A solitary hawk
I am happy to find
鷹一 つ見付てうれし いらご崎
taka hitotsu / mitsukete ureshi / Iragosaki
On the 25th day of the tenth moon, Matsuo Bashō, now 43 years old, is ready to set out on another journey. This time he would travel south and west, to the regions of Iga (his boyhood home), Ise, Aichi and Nagoya, Yoshina, Nara, and Suma.
The account, called Oi No Kobumi (Knapsack Journals), would not be published until 15 years after his death.
From Nagoya it is 70 miles or so to the Atami peninsula, and another 30 miles down the promontory to Cape Irago. Today, the peninsula is home to the Mikawa-Wan Quasi National Park, and some of Japan’s most beautiful sandy coastlines and spectacular Pacific Ocean views (above image Google Maps).
Bashō was going to meet Tsuboi Tokoku (坪井杜国), who had been exiled for financial speculations, from Nagoya to the rocky promontory. Hobi (Hobicho) the tiny village where Tokoku lived was a mile or two from the end point on the cape. One can picture a tired Bashō standing at the very tip of the cape, spotting a hawk circling above, when happily Tokoku appears.
Tokoku would die three years later while Bashō was still compiling the memories of his journey.
Poetry by its nature is ambiguous and capable of different interpretations. This is even more true of haiku, which often intends to surprise. Tokoku could have been the solitary hawk that Basho was in search of. Or, it could have been that Basho was the hawk, happy to find Tokoku. This seems to me the more likely interpretation. After the meeting, Tokoku would join Basho for part of Basho’s journey.
It is a stretch, not a long one, and perhaps just coincidence, but I wonder if the Iragosaki is a play on words with Irago and Sake, rice wine. Various sources allude to Tokoku’s financial speculations as a grain merchant. Perhaps it involved Sake.
Notes on translation
Taka hitotsu. A combination of taka 鷹, meaning hawk; and hitosu 一, meaning one or solitary.
Mitsukete ureshi つ見付てうれし, a combination of the verb mitsuke, to find, and and adjective/adverb ureshi, happy, happily
Iragosaki いらご崎, Cape Irago, Iragomisaki, 伊良湖岬. Saki translates to rough, or cape.
Many Sources including:
World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-modern Era, Volume 1, By Donald Keene, giving an account of Bashō’s relationship with Tsuboi Tokoku.
WKD – Matsuo Basho Archives, gives Tokuko’s age as 34 at the time of his death. It explains that he was a grain merchant in Nagoya, before his financial disgrace, moving to the tiny village of Hobi (Hobicho), on the Akami peninsula.