Posted by: ktzefr | April 9, 2018

15 Favorite Haiku: Celebrating Cherry Blossoms!

Cherry blossoms, DC; Photo:KFawcett

In 1912, the people of Japan sent more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.  They are in bloom! 

The significance of the cherry tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years.   The blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life.  Japanese masters of haiku wrote many verses about cherry blossoms that express this sentiment. 

Though pages of haiku can be read in a few moments, a quick read doesn’t do these little gems justice.  A haiku is kind of like having a tiny diamond in your hand as opposed to, say, a huge chunk of quartz.  Examine…see what meaning you can find.

Here are some favorite cherry-blossom haiku:

from Basho…

From all four quarters

Cherry petals blowing in

To Biwa’s waters!

(Biwa is a lake in Japan)

*

from Onitsura…

They blossom, and then

We gaze, and then the blooms

Scatter, and then…

*

A mountain stream:

Even the stones make songs—

Wild cherry trees.

*

When cherry trees bloom

Birds have two legs

Horses four

(The perfection of cherry flowers reawakens the poet’s astonishment at the obvious)

*

from Buson…

The cherry-bloom has gone—

A temple, in among the trees,

Is what it has become.

*

To cherry blooms I come,

And under the blossoms go to sleep—

No duties to be done!

*

As the moon-brilliance makes its

Crossing, so

Cherry-blossom shadows eastward

Slowly go.

*

Scattered petals lie

On rice-seedling waters:

Bright is the starlit sky.

*

Departing spring:

With belated cherry blossoms

Shilly-shallying.

*

from Chora…

Women, children, men:

Into cherry bloom they push—

From bloom come out again.

*

from Issa…

“Cherry blossoms!  See!

Cherry bloom!” – and it was sung

Of this old tree.

*

In my old home

Which I forsook, the cherries

Are in bloom.

*

Under cherry-flowers,

None are utter strangers.

*

Ours is a world of suffering,

Even if cherry-flowers bloom.

*

from Shiki…

Coming to see cherry bloom

He had his money stolen—

The country bumpkin.

*

from Ishu…

Hey there, wait a moment,

Before you strike the temple bell

At the cherry blossoms.

(In Japan the lifespan of a cherry flower is only 3 days; the poet is afraid the vibration of the bell will cause the flowers to fall too soon.)

*

from Teishitsu…

Look at that!  and that!

Is all I can say of the blossoms

At Yoshino Mountain.

(For this one to be meaningful it is helpful to know that Mt. Yoshino is a large hill in Southern Japan that has groves of white mountain cherry trees totaling more than 100,000 and for three days in early April the hill is a cloud of intense whiteness.)

*

See the 2018 cherry blossoms in DC.  Photos from WTOP news.


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