QUACKING IN ENGLISH

A  summer hokku by Kikaku, which makes a daoku (objective hokku) in English:

Yūdachi ya ie wo megurite naku ahiru
夕立      や 家 を  めぐりて  く あひる
Sudden-shower ya house wo circle crying ducks

A sudden shower;
The ducks run quacking
Around the house.

It is a very simple, almost childlike verse, but effective nonetheless, because we feel the effect of the sudden rain in the startled excitement of the ducks, expressed in their equally sudden running and quacking around the house.

We could describe this as a verse of the common setting/subject/action format, which works well in a great many daoku:

Setting:  A sudden shower
Subject:  The ducks
Action:  Run quacking around the house

Of course this is just a handy formula we can use in writing new verses, and it is a good tool if we do not apply it too strictly.  As we see in this verse, there is really action not only in the running and quacking of the ducks, but also in the sudden shower.

You may recall that action is often very helpful in hokku, giving life to what otherwise might be just a still “illustration.”  So keep in mind while composing that if a verse seems too passive and dull, it is often because it lacks something moving or changing.

Also, keep in mind the importance of the pause that separates the two parts of the daoku.  In the Japanese original of this verse it is indicated by the particle ya.  In our daoku translation, it is indicated by the semicolon after shower:

A sudden shower;

That gives us the meditative pause so essential to the verse.

And of course it is easy to see why this hokku by Kikaku makes a daoku (objective hokku) in English.  There is no “thinking” added to it by the writer, no added commentary or interpretation.  Kikaku just presents the event, and lets us experience the sudden shower, and the excited running and quacking of the ducks.

It is worth mentioning that in some respects, the English language is more expressive than the Japanese in the writing of hokku.  An example is the word naku used in Kikaku’s verse.  It can be used for everything from the croaking of frogs to the singing of birds to the crow of a rooster.  But English is much more specific in distinguishing the various cries, which is why we can onomatopoetically speak of the “quacking” of the ducks, in imitation of the sound they make.

 

David

 

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.