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Ancient Haiku

These are translations of some of the oldest Japanese waka, which evolved into tanka, renga and haiku. While you decline to cry, high on the mountainside a single stalk of plumegrass wilts. —O no Yasumaro (circa 711), translation by Michael R. Burch Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make! Heaven's indignant messengers, you remind me of wordsmiths! —O no Yasumaro, translation by Michael R. Burch Onyx, this gem-black night. Downcast, I await your return like the rising sun, unrivaled in splendor. —O no Yasumaro, translation by Michael R. Burch Watching wan moonlight illuminate bare tree limbs, my heart also brims, overflowing with autumn. —Ono no Komachi (c. 825-900), translation by Michael R. Burch As I slept in isolation my desired beloved appeared to me; therefore, dreams have become my reality and consolation. —Ono no Komachi, translation by Michael R. Burch Submit to you — is that what you advise? The way the ripples do whenever ill winds arise? —Ono no Komachi, translation by Michael R. Burch I had thought to pluck the flower of forgetfulness only to find it already blossoming in his heart. —Ono no Komachi, translation by Michael R. Burch Sad, the end that awaits me: to think that before autumn yields I'll be a pale mist shrouding these rice fields. —Ono no Komachi, translation by Michael R. Burch If fields of autumn flowers can shed their blossoms, shameless, why can't I also frolic here, as fearless and as blameless? —Ono no Komachi, translation by Michael R. Burch So cruelly severed, a root-cut reed... if the river offered, why not be freed? —Ono no Komachi, translation by Michael R. Burch This world? Moonlit dew flicked from a crane’s bill —Eihei Dogen Kigen(1200-1253), translation by Michael R. Burch Snow-obscured heights, mist-shrouded slopes: this spring evening —Ilio Sogi (1421-1502), translation by Michael R. Burch Soundlessly they go, the herons passing by: arrows of snow filling the sky —Yamazaki Sokan (1464-1552), translation by Michael R. Burch O, fluttering moon, if only we could hang a handle on you, what a fan you would be! —Yamazaki Sokan, translation by Michael R. Burch Has an orphaned blossom somehow returned to its bough? No, a solitary butterfly! —Arakida Moritake (1472-1549), translation by Michael R. Burch Life: a solitary butterfly swaying unsteadily on a slender grass-stalk, nothing more. But ah! so exquisite! —Nishiyama Soin (1605-1682), translation by Michael R. Burch The hushed sound of the scarecrow falling gently to the ground! —Nozawa Boncho (1640-1714), translation by Michael R. Burch When no wind at all ruffles the Kiri tree leaves fall of their own will —Nozawa Boncho, translation by Michael R. Burch The butterfly perfuming its wings fans the orchid —Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), translation by Michael R. Burch Winter in the air: my neighbor, how does he fare? —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch The first soft snow: leaves of the awed jonquil bow low —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch Lightning shatters the darkness: the night heron's shriek —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch This snowy morning: cries of the crow I despise (ah, but so beautiful!) —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch The cheerful-chirping cricket contends gray autumn's gay, contemptuous of frost —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch An ancient pond, the frog leaps: the silver plop and gurgle of water —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch Come, investigate loneliness! a solitary leaf clings to the Kiri tree —Matsuo Basho, translation by Michael R. Burch Motionless spring mist: mid-afternoon lethargy —Kyorai Mukai (1651-1704), translation by Michael R. Burch My eyes, having observed all sums, returned to the white chrysanthemums —Kosugi Issho (1652-1688), translation by Michael R. Burch The childless woman, how tenderly she caresses homeless dolls... —Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707), translation by Michael R. Burch Disdaining grass, the firefly nibbles nettles— this is who I am. —Takarai Kikaku (1661-1707), translation by Michael R. Burch These useless dreams, alas! Over fields of wilted grass winds whisper as they pass. —Uejima Onitsura (1661-1738), translation by Michael R. Burch Observe: see how the wild violets bloom within the forbidden fences! —Shida Yaba (1663-1740), translation by Michael R. Burch A white swan parts the cherry-petalled pond with her motionless breast —Roka (1671-1703), translation by Michael R. Burch Ah butterfly, what dreams do you ply with your beautiful wings? —Fukuda Chiyo-ni (1703-1775), translation by Michael R. Burch Because morning glories hold my well-bucket hostage I go begging for water —Fukuda Chiyo-ni, translation by Michael R. Burch Our life here on earth: shall we compare it to a rowboat departing at daybreak, leaving no trace of us in its wake? —Yosa Buson, translation by Michael R. Burch A kite floats at the same place in the sky where yesterday it floated... —Yosa Buson, translation by Michael R. Burch Picking autumn plums my wrinkled hands once again grow fragrant —Yosa Buson, translation by Michael R. Burch All evening the softest sound— the cadence of the white camellia petals falling —Ranko Takakuwa, translation by Michael R. Burch Stillness: the sound of petals drifting down softly together... —Miura Chora (1729-1780) translation by Michael R. Burch Standing unsteadily, I am the scarecrow’s skinny surrogate —Kobayashi Issa, translation by Michael R. Burch Petals I amass with such tenderness prick me to the quick —Kobayashi Issa, translation by Michael R. Burch This world of dew is a world of dew indeed; and yet... —Kobayashi Issa, translation by Michael R. Burch I'm trying to sleep! Please swat the flies lightly —Masaoka Shiki, translation by Michael R. Burch Grasses wilt: the braking locomotive grinds to a halt. —Yamaguchi Seishi, translation by Michael R. Burch Keywords/Tags: Japanese, haiku, waka, tanka, renga, nature, seasons

Copyright © | Year Posted 2020




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Date: 1/12/2020 1:56:00 PM
Hello Michael Burch, All these forms you have written are just beautifully done. Each one is special to me. have a nice day my friend.
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Darlene De Beaulieu
Date: 1/13/2020 2:27:00 PM
Hello Michael Burch,Yes i have enjoyed this poem. you are very welcomed. have a nice day my friend.
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Michael Burch
Date: 1/12/2020 3:25:00 PM
Hello Darlene. I'm glad you like my translations of the Oriental masters, and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
Date: 1/12/2020 6:22:00 AM
These translations are beautifully expressed, Michael. My favorites are those about the herons, swans, and morning glories.
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Michael Burch
Date: 1/12/2020 3:25:00 PM
Thanks, I'm glad you liked them!
Date: 1/12/2020 3:47:00 AM
Life: a solitary butterfly.... swaying unsteadily on a slender grass-stalk,... nothing more. But ah! so exquisite!.. Some of your translations are quite beautiful.. Thanks for sharing..
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Michael Burch
Date: 1/12/2020 3:28:00 PM
That is a wonderful metaphor, all kudos to the original poet. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.