這入なり
ato no chô matsuhara nishi e hairu nari

behind me a butterfly
west toward Matsuhara
crawls

Why is the butterfly crawling and not flying? Issa wrote this on the 16th day of Third Month. For that day, he wrote in his journal, "Rain at 5-7 p.m." Are the butterfly's wings wet, perhaps?

1806

.一姫の神笑み給へ草のてふ
ichihime no kami emi tamae kusa no chô

O goddess Ichihime
smile!
a meadow butterfly

Kamu-O-Ichi-Hime is an important Shinto goddess, the mother of O-Toshi-no-Kami, the great harvest god and guardian of rice fields. She has an important shrine in Kyoto, Ichihime Jinja.

1806

.うつつなの人の迷ひや野べの蝶
utsutsuna no hito no mayoi ya nobe no chô

casting a spell
on the man...
meadow butterflies

Or: "on the woman" or "on the people." "Meadow butterfly" could be singular, depending on how the reader chooses to imagine the scene.

1806

.かつしかや雪隠の中も春のてふ
katsushika ya setchin no naka mo haru no chô

in Katsushika
even in the outhouse...
a spring butterfly

Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

1806

.門々を一々巡る小てふ哉
kado kado wo ichi-ichi meguru ko chô kana

gate after gate
making the rounds...
little butterfly

Issa constructs the poem like a joke. Its first two phrases, "Gate after gate/ making the rounds," set up an expectation of human activity, human agency. Who's making the rounds? A policeman? A beggar? A vendor? But then, in the third and last phrase, Issa shifts gears, presenting a "little butterfly" as the scene's protagonist. On one level, he's playing a favorite haiku joke: showing animals in human terms. On a deeper, Buddhist level; he presents and acknowledges the personhood of the animal. In this perspective, the little, friendly butterfly isn't only a peer--but a role model.

1806

.杭の鷺蝶はいきせきさわぐ也
kui no sagi chô wa ikiseki sawagu nari

heron on a post--
butterflies in a breathless
flurry

The butterflies "breathlessly" or "pantingly" (ikiseki) "make merry" (sawagu nari).

1806

.草の蝶牛にも詠られにけり
kusa no chô ushi ni mo nagamerare ni keri

meadow butterflies--
the cow also
gazes

Or: "meadow butterfly." In my first translation, the cow was "entranced," but I've followed Shinji Ogawa's advice to make the action plainer. The butterflies are so lovely, the cow (like Issa) gazes at them. A cow with a poet's heart!

1806

.蝶ひらひら仏のひざをもどる也
chô hira-hira hotoke no hiza wo modoru nari

flitting butterfly
to Buddha's lap
returns

1807

.蝶おりおり馬のぬれ足ねぶる也
chô ori-ori uma no nure ashi neburu nari

a butterfly on the wet
horse's leg
now and then, sleeps

1808

.あか棚に蝶も聞くかよ一大事
aka tana ni chô mo kiku ka yo ichi daiji

on the offering shelf
does the butterfly also hear
Buddha's promise?

Shinji Ogawa notes, ("Aka tana is 'offering shelf' not 'red shelf'" as I had originally translated this phrase...an archaic expression.

year unknown

.花桶に蝶も聞かよ一大事
hana oke ni chô mo kiku ka yo ichi daiji

on the flower pot
does the butterfly, too
hear Buddha's promise?

According to its prescript in the two diaries in which it appears, this haiku was inspired by a memorial service that Issa attended, suggesting a temple scene wherein the congregation is chanting the nembutsu--("namu amida butsu")--the Pure Land Buddhist prayer that celebrates Amida Buddha's vow to help sentient beings be reborn in the Western Paradise; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.467; 9.222.

1808

.仇し野や露に先立草の蝶
adashi no ya tsuyu ni sakidatsu kusa no chô

Adashi Field--
preceding the dewdrops
butterflies

Or: "a butterfly." Is Issa thinking of the system of traditional haiku season words, according to which butterflies, associated with spring, come before dewdrops, associated with autumn? If so, this haiku presents an interesting moment of perceiving the future in the here-and-now.

Gabi Greve explains that Adashi Field adjoins the Adashino Nembutsu-ji, a famous temple and cemetery on the outskirts of Kyoto. With over 8,000 grave markers, it is a place that, Gabi writes, evokes the Buddhist concept of "the brevity and fragility of life." The dewdrops in the haiku, destined to fade so quickly, reinforce this idea.

1808

.門の蝶朝から何がせはしない
kado no chô asa kara nani ga sewashinai

gate's butterfly
since dawn, how have you
kept yourself busy?

1808

.酒好の蝶ならば来よ角田川
sake suki no chô naraba ko yo sumida-gawa

if you like sake
butterfly, come!
Sumida River

Issa invites the butterfly (or butterflies) to partake of sake, possibly at a riverside drinking party.

1808

.蝶飛んで箸に折るる藪の梅
chô tonde hashi ni oraruru yabu no ume

a flying butterfly
broken by chopsticks...
wild plum

Is Issa perhaps observing the action of a cruel child?

1808

.初蝶の一夜寝にけり犬の椀
hatsu chô no hito yo ne ni keri inu no wan

spring's first butterfly
sleeps one night...
dog's bowl

In his translation Lucien Stryk adds a detail that Issa implies but doesn't state: after sleeping the butterfly "scoots off"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 17.

1808

.初蝶もやがて烏の扶食哉
hatsu chô mo yagate karasu no fujiki kana

first butterfly--
before long some crow's
bite

Or: "first butterflies"..."crows." Jean Cholley has both butterflies and crows plural in his French translation; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 77.

A key word in the poem is fujiki 扶食: an unusual compound absent from all the modern and old Japanese dictionaries that I have consulted, leading me to suspect that Issa coined it. I render it as "bite"; it combines the characters for "help" or "support" (fu 扶) with "food" (jiki 食). The butterfly helps support the crow's diet, serving as a food supplement.

1808

.春の蝶牛は若やぐ欲もなし
haru no chô ushi wa wakayagu yoku mo nashi

spring butterflies--
the cow has no desire
to be young again

Or: "spring butterfly." A humorous haiku. The grumpy old cow contrasts nicely with the youthful, lively butterflies (or butterfly). Wakayagu is an old word that means "to become youthful" or "to be young again"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1757.

1808

.山鳥のほろほろ雨やとぶ小蝶
yamadori no horo-horo ame ya tobu ko chô

like a mountain bird's
cooing the rain...
flitting butterflies

Or: "mountain birds coo..." Yamadori can signify "mountain bird" or "pheasant." Horo-horo has a double meaning in the poem: it is the cooing sound of a bird (or birds) and the falling action of the rain; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1498. Using this pun, Issa is more literally saying that "it's a cooing/falling like a mountain bird's song sort of rain" pouring on the little butterflies (or butterfly). A hard one to translate!

1809

.蝶とぶや此世に望みないやうに
chô tobu ya kono yo ni nozomi nai yô ni

a butterfly flits
as if wanting nothing
in this world

Shinji Ogawa believes that the phrase, "wanting nothing in this world," can be interpreted in two ways: (1) satisfaction with this world; (2) a feeling of hopelessness about this world. He thinks that Issa is saying the latter. I prefer to look at this haiku in a third way: the butterfly is celebrating life in the corrupt and hopeless world. With its purity and innocence, it craves nothing in or from such a world and so is exempt from its karmic penalties; it flits through it but is not of it.

1809

.蝶とんでかはゆき竹の出たりけり
chô tonde kawayuki take no detari keri

butterflies flitting--
pretty little bamboo shoots
shooting up

Or: "a butterfly flitting." I prefer the plural, since it evokes more of a parallel between the butterflies and the bamboo shoots. Each of these harbingers of spring are going about their business.

1810

.入相を合点したやら蝶のとぶ
iriai wo gaten shita yara chô no tobu

aware of the sun
setting, the butterfly
flits away

Robin D. Gill believes the butterfly has heard (and understood the meaning of) a temple bell tolling vespers. He elaborates: "It is AS IF the butterfly picked up on the vespers. The understanding or agreement or 'got it!' part is the gaten-shita, while the yara adds a quizzical feeling, as in, 'Hmm, could that butterfly know what the vespers mean (there may be some Buddhist significance, too)?' But, I do indeed wonder if a butterfly hearing/sensing the bell coinciding with sunset day after day came to realize unconsciously that it was about to grow chilly and dark.

1810

.木曽山や蝶とぶ空も少の間
kiso yama [ya] chô tobu sora mo sukoshi [no] ma

Kiso Mountains--
butterflies fill your sky
so briefly!

The Kiso Mountains are found in today's Nagano and Gifu Prefectures

1810

.蝶とんで我身も塵のたぐひ哉
chô tonde waga mi mo chiri no tagui kana

butterfly flitting--
I too am made
of dust

1810

.ついついと常正月ややもめ蝶
tsui-tsui to tsune shôgatsu ya yamome chô

she had a husband
when the year was new...
widow butterfly

1810

.とぶ蝶の邪魔にもならぬけぶり哉
tobu chô [no] jama ni mo naranu keburi kana

the flitting butterfly
not bothered at all...
smoke

Shinji Ogawa notes that the nu in naranu expresses the negative: the butterfly isn't bothered by the smoke (Issa's?).

1810

.はづかしや蝶はひらひら常ひがん
hazukashi ya chô wa hira-hira tsune higan

what a shame--
the butterfly flits off
to the Other Shore

In other words, the butterfly is going off to die, headed for the great "Yonder" (higan).

1810

.はづかしや三十日が来ても草のてふ
hazukashi ya misoka ga kite mo kusa no chô

shame, shame!
on the month's last day
a meadow butterfly

Or: "meadow butterflies." Shinji Ogawa explains that Issa's phrase, "month's last day" (misoka), alludes to bills that need to be paid. He paraphrases the haiku: "Shame, shame! on the month's last day I cannot pay my debt." In Issa's days, most people bought things on credit and paid up at the end of the month or, in some cases, end of the year. Issa replaces the phrase, "I cannot pay my debt" with "a meadow butterfly," which suggests, in Shinji's view, that he is "as penniless as a meadow butterfly." All this is implied by Issa's Japanese, not stated--making the task of translation especially difficult.

I might make the comparison explicit, as Shinji suggests:

shame, shame!
on the month's last day
I'm as penniless as a meadow butterfly

...but this makes for a less effective haiku, making explicit a thing that Issa leaves to the reader's imagination.

1810

.蓑虫はそれで終かとぶ小蝶
minomushi wa sore de owari ka tobu ko chô

"Hey bagworm
are you ready?" asks
the flitting butterfly

The bagworm is a moth larva that, in this season, is protected from the rain in its cozy, dry fibrous case. Literally, it is called the "straw raincoat bug" (minomushi).

1811

.蝶とぶやしなののおくの草履道
chô tobu ya shinano no oku no zôri michi

butterflies flit--
deep in Shinano
tracks of sandals

In another haiku Issa also uses the phrase, "sandal road" (zôri michi); Shinji Ogawa believes that this refers to footprints in snow. That other haiku is set in the New Year's season, so it is natural to assume a snowy scene, especially in the mountains of Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture).

1811

.むつまじや生れかはらばのべの蝶
mutsumaji ya umare kawaraba nobe no chô

such sweet harmony
to be reborn
a meadow butterfly!

Literally, Issa is saying that he wishes to be reborn as a meadow butterfly. The word, mutsumaji, translated here as "sweet harmony," denotes a sense of gentle friendliness. Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is specifically referring to a male and female couple. The poet uses this same expression to describe gentle, tame deer in a temple town, most likely Nara.

ashi makura temakura shika no mutsumaji ya

my feet for a pillow
and my hands...
the friendly deer

1811

.世の中や蝶のくらしもいそがしき
yo no naka ya chô no kurashi mo isogashiki

this world--
the butterfly also toils
busily

1812

.起よ起よ雀はをどる蝶はまふ
oki yo oki yo suzume wa odoru chô wa mau

wake up! wake up!
sparrows, butterflies
are dancing

Shinji Ogawa believes that the wake-up call in this haiku is addressed to people, not to the sparrows and butterflies (as I had originally translated this).

1812

.なまけるな雀はおどる蝶はまふ
namakeru na suzume wo odoru chô wa mau

don't be lazy!
sparrows, butterflies
are dancing

Shinji Ogawa believes that the wake-up call in this haiku is addressed to people, not to the sparrows and butterflies (as I had originally translated this).

1812

.かせぐぞよてふの三夫婦五夫婦
kasegu zo yo chô no mi meoto itsu meoto

making their living
butterfly couples...
three...five!

1812

.糞汲が蝶にまぶれて仕廻けり
koekumi ga chô ni maburete shimai keri

the poop scooper
utterly smeared...
with butterflies

Shinji Ogawa comments: "The butterflies' point of view on aesthetics may not be necessarily the same as that of human beings."

1812

.小むしろや蝶と達磨と村雀
samushiro ya chô to daruma to mura suzume

little straw mat--
Bodhidharma, butterfly
and sparrows

Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602. Dharma (Bodhidharma) is the patriarch who brought Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism from India to China. Here, Issa could be referring to a Buddhist priest or holy man sitting in quiet meditation, surrounded by small, gentle companions.

