MEMORIAL DAY

When this verse by Issa was written it was an autumn hokku.  In the United States, however, it is a verse for the end of May — for Memorial Day, which used to be called “Decoration Day”:

There is no improving on Blyth’s translation, even though he reversed the order of the original:

Visiting the graves;
The old dog
Leads the way.

Because the dog is old, he is in harmony with the graves of people of the past.  And again because he is old, he has been to this cemetery before, and knows the way.  It shows us too how the dog is part of the family — and so is related, we may say, to those whose graves are being visited.

Presented (in America) as a spring verse, this hokku would also have a harmony of opposites — the freshness of the end of the month of May, but with it old remembrance of things and people past — and a memorial visit to their graves.

David

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