WHITE DEW

Buson wrote this autumn hokku:

White dew —
A drop on each thorn
Of the bramble.

It is very simple.  There are only two elements — the dew and the bramble, but notice how they are presented.  A single drop hangs from each of the thorns on a branch of the bramble.  We see its cold transparence in the light of morning — the yin softness of water, the yang hardness of the bramble thorns.  One element is very transitory — soon gone when the sun rises higher — the other more permanent, but still as transient on its own time scale.

It is a good idea to have something that moves or changes in hokku.  Generally we see things that do so obviously — a branch moving in the wind, a fish swimming through the water.  But in this hokku the movement is only implied, and very subtle — the temporary nature of the dew, the knowledge not only that at any moment one of those drops could fall from a thorn, but that the dew itself will likely only last the morning.

Buson sometimes tended to spoil his hokku by making them too artificial, too contrived from literary sources, or too obviously intended to impress.  He was both a painter and a writer, and his writing is often influenced by his painting.  But in this hokku it is the simplicity and faithfulness to Nature that saves him.

David

 

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