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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

There is a verse by Issa:

Having nothing at all;
This peace of mind,
This coolness!

Blyth translated it as

I have nothing at all, --
But this tranquility!
This coolness!

We should pay attention to the severing comma here, and not understand this verse to mean, as modern haiku might inadequately present it,

I have nothing at all
but this tranquility
this coolness

It is not that Issa has nothing at all except the peace and coolness, but rather that on having nothing at all there is for Issa this peace, this coolness, that no one owns -- it just is.  The having nothing and the peace of mind and the coolness are one and the same.  The peace of mind and the coolness are the nothing.

Note how confusing this verse would be if presented as modern haiku are generally written.  It should not be read as

I have nothing at all but this tranquility

but rather as

I have nothing at all.  But this tranquility!

Through such examples one begins to see how completely incorrect or inadequate punctuation may change the understanding of a verse.

Copyright 2006
David Coomler

Posted at 07:31 am by hokku

Josť Lira
October 9, 2007   01:47 PM PDT
Would it be possible for you to transliterate the hokku you translate, so that one could "feel" the sound of Japanese verse?

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