A frog didn’t leap into a pond… The fact of the most famous haiku poem in Japan.
The most famous haiku poem of the most famous haiku poet in Japan.
古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
It’s a very simple poem. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) composed it at a haiku gathering in 1686 when he was 43 years old.
If you pronounce the kanji and hiragana, it’s in the following way.
Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ Mizu no oto
Do you know the syllable and format of haiku?
It would be a little difficult to say correctly. The tip is to say without intonating as much as possible. The silence is one of the important elements of the poem.
Meaning of the poem
Even though we know the pronunciation, it doesn’t help to understand the meaning of the poem. Now, I’ll translate it into English.
To an old pond
A frog leaps in.
And the sound of the water.
It’s really simple poem. But a haiku implies the information of five senses, eyesight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. “Old pond” means the deserted scene and there is no sound around the pond.
A frog breaks the silence by jumping into the pond. I don’t know the size of the frog, but the sound would be not so big. And after the jumping, the silence comes again… The haiku poem would evoke the image and sound that Matsuo Basho saw and heard. But it’s not exactly true.
The fact of frog, old pond and sound
Most of the people, even Japanese, think the poem shows that Matsuo Basho actually experienced and moved to the scene. However, he didn’t see the scene even the frog. The haiku gathering was held at his hermitage Basho-an with a pond. Haiku poets decided a theme at a haiku gathering and it was “frog” at the day. So, Basho had to put the word into a poem.
“Frog” is a spring season word.
Since there was the pond at the hermitage, he possibly heard the sound of the water. But speaking about “a pound”, he didn’t see it when he composed the poem. According to the record of his disciple Shiko, Basho came up with the words of “A frog leaps in/ And the sound of the water.” before “An old pond”. After polishing, he decided to use “An old pond”.
He created the famous haiku poem in the hermitage and didn’t see the pond. The pond of the poem isn’t reality even there was nearby from him. He made the world of silence which broken by a small creature in his mind.
Furthermore, Basho made a nobel attempt to compose about a frog. Previously, all of the Japanese poets use the word aiming at the effect of the sound of the amphibian’s croaking. It was the first time that the poem which focused on the sound of a splashing that a frog made.
Read other Basho’s haiku poem.
Books about Matsuo Basho