Harusame ya neko ni odori wo oshieru ko
Spring rain ya cat with dance wo teaches child
The little girl teaches the cat
The little girl, unable to go out and play, has inflicted herself on the cat, which struggles to get away as she holds him up by his forelegs, moving them to and fro and pulling the struggling cat along in time to the rhythmic melody she sings.
Blyth has an appropriate comment about this. He says of the spring rain that forms the setting of this hokku,
“It falls in the gusts round the verandah, as thoughtlessly, as heartlessly as the child and the kitten.”
Most people reading this hokku for the first time mistakenly see it as “cute.” That is not the feeling of the cat, and much of Issa’s verse has this underlying sense of the pain of life expressed through creatures other than human.