Leaves of the Copper Beechen (Fagus sylvatica)...

A pleasant hokku for the early part of autumn is this by Suiō, in spite of its unconventional arrangement.

The autumn night;
Dreams and snores
And grasshoppers chirring.

It is evocative of the warm, drowsy, earlier part of autumn, when the warmth of summer is not entirely gone, and the world has begun to turn russet and gold and brown and the leaves have slowly begun to fall.

The dreams reflect the transience of life, which is felt more strongly as autumn begins, and the sleep in which they come reflects the beginning of a period of hibernation and return to the root.  And the regularity of the snores of the sleeper (-s) is reflected in the chirring of the grasshoppers.  I have talked more about the importance of the principle of reflection in hokku in earlier postings.

This verse is very good for showing how the subject matter of hokku is Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature — as part of the annual cycle along with everything else.

Just a note on translation.  I actually prefer the hokku in English, which is a bit more clear than the original Japanese, which says simply:

The autumn night;
Dreams and snores
And grasshoppers.

The Japanese writers of hokku often made things just a bit too vague for English-language taste, because there was such a tradition of making strong intuitive leaps from minimal information to the wider, unstated implications.  But in English we do not have that strong tradition.  And though we are quite capable of making intuitive leaps, we like things spelled out a bit more clearly — which in the case of this hokku is a distinct advantage.

It is true in general that English is a far more precise language than the rather archaic, clipped literary language used in old hokku.  As I have said before, some old hokku were so vague in the paucity of information given that to this day no one is entirely sure what the writer intended.  In our contemporary hokku tradition, that is considered merely bad writing, because for a hokku to be most effective, one should be able to grasp it immediately and without confusion.





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