Haiku by Buson

From far and near,
Hearing the sounds of waterfalls,
Young leaves
[1]

をちこちに滝の音聞く若葉哉
ochikochi ni taki no oto kiku wakaba kana

12 1/4″ W x 43″ H Japanese Scroll
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

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H3019 Haiku by Buson – From far and near …
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

From far and near,
Hearing the sounds of waterfalls,
Young leaves
[1]

ochikochi ni
taki no oto kiku
wakaba kana
をちこちに
滝の音聞く
若葉哉
Buson蕪村

Buson paints an amazing scene of early spring where one is surrounded by the sound of waterfalls (rapids) but only sees the fresh new leaves. Clearly Miyamori [2] took this approach in his translation. On the other hand, because of the ambiguity in the original Japanese one could conclude that no one was there to witness the scene and it was the young leaves themselves listening to the waterfalls! Blyth takes this approach in his translation. [3]

Asataro Miyamori suggests the translation:

Hark! waterfalls are heard,
here and there, through young leaves.
[2]

Blyth suggests the translation:

Listening to waterfalls
from here and there:
The young leaves!
[3]

Nelson and Saito suggest the translation:

Far and near
The sound of waterfalls I hear –
Young leaves.
[4]

Calligraphy Notes:

1) Ochikochi in modern Japanese is most commonly written in hiragana as おちこち. One also sees it in kanji as 遠近 (which combine the kanji for “far” and “near”). In these designs we stay with an archaic form which uses the hiragana を (normally read “wo“) instead of the modern お (read “o“) so it is をちこち. While written differently, both are read “ochikochi“.

2) The final “kana” can be written either in hiragana as かな or in kanji as 哉. The meaning is the same.

Translation Notes:

をちこちに
滝の音聞く
若葉哉

1) をちこち (ochikochi) – “distance; far and near; here and there”.

2) (ni) – this is a Japanese part of speech indicating location.

Harold G. Henderson explains ni as, “A preposition with many uses (at, in, to, by, for, etc.). These are usually indicated sufficiently in the literal translations. It is, however, important to realize that when ni is used after words indicating places, there is no action at that place”. [7]

3) (taki) – “waterfall; rapids”

4) (no) – “indicates possessive”. In this case, acts like a “‘s” making this “waterfall’s” or “waterfalls'”.

5) (oto) – “sound; noise” or “sounds; noises”

Thus 滝の音 (taki no oto) is “Waterfalls’ sound” or “sound of waterfalls”.

6) 聞く (kiku) – to hear; to listen

7) 若葉 (wakaba) – new leaves; fresh verdue

8) (kana) – how!; what!; alas!

According to Harold G. Henderson kana is, “A special kireji used to mark the end of a haiku. It has an undefinable emotional effect, sometimes like that of a soft sigh, more often that of a preceding ‘Ah!’ or ‘Oh!’ It usually follows a noun that the first part of the poem has described. As normal Japanese sentences end with a verb, kana may be considered as in a sense substituting for it.” [5]

In her delightful book, “The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan”, Ms. Friedman writes:

“Kireji are easy to grasp, she [Momoko] said. These words have no concrete meaning but are sounds that can add emphasis or alter the rhythm of a poem. The most common cut-words are the sounds keri, kana, and ya, although there are many others, too.

Sometimes I would find kireji translated to English as a dash, an exclamation point, or a comma. Some translators insert the exclamation ‘Ah’ or ‘Oh!’ in the place of a kireji. A common phrase in Japanese haiku, for example, is samusakana or “the cold kana.” By tacking kana on to the end, the word “cold” lasts for a full five syllables, or the duration of one line in a five-seven-five haiku.” [6]

In this same sense then “wakaba kana” makes the word “young leaves” last for the full five syllables of the final line of the haiku.

References:

[1] Translation by Timothy L. Jackowski, Takase Studios, LLC.

[2] Miyamori, Asataro. (1932). Anthology of Haiku Ancient and Modern. Maruzen. Tokyo. 496.

[3] Blyth, R. H. (1963). A History of Haiku Vol. 1 : From the Beginning up to Issa. Tokyo. The Hokuseido Press. 245.

[4] Nelson, William. Saito, Takafumi. (2006). 1020 Haiku in Translation: The Heart of Basho, Buson and Issa. South Carolina. BookSurge Publishing. 116.

[5] Henderson, Harold G. (1958). An Introduction to Haiku. New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 188.

[6] Friedman, Abigail. (2006). The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan. Berkeley, California. Stone Bridge Press.

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