Japanese death poems (haiku and Tanka) by famous people

(Last Updated On: 30/05/2019)




In Japan, there was a custom of leaving a poetic short sentence on a deathbed, “Jisei no ku (death poem). It is often the one that emphasizes the phonology such as Tanka, haiku and Chinese poetry. It is considered to be an East Asian custom, especially in Japan since the Middle Ages. Not only poets but also cultural people and samurai warriors composed the death poems when they were dying.

I would like to introduce death poems by famous Japanese people.

Tanka and Haiku Poets

Ariwara no Narihira (825–880)

<Japanese>

つひに行く  道とはかねて  聞きしかど   昨日今日とは  思はざりしを

Tsui ni yuku/ Michi toha kanete / Kiki shi kado/ Kino kyo toha omowa zarishi wo

<English>

Though I heard

Everyone goes this road

Eventually

I didn’t expect that

I’d be on it yesterday or today

 

Ono no Komachi (c.825—c. 900)

<Japanese>

あはれなり  わが身の果てや  浅緑   つひには野辺の  霞と思へば

Aware nari/ Waga mi no hate ya/ Asa midori/ Tsui ni ha nobe no/ Kasumi to omoe ba

<English>

It’s miserable

To imagine that

My remains will be cremated

And become

A light green smoke at last

Murasaki Shikibu (978-1016)

<Japanese>

誰か世に  ながらへて見る 書きとめし  跡は消えせぬ  形見なれども

Dareka yo ni/ Nagarae te miru/ Kaki tome shi/Ato niha kie senu/ katami nare domo

<English>

Who will live long

And read the writings

Of the dying one

Although that is

An indelible relic

 

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

<Japanese>

旅に病んで 夢は枯野を かけ廻る

Tabi ni yande/ Yume wa kareno wo/ Kakemeguru

<English>

Sicking on journey,

My dream run about

The desolate field.

 

Read more Basho’s haiku poems

Best 10 famous Matsuo Basho’s haiku poems in Japanese and English

Yosa Buson (1716-1784)

<Japanese>

白梅に  明る夜ばかり  となりにけり

Shiraume ni/ Akuru yo bakari / to Nari ni keri

<English>

White plum blossoms

Most nights sky grow light

In these days

 

Read more Buson’s haiku poems

 

Yosa Buson’s haiku poems

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)

<Japanese>

糸瓜咲て痰のつまりし佛かな

Hechima saki te/ Tano no tsumari shi / Hotoke kana

<English>

A flower of Sponge cucumber blooms

Phlegm gets caught

In the dead’s throat

 

<Japanese>

痰一斗糸瓜の水も間に合はず

Tan itto/ Hechima no mizu mo/ Mani awa zu

<English>

18 litres of phelgm

The water of Sponge cucumber

Is enough for

<Japanese>

をとゝひのへちまの水も取らざりき

Ototoi no/ Hechima no mizu mo/ Tori zari ki

<English>

We didn’t get

The water of Sponge cucumber

Since the day before yesterday

 

Read more Shiki’s haiku poems

 

Masaoka Shiki’s haiku poems







Artists

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

<Japanese>

人魂で  行く気晴じや  夏野原

Hitodama de/ Yuku kisanji ya/ Natsunohara

<English>

Being the dead man’s spirit

I will go to the summer field

For a recreation

 

Learn more about Katsushika Hokusai

Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai:biography, facts, and artworks

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)

<Japanese>

東路に  筆を残して  旅の空   西のみくにの  名所を見む

Azumaji ni/ Fude wo nokoshite/ Tabi no sora/ Nishi no mikuni no/ Meisho wo min

<English>

I left a brush

On the Eastern Country

The sky on the travel

I will go to see

The beauty spot

In the Western Paladise

 

Learn more about Utagawa Hiroshige

Utagawa Hiroshige: biography and woodblock print artworks

Samurai

Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578)

<Japanese>

極楽も  地獄もさきは  有明の  月ぞ心に  かかる雲なき

Gokuraku mo/ Jigoku mo saki ha/ Ariakeno/ Tsuki zo kokoro ni/ Kakaru kumo naki

<English>

No matter which

I’ll go to

The heaven or the hell

My mind is clear

Like the sky at dawn

 

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598)

<Japanese>

露と落ち  露と消えにし  我身かな 浪速の事も  夢のまた夢

Tsuyu to ochi/ Tsuyu to kie ni shi/ Waga mi kana/ Naniwa no koto mo/ Yume no mata yume

<English>

A dewdrop fell

And a dewdrop vanished

That is me

Also Osaka is

A dream within a dream

 

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616)

<Japanese>

嬉しやと  二度覚めて 一眠り   うき世の夢は  暁の空

Ureshi ya to/ Futatabi same te/ Hito-nemuri/ Ukiyo no yume ha/ Akatsuki no sora

<English>

I’m so happy

I wake up again

And want to nap more

The dream in the world is

The sky at dawn

 










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