Thursday, February 24, 2011

early spring

     With white plum blossoms
these nights to the faint light of dawn
     are turning.

(Shiraume ni akuru yo bakari to nari ni keri.)

The poem is by Buson, an eighteenth century Japanese poet and painter.  (The translation is by Edith Shiffert, in a book by Robert Hass, Twentieth Century Pleasures.)

We have more snow, and more snow will come tonight.  Still, any moment, we will see a bloom outside.  And seeing the bloom will fix a moment amid the turning from winter to spring.  The poem above is Buson's last poem.  He dictated it to his friend Gekkei, then fell asleep and died before morning.  "That one," he is said to have murmured, "should have a title, "Early Spring.'"

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