THREE VIEWS OF CHERRY BLOSSOMS

There is a famous spring hokku by Bashō:

Cherry blossoms (sakura), often simply called ...

Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A cloud of blossoms —
Is the bell Ueno?
Asakusa?

Through a cloud of blooming cherry trees, the writer hears the sound of a distant, unseen temple bell.  He wonders if it is coming from a temple in Ueno district?  Or perhaps that in Asakusa?
The point of the hokku lies in the “concealing” mass of fresh spring blossoms combined with the unanswered question.

In contrast to that rather “high-class” hokku, there is an anonymous “low-class” senryu.  You will recall that senryu is satirical verse, the “evil twin” of hokku, and no respecter of persons.  So you will not surprised to find that the same expression used elegantly by Bashō — “a cloud of blossoms” (hana no kumo) — is used for a different “concealing”  purpose here:

To hide
The public restroom —
A cloud of blossoms.

There is also another interesting senryu about cherry blossoms, which I translate loosely here:

The clever wife —
She makes him take the child
To view the blossoms.

The point is that the wife does not trust her husband out by himself, so when he casually remarks that he is going to view the cherry blossoms, she uses her wits and makes him take the kid along, to keep the untrustworthy husband out of “not respectable” establishments.

You may recall that in old hokku, the word “blossoms,” when used without a qualifier, was understood to mean cherry blossoms.

 

David

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