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tôyama ga medama ni utsuru tombo kana

the distant mountain
reflected in his eyes...

Issa sees a vast mountain (or mountains) miniaturized in the tiny bubble-eyes of the dragonfly. Just as his English contemporary, William Blake, glimpsed a universe in a grain of sand, Issa perceives the great in the small: a mountain in the twin mirrors of an insect's mirror eyes. The power of this image cannot be fully explained; with it, the poet coaxes the reader into a deep contemplation of the nature, and interconnectedness, of all things.

Kai Falkman cites this poem to exemplify shift in perspective in haiku; see Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 46.

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