Gentler readers, unencumbered, we shall fly about, but not like crows, coming and going, from tree to tree, but as travelers from time and place, from poet to poet. Such is the mystery and beauty of poetry.
Today’s guest poet is Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石, 1867 – 1916). His literary career did not begin until 1903 when he began to publish haiku and renku. He quickly went on to novels for which he is better known. That he was exploring the joy of haiku before 1906 comes from this haiku, written in 1896, probably while in Kumamoto, on the southern island of Kyushu .
a crow flies off
the winter tree shaking
Coming and Going
Surely, in composing his verse Soseki recalled to mind Matsuo Basho’s haiku, where a crow comes to perch. Soseki has the crow leaving, completing the renku.
on a bare branch
a crow has perched
in the autumn evening
kare eda ni karasu no tomarikeri aki no kure
Having listened to both haiku, Bashō no yōna, tries to keep the renku going, adding:
from countless karasu
upon a withered tree –
Notes on Translation
Renku, 連句, “linked verses,” a Japanese form of collaborative linked verse poetry. Basho would often attend such party gatherings. Renku can also be informal and spontaneous.
Basho uses 烏 for crow. Soseki uses からす, karasu, から (kara, “caw”, imitating the crow’s caw, plus す su. “bird”). Both mean crow.