1812

.猪ねらふ腕にすがる小てふ哉
shishi nerau kaina ni sugaru ko chô kana

clinging to
the boar hunter's arm...
little butterfly

Shinji Ogawa explains: "The cast consists of three characters: the wild boar, the hunter who is aiming at the wild boar, and the little butterfly that is clinging onto the arm (kaina) of the hunter."

1812

.蝶が来てつれて行けり庭のてふ
chô ga kite tsurete yuki keri niwa no chô

one came
and two left...
garden butterflies

Shinji Ogawa assisted in this translation, providing this paraphrase: "a butterfly came/ and took a butterfly with it/ my garden."

Though Issa doesn't specify that the garden is his, this is a possible interpretation.

1812

.蝶と鹿のがれぬ仲と見ゆる也
chô to shika nogarenu naka to miyuru nari

the butterfly
and the deer, best
of friends

1812

.蝶まふや鹿の最期の矢の先に
chô mau ya shika no saigo no ya no saki ni

butterfly dances
'round the arrow
in a dying deer

1812

.鉄砲の三尺先の小てふかな
teppô no san jaku saki no ko chô kana

three feet
from the musket's barrel...
little butterfly

Susumu Takiguchi points out that guns were "brought to Japan for the first time by the shipwrecked Portuguese in 1543 (some say 1542), and revolutionised the way battles were fought and castles were designed. They were initially 'hinawa-ju' (matchlock or firelock) and this must be the type of 'teppo' which Issa was talking about." (Message posted on WHChaikuforum, 3/4/01).

1812

.寺山や児はころげる蝶はとぶ
tera yama ya chigo [wa] korogeru chô wa tobu

temple mountain--
a baby tumbles
a butterfly flits

This haiku depicts a simple, happy scene: a baby tumbling and a butterfly flitting somewhere on the grassy grounds of a Buddhist temple in the mountains. Issa invites us to meditate on the connections between the three: baby, butterfly, temple. Though at first glance this is just an everyday event, the poet suggests that life itself--the life of children and of butterflies--is sacred.

1812

.夜明から小てふの夫婦かせぎ哉
yoake kara ko chô no meoto kasegi kana

from dawn to dusk
the butterfly couple
makes their living

Literally, the butterflies are "husband and wife" (meoto). In his original text, Issa writes that the butterflies work "from dawn" (yoake kara). To complete the idiom in English, I've added the phrase, "to dusk."

1813

.うら住や五尺の空も春のてふ
urazumi ya goshaku no sora mo haru no chô

my back-alley home--
five feet of sky
but spring butterflies

1813

.けさの雨蝶がねぶつて仕廻けり
kesa no ame chô ga nebutte shimai keri

morning rain--
a butterfly licks
it up

1813

.するがぢは蝶も見るらん不二の夢
surugaji wa chô mo miruran fuji no yume

Suruga Road--
even the butterflies dream
about Mount Fuji

1813

.茶の淡や蝶は毎日来てくれる
cha no awa ya chô wa mainichi kite kureru

weak tea--
every day the butterfly
stops by

year unknown

.一人茶や蝶は毎日来てくれる
hitori cha ya chô wa mainichi kite kureru

drinking tea alone--
every day the butterfly
stops by

This undated haiku is a rewrite of one that Issa composed in 1813. The original version begins with "weak tea" (cha no awa).

1813

.茶のけぶり蝶の面へ吹かける
cha no keburi chô no tsura e fukikakeru

tea smoke--
into the butterfly's face
it blows

1813

.蝶来るや何のしやうもない庵へ
chô kuru ya nanno shiyô mo nai io e

a butterfly comes
to my good-for-nothing
hut

1813

.てふ小てふ小蝶の中の山家哉
chô ko chô ko chô no naka no yamaga kana

amid butterflies
little butterflies
mountain home

Issa returns to one of his favorite themes: natural riches compensating for human poverty. The "mountain home" most likely belongs to Issa. Whether it's his house or someone else's, his point is clear. It's a lucky thing to live in the thick of little, gentle butterflies.

1813

.蝶々や猫と四眠の寺座敷
chô[chô] ya neko to shimin no tera zashiki

a butterfly, a cat
deep asleep...
temple sitting room

At first I read shimin as "four directions," but Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa misspelled a homonym that means, "to sleep deeply."

1813

.手枕や蝶は毎日来てくれる
temakura ya chô wa mainichi kite kureru

an arm for a pillow--
every day the butterfly
visits

Or: "every day the butterflies/ visit." Shinji Ogawa prefers to picture butterflies in the plural.

1813

.寝るてふにかしておくぞよ膝がしら
neru chô ni kashite oku zo yo hizagashira

lending it
to the sleeping butterfly...
my knee

Hizagashira literally means "kneecap" or "bend of the knee."

1813

.のら猫よ見よ見よ蝶のおとなしき
nora neko yo mi yo mi yo chô no otonashiki

stray cat
look! the butterfly's
well-behaved

Peer pressure. As an added bit of humor the words mi yo mi yo (look! look!) sound like meow-meow.

1813

.丸く寝た犬にべつたり小てふ哉
maruku neta inu ni bettari ko chô kana

stuck to the dog
curled asleep...
a butterfly

The previous year (1812) Issa portrays a cricket on the tip of a buck's antler. In this haiku, he presents a similar vision of "buddies." Once again, the skeptic might question the level of awareness that the two bring to their relationship. The dog is sound asleep; the butterfly lands on it as if landing on a bush. Each might be completely unaware of the existence of the other, but Issa sees them both, and in his mind and heart discovers their relationship--writing it into his haiku so that we can discover it too. All creatures are connected.

1814

.天窓干すお婆々や蝶も一むしろ
atama hosu o-baba ya chô mo hito mushiro

granny drying her hair
and a butterfly...
one straw mat

1814

.大雨の降つて涌たる小てふ哉
ôame no futte waitaru ko chô kana

in the big rain
gushing down
little butterfly

1814

.さをしかの角をも遊ぶ小てふ哉
saoshika no tsuno wo asobu ko chô kana

even the buck's antlers
are a plaything...
little butterfly

1814

.蝶とんでくわらくわら川のきげん哉
chô tonde kara-kara kawa no kigen kana

butterflies flitting--
the river laughing
ha-ha-ha!

Or: "a butterfly flitting." Shinji Ogawa explains that kuwara-kuwara should be pronounced as kara-kara, to depict the sound of laughter, like English's "ha-ha."

1814

.蝶べたり「あ」みだ如来の頬べたへ
chô betari [a]mida nyorai no hobbeta e

a butterfly
stuck fast to Amida
Buddha's cheek

According to the Pure Land Buddhism that Issa believed in, the only path to the Pure Land and enlightenment is to "cling" to the saving power of Amida Buddha. In this haiku, the butterfly is a living emblem of faith.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is humorously playing with similar sounds in this haiku: chô betari ("butterfly sticking fast") and hobbeta e ("to the cheek").

1814

.ちる花にがつかりしたる小てふ哉
chiru hana ni gakkari shitaru ko chô kana

crestfallen
by the scattering blossoms...
little butterfly

1814

.とぶ蝶も三万三千三百かな
tobu chô mo san man san-zen san-byaku kana

flitting butterflies--
thirty three thousand
three hundred!

Issa gives this haiku the prescript, Sanjûsangen-dô: a Tendai Buddhis temple in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto. The temple's name translates to, Hall with Thirty-Three Spaces between Columns, referring to the columns in the main building. Inside, there are 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The number thirty-three is significant, since according to the Kannon Sutra, Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra, Kannon can manifest herself in thirty-three different shapes in her efforts to help suffering beings. Issa, in his his haiku, is obviously having fun with the number thirty-three and its multiples. Issa declares the number of butterflies to be 33,300. By giving them this number, associated with Kannon's many forms, he implies that the butterflies, too, are gentle, living incarnations of the Mercy Goddess.

1814

.泥足を蝶に任せて寝たりけり
doro ashi wo chô ni makasete netari keri

my muddy foot
left to the butterfly
I sleep

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

Mike Hebert imagines "that Issa has had a long walk, and is too tired to clean up before taking a nap. Just before he drifts off, he notices a butterfly on his foot..."

1814

.菜よ梅よ蝶がてんてん舞をまふ
na yo ume yo chô ga ten-ten mai wo mau

vegetables! plum blossoms!
butterfly dances
from one to another

Or: "butterflies dance."

1814

.春のてふ大盃を又なめよ
haru no chô ôsakazuki wo mata name yo

spring butterfly
at the big sake cup...
sip again!

1814

.べつたりと蝶の咲たる枯木哉
bettari to chô no sakitaru kareki kana

blooming
with butterflies
the dead tree

The tree isn't technically "dead" but leafless and dry (kareki). Still, Issa's point is that the butterflies have endowed the dead-looking tree with life in the form of colorful, fluttering petals--so I've decided to use "dead tree" in my translation. The spring butterflies effect a miraculous blooming

1814

.麦に菜にてんてん舞の小てふ哉
mugi ni na ni ten-ten mai no ko chô kana

to wheat field, to vegetable patch
the little butterfly
dances

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1815

.犬と蝶他人むきでもなかりけり
inu to chô tanin muki demo nakari keri

the dog and the butterfly
not strangers
at all

Shinji Ogawa explains Issa's Japanese: "The phrase tanin muki means '(they look) total strangers.' The phrase de mo nakari keri means 'not necessarily so.' Therefore, the haiku says, 'The dog and the butterfly are not necessarily total strangers'." He adds that he prefers to think of them as "the" dog and "the" butterfly, not as "a dog and a butterfly," since "a haiku must depict particular things and events" in order to "induce a universal feeling and concept."

1815

.寝るてふ鼠の米も通りがけ
ineru chô nezumi no kome mo tôrigake

on the way to bed
the butterfly visits
the mouse's rice

I assume that "the mouse's rice" is Issa's rice. The mouse has claimed it as his own. A third character in this little domestic scene is a butterfly, flitting off to bed at the end of the day and visiting, in passing, the mouse's stockpile. Issa presents this world as a shared space for people and animals.

1815

.桟を歩んで渡る小てふ哉
kakehashi wo ayunde wataru ko chô kana

crossing the hanging bridge
on foot...
butterfly

1815

.がむしやらの犬とも遊ぶ小てふ哉
gamushara no inu tomo asobu ko chô kana

playing with
the rambunctious dog...
little butterfly

Citing poems such as this one, critics have accused Issa of anthropomorphism, but animal behavior scientists today confirm that humans are not the only creatures who play.

1815

.此方が善光寺とや蝶のとぶ
kono kata ga zenkôji to ya chô no tobu

"Follow me to Zenko Temple!"
a butterfly
flits

Zenkôji is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province, found in present-day Nagano. Its famous bronze statue of Amida Buddha is shown only once every seven years.

1815

.鹿の角かりて休みし小てふ哉
shika no tsuno karite yasumishi ko chô kana

borrowing an antler
the little butterfly
rests

The antler belongs to a buck. The haiku is reminiscent of an earlier one (1812), where a cricket rests on a buck's antler. In both cases, Issa presents a scene of harmonious connection between animals.

1815

.蝶とぶや草葉の陰も湯がわくと
chô tobu ya kusaba no kage mo yu ga waku to

a butterfly flits--
even in grassy shade
a hot bath's ready

1815

.笛役は名主どの也蝶のまひ
fue yaku wa nanushi dono nari chô no mau

the flute-playing servant
is the village headman!
butterflies dance

Or: "a butterfly dances." Issa shows Nature overturning human hierarchies. The servant playing his flute while butterflies dance is suddenly, in this moment, the headman of the village. And the butterflies are his little, dancing villagers.

1815

.舞賃に紙をとばすぞのべの蝶
maichin ni kami wo tobasu zo nobe no chô

for your dancing fee
I let fly this piece of paper...
meadow butterfly

Or: "meadow butterflies." Issa conjures a whimsical moment in which a piece of paper is released into the wind as payment for the butterfly's (or butterflies') dancing. Although most money in Issa's time came in the form of coins, paper currency, "clan notes," (hansatsu) had been introduced to Japan over a century earlier. The reader must decide whether Issa's piece of paper is real or pretend money.

1815

.薮中も仏おはして蝶のまふ
yabu naka mo hotoke owashite chô no mau

in a thicket, too
around the Buddha...
butterflies dance

Or: "a butterfly dances." The Buddha in the thicket is most probably made of stone.

1816

.馬の耳一日なぶる小てふ哉
uma no mimi ichi nichi naburu ko chô kana

all day teasing
the horse's ear...
little butterfly

Issa wrote the character for "moon" instead of "day" in his original text, a mistake, according to the editors of Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.170.

1816

.門畠や烏叱れば行小蝶
kado hata ya karasu shikareba yuku ko chô

gate's garden--
when the crow scolds
the little butterfly leaves

Or: "little butterflies leave." Issa fancifully depicts the crow and butterfly as quarreling husband and wife.

