GIJŌEN’S CICADA

Well, by the Hokku Calendar we are in summer now. Coincidentally, someone just forwarded a question to me about a verse found in loose translation in the old Peter Pauper books that some may remember from the middle of the last century (if you were even alive in the last century). There it is mistakenly attributed to a “Gijoens.” But the name of the writer was actually Gijōen. And being a hokku about cicadas, it is of course a summer verse — though a bit farther into summer than we are now.

In the forwarded message, the person had asked for the original Japanese. Well, as you know, now I like to concentrate on hokku in English here most of the time, but given that the inquirer could not locate the original, perhaps others might be curious as well, so here it is:

Matsuyani wo hanare kanete ya semi no koe

Pine-pitch wo get-away-cannot ya cicada’s voice

松脂をはなれかねてや せみ の 聲

Here is my rendering:

Unable
To escape the pine pitch;
The cicada’s cry.

In the Japanese summer, the cries of cicadas can be very loud and noisy and persistent — a kind of constant background drone.

Not a very cheerful hokku — but there it is.

David

One thought on “GIJŌEN’S CICADA

  1. Juanito Escareal

    I visited the Great Buddha, an open-air bronze statue, located at the Kotoku-in temple in Kamakura, Japan, in the summer of 2005. The statue is surrounded by trees, and the drone created by the cicadas was deafening as though one giant cicada. I can only imagine Gijoen feeling trapped and unable to get away from the incessant singing (rubbing drum-like tymbals on either side of their bodies) of the male cicadas looking for mates.

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