The cricket cried, then stopped to rest
The waning light goes out, now it’s clear.
Outside my window, the night rain lets me know …
The Banana leaf speaks first.
Basho like in its subject matter and concise descriptions, but this poem was actually written by the Chinese Tang poet, Bai Juyi. In fact it mirrors the well known haiku by Basho about the ancient pond, the frog, and the sound of water. Well, as is often said, there is nothing new, just how we say it.
Bai Juyi was a poet of the Tang dynasty. His poems are influenced by his deeply held Buddhist beliefs. These beliefs hold that insight comes from meditation and intuitive thought. Thus, the pitter-patter of the night rain on a banana leaf becomes speech. Unintelligible speech to the untuned human ear, “Banana Speak” to those who know.
Original Pinyin and Chinese
Zao qiong ti fu xie
Can deng mie you ming.
Ge chuang zhi ye yu
Ba jiao xian you sheng.
早 蛩 啼 复 歇
残 灯 灭 又 明。
隔 窗 知 夜 雨
芭 蕉 先 有 声。
For an explanation and good story on how Bai Juyi’s poem was falsely attributed to Matsuo Basho, see MISATTRIBUTED TO BASHŌ: BAI JUYI’S “EVENING RAIN”. Okay, so Dave calls it Evening Rain instead of Night Rain. He’s smart and I’m right, and once he looks at translations for the alliterative 夜 雨, Yè yǔ he’ll agree. Indeed, 夜 is not only night but night long, as in something occurring during the night. Moreover, in line one, one might argue that our crying cricket has not simply rested, but also gone to bed, which is the literal meaning of 歇, xie. In line two, the sensorily sensitive Bai Juyi makes it clear that all light has gone, evening is done, night has begun. And now it is clear. Clear being the Chinese character 明, which may mean bright or brilliant, but in this case “clear”.
知道了, zhīdàole, Got it!
How Dào! which incidentally rhymes.
More Bai Juyi
For more reading, compare Bai Juyi’s Night Rain with Night Snow by the same poet. Nature speaks!