Forum / informal affinity (self-)survey

  • Photo_00020.thumb
    Mar 05, 10:39pm

    In an earlier post I alerted folks to a fine collection of translated verse, Japanese Death Poems, ed. and tr. by Yoel Hoffmann (Tuttle, 1986).

    The collection perhaps holds the separate virtue of including the jisei (death poem, here, death haiku) of three of Japan's notable haiku masters.

    Following are the jisei provided for the three (Issa has two attributions, take your pick). The idea I pose here is: see if one resonates for you far more than the other two. (I am not soliciting here for posted responses, although if anyone cares to share, feel free to do so.)

    Me myself: Buson's has more draw than the others, seems somehow more resigned or coincidental to the experience of dying, from this side.

    (I have emended Hoffman's perfectly good translations here and there.)

    JISEI of:


    on a journey, ill:
    my dream goes wandering off
    over withered fields.


    in these recent nights
    when dawn breaks, the darkness blooms
    into plum blossoms.


    so what if I live?
    a muddy tortoise can live
    a hundred times more


    poured from one basin
    into one wet other one--
    all stuff and nonsense.

  • Monster_and_flower_unnamed.thumb
    Sam Rasnake
    Mar 08, 10:10pm

    My thought - when in doubt, always Buson. Here a few translations I have - and you'll note the different selection of Issa's death poem by Hass:


    Sick on my journey,
    only my dreams will wander
    these desolate moors

    [Trans. Sam Hamill]

    Sick on a journey,
    my dreams wander
    the withered fields.

    [Trans. Robert Hass]

    on a journey, ill,
    dreams scouring on
    through exhausted fields

    [Trans. Jane Hirshfield & Mariko Aratani]

    Falling ill on a journey, my dreams run around a withered field

    [Trans. by Hiroaki Sato & Burton Watson]



    In the white plum blossoms
    night to next day
    just turning

    [Trans. Robert Hass]

    Pure white plum blossoms
    slowly begin to turn
    the color of dawn

    [Trans. Sam Hamill]

    For white plum blossoms, time has come for the day to break

    [Trans. by Hiroaki Sato & Burton Watson]

    The night almost past,
    through the white plum blossoms
    a glimpse of dawn.

    [Trans. Dave Bonta]



    A bath when you’re born,
    a bath when you die,
    how stupid.

    [Death poem, according to Robert Hass, trans.]

  • Photo_00020.thumb
    Mar 09, 03:33pm


    Many thanks for these fine additional translations, which help show how large a perspective haiku can accommodate. (Hass's take on Issa's jisei is well informed and economical.)

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