Haru, 春 is the Japanese word for Spring.
It is everyone’s favorite season. The willow trees are turning green, the cherry trees blossom, and the birds sing their joyful songs. Let us compare several Spring haiku written decades apart.
Haru kaze, 春風
First, 1668, the poet, simply known as Matsuo Munefusa, age 24.
春風に吹き出し笑ふ花もがなMatsuo Basho, Spring, 1668
haru kaze ni / fukidashi warau / hana mogana
A Spring breeze is blowing
I’m bursting with laughter
— wishing for flowers
Next, Matsuo Basho, now three decades old, has changed from a joyous expectation to a mournful recognition of the passing seasons. Names must have been on his mind. In 1680, he was known as Tosei, the unripe peach. By now, 1684, he had gained a following in Edo. He had moved from the city-center to the more rural Fukagawa District, taken up residence in a simple cottage. A banana plant (Basho) was given to him as a housewarming gift, and this was the inspiration for his new name Matsuo Basho.
春なれや名もなき山の薄霞Matsuo Basho, Nozarashi kikō, Spring, 1685
haru nare ya / na mo naki yama no / usugasumi
Is it already Spring?
In these nameless mountains
And misty haze
I have included the following (undated) haiku because it speaks of sakura, cherry blossoms, the one true sign of Spring. In Edo (Tokyo), Basho often went to the temple grounds of both Ueno and Asakusa to enjoy the cherry blossoms. Likewise, around Japan and on Lake Biwa there are spectacular displays of the popular spring blossom.
春の夜は桜に明けてしまひけりMatsuo Basho, Spring, date unknown
haru no yo wa / sakura ni akete / shimai keri
This Spring Night
Ending with dawn
And cherry blossoms
The following haiku reminds one of Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s “Into each life some rain must fall.”
Spring 1694, Matsuo Basho, now 51 years old, has returned to his cottage in the Fukagawa District in Edo. Basho wonders what he has to look forward to. Little does he know, it is his last spring. Matsuo Basho will die in November of 1694.
春雨や蜂の巣つたふ屋根の漏りMatsuo Basho, Spring, 1694
harusame ya / hachi no su tsutau / yane no mori
Dripping from a wasp nest
And a leaky roof
Ukuraina ni heiwa o
The world over one experiences Spring with reverence, with hope for new beginnings, for peace the world over.
For Peace in Ukraine.
Birds, busily singingBashō no yōna, March, 2022
When, the sun, gloriously rising,
Ah, then, suddenly silent