FIFTH-MONTH RAINS

Sampū (1647-1732) composed this summer verse:

Samidare ni kawazu no oyogu toguchi kana
五 月  雨  に      蛙      の およぐ  戸口        哉
Fifth moon rain at frog ‘s swimming door kana

In the May rains,
Frogs are swimming
Right at the door.

This verse emphasizes the heaviness of the summer rain, which overspills the ponds and brings frogs swimming right up to the door.  It is a very watery-feeling verse.

Though the Fifth month/moon would be May in the modern calendar, by the old Japanese calendar it extended into June — which was a time of heavy summer rains in Japan — so one could translate the first line “In the June rains,” or even “In the summer rains.”

In the Pacific Northwest where I live, this verse is more appropriate for May, and currently we are having intermittent showers from day to day — some of them quite heavy.  It makes the vegetation grow very lush.

Blyth appropriately connects this verse with another and quite good example by Shiki (1867-1902) that we have already seen (in my translation) — both of them daoku in English):

Mizu-game ni kawazu uku nari satsukiame
水       がめ  に    蛙      うく なり  五  月   雨
water jug   at    frog   floating is  fifth moon rain

In the water jug,
A frog is floating;
The rains of May.

This feeling of “water, water, everywhere” — and with it, frogs — has somewhat the feeling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s child’s verse:

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

Notice that in both “Fifth month rain” verses, we find only complete objectivity.  There is no “thinking,” by the writers added, no commentary, no interpretation.  That is pure daoku (objective hokku).

That objectivity — as well as the close connection with Nature — has often disappeared entirely in many verses produced by the modern haiku movement, which has chosen to go a different way.  In my view, much was lost by that choice

David

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