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hatsu yuki wo kataki no yô ni soshiru kana

first snowfall--
like my worst enemy
damn you!

Or: "his worst enemy"; Issas doesn't specify the person. The haiku might be paraphrased: "Like it's a foe [I] slander/censure the year's first snow." The haiku is comic...and ironic: whereas other poets might look forward to the year's first snow, for Issa it is an implacable enemy. Shinji Ogawa writes, "Issa had a good reason to curse the first snow, because from now on he was going to spend the winter season in the snow country of Shinano." Issa returned to live in his native province of Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture) that year (1813).

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All translations © 1991-2010 by David G. Lanoue, rights reserved.