1816

.門筵小蝶の邪魔をしたりけり
kado mushiro ko chô no jama wo shitari keri

on a mat by the gate
I'm the butterfly's
roadblock

I picture Issa sitting on a straw mat in front of the gate, obstructing the butterfly's flight path.

1816

.銭の出た窓きらふてや行小蝶
zeni no deta mado kiraute ya yuku ko chô

miffed by the coin
tossed out the window...
little butterfly leaves

Is someone (Issa?) paying a vendor through an open window? The flying coin annoys the little butterfly.

1816

.たのもしやしかも小てふの若夫婦
tanomoshi ya shikamo ko chô no waka meoto

brimming with hope
little butterflies...
a young couple

Literally, the butterflies are "husband and wife" (meoto).

1816

.蝶とぶやそれ仏法の世の中と
chô tobu ya sore buppô no yo [no] naka to

flitting butterfly--
thus is Buddha's law
in this world

The butterfly often appears as a Buddhist ideal in Issa's poetry: attached so lightly to this world, trusting its delicate life to winds beyond its control.

1816

.蝶とぶや茶売さ湯うり野酒売
chô tobu ya cha uri sayu uri nozake uri

a butterfly flits--
hot tea, hot water
and sake for sale

Shinji Ogawa notes that nozake means "field-sake," similar to the English word, "beer garden." He believes that this is a scene of cherry blossom viewing.

1816

.蝶とまれも一度留れ草もちに
chô tomare mo ichi do tomare kusamochi ni

stop, butterfly
once more, stop!
on the festival rice cake

Kusamochi is an old word for a type of rice cake used during the Girl's Doll Festival on the third day of Third Month; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 494.

1816

.蝶とまれも一度留れ盃に
chô tomare mo ichi do tomare sakazuki ni

stop, butterfly
once more, stop!
on the sake cup

Jean Cholley includes this haiku in his 1814 section; the editors of Issa zenshû assign it a date of 1816; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 124-25; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.170. It is a rewrite of another haiku of 1816. In the original, the butterfly stops on a kusamochi ("festival rice cake").

1816

.猫の子の命日をとぶ小てふ哉
neko no ko no meinichi wo tobu ko chô kana

to the kitten's
death anniversary it flits...
little butterfly

The butterfly visits the little grave on one of the appointed days of remembrance--like a human mourner would.

1816

.はつ蝶の夫婦連して来たりけり
hatsu chô no meoto-zurete shite kitari keri

two by two
spring's first butterflies
arrive

More literally, the butterflies arrive as man-and-wife couples (meoto).

1816

.はつ蝶やしかも三夫婦五夫婦
hatsu chô ya shikamo mi meoto itsu meoto

spring's first butterflies--
three couples!
five couples!

The "couples" (meoto), Issa imagines, are husbands and wives.

1816

.ひざの児の頬つべたなめる小てふ哉
hiza no ko no hobbeta nameru ko chô kana

licking the lap-baby's
cheek...
little butterfly

Perhaps there is some sweet milk on the baby's cheek that the butterfly is enjoying. If so, the baby and the butterfly appear as brothers or sisters, nourished by the same Mother's milk. All creatures are connected. All creatures are One.

1816

.目黒へはこちへこちへと小てふ哉
meguro e wa kochi e kochi e to ko chô kana

"Come this way, this way
blind man!"
little butterfly

A tender scene: the butterfly seems to lead the blind person. Mekuro literally means, "eyes [gone] black."

1816

.やよや蝶そこのけそこのけ湯がはねる
yayoya chô soko noke soko noke yu ga haneru

hey butterfly
move aside!
bath water's splashing

The scene is an outdoor hot tub.

1816

.湯入衆の頭かぞへる小てふ哉
yu iri shû no atama kazoeru ko chô kana

counting heads
in a hot tub...
little butterfly

Issa makes use of his two-part joke structure in this haiku. The first two phrases, "counting heads/ in a hot tub..." lead the reader to expect a human agent, but then he surprises us by revealing the counter to be a "little butterfly!" The butterfly seems to share in the happiness of the humans, soaking away their aches and troubles in hot water. It flits from head to head, taking roll.

1816

.世にあれば蝶も朝からかせぐぞよ
yo ni areba chô mo asa kara kaesgu zo yo

life in the world--
even butterflies from morning on
must toil!

1817

.桶伏の猫を見舞やとぶ小蝶
okebuse no neko wo mimau ya tobu ko chô

visiting the cat
on the turned-over tub...
little butterfly

1817

.蝶の身も業の秤にかかる哉
chô no mi mo gô no hakari ni kakaru kana

the butterfly too
on the scales of karma
is weighed

A reference to the Buddhist belief that all beings attain merits and demerits (karma) throughout their lives. Even the butterfly is not exempt from this universal law, Issa notes.

1817

.ぬかるみに尻もちつくなでかい蝶
nukarumi ni shiri mochitsuku na dekai chô

don't dip your butt
in that mud!
big butterfly

Shinji Ogawa explains that dekai is a colloquial word for ôkii ("big"). He notes, "An average Japanese can easily associate it with the preceding word shiri ("butt") to form a noun, dekai-shiri ("big butt"), which is suggestive of a feminine figure. Adding to that, the word chô ("butterfly") also suggests femininity."

L. Mabesoone's French translation of dekai chô is ("papillon énorme" ("enormous butterfly"); Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 47.

I wonder if Issa might be playing with the homonym dekaichô: the exhibition of a holy image at a temple or shrine; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1121? If so, is he implying that the butterfly itself is a holy image, an embodiment of Buddha perhaps...or is this connection just a coincidence?

1817

.春の蝶平気で上座いたす也
haru no chô heiki de jôza itasu nari

a spring butterfly
peaceful, calm
in the seat of honor

The butterfly alights in the seat of honor showing a Buddhist attitude of peaceful detachment.

1818

.祝ひ日や白い僧達白い蝶
iwai-bi ya shiroi sôtachi shiroi chô

festival day--
white robed monks
and a white butterfly

Or: "white butterflies," but Hiroshi Kobori visualizes just one butterfly in the scene.

1818

.うつくしき仏になるや蝶夫婦
utsukushiki hotoke ni naru ya chô meoto

becoming beautiful
Buddhas, butterfly
husband and wife

Issa later revises this haiku to form a question: "Are you becoming beautiful Buddhas, butterfly husband and wife?"--(utsukushiki hotoke to naru ka chô meoto); see Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.171.

1818

.大猫の尻尾でじやらす小てふ哉
ôneko no shippo de jarasu ko chô kana

playing with
the big cat's tail...
a little butterfly

1819

.大猫の尻尾でなぶる小てふ哉
ô neko no shippo de naburu ko chô kana

sporting with
the big cat's tail...
a little butterfly

This is a revision of a haiku composed the previous year, in 1818. In the original, the butterfly "plays with" the cat's tail (jarasu). Here, the butterfly "sports with" it (naburu).

1818

.かいだんの穴よりひらり小てふ哉
kaidan no ana yori hirari ko chô kana

from a hole in the temple's
pulpit, swish!
little butterfly

Kaidan doesn't signify, as I first thought, the step of a staircase. Shinji Ogawa notes that it means "an ordination platform" in a large Buddhist temple, like Zenkôji Temple in Issa's home province.

From this platform, Buddhist precepts are taught; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 499, and so I've chosen the English word, "pulpit," to approximate its meaning. No longer a caterpillar, Issa's butterfly has been reborn as a pure, innocent embodiment of enlightenment. This little "priest" has more to teach about Buddha's law than human preachers.

1818

.神垣や白い花には白い蝶
kamigaki ya shiroi hana ni wa shiroi chô

shrine fence--
on a white flower
a white butterfly

The flower and the butterfly are an appropriate color for the Shinto shrine. Issa expresses a notion of purity. The kamigaki is a decorative fence around the shrine.

1818

.それぞれや蝶も白組黄色組
sore-zore ya chô mo shiro-gumi kiiro-gumi

separation
among butterflies too...
white gang, yellow gang

Issa wrote several haiku about white-versus-yellow butterfly "gangs"; this earliest one, composed in Third Month, 1818, appears in Shichiban nikki ("The Seventh Diary").

1818

.蝶とぶや大晴天の虎の門
chô tobu ya ôseiten no tora no kado

a butterfly flits--
the vast blue sky
over Tiger Gate

"Tiger Gate" (tora no kado) was one of the gates of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1818

.蝶行やしんらん松も知つた顔
chô yuku ya shinran matsu mo shitta kao

butterfly departs--
even Shinran's pine
seems to know

Shinran founded the Jôdoshinshû (True Teaching Pure Land) Buddhist sect to which Issa belonged. This haiku has the prescript, "Zenkôji" (Zenko Temple), the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province. At that temple, Shinran left a gift of a pine tree in a great pot, centuries ago.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning in this haiku. Shinran matsu ("Shinran's pine") is close to shiran matsu ("not-knowing pine"), which contrasts with shitta kao: the "knowing face" of the butterfly.

Thus, Shinji writes, the haiku might be translated: "butterfly departs/ Shinran's pine/ acknowledges." Or: "butterfly departs/ even the not-knowing pine/ [has a] knowing face."

year unknown

.蝶とぶやしんらん松も知つた顔
chô tobu ya shinran matsu mo shitta kao

a butterfly flits--
even Shinran's pine
seems to know

This undated haiku is a slight rewrite of one that Issa composed in 1818:

chô yuku ya shinran matsu mo shitta kao

butterfly departs--
even Shinran's pine
seems to know

Shinran founded the Jôdoshinshû (True Teaching Pure Land) Buddhist sect to which Issa belonged.

1818

.虎の門蝶もぼつぼつ這入けり
tora no kado chô mo botsu-botsu hairi keri

Tiger Gate--
the butterfly, too
enters with courage

"Tiger Gate" (tora no kado) was one of the gates of Edo, today's Tokyo. Though entering a big, dangerous city, the butterfly does so spiritedly (botsu-botsu).

1818

.一莚蝶もほされておりにけり
hito mushiro chô mo hosarete ori ni keri

one straw mat--
a butterfly is drying
too

Issa doesn't say who else is drying, but this haiku is reminiscent of one that he wrote four years earlier, in 1814:

atama hosu o-baba ya chô mo hito mushiro

granny drying her hair
and a butterfly...
one straw mat

1818

.ふり上る箒の下やねる小蝶
furiageru hôki no shita ya neru ko chô

swinging the broom
underneath, asleep
little butterfly

1818

.舞は蝶三弦流布の小村也
mau wa chô samisen rufu no ko mura nari

butterfly dance--
someone plays samisen
in the little village

A samisen is a long-necked, three-stringed banjo-like instrument, plucked with a plectrum. This was written in Second Month, 1818. Later that month Issa revises:

mae ya chô samisen rufu no asaji-bara

dance, butterfly!
someone plays samisen
in Asaji Field

1818

.まへや蝶三弦流布のあさじ原
mae ya chô samisen rufu no asaji-bara

dance, butterfly!
someone plays samisen
in Asaji Field

A samisen is a long-necked, three-stringed banjo-like instrument, plucked with a plectrum.
This was written in Second Month, 1818--a revision of a haiku composed earlier that month:

mau wa chô samisen rufu no ko mura nari

butterfly dance--
someone plays samisen
in the little village

1819

.葎からあんな小蝶が生れけり
mugura kara an[na] ko chô ga umare keri

from the weeds
that little butterfly
is born!

In an earlier version I rendered mugura as "goose-grass," but I now believe that its sense is more correctly conveyed as "weeds." See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537. In his translation of this haiku, Nanao Sakaki calls it "milkweed"; see Inch by Inch: 45 Haiku by Issa (Albuquerque: La Alameda Press, 1999) 29.

1819

.塵塚にあんな小蝶が生れけり
chirizuka ni anna ko chô ga umare keri

in the trash heap
that little butterfly
is born!

A haiku of juxtaposition, surprise, and rejoicing in the miracle of the ordinary--if we just take the time to open ourselves to it.

1819

.てふてふのふはりととんだ茶釜哉
chôchô no fuwari to tonda chagama kana

the butterfly's
soft landing...
in the tea kettle!

Issa copies this haiku in one of his journals with the prescript, "Morin Temple"--a Buddhist temple that houses a legendary tea kettle; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.170, note 142. This so-called "Good Luck Tea Kettle" was actually a badger in disguise.

In his translation, Nobuyuki Yuasa strangely has the kettle flying instead of the butterfly; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru, 2nd Edition (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1972) 83.

1819

.蝶ひらひら庵の隅々見とどける
chô hira-hira io no sumi-zumi mitodokeru

flitting butterfly--
every corner of my hut
is inspected

1819

.びんづるの御鼻をなでる小蝶哉
binzuru no o-hana wo naderu ko chô kana

rubbing Binzuru's
holy nose...
little butterfly

Kazuhiko Maruyama describes Binzuru as a Buddhist saint, one of the 16 Enlightened Ones. Folk custom dictates that if one prayerfully rubs his image, he or she will recover from illness; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 223, note 1169. In the haiku, a butterfly also strokes the saint for good health.

