NIGHT WATER

A summer hokku by Issa:

Suzushisa ya yo mizu no kakaru ido no oto
涼    しさ  や  夜   水    の かかる 井戸の  音
Coolness ya night water ‘s pour well ‘s sound.

Coolness;
By night the sound of water
Pouring into the well.

It is a bit vague about the water, however, so R. H. Blyth added admirable clarity in his translation:

The coolness
Of the sound of water at night
Falling back into the well.

But we can simplify it by restoring the pause that should be there in hokku (the ya in Japanese — here the punctuation separating the two parts in daoku) while keeping that clarity:

Coolness;
The sound of water at night
Falling back into the well.

It is an old-fashioned well with a well bucket.  When the bucket full of water is pulled up, some of it spills over and falls back into the dark depths of the well.  The sound of that water falling into the unseen water below, combined with the surrounding darkness of the summer night, gives a deep sense of coolness.

From a Yin-Yang perspective, we have the yin of the falling water reflected in the yin of the night — and vice versa.  Coolness is yin, water is yin, night is yin — and that is why in the heat of summer, this is a very refreshing daoku (objective hokku) in English.

 

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