Sleeping away from home

like a sick goose
on a cold night I fell ill and went to bed
sleeping away from home, alas

病雁の夜寒に落ちて旅寝哉
Yamukari (byōgan) no yosamu ni ochite tabine Kana

 

lake biwa, japan

Matsuo Basho (芭蕉) explains

I had gone to see Lake Biwa and then to travel to the island of Awaji to visit friends. It was late on an autumn night.

I get sick and go to bed. Above me, I hear the honking and flapping of a flock of wild geese heading south. One among them drops out and falls to the lake. He must have gotten sick and found flying unbearable. For me, the trip is likewise unbearable. Sleeping impossible. Getting sick is bad enough.

Alas, being away from home, it’s worse.

Descending Geese at Katata, Eight Views of Ömi Province, 1957, Utagawa Hiroshige
Descending Geese at Katata, Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857

 

Notes on translation

病雁, Yamukari, sick goose
夜寒 yosamu, cold night
旅寝 Tabine, trip sleeping, sleeping away from home
哉 kana, alas

The translator Gabi Greve dates this haiku to 1689, explaining that “Basho was visiting friends at the temple 本福寺 Honpuku-Ji [near Awaji] in Katata (Katada)  and fell ill himself. His disciple Mikami Senna 三上千那 cared for him.” From Sarumino (猿蓑 Monkey’s Raincoat), a 1691 anthology, the date is given as 1670, which is quite a discrepancy.

cropped-basho.jpg

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