1820

.後になり先になる蝶や一里程
ato ni nari saki ni naru chô ya ichi ri hodo

the butterfly I passed
two miles back
is ahead now

One ri is 2.44 miles.

1820

.黄色組しろぐみてふの出立哉
ki[iro]-gumi shiro-gumi chô no detachi kana

the yellow gang
the white gang...
butterflies come out

1820

.黄色組白組蝶の地どりけり
kiiro-gumi shiro-gumi [chô] no chidori keri

yellow gang, white gang
the butterflies claim
their turf

Chidori is an old word, a form of the verb chidoru, which means to measure out a lot on which to build a house; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1049. The two "gangs" of butterflies, human-like, lay claim to their respective territories.

Michael Hebert writes, "How timely and timeless! Images of West Side Story and Inglewood, California come to mind."

1820

.気の毒やおれをしたふて来る小てふ
kinodoku ya ore wo shitôte kuru ko chô

I pity you
for following me
little butterfly

1820

.来る蝶に鼻を明するかきね哉
kuru chô ni hana wo akasuru kakine kana

a shock
to the arriving butterfly
a fence

Or: "butterflies." Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

Shinji Ogawa explains that hana wo akasuru ("nostrils widen") is an idiomatic expression for surprise. He adds, "The fence is a surprise to the butterflies."

Why is the fence a surprise? Has the butterfly bumped into it? Has the fence/hedge impeded its forward progress? Is Issa perhaps slyly critiquing the way that human construction can obstruct the flow of Nature?

1820

.白黄色蝶も組合したりけり
shiro kiiro chô mo kumiai shitari keri

white versus yellow--
the butterflies also
fight

Kumiai in modern Japanese means to form an association, but in earlier times it meant to wrestle; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 520. Issa's satirical message seems clear: the butterflies fighting enemies of different color are behaving in a sadly human fashion.

1820

.菅筵それそれ蝶が汚んぞ
sugamushiro sore sore chô ga kegaren zo

sedge mat--
look! look! butterflies
you've stained it

1820

.草庵の棚捜しする小てふ哉
sôan no tana sagashi suru ko chô kana

foraging for food
in my thatched hut
little butterfly

Shinji Ogawa notes that in Issa's day, the phrase tana sagashi ("searching for something on the shelf") implied "searching for something to eat" or "searching for some faults to nag." In this context, the former interpretation seems to fit. A modern equivalent might be, "raiding the refrigerator."

Shinji adds that sôan ("thatched hut") means "a humble house," and therefore, according to the etiquette of Japanese, always means "my hut," not "someone's hut."

1820

.はつ蝶よこんな筵に汚るるな
hatsu chô yo konna mushiro ni kegaruru na

first butterfly
don't get stained
on my straw mat!

Or: "on this straw mat." Issa doesn't overtly state that it belongs to him.

Shinji Ogawa untangles the haiku's syntax: "first butterfly/ don't get defiled/ with such a mat."

The poet affects concern that the pure butterfly might dirty itself on a less-than-clean straw mat that probably belongs to him.

1820

.引うける大盃に小てふ哉
hikiukeru ôsakazuki ni ko chô kana

claiming
the big sake cup...
a little butterfly

In Issa's compassionate vision of the universe humans and animals share a common space and existence.

1820

.枕する腕に蝶の寝たりけり
makura suru kahina ni chô no netari keri

my arm
for its pillow
the butterfly sleeps

1821

.浅黄てふあれば浅黄の桜哉
asagi chô areba asagi no sakura kana

when butterflies
are pale blue, pale blue
cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms are pale pink but, according to Issa, change color in the presence of light blue butterflies. This interesting poem suggests an affinity between the delicate insects and blossoms.

1821

.生れでて蝶は遊ぶを仕事哉
umaredete chô wa aso[bu] wo shigoto kana

from birth on
for butterflies, playing
is their job

1821

.おとなしや蝶も浅黄の出立は
otonashi ya chô mo asagi no idetachi wa

well behaved--
the butterfly, too
wears light blue

Issa imagines that the butterfly is wearing a light blue "garment" or "traveling clothes" (idetachi). Who else in the scene is wearing blue? A child?

1821

.狂ふのも少じみ也浅黄蝶
kuruu no mo sukoshi jimi nari asagi chô

the crazy one
calms down a bit...
light blue butterfly

The butterfly is "raving" or "running amuck" (kuruu).

1821

.こつそりとしてあそぶ也浅黄蝶
kossori to shite asobu nari asagi chô

playing their games
on the sly...
pale blue butterflies

1821

.参詣のつむりかぞへる小蝶哉
sankei no tsumuri kazoeru ko chô kana

counting heads
of the shrine visitors...
little butterfly

Pilgrims are visiting a Shinto shrine. The butterfly, flitting from head to head, seems to be counting them. Tsumuri is an old word for "head."; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1106.

1821

.蝶まふや馬の下腹ともしらで
chô mau ya uma no shitahara to mo shirade

butterfly dancing--
under the horse's gut
unaware

1821

.蝶見よや親子三人寝てくらす
chô mi yo ya oya-go sannin nete kurasu

butterfly, look!
parents and child, three
sleep together

This haiku was written in Third Month of 1821, two months after the death of Issa's third child, Ishitarô. His words to the butterfly express, poignantly, his own deepest wish.

1821

.寝仲間に我も這入るぞ野辺の蝶
ne nakama ni waga mo hairu zo nobe no chô

I crawl in to join
the sleepers...
meadow butterflies

1821

.寝並んで小蝶と猫と和尚哉
ne narande ko chô to neko to oshô kana

sleeping in a row--
little butterfly, cat
priest

The priest is a head priest. In the poem, Issa shows relationship and loving connection between three quite different creatures. Presented in a progression from small to large; the butterfly, cat and priest show themselves to be, in the moment, a little family.

1821

.野ばくちの銭の中より小蝶哉
no bakuchi no zeni no naka yori ko chô kana

gambling in the field--
from the pot
a little butterfly

1821

.風ろ水の小川へ出たり飛小蝶
furo mizu no kogawa e detari tobu ko chô

taking a dip
in the creek's bath water...
little butterfly

1821

.湯の中のつむりや蝶の一休
yu no naka no tsumuri ya chô no hito yasumi

in the hot tub
on someone's head...
butterfly's rest stop

Tsumuri is an old word for "head."; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1106.

1821

.世の中を浅き心や浅黄蝶
yo no naka wo asaki kokoro ya asagi chô

with a light heart
in this world...
light blue butterfly

Or: "butterflies."

1822

.負さつて蝶もぜん光寺参かな
obusatte chô mo zenkôji mairi kana

riding piggy-back
a butterfly too is a pilgrim...
Zenko Temple

Zenkô Temple (Zenkôji) is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province. Here, a butterfly rides the back of one of the temple visitors.

1822

.笠取つて見ても寝ている小てふ哉
kasa totte mite mo nete iru ko chô kana

grabbing my umbrella-hat
I find, asleep...
little butterfly

1822

.菓子盆を滑りおちたる小てふ哉
kashi bon wo suberi-ochitaru ko chô kana

slipping off
the candy tray...
a little butterfly

1822

.蝶とぶや石の上なる笠着物
chô tobu ya ishi no ue naru kasa kimono

a butterfly flits--
an umbrella-hat and kimono
on the rock

1822

.野談義をついととりまく小蝶哉
no dangi wo tsui to torimaku ko chô kana

suddenly circling
the outdoor sermon...
little butterflies

I picture a Buddhist priest giving a sermon in a field--probably about Amida's saving power. Several "pious" butterflies attend along with the people.

Sakuo Nakamura points out that dangi, in addition to its religious connotation, can mean an ordinary conversation. He pictures villagers talking in a field on some meaningless topic.

I still prefer to imagine that an itinerant preacher is teaching about Amida Buddha's salvation. This makes the circling butterflies a wonderful emblem of natural, innocent piety.

Also, Issa seems to have the religious meaning of dangi in mind in other poems, for example:

tsuji dangi chinpunkan mo nodoka kana

a crossroads sermon
gibberish
spring peace

Here, the impact of the haiku is much stronger if the "gibberish" being spoken is a sermon.

Tsui to can mean satto ("suddenly") or migaru ni ("with agility"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1075. Here, the first meaning fits.

1823

.浅黄蝶浅黄頭巾の世也けり
asagi chô asagi zukin no yo nari keri

it's become a world
of pale blue butterflies!
pale blue skullcaps!

The coincidence of insect and human fashion makes for a magical, world-transforming moment.

1823

.御座敷の隅からすみへ小てふ哉
o-zashiki no sumi kara sumi e ko chô kana

sitting room
from one corner to another...
little butterfly

1823

.籠の鳥蝶をうらやむ目つき哉
kago no tori chô wo urayamu metsuki kana

caged bird--
watching the butterfly
with envy

I like this translation found in a wonderful little children's book: "How sadly the bird in his cage/ Watches the butterflies"; Don't Tell the Scarecrow and Other Japanese Poems (New York: Scholastic Books, 1969), unpaginated. However, urayamu connotes envy, not sadness.

1823

.菓子盆やはしの先よりとぶ小てふ
kashi bon ya hashi no saki yori tobu ko chô

dessert tray--
from my chopstick's tip
a little butterfly flies

1823

.草の蝶何をすねるぞ小一日
kusa no chô nani wo suneru zo ko ichinichi

meadow butterfly
why are you sulking?
all day

The butterfly has been sulking "most of the day." Shinji Ogawa explains that the ko in front of ichi nichi ("one day") means "close to, but not exactly a whole day."

1823

.蝶とぶや児這ひつけばつけば又
chô tobu ya chigo hai-tsukeba tsukeba mata

the butterfly flits
when baby crawls
when baby crawls

A scene of repeated action: the butterfly flies, the baby crawls toward it, it flies, and so on.

1823

.蝶一ッ仲間ぬけしてすねるかよ
chô hitotsu nakama nukeshite suneru ka yo

one butterfly
apart from the crowd...
are you sulking?

1823

.ちりひじの山より上へ小てふかな
chirihiji no yama yori kami e ko chô kana

from the rubbish mountain
taking off...
little butterfly

Chirihiji can signify a mixture of dust and mud, or rubbish; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1070.

1823

.湯の中や首から首へとぶ小蝶
yu no naka ya kubi kara kubi e tobu ko chô

hot tub--
from head to head flitting
little butterfly

1824

.かんざしの蝶を誘ふやとぶ小蝶
kanzashi no chô wo sasou ya tobu ko chô

lured by the butterfly
hairpin...
little butterfly

A kanzashi is a hair ornament worn by ladies; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 425.

1824

.さをしかや蝶を振つて又眠る
saoshika ya chô wo furutte mata nemuru

young buck--
shaking off the butterfly
then back to sleep

Or: "the butterflies."

1824

.さらにとしとらぬは蝶の夫婦哉
sara ni toshitoranu wa chô no meoto kana

never growing old
Mr. and Mrs.
Butterfly

1824

.塵の身のちりより軽き小てふ哉
chiri no mi no chiri yori karuki ko chô kana

a body of dust
lighter than dust...
little butterfly

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1824

.鳥さしの竿の邪魔する小てふ哉
torisashi no sao no jama suru ko chô kana

blocking the bird catcher's
sticky pole...
little butterfly

The bird catcher coats poles with a sticky substance to trap small birds. Here, the butterfly seems to be gallantly keeping the pole's would-be victims away.

1810

.はつ蝶やつかみ込れな馬糞かき
hatsu chô [ya] tsukami komare na ma-guso kaki

first butterfly
don't get caught up!
horse dung raking

Shinji Ogawa explains that kaki in this haiku refers to the raking up of the dung.

1824

.ほつとして壁にすがるや夕小てふ
hotto shite kabe ni sugaru ya yû ko chô

clinging to the wall
with relief, evening's
little butterfly

1824

.山盛りに蝶たかりけり犬の椀
yama mori [ni] chô takari keri inu no wan

loads of butterflies
swarming it...
the dog's bowl

Shinji Ogawa notes that yama mori can signify "a mountain of" or "an overflowing heap of." The dog's bowl, then, is being "swarmed by butterflies."

1825

.過去のやくそくかよ袖に寝小てふ
kako no yakusoku ka yo sode ni neru ko chô

a previous life's bond?
little butterfly
on my sleeve, asleep

1825

.木の陰や蝶と休むも他生の縁
ki no kage ya chô to yasumu mo tashô no en

in tree shade
relaxing with a butterfly...
friends in a previous life

This haiku has the prescript, "Being guided on a mountain road by a young girl named Butterfly, when a sudden rain came pattering down." The "butterfly" is a little girl, not an insect. As the poet and his young guide wait out the rain, he feels that he and she must have a karmic connection from an earlier life.

year unknown

.木の陰やてふと宿るも他生の縁
ki no kage ya chô to yadoru mo tashô no en

sharing tree shade
with a butterfly...
friends in a previous life

This haiku has the prescript, "A little girl was serving as my guide on a mountain road, when a capricious rain suddenly fell." Issa presents a variant of this haiku in another text with a more explanatory prescript: "Being guided on a mountain road by a young girl named Butterfly, when a sudden rain came pattering down." In the moment of composition the "butterfly" was a little girl, not an insect. However, the haiku is just as tender if we imagine a real butterfly.

