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Haiku Classic: April 17, 2022

aru takasa ika-o jiyuu-ni kuroageha

    below a certain height

    flying any way it likes

    spangle swallowtail

    --

    Koui Nagata (1900-1997). From "Romeishuu" (Brays from a Donkey), HarimaHaiwaKai, 1953.

    Wind speed increases with altitude, so the higher above the ground a butterfly flies, the more buffeted it would be by the wind. The poet has been watching the swallowtail fly and has observed that above a certain height, that is indeed the case. However, rather than concretely describing how it loses control high in the air, instead the poet focuses on how free the butterfly is when it doesn't push the boundaries.

    Selected, translated and commented on by Dhugal J. Lindsay

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