IN THE WATER JUG

A verse by Shiki as a 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.

It is primarily a visual verse that gives us a very harmonious watery feeling.  Water in the jug, water in the rain falling steadily, and the frog connecting them both.

You have probably noticed that in hokku — whether as daoku or shinku — we do not follow any strict syllabic count.  That fits English much better than trying to manipulate it to the very different structure of old Japanese hokku.  It also prevents needless “padding” to fill out a line when composing.  Many old Japanese hokku had a perfunctory kana at the end — a word which frequently seems added only to fill out the standard number of phonetic units (seventeen in Japanese).  Shiki often did that, but fortunately it did not happen in this verse.

There is something very refreshing about rain in May.  It has a feeling quite different than that of rain in autumn or in winter.

 

David

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