1825

.つぐら子をこそぐり起す小てふ哉
tsugura ko wo kosoguri okosu ko chô kana

tickling the baby
in the basket awake...
little butterfly

A tsugura is a container of woven straw used to keep things warm. Here, it serves as a cradle. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1087.

1825

.つぐら子の鼻くそせせる小てふ哉
tsugura ko no hanakuso seseru ko chô kana

baby in a basket--
playing with her snot
a little butterfly

Or: "his snot."

A tsugura is a container of woven straw used to keep things warm.Here, it serves as a cradle; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1087.

year unknown

.つぐら子の口ばたなめる小てふ哉
tsugura ko no kuchi-bata nameru ko chô kana

baby in a basket--
licking the edge of her mouth
little butterfly

Or: "his mouth."

A tsugura is a container of woven straw used to keep things warm. Here, it serves as a cradle; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1087.

1825

.湯の滝を上手に廻る小てふ哉
yu no taki wo jyôzu ni meguru ko chô kana

skillfully skirting
the hot tub waterfall...
little butterfly

Perhaps water is spilling over the edge of the tub. Or the bather (Issa?) douses himself--but in either case the butterfly skillfully avoids the downpour.

1826

.湯けぶりのふはふは蝶もふはり哉
yu keburi no fuwa-fuwa chô mo fuwari kana

hot tub steam
wafts softly, softly...
as does a butterfly

year unknown

.田の人の内股くぐるこてふかな
ta no hito no uchimata kuguru ko chô kana

creeping through
the rice farmer's legs...
little butterfly

In a related haiku written in 1814, Issa sees "creeping through" the crotch of a plowman.

year unknown

.庭のてふ子が這へばとびはへばとぶ
niwa no chô ko ga haeba tobi haeba tobu

garden butterfly--
the child crawls, it flies
crawls, it flies...

Leslie Anderson writes, "The child symbolizes the human position, and the butterfly symbolizes transformation or improvement. Issa ingeniously relays that it is a natural instinct for human beings to desire or seek greater dreams. Perhaps, in the eyes of Issa, such dreams may have included rebirth. Although the butterfly (dreams) may seem beyond reach, the child (humans) does not crawl forever. Eventually, he/she begins to walk, then grow and, ultimately, he/she is able to touch the butterfly (his/her dreams)."

Keishondra Sampson adds, "Pure Land Buddhism teaches of reincarnation as everyone is moving toward becoming a Buddha and reaching Enlightenment. The child crawling and chasing the butterfly represents everyone chasing the hope of reaching Enlightenment."

year unknown

.門の蝶子が這へばとびはへばとぶ
kado no chô ko ga haeba tobi haeba tobu

butterfly at the gate--
the child crawls, it flies
crawls, it flies...

Issa presents a little motion picture: a baby crawls through a meadow toward a butterfly; the butterfly flits away and alights a little farther off. Undaunted, the baby crawls again toward its new, colorful friend, who, once again, flits away. Baby and butterfly play a back-and-forth game of Catch Me If You Can.

year unknown

.はつ蝶や会釈もなしに床の間へ
hatsu chô ya eshaku mo nashi ni toko-no-ma e

first butterfly--
without formal greeting
entering the alcove

It is customary when entering the alcove of a Japanese house to give a formal salutation to the people within. The butterfly, of course, ignores human etiquette.

year unknown

.夕暮にがつくりしたと草のてふ
yûgure ni gakkuri shita yo kusa no chô

evening
is such a downer...
meadow butterfly

The butterfly seems "down" (gakkuri shita) because its day of cavorting is over.

year unknown

.世の中は蝶も朝からかせぐ也
yo no naka wa chô mo asa kara kasegu nari

in this world
from dawn to dusk
even a butterfly must toil

In the original, the butterfly toils "from morning" (asa kara). To complete the idiom in English, "to dusk" has been added.

1803

.桑つむや負れし柿も手を出して
kuwa tsumu ya owareshi kaki mo te wo dashite

picking mulberry leaves--
the baby on her back
stretches a hand

The mulberry leaves are being picked to feed silkworms.

This haiku, written on the 21st day of Ninth Month, 1803, has the prescript, "Seventh Month," which is odd, since picking mulberry leaves to feed the silkworms is a spring activity.

There is still more mystery in this haiku. Shinji Ogawa notes that its literal meaning, "picking mulberry leaves.../ a carried persimmon too/ stretches its hand," makes no sense. He theorizes that the "persimmon" (kaki) might be a misspelling for "baby" (akago). I have followed Shinji's hunch in my translation. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.133.

1803

.細腕に桑の葉しごく雨夜哉
hoso ude ni kuwa no ha shigoku amayo kana

with thin arms
stripping mulberry leaves...
night rain

The leaves are being stripped off branches to feed silkworms.

1805

.二三日はなぐさみといふ蚕哉
ni san hi wa nagusami to iu kaiko kana

for two or three days
its pure fun...
for silkworms

Bridget Dole, a raiser of silkworms, speculates that the fun involves eating mulberry leaves: "I assume the silkworms enjoy themselves more during the eating stage, and of course, they are more fun to watch. Before molting, they are still and, when I first started raising them, I worried that they were dead. Also, you are not supposed to touch them during that inactive time; it can prevent them from molting. So you can't play with them, and they are no longer enjoying themselves (as far as I know) but starting the hard work of pulling themselves out of their old skins."

Shinji Ogawa believes that the fun lies in cocoon spinning. He paraphrases the haiku: "The two or three days are our fun time/ So silkworms say" and comments, "It takes two days for a silkworm to complete the cocoon. I think Issa refers to the spinning period. A cocoon consists of 600 to 1,200 meters (2,000-4,000 feet) of silk. The cocoon making for two days may look very laborious. Issa made the silkworms say it's fun."

1814

.大蚤の中にはたはた蚕哉
ônomi no naka ni hata-hata kaiko kana

fleas thumping
and the gnawing, gnawing
silkworms

I believe that Issa is describing sounds in the house, perhaps at night. Though he doesn't literally say that the "big fleas" (ô nomi) are thumping, this seems to be implied. Together, the fleas and silkworms make an interesting orchestra.

1818

.さまづけに育られたる蚕哉
samazuke ni sodateraretaru kaiko kana

called "mister"
by those who raise them...
silkworms

1818

.たのもしや棚の蚕も喰盛り
tanomoshi ya tana no kaiko mo kui-zakari

a promising sound--
silkworms in the tray
stuff themselves

I thank Bridget Dole for helping with this translation.

1818

.人並に棚の蚕も昼寝哉
hitonami ni tana no kaiko mo hirune kana

like people
silkworms in the tray
take a siesta

Though the silkworms appear to be enjoying a noonday nap (hirune), they are actually undergoing a period of inactivity before molting. Bridget Dole explains, "According to one book I have, silkworms eat and grow for 2.5 days, then are inactive for one before molting, active for 2.5, inactive for one, active for 3, inactive for 1.5, active for 4, inactive for 2, then active for 8 before spinning their cocoons. A second source describes slightly longer periods of eating and activity before each molting."

Shinji Ogawa notes that hitonami ni is an adverb to modify hirune ("nap") and means "just like anyone else" or, in this case, "just like people."

1818

.村中にきげんとらるる蚕哉
mura naka ni kigen toraruru kaiko kana

the whole village
pays them court...
silkworms

Bridget Dole writes, "I am reminded of something I read about the raising of silkworms and how the families with silkworms in their attics were very careful of the silkworms' moods. They were careful not to make loud noises, display discord, etc. because they needed the silkworms to spin uninterrupted (a cocoon is made of one long strand of silk. If a silkworm stops spinning, it may not have enough silk left to make another cocoon). Anyway, I'm just wondering if toraruru could be translated to indicate the catering of the people to the silkworms."

Shinji Ogawa confirms Bridget's theory. He notes that the phrase kigen toraruru ("to be courted") is passive voice for kigen toru ("to court"). The silkworms are "courted by the whole village." In my translation I use active voice, which, I believe, makes for a better poem in English.

year unknown

.内中にきげんとらるる蚕哉
uchinaka ni kigen toraruru kaiko kana

the whole house
pays them court...
silkworms

Bridget Dole comments, "I am reminded of something I read about the raising of silkworms and how the families with silkworms in their attics were very careful of the silkworms' moods. They were careful not to make loud noises, display discord, etc. because they needed the silkworms to spin uninterrupted (a cocoon is made of one long strand of silk. If a silkworm stops spinning, it may not have enough silk left to make another cocoon). Anyway, I'm just wondering if toraruru could be translated to indicate the catering of the people to the silkworms."

Indeed, Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

They are soothed
by the whole family
silkworms...

year unknown

.惣々にきげんとらるる蚕哉
sô-sô ni kigen toraruru kaiko kana

quickly people
pay them court...
silkworms

Bridget Dole comments, "I am reminded of something I read about the raising of silkworms and how the families with silkworms in their attics were very careful of the silkworms' moods. They were careful not to make loud noises, display discord, etc. because they needed the silkworms to spin uninterrupted (a cocoon is made of one long strand of silk. If a silkworm stops spinning, it may not have enough silk left to make another cocoon). Anyway, I'm just wondering if toraruru could be translated to indicate the catering of the people to the silkworms." Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

In a hasty manner
they are soothed
silkworms...

He comments, "It is Issa's humor to show the odd combination of the hasty manner and the soothing. Nevertheless, Issa's sketch is accurate and skillful. It is a hasty manner because the farmers are so busy; the soothing is half-hearted only because it is the custom."

1818

.家うちして夜食あてがふ蚕哉
ya-uchi shite yashoku ategau kaiko kana

the whole family
serves the midnight meal
for silkworms

Shinji Ogawa explains that ya-uchi shite means "the whole family."

They all gather 'round to serve the silkworms a "night meal" (yashoku) of mulberry leaves.

1820

.蚕医者蚕医者はやる娘かな
kaiko isha kaiko isha hayaru musume kana

"Silkworm doctor
silkworm doctor, hurry!"
little girl

Or: "an impatient daughter." Sakuo Nakamura pictures the situation as follows. A girl who takes care of silkworms finds sick worms in the incubator case. She cries out, "Doctor of worms, come up in a hurry!" In a revision written that same year, the little girl is the doctor.

1820

.蚕医者蚕医者する娘かな
kaiko isha kaiko isha suru musume kana

playing doctor
for the silkworms...
little girl

Or: "daughter." In an earlier version written that year, the little girl calls for the "doctor" (a person skilled at raising silkworms) to come in a hurry.

1822

.末の子も別にねだりて蚕かな
sue no ko mo betsu ni nedarite kaiko kana

even the youngest child
urges them on...
silkworms

1824

.門々に青し蚕の屎の山
kado kado ni aoshi kaiko no kuso no yama

at gate after gate
green hills
of silkworm poop

People have dumped out little "mountains" of silkworm waste. According to Bridget Dole, silkworm droppings are "blackish green." About this curious haiku, she speculates, "Maybe when [the silkworms] are in the cocoons, everyone cleans out the rearing trays at the same time. The size of one's 'mountains' would be an indication of success."

1817

.それ虻に世話をやかすなせうじ窓
sore abu ni sewa wo yakasu na shôji mado

don't be mean
to that horsefly
paper door!

year unknown

.それ虻に世話をやかすな明り窓
sore abu ni sewa wo yakasu na akarimado

don't be mean
to that horsefly
skylight!

Shinji Ogawa comments, "This is Issa's domain." Sympathy for his fellow creatures, large and small, pervades Issa's haiku.

1817

.又虻に世話をやかすぞ明り窓
mata abu ni sewa wo yakasu zo akarimado

once again
giving a horsefly grief
skylight

Or: "the horsefly."

Shinji Ogawa explains that a horsefly is trapped and cannot get out through the skylight. The phrase, sewa wo yakasu, he notes, translates: "to give someone a hard time."

1820

.此方が庵の道とや虻がとぶ
kono kata ga io no michi to ya abu ga tobu

"This way to the hut!"
the horsefly
flies

1820

.道連れの虻一ッ我も一人哉
michi-zure no abu hitotsu waga mo hitori kana

single file on the road--
one horsefly
one me

1820

.山道の案内顔や虻がとぶ
yama michi no annai-gao ya abu ga tobu

acting as guide
on the mountain road...
horsefly

Literally, the horsefly has "the face of a guide," a phrase that I initially thought was a funny detail, unique to Issa. Shinji Ogawa, however, notes that "something" + gao ("face") is an idiomatic expression for "acting (or behaving) like something." The horsefly is "behaving like a guide."

Still, English doesn't capture the charm of Issa's Japanese, in which the intentions of a horsefly can show in its face.

1820

.山道や斯う来い来いと虻が飛
yama michi ya kô koi koi to abu ga tobu

mountain road--
"This way, come! Come!"
the horsefly flies

1821

.草の葉に虻の空死したりけり
kusa no ha ni abu no sorajini ni shitari keri

on a blade of grass
the horsefly
plays dead

In a similar haiku of 1820, a mosquito plays dead on a blade of grass.

