Space-Time Haiku of Buson

Buson, self-portrait

Buson  1716-1784

Buson was born in the Taniguchi family in Settsu Province, and later changed to the surname of Yosa, for the town in Tango Province. He advocated a return to the style of Bashō. He left many haiku and paintings. His vision sweeps over vast realms of space and time. The material here was again inspired by Nakano Koji, translated by Julia Winters Carpenter, in the book, Words to Live By, 2018.

Haiku of Space

Buson’s poetic imagination evokes the expansiveness of space. After a boat trip down the Yodo River in the freezing night, Buson wrote the following, highlighting the moon and the frost and himself in a small boat.

shimo hyakuri

shūchū ni ware

tsuki o ryosu

Frost for a hundred leagues —

alone in my boat

I rule the moon.    

The peony, too, appears in a poem of a hundred leagues of space.

hōhyakuri

amagumo yosenu

botamu kana

For a hundred leagues square

holding rainclouds at bay —

the peony.

As Mr. Nakano states: “The peony has the power to hold rainclouds at bay for a hundred leages in all directions.” This haiku requires us to translate the word, yosenu. Dictionary meanings for the verb 寄(よせる) are many. They vary from “to bring near” to “to push away.” Here, Nakano takes the latter meaning. Again, Buson uses the imagery of a hundred leagues of space and a small peony flower. 

Another simple, yet dramatic, scene is this haiku tagged “Spring scenery”.

na no hana ya

tsuki wa higashi ni

hi wa nishi ni

Rape flowers—

the moon in the east,

the sun in the west.

Haiku of Time

Nakano aptly calls these haiku “Layers of Time.” He points out that, in addition to his view of space, Buson expresses an ability to see the passage of time. Let us consider some of the seasonal poems.

Spring

osoki hi no

tsumorite tōki

mukashi kana

Lazy spring days

piling up — so far away,

the past. 

In the lazy days of spring, the past seems far away. And yet —

kinō kure

kyō mata kurete

yuku haru ya

Yesterday ended,

today is also ending —

so goes the spring.

Summer

natsukawa o

kosu ureshisa yo

te ni zōri

The joy of wading

across a summer stream

sandals in hand.

Buson thus wrote of the pleasure of wading in a cool stream in the hot summer of Tamba.

Autumn

去年より又さびしひぞ秋の暮
kyonen yori mata sabishii zo aki no kure

kyonen yori

mata sabishii zo

aki no kure

Lonelier

than last year —

the end of autumn.

This haiku evokes memory of Bashō’s kono michi ya / yuku hito nashi ni / aki no kure.

Winter

こがらしや岩に裂行水の聲
kogarashi ya iwa ni sake yuku mizu no koe

Cold wintry wind —
Breaking over rocks
The voice of water.

—– Takafumi Saito and William R. Nelson,
trans., 1020 Haiku in Translation (2006)
956, 249; from Upaya.org.

初雪の底を叩ば竹の月
hatsuyuki no soko wo tatakeba take no tsuki

Ed. Note: This is such a magnificent haiku that we leave it to you to interpret for yourself. Hatsuyuki means first snow; soko is bottom; tataku is to beat; take is bamboo; tsuki is moon.

Drama

Buson’s range of haiku includes this exciting scene.

Tobadono e

gorokki isogu

nowaki kana

To Toba Palace

race five or six horsemen —

autumn tempest.

These horsemen are riding furiously through the storm to the villa of the retired emperor Shirakawa near Kyoto. This historical scenario would have taken place during Shirakawa’s lifetime, 1053-1129, six hundred years earlier.

Paintings

Buson left many paints from simple sketches to grand vistas in the Chinese style. Here is a painting commemorating Basho’s journey to Michinoku.

Okunohosomichi by Buson
(public domain image)

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