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Haiku Classic: May 7, 2017

ta-ichimai u-etetachisaru yanagikana

    planted one paddy field

    and gone

    a willow tree

    --

    Basho (1644-94): Translated and commented by Isamu Hashimoto

    They say a few interpretations of this haiku by Basho are possible. For example: 1) As in the case of the translation above, a willow spirit metamorphosed from the tree planted a square and went away. Basho, as a bystander, was looking over the mound the whole time. 2) A neighboring farmer planted a paddy field and went away. Bystander Basho and the willow tree remained -- on the hillock. 3) A farmer planted a paddy field. Basho took a short rest and went away to resume his journey to the far north. The Japanese language sometimes gets ambiguous when suppressing expression. A haiku may well depend on the fuzziness of the language. Monzaemon Chikamatsu (1653-1724), a great playwright in the Edo period, said, "Art exists in the slender margin between reality and unreality."

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