1822

.馬の虻喰くたびれて寝たりけり
uma no abu kui kutabire[te] netari keri

tired of feeding
on the horse
the horsefly naps

1822

.馬の尾にそら死したり草の虻
uma no o ni sorajini shitari kusa no [abu]

playing dead
on the horse's tail
a meadow horsefly

In his diary, the last word of this haiku is "hole" (ana), but editors assume, based on context, that Issa meant to write "horsefly" (abu).

1822

.神風や虻が教へる山の道
kamikaze ya abu ga oshieru yama no michi

divine wind--
the horsefly leads
on the mountain road

Literally, kamikaze refers to a "providential wind," the "wind of the gods." Long after Issa's time, the word was used to describe suicide planes packed with explosives that pilots flew into enemy ships.

1822

.斯来いと虻がとぶ也草の道
kô koi to abu ga tobu nari kusa no michi

"Come this way!"
my horsefly guide
through the meadow

1807

.藪の蜂来ん世も我にあやかるな
yabu no hachi kon'yo mo ware ni ayakaru na

thicket bees
in the next life don't
be like me

Or: "thicket bee." Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1810

.山住や蜂にも馴て夕枕
yama-zumi ya hachi ni mo narete yûmakura

living on the mountain
I'm used to the bees...
evening pillow

1813

.山蜂や鳴々抜る寺座敷
yama hachi ya naki-naki nukeru tera zashiki

mountain bees
buzz-buzz pass through
the temple room

The temple being Buddhist, the bees have the run of the place. Extermination would be unthinkable.

1814

.みよしのへ遊びに行や庵の蜂
miyoshino e asobi ni iku ya io no hachi

they're off to play
in Yoshino...
my hut's bees

Miyoshino is a euphemism for Yoshino, a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1584. Issa's nectar-seeking bees, of course, won't just be "playing" among the flowers.

1818

.隠家を蜂も覚て帰る也
kakurega wo hachi mo oboete kaeru nari

secluded house--
the bees also memorize
the way back

1818

.辻堂の蜂の威をかる雀哉
tsuji dô no hachi no i wo karu suzume kana

at the crossroads temple
usurping the bees...
sparrows

Or: "a sparrow." Issa seems to be playing with the Japanese expression, tora no i wo karu kitsune: "The fox who borrows the tiger's authority." In this case, the sparrows seem to be borrowing the authority of the bees.

1818

.蜂鳴て人のしづまる御堂哉
hachi naite hito no shizumaru midô kana

bees buzzing
people grow quiet
in the temple

1818

.蜂の巣や地蔵菩薩の御肱に
hachi no su [ya] jizô bosatsu no on-hiji [ni]

beehive--
safe on holy Jizo's
elbow

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

1820

.熊蜂も軒端を知つて帰りけり
kumabachi mo nokiba wo shitte kaeri keri

the hornet too
knowing the eaves
returns

Shinji Ogawa thinks that Issa may be punning with nokiba wo shitte, which can mean, "knowing the eaves" and "knowing when to retreat." Hence, the haiku has a double meaning: "even the hornet/ goes back/ knowing the eaves" and "even the hornet/ goes back/ knowing the time to retreat."

If Shinji is right, this is an example of an untranslatable poem, if one expects a translation to resonate in the target language precisely in the way that the original text does in the original language.

1821

.親蜂や蜜盗まれてひたと鳴
oya hachi ya mitsu nusumarete hita to naku

the parent bee
its honey being stolen
buzzes near

Evidently, Issa didn't realize that the only identifiable "parent" bee would be the queen, not the ones buzzing about the honey thief.

1821

.子もち蜂あくせく蜜をかせぐ也
ko mochi hachi akuseku mitsu wo [ka]segu nari

the bees with children
are work-a-holics...
making honey

Did Issa realize that the "parent" bee was the queen and not the nectar-gatherers? Whether he did or not, in this haiku of 1821 he attributes the diligent work ethic of the bees to the fact that there are children to fed, back in the hive. In an ordinary scene of bees buzzing from flower to flower, Issa sees parental love.

1821

.蜂の巣の隣をかりる雀哉
hachi no su no tonari wo kariru susume kana

renting a spot
next to the beehive...
sparrows

1822

.蜂の巣に借しておいたる柱哉
hachi no su ni kashite oitaru hashira kana

leasing a spot
for the beehive...
the post

1822

.蜂の巣のぶらり仁王の手首哉
hachi no su no burari niô no tekubi kana

the beehive dangles
from the Deva King's
wrist

Two fierce Deva Kings (niô) stand guard at a temple gate. Bees have hung their nest from one of the guardians' wrists.

1822

.巣の蜂やぶんともいはぬ御法だん
su no hachi ya bun to mo iwanu o-hôdan

the beehive
hushes up...
a Buddhist sermon

A Buddhist priest is preaching outdoors. Issa fancies that the bees in the hive "say not a word" (bun to mo iwanu), out of respect.

1822

.山蜂もしたふて住や人の里
yama hachi mo shitaute sumu ya hito no sato

the mountain bees, too
yearn to live there...
town of people

For Issa, the world is a shared space inhabited by people and animals; see my book, Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet's Perspective (HaikuGuy.com, 2014).

1824

.正直の門に蜜蜂やどりけり
shôjiki no kado ni mitsu hachi yadori keri

at an honest man's gate
honeybees
make their home

1824

.蜂逃て猿はきよろきよろ眼哉
hachi nigete saru wa kyoro-kyoro manako kana

fleeing the bees
the monkey's restless
eyes

1824

.蜂の巣にかしておくぞよ留主の庵
hachi no su ni kashite oku zo yo rusu no io

leasing it
to the bees...
leaving my hut

1824

.みつ蜂や隣に借せばあばれ蜂
mitsu-bachi ya tonari ni kaseba arare-bachi

honeybees--
but right next door
hornets

When I first read and translated this haiku, I believed that Issa's simple observation might be a parable for social harmony in the human world. Syllable⁰17, however, raised a doubt, noting that bees and hornets are "sworn enemies," which casts their proximity to one another in a different light.

Professor Timothy D. Schowalter, Head of the Department of Entomology at Louisiana State University, put me in contact with Tom Rinderer of the USDA Honey Bee Lab, who writes, "Honey bees in Japan, (Apis cerana japonica) are continually plagued by the oriental wasp (Vespa mandarinia) which patrols the entrance of the honey bee hives and catches and kills worker bees. The wasps are so large and well protected by their exoskeleton that the bees cannot easily defend themselves by stinging. However, they have evolved a defense that involves many bees catching the wasp and forming a tight ball of bees around the wasp. They generate enough heat on the wasp to kill it. Not peaceful co-existence." Dr. Schowalter adds that Vespa mandarinia is described not only as a wasp but as "the Asian hornet, known for its aggressiveness and particularly painful sting." One of his colleagues in Taiwan lost an eye due to an Asian hornet sting on his eyebrow.

In light of this scientific information, the subtext of Issa's image might not be about harmony. Dr. Rinderer proposes that he might be saying this: whereas on one side there lives a good thing, "next door is grave danger."

1811

.うつるとも花見虱ぞよしの山
utsuru tomo hanami-jirami zo yoshino yama

though infested with lice
blossom viewing...
Yoshino Hill

"Blossom-viewing lice" is a season word denoting the lice that infest one's warm weather clothing during the spring blossom season. Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms.

1815

.おのれらも花見虱に候よ
onorera mo hanami-jirami [ni] sôrô yo

you too
are viewing the blossoms...
lice!

"Blossom-viewing lice" is a season word denoting the lice that infest one's warm weather clothing during the spring blossom season. Shinji Ogawa writes, "The phrase, onorera mo means 'you are too,' or 'we are too.' The question is which one Issa likely meant."

1815

.痩虱花の御代にぞ逢にけり
yase-jirami hana no miyo ni zo ai ni keri

a skinny louse
born into the realm
of blossoms

Literally, the louse is born under the "reign" (miyo) of the blossoms. "Blossom-viewing lice" is a season word denoting the lice that infest one's warm weather clothing during the spring blossom season.

1822

.のさのさとさし出て花見虱かな
nosa-nosa to sashidashite hanami-jirami kana

shameless
in my blossom-viewing robe...
lice

Nosa-nosa can denote performing an action with composure (heizen), with lighthearted nonchalance (nonki), lacking dread (habakaru tokoro no nai), or shamelessly (ôchaku). "Shamlessly" fits this situation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292. Issa doesn't mention "robe" in the haiku, but "blossom-viewing lice" is a season word denoting the lice that infest one's warm weather clothing during the spring blossom season.

1795

.白魚のしろきが中に青藻哉
shirouo no shiroki ga naka ni aomo kana

amid the white
of the whitebait
duckweed's green

A starkly visual haiku. Whitebait are little white fish.

1808

.白魚に大泥亀も遊びけり
shirauo ni ôdoro-game mo asobi keri

among the whitebait
a big mud turtle
plays too

Whitebait are little white fish.

1808

.白魚のどつと生るるおぼろ哉
shirauo no dotto umaruru oboro kana

darting whitebait
suddenly are born...
night haze

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers succinctly to a hazy night of spring. Shinji Ogawa explains: "The word, dotto is an onomatopoetic word that describes sudden movements of things of a large number. It seems that the scene is of fishing. The whitebaits are running in a large numbers from the sea into the rivers to spawn in spring. Fishermen scoop them with large nets. In the hazy night, one cannot see the whitebaits swimming in the river, but when the net is raised, the whitebaits suddenly emerge in the net."

1808

.白魚やきのふも亀の放さるる
shirauo ya kinou mo kame no hanasaruru

whitebait--
yesterday they parted ways
with the turtle

Whitebait are little white fish.

1810

.入相や桜のさわぐ鮎さわぐ
iriai ya sakura no sawagu ayu sawagu

sunset--
a ruckus of cherry blossoms
a ruckus of trout

Issa invites readers to use their imaginations to make sense of this haiku. Here's what I picture: humans raise a ruckus at their blossom-viewing party; trout do the same in a nearby stream. Read in this way, the haiku is a tale of two worlds that are really one, as humans and fish alike celebrate springtime.

Shinji Ogawa believes that the ruckus is being raised by the cherry blossoms themselves and by the trout, "signifying the vitality of spring."

1810

.心して桜ちれちれ鮎小鮎
kokoro shite sakura chire-chire ayu ko ayu

"Be brave, cherry blossoms
and fall!"
the little trout

I assume that these encouraging words are being spoken by a little trout in a stream under the tree(s), hence the quotation marks.

1810

.笹陰を空頼みなる小鮎哉
sasa kage wo soradanomi naru ko ayu kana

the bamboo grass shade
an empty hope...
little trout

Are the trout being caught in this seemingly safe refuge?

1810

.花の散る拍子に急ぐ小鮎哉
hana no chiru hyôshi ni isogu ko ayu kana

darting to the rhythm
of blossoms falling...
little trout

1810

.わか鮎は西へ落花は東へ
waka ayu wa nishi e ochi hana wa hingashi e

little trout
swimming west while blossoms
flow east

A lovely scene of conflicting movement and color. Shinji Ogawa notes that, in the spring, young trout swim upstream (in this case, west). The fallen blossoms, afloat on the surface of the water, flow east. "East" (higashi) is spelled here, hingashi, to make the haiku conform to the 5-7-5 syllable pattern.

1815

.鮎迄もわか盛也吉の川
ayu made mo waka-zakari nari yoshino kawa

the trout too
hit their peak young...
Yoshino River

Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. Issa contemplates an unlikely juxtaposition: cherry blossoms and trout. Perhaps the blossoms are falling into the river where the trout, equally doomed, frolic.

1815

.逃るやら遊ぶやら鮎小鮎哉
nigeru yara asobu yara ayu ko ayu kana

a lot of fleeing
a lot of playing...
little trout

1824

.首出して身寄虫見るらん巣なし鳥
kubi dashite gauna miruran su nashi tori

watching the hermit crab
stretching its neck?
bird with no nest

Issa hints that the homeless bird may be jealous of the crab, that carries its home always with it.

1824

.捨家に大あんどする身寄虫哉
sute ie ni ôando suru gauna kana

discarding his house
a huge relief...
hermit crab

Or: "her house."

1824

.住みづらい里はないとや身寄虫どの
sumi-zurai sato wa nai to ya gauna dono

"No cruel village
for me!"
Mr. Hermit Crab

I assume that the first two phrases are being spoken by the crab. Issa, rejected and scorned by many of the people in his home village who took the side of his stepmother and half-brother in his long and bitter inheritance dispute, envies the crab that carries its home on its back.

1824

.一寸寝てするべつたりの身寄虫哉
chotto nete suru bettari no gauna kana

a quick nap
for the clinging
hermit crab

1824

.一寸寝るふりをしている身寄虫哉
chotto neru furi wo shite iru gauna kana

his quick nap
is just pretend...
hermit crab

1792

.うたかたや淡の波間の平家蟹
utakata ya awa no namima no heike-gani

sea foam--
in the fleeting wave
a Heike crab

Crabs with special markings resembling faces of samurai are thought to be reincarnated heroes who died in a famous battle, recounted in the medieval Tale of the Heike.

