coming along a mountain path, somehow so charming – a wild violet
山路来て 何やらゆかし すみれ草
yamaji kite naniyara yukashi sumiregusa
Matsuo Basho wrote this haiku in his Journal of 1684, a travelogue of his journey from Edo (Tokyo) to visit his birthplace in Iga Province after hearing of his mother’s death. The journey was on horseback and on foot, often over mountainous roads.
This haiku was written crossing the mountains near Lake Biwa on the way to Otsu. Basho observing a tiny wild violet in the grass was inspired.
山路 yamaji, mountain path
来て kite, to come
何やら naniyari, somehow, for some reason
ゆかし yukashi, charming, admirable, enchanting
すみれ草 sumi regusa, wild violet; literally a violet in the grass
Enya wrote a song Sumiregusa about the wild violet, and performed it in Japanese – Sumiregusa: wild violet monono aware: attune to the pathos of things haruno hana to fuyu mo yuki: spring flowers and winter snow hara hara: the sound of falling snow.
like clouds in the wind a wild goose and his friend depart
like a cloud in the wind like a wildgoose and his friend life departs
kumo to hedatsu tomo ka ya kari no ikiwakare
Master Basho explains
A summer’s day near Lake Biwa, the clouds drift by and at sunset the wildgeese descend to the lake. Master Basho and his friend watch the setting sun. “Look at the cloud in the wind, like a wild-goose from the flock, my friend we all too soon depart.”
Matsuo Bashō had several connections with Lake Biwa and the surrounding area. He was born in nearby, in Iga Province, and may have studied in nearby Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital. Basho is know to have visited Lake Biwa in 1684 and again during the summer of 1690, enjoying the scenic views, the wild life, and nearby temples.
Basho departed this world in November of 1690.
Notes on translation
雲 kumo, cloud
雁 kari, wildgoose
や ya, kana word used to connect wildgoose and friend
友 tomo, friend, companion
生 yǒu, life
別れ wakare, farewell, depart