1795

.平家蟹昔はここで月見船
heike-gani mukashi wa koko de tsukimi-bune

Heike crabs--
long ago they moon-gazed here
on boats

Crabs with special markings resembling faces of samurai are thought to be reincarnated heroes who died in a famous battle, recounted in the medieval Tale of the Heike. Issa muses that in olden times (mukashi), these crabs were men, enjoying moon parties on boats.

1795

.海のなき国をおもひきる田にし哉
umi no naki kuni wo omoikiru tanishi kana

resigning himself
to this oceanless province...
pond snail

Or: "resigning themselves ... pond snails." And one more possibility: "resigning herself."

1805

.三ケ月や田螺をさぐる腕の先
mikazuki ya tanishi wo saguru ude no saki

a sickle moon--
hands groping
for pond snails

The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

1812

.青芝ぞここ迄ござれ田にし殿
ao shiba zo koko made gozare tanishi dono

a green lawn--
come have a seat
Sir Pond Snail!

Gozare is a word cried out by women soliciting guests at inns; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 610.

1812

.小盥や今むく田螺すべりあそぶ
ko-darai ya ima muku tanishi suberi asobu

little tub--
pond snails ready for shelling
play sliding games

Shinji Ogawa explains that the snails have not yet been shelled (as I originally thought). The ima in this context means that the shelling is imminent.

The snails are unaware of what is about to happen, living happily in the moment. A similar haiku of 1815:

uo domo wa oke to shirade ya yûsuzumi

the fish
unaware of the bucket...
a cool evening

1812

.尋常に引つかまるる田にし哉
jinjô ni hittsukama[ru]ru tanishi kana

making no fuss
they are captured...
pond snails

Or: pond snail. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

The gentle pond snails don't put up a fight when they are gathered. Issa seems to admire their Buddhist equanimity.

1812

.鳴田にし鍋の中ともしらざるや
naku tanishi nabe no naka tomo shirazaru ya

pond snails sing
they're in the kettle
but don't know it

Issa wrote this haiku in Second Month of 1812, when he was using his diary, Shichiban nikki, to brainstorm "Hell" poems for his "Six Ways" of reincarnation series that appeared that same month in another text, Kabuban. Though the image of pond snails in a kettle is indeed hellish (for the snails), Issa didn't use it for the series. Shinji Ogawa believes that the "singing" is the sound of the snails spitting water. Debi Bender theorizes that Issa is hearing the hissing of the shells, "making a noise, something like air escaping a tea-kettle, only not as loud."

Shinji comments, "This haiku is much inferior to Issa's similar haiku--yûzuki ya nabe no naka nite naku tanishi--that is, 'Evening moon...the pond snails are singing in the kettle.' The expression 'unaware they're in the kettle' is too explanatory."

1812

.寝たり寝たり天下太平の田にし哉
netari netari tenka taihei no tanishi kana

sound asleep
there is peace on earth...
pond snail

1812

.木母寺や花見田にしとつくば山
mokuboji ya hanami tanishi to tsukuba yama

Mokubo Temple--
a blossom-viewing pond snail
and Mount Tsukuba

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture.

year unknown

.夕月や鍋の中にて鳴田にし
yûzuki ya nabe no naka nite naku tanishi

evening moon--
pond snails singing
in the kettle

This haiku has the prescript, "Hell." Pure Land Buddhists maintain that there are "Six Ways" of possible future life reincarnation: (1) as a sufferer in hell, (2) as a hungry ghost, (3) as an animal, (4) as an angry demon, (5) as a human being, or (6) as a heavenly being. This haiku is poem 1 of a six-poem series on the Six Ways. Two versions of this series exist; one appears in the 1812 book, Kabuban, while the other was published posthumously by Issa's students in Issa hokku shû in 1829. The present haiku appears only in the later, 1829 version. Shinji Ogawa believes that the "singing" is the sound of the snails spitting water. Debi Bender theorizes that Issa is hearing the hissing of the shells, "making a noise, something like air escaping a tea-kettle, only not as loud." In an earlier translation, I rendered yûzuki as "night moon," but Shinji believes that the more literal "evening moon" is better. He explains, "To distinguish the evening moon from the night moon is rather important for the fate of the pond snails. The kettle may have been prepared for tonight, and the pond snails may not have tomorrow. But, the pond sails are singing. This seemingly tranquil scene well deserves to be described as Hell. Issa, in his well-disciplined way, keeping it low key, using plain everyday words and common settings without any adjective, without a drop of blood, describes Hell. Hell is not a matter of the next world, but here. It is a reality in which we must kill others in order to survive. Worse, we may call it a feast."

Colleen Rain Austin translates the snails as "whelks." She writes the following about this haiku: "Regarding the whelks: they fit in their shell very snugly and have a hard shell at the end of their 'foot' that they can pull up and use to seal themselves in with when they are threatened. As they are grilled or boiled, they steam in the shells and the loss of moisture causes their bodies to shrink and steam escapes through the edges of the seal causing a shrill whistling noise like a high-pitched scream. It isn't something you are likely to forget and also, the haiku is definitely regional, Issa was from my side of Japan and had a lot of experiences out of the norm of Edo, which may be why he didn't include it in the final Kabuban. The whelks are done when the button-like seal pops out and the shrieking stops. I also think he was playing with onomatopoeia here as my translation would be a little different:

Snails shriek
in the ringing kettle
neither knows the other

...which is more somber and like Buddhist Hell, where we are causing ourselves and each other suffering through our lack of awareness."

1810

.蛤の芥を吐する月夜かな
hamaguri no gomi wo hakasuru tsuki yo kana

the clam vomits
mud...
a moonlit night

Or: "the clams vomit." I prefer the singular; it shows Issa paying close, tender attention to a particular clam.

In his translation, Makoto Ueda adds the words "in a bucket" to specify a location for the clam or clams; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 70. The fact that he is paying such minute attention to a small creature that will soon be eaten conjures a feeling of sympathy for it ... and connection to it.

Shinji Ogawa notes that the clams have been placed in a wooden tub filled with water to rid them of sand before cooking. Hakasuru means to "have or make someone vomit"--a causative verb. A more accurate translation, then, would be, "the clam is made to vomit" or "the clams are made to vomit."

year unknown

.蛤や在鎌倉の雁鴎
hamaguri ya zai-kamakura no kari kamome

O clams
meet the geese and gulls
of Greater Kamakura!

The scene is on the outskirts (zai) of Kamakura; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 669. The word "meet" doesn't appear in Issa's orginal text, but this seems to be his implication. The hungry wild geese and sea gulls are feasting on the clams.

1805

.蜆さへ昔男のゆかりにて
shijimi sae mukashi otoko no yukari nite

even the clams
are related to the great
men of old

Is Issa contemplating reincarnation, the interconnectedness of all life?

1816

.鳩の藪雀の垣やから蜆
hato no yabu suzume no kaki ya kara shijimi

in the pigeon's thicket
on the sparrow's fence...
clamshells

The leftovers of some sea gull's dinner?

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1814

.陽炎にぱつかり口を浅蜊哉
kagerô ni pakkari kuchi wo asari kana

in heat shimmers
his mouth clacks shut...
clam

Technically, an asari is a "short-necked clam." This is Issa's only haiku that makes use of this spring season word. In an undated rewrite, Issa changes pakkari to pakkuri, both words being variants of pakuri, a snapping or clacking noise.


"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1810

.山の草芽出すと直に売られけり
yama no kusa me dasu [to] sugu ni urare keri

mountain grass--
soon as it sprouts
it's sold

Shinji Ogawa notes, "Some grasses that grow in the mountains are delicacies like mushrooms, sold at a good price."

1819

.門の草芽出すやいなやむしらるる
kado no kusa me dasu ya inaya mushiraruru

grass by the gate--
soon as it sprouts
it's plucked

1819

.芽出しから人さす草はなかりけり
me dashi kara hito sasu kusa wa nakari keri

among the sprouts
not one man-stabbing
blade of grass

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "There are no man-stabbing grasses in the sprouts."

The newly sprouted grasses are pliant and non-stabbing, unlike their adult counterparts. Is Issa's haiku a parable on the human condition?

year unknown

.萩の芽や人がしらねば鹿が喰
hagi no me ya hito ga shiraneba shika ga kuu

bush clover sprouting--
when people aren't looking
the deer eats

Or: "the deer eat." Issa doesn't specify singular or plural.

1812

.うつくしや貧乏蔓もまだ二葉
utsukushi ya bimbô-zuru mo mada futaba

a pretty thing
on the beggarly vine...
buds

Issa uses the word futaba here to mean "bud"--a spring season word. In other haiku, futaba signifies "two leaves."

1793

.寝転んで若草摘る日南哉
ne-koronde waka-gusa tsumeru hinata kana

lying down to sleep
plucking the new grass...
sunbather

1806

.若草に冷飯すすむ伏家哉
waka-gusa ni hiya meshi susumu fuseya kana

the new grass
cools my cold rice...
humble hut

1806

.わか草に夜も来てなく雀哉
waka-gusa ni yoru mo kite naku suzume kana

in the new grass too
evening comes...
chirping sparrow

1806

.わか草や油断を責る暮の鐘
waka-gusa ya yudan wo semeru kure no kane

chiding the new grass
for not being ready...
sunset bell

The new spring grasses are not ready for death. The sunset bell of a Buddhist temple seems to be scolding them.

1808

.わか草に我もことしの袂哉
waka-gusa ni waga mo kaotoshi no tamoto kana

in new grass
even I'm in fashion!
this year's sleeves

1808

.わか草や我と雀と遊ぶ程
waka-gusa ya ware to suzume to asobu hodo

new grass--
a sparrow and I
just playing

1810

.草々もわかいうちぞよ村雀
kusa-gusa mo wakai uchi zo yo mura suzume

the grasses too
are in their youth...
flock of sparrows

Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602.

1812

.世につれて庵の草もわかいぞよ
yo ni tsurete iori no kusa mo wakai zo yo

following the times
even my hut's grasses
so young!

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, yo ni tsurete signifies "along with the change of years, or times."

1812

.わか草や町のせどのふじの山
waka-gusa ya machi no sedo no fuji no yama

new grass--
at the town's back door
Mount Fuji

1814

.毒草のそぶりも見へぬわか葉哉
dokusô no soburi mo mienu waka-gusa kana

no telling which
are poisonous...
new grasses

In the prescript to this haiku, Issa tells of a village man who ate an herb commonly called "horse parsely" (uma seri), upon which he died a horrible death.

1814

.わか草の勇に負たる庵かな
wakakusa [no] yû ni maketaru iori kana

conquered
by the young grasses...
my hut

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation. Issa doesn't write "my" hut, but Shinji and I agree that this is implied. A more literal third line: "the hut."

1814

.わか草ののうのうとする葉ぶり哉
waka-gusa no nô nô to suru haburi kana

new grass growing--
a masterful
leaf arrangement!

Issa praises Nature as the most skilled of ikebana artists.

1816

.かくれ家や日々草は若くなる
kakurega ya nichi-nichi kusa wa wakaku naru

secluded house--
day after day more
baby grass

1816

.わか草に笠投やりて入る湯哉
wakakusa ni kasa nageyarite iru yu kana

my umbrella-hat
left on the baby grass...
a hot bath

Or: "his umbrella-hat." In the original text, Issa doesn't specify whose it is.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that this haiku reveals a springtime mood. After being drenched in a cold rain, Issa is ready for a hot bath. He takes off his umbrella-hat and puts it on the young grass. Sakuo writes, "His joy appears fully in this haiku."

I wonder if he is playfully suggesting that the baby grass can "wear" his hat and thus be protected from the rain?

1818

.門畠憎くまれ草もわかわかし
kado hatake nikumare kusa mo wakawakashi

garden at the gate--
even the naughty weeds
young and fresh

In Japanese, nikumareko is a "bad boy." Issa refers to nikumare kusa ("bad grass") in similar fashion. I think that "naughty weeds" somewhat captures his idea and tone.

1818

.わか草に背をこする野馬哉
wakakusa ni senaka wo kosuru no uma kana

on baby grass
rubbing his back...
field horse

1819

.うちはぐみ人さす草でなかりけり
uchiwa-gumi hito sasu kusa de nakari keri

people with fans--
no stabbing grass
in sight

In other words, the grass is young, not tall or sharp enough to annoy people.

1819

.竹の葉につれて葎もわか葉哉
take no ha ni tsurete mugura mo wakaba kana

keeping bamboo shoots
company, weeds
fresh green too

Bamboo shoots are suitable for traditional poetry, but egalitarian Issa appreciates humble weeds just as much. In an earlier version I rendered mugura as "goose-grass," but I now believe that its sense is more correctly conveyed as "weeds." See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1819

.わか草や北野参りの子ども講
wakakusa ya kitano mairi no kodomo kô

baby grass--
a troop of little pilgrims
visit Kitano

Kitano ("North Field") is a major shrine in Kyôto.

1822

.草蔓や向ふの竹へつひつひは
kusa tsuru ya mukau no take e tsui-tsui wa

grass and vines--
a steady march
toward the bamboo

1822

.わか草にべたりと寝たる袴哉
waka-gusa ni betari to netaru hakama kana

asleep in new grass
to his formal trousers
it clings

Gabi Greve notes that "Hakama is an outer garment worn over the kimono that is either split between the legs like pants or non-split like a skirt. Hakama pants originated as an outer garment to protect samurai warriors' legs from brush when riding a horse. Today, the hakama is worn as formal attire for ceremonies, traditional Japanese dance, artists and martial arts."

1822

.わかくてもでも葎とはしられけり
wakakute mo demo mugura to wa shirare keri

fresh green leaves
sprouting turn out to be...
weeds!

The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1823

.古郷は家根のわか草つみにけり
furusato wa yane no wakakusa tsumi ni keri

my home village--
picking baby grass
off the rooftops

1814

.愛想やのべの草さへ若盛り
aisô ya nobe no kusa sae waka-zakari

lovely--
even the meadow grasses
hit their peak young

Aisô or aiso denotes amiability, affability. These English equivalents sound too cold for this context; I hope that "lovely" expresses Issa's warm and tender feeling toward the young grasses.

1825

.若草をむざむざふむや泥わらじ
wakakusa wo muza-muza fumu ya doro waraji

recklessly stomping
the baby grass...
muddy straw sandals

1825

.わか草のさてもわかいわかいぞよ
waka-gusa no sate mo wakai wakai zo yo

the young grasses
after all
are, well, young!

Issa can think of no other word to express his feeling about the young spring grasses.

1826

.人つきの有や草ばもわか盛
hito tsuki no ari ya kusaba mo waka-zakari

some of them stick
to people, young grasses
at their peak

Literally, the grasses "hit their peak young" (waka-zakari).

Shinji Ogawa believes that hito tsuki no ari ya might mean that the grasses are having relations with someone (a human being). I wonder if Issa could be using tsuki in the sense of "attached to." In that case, perhaps the fast-maturing grasses have produced seeds that are sticking to people as they pass.

year unknown

.人つきや野原の草も若盛り
hito tsuki ya nohara no kusa mo waka-zakari

pricking people--
new grasses of the plain
are precocious!

year unknown

.若草で足拭ふなり這入口
wakakusa de ashi nuguu nari hairiguchi

wiping their feet
on the baby grass...
doorway

year unknown

.若草や今の小町が尻の跡
wakakusa ya ima no komachi ga shiri no ato

baby grass--
the stylish woman leaves
her butt print

Komachi is a beauty or a belle. In a haiku of 1813, the print is left in fallen blossoms:

chiru hana ya ima no komachi ga shiri no ato

fallen blossoms--
the stylish woman leaves
her butt print

1814

.餅になる草が青むぞ青むぞよ
mochi ni naru kusa ga aomu zo aomu zo yo

on their way to becoming
herb cakes
grasses turn green! green!

1822

.泥道やここを歩めと草青む
doro michi ya koko wo arume to kusa aomu

muddy road--
"Come walk on me!"
grass turning green

The new grasses are inviting, compared to the muddy road.

1825

.真丸に草青む也御堂前
manmaru ni kusa aomu nari midô mae

new green grass
makes a perfect circle...
facing the temple hall

The location is a Buddhist temple.

1810

.蒲公英も天窓剃たるせつく哉
tanpopo mo atama soritaru sekku kana

the dandelions too
have shaved heads...
festival day

Sekku is one of five annual festivals in Japan. With their "shaved heads" (atama soritaru) the dandelions that have lost their seeds resemble Buddhist priests.

1820

.我国は草も桜を咲にけり
waga kuni wa kusa mo sakura wo saki ni keri

my province--
even the grass blooms
cherry blossoms

This haiku has the prescript, "Primrose." Issa is punning in this haiku. In Japanese, primrose is sakurasô ("cherry blossom grass"). He seems proud of his native province, where even the "grass" produces "cherry blossoms."

year unknown

.我国は草さへさきぬさくら花
waga kuni wa kusa sae sakinu sakura kana

in my province
grass blooms too...
cherry blossoms

Bunmi Abraham writes, "Literally, he is comparing grass to blossoms, but symbolically the grass represents the ordinary people, and the cherry blossoms represent the rich nobles. Even though the nobility are important and rich, ordinary people are just as important."

This undated haiku is an alternate version of one that Issa wrote in 1820:

waga kuni wa kusa mo sakura wo saki ni keri

my province--
even the grass blooms
cherry blossoms

R. H. Blyth identifies the blooming grass in this haiku as "primroses," which he calls the people's flower, contrasting with the noble cherry blossoms; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.350, overleaf.

1819

.九輪草四五りん草で仕廻けり
kurinsô shi go rinsô de shimai keri

the nine-ring flower
blooms only four or five
then quits

In Oraga haru ("My Spring") Issa prefaces this haiku with a prose passage describing the short spring and summer in his snowy home village in the mountains of Shinano Province (present-day Nagano Prefecture). The flower is literally "nine-ring-grass" (kurinsô); "nine-ring" or kurin is the name of the peak ornament on pagodas, structures decorated with nine rings. In the haiku, Issa plays with numbers, noting wryly that the blooming season is so short in his town, the "nine ring" flower quits after blooming just four or five "rings" or blossoms.

Nobuyuki Yuasa indentifies the plant as a primrose; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1960; 2nd ed. 1972) 113.

1788

.淋しさはどちら向ても菫かな
sabishisa wa dochira muite mo sumire kana

solitude--
whichever way I turn...
violets!

Shinji Ogawa comments, "In this haiku, the violets are not the source of comfort but the cause of the loneliness." In my original translation I assumed the opposite.

This haiku has the prescript, "Goyu." Goyu was one of the fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto. This haiku appears in the anthology, Fifty-three Post Towns; Makoto Ueda, Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 14.

1804

.女衆に追ぬかれけり菫原
onna shu ni oinukare keri sumire-bara

a group of women
overtake me...
field of violets

Do the women pass Issa because he has slowed down to look at the violets? Or, are they rushing past him to pick the violets? The reader must decide.

1804

.菫咲門や夜さへなつかしき
sumire saku kado ya yoru sae natsukashiki

violets on the gate--
even at night
sweet nostalgia

Natsukashiki has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia.

1804

.花菫便ない草もほじらるる
hana sumire bin nai kusa mo hojiraruru

blooming violets--
some worthless grass
dug up too

1804

.我前に誰々住し菫ぞも
waga mae ni dare dare sumishi sumire zo mo

before me
who also lived here
with these violets?

Issa composed this haiku on the 17th day of First Month, 1804, a rainy day, according to his journal. He was living at the time in Edo, today's Tokyo. The violets endure while human generations come and go. Issa wonders about the previous tenants of his rented house; did they, too, gaze out the window on rainy days, looking at the violets? He doesn't know who they were, and they can never know him, but they share a warm connection: the flowers.

1806

.薄菫是にも月のやどる也
usu sumire kore ni mo tsuki no yadoru nari

straggly violets--
here, too
the moon's dwelling

1808

.凡に三百年の菫かな
ôyoso ni san-byaku nen no sumire kana

in round numbers
about three hundred years...
violets

Issa reveals in a headnote that this haiku was written at Hongyôji, a Buddhist temple in Edo (the Nishi Nippori neighborhood of today's Tokyo), where he had gone to pay his respects at a grave. Normally, flowers appear in haiku as emblems of Buddhist transience: here today, gone tomorrow. In this haiku, however, Issa and all the human beings who have enjoyed these violets over the centuries appear as the ephemeral ones. Generations of flower-watchers come and go, but the flowers remain.

1810

.うす菫桜の春はなく成ぬ
usu sumire sakura no haru wa nakinarinu

straggly violets--
the cherry blossom spring
has passed

In a similar haiku, written the same year (1810), the "camellia spring" (tsubaki no haru) has passed.

1810

.きりぎりすけふや生れん菫さく
kirigirisu kyô ya umaren sumire saku

the katydid
born just today...
blooming violets

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1810

.住吉の隅に菫の都哉
sumiyoshi no sumi ni sumire no miyako kana

in a Sumiyoshi nook
violets have
their capital

Note the sound-play in Issa's original text, sumi being repeated three times. Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka.

Compare this to a haiku of the previous year (1809):

sumiyoshi no sumi no kosumi no sakura kana

in a Sumiyoshi nook
blooming
cherry blossoms

1810

.にくまれし妹が菫は咲にけり
nikumareshi imo ga sumire wa saki ni keri

his detested wife's
violets...
all have bloomed

Or: "my detested wife's..."

Imo ("little sister") means, in literary usage, "my wife," Shinji Ogawa observes. Since Issa married for the first time in 1814, four years after this haiku, I have translated it without the "my." Shinji suspects that this haiku has a literary echo. In an old waka verse of the twelfth century, quoted by Kenkô in the fourteenth centrury, a lover痴 neglected garden has nothing but violets among weeds.

1810

.花菫椿の春はなくなるぞ
hana sumire tsubaki no haru wa nakunaru zo

violets blooming--
the camellia spring
has passed

In a similar haiku, written the same year (1810), the "cherry blossom spring" (sakura no haru) has passed.

1810

.水上は皆菫かよ角田川
minakami wa mina sumire ka yo sumida-gawa

do your headwaters horde
all the violets?
Sumida River

Issa plays with mina in this haiku: minakami ("headwater") and mina ("all").

1810

.草餅とともどもそよぐ菫哉
kusa mochi to tomo-domo soyogu sumire kana

herb cake herbs
join in the rustling
violets

1813

.大鶴の大事に歩く菫哉
ôtsuru no daiji ni aruku sumire kana

the big crane walks
with great importance...
violets

1813

.菫咲川をとび越す美人哉
sumire saku kawa wo tobi-kosu bijin kana

hopping over the river
of blooming violets...
pretty woman

I picture the violets blooming in a field in a river-like shape. A pretty woman, dressed to the nines in a kimono, jumps over it.

1814

.臼と盥の間より菫かな
usu to tarai no aida yori sumire kana

from the rice cake tub
from the basin...
violets

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

1818

.狗の鼻で尋る菫哉
enokoro no hana de tazunuru sumire kana

using his nose
the puppy searches
the violets

1818

.是からは庵の領とて菫哉
kore kara wa io no ryô tote sumire kana

"From here on in
the hut's our territory!"
violets

Shinji Ogawa notes two ways of interpretating this haiku: "from this point on/ my hut's territory.../ [I planted] violets," and: "it's our time [it's spring]/ it's our hut's territory [it's our territory]/ [thus claim] the violets."

He prefers the second reading since, in Issa's day, violets were just wild flowers, not likely to be planted in a garden. In the second interpretation, "our hut's territory" seems an odd phrase for violets to use, but it is certainly in keeping with Issa's fondness for personification, which "makes it less unnatural."

1818

.鼻紙を敷て居れば菫哉
hanagami wo Shiite suwareba sumire kana

spreading tissue paper
sitting down...
violets

1821

.小坊主が転げくらする菫哉
ko bôzu ga koroge kurasuru sumire kana

the little boy
tumbling all day...
violets

Just as the expression kozô ("little priest") can be taken literally or to mean any little boy, the "little priest" (ko bôzu) in this haiku might signify not only a Buddhist acolyte but any small, smooth-headed boy.

1822

.うすくともはやいが勝と菫哉
usuku tomo hayai ga kachi to sumire kana

though straggly
soon they conquer all...
violets

1824

.世にそまばこくも薄くも菫哉
yo [ni] somaba koku mo usuku mo sumire kana

coloring the world
lushly, straggly
violets too

1805

.田芹摘み鶴に拙く思れな
ta seri tsumi tsuru ni tsutanaku omoware na

parsley pickers--
don't let the crane
think you're clumsy!

This haiku sounds quite musical in Japanese, with its alliteration (...tsumi tsuru ni tsutanaku...). Shinji Ogawa helped me understand Issa's grammar and, therefore, his point. Issa fancies that the crane is watching the parsley pickers with a critical eye, and so the poet addresses the pickers, cajoling them to do their job with more grace.

1798

.なの花に四ッのなる迄朝茶かな
na no hana ni yotsu no naru made asa cha kana

amid mustard flowers
till the ten o'clock bell...
morning tea

Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

Shinji Ogawa notes that morning's "fourth bell" (yotsu no naru) corresponds roughly to ten o'clock in the morning. He adds, "The temple bells were utilized to tell the time. In reality, no temple has a clock. The determination of the hour was, I think, at the mercy of the apprentice-monk's judgment."

year unknown

.なの花にだらだら下りの日暮哉
na no hana ni dara-dara ori no higure kana

in flowering mustard
step by step sinking...
sun

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

1805

.菜の花も一ッ夜明やよしの山
na no hana mo hitotsu yoake ya yoshino yama

one more dawn
for the flowering mustard...
Yoshino Hill

Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

1816

.小菜の花いかなる鬼もつみ残す
ona no hana ikanaru oni mo tsumi nokosu

little mustard flowers
what devil
plucked so many?

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning with the word tsumi ("to pick" or "to si