Walking The Roof Of Hell: Pathos In Haiku

Portrait Of Basho(This painting is said to be of Basho, painted by Buson [?])

There’s more to haiku than Basho– though I’ll never know much more, and I won’t even know Basho that well.  I must come to terms with that.

There’s just too much I want to study and experience and too little precious life.  It is a sad realization, and a major reason behind the tone and title of this blog; I realize this will likely be my last course of intensive study.  I have always striven for a life of a balance, and in my heart I feel the scale has been tipping toward the seditary for too long, which means it’s time for me gravitate toward the active.  I don’t want Life to be what happened while I was at my desk preparing for it.

So back to haiku.  I’ve finished my Self-Doctorate’s overview of it.  I posted before about Basho; today I want to share a little from his fellow Japanese poets, Buson and Issa.  Buson lived in the 1700s.  He was also a very good painter.    Issa lived from 1763- 1827; he was born twenty years before Buson died, but I don’t think they ever met.  I liked Issa’s humanity.  He’s not nearly as detached as the other poets, which some lovers of haiku may not actually like:  there is compassion and humor in his verses.  And I can feel that this was a man that suffered in his life, and so sympathized with the suffering others– even the tiniest animals.

Here is my favorite haiku from Buson.  Since he is a painter, it is not surprising he writes about capturing the beauty of Nature (in this case, by murder!):

before the white chrysanthemum /  the scissors hesitate /  a moment


And some haiku from Issa:

Don’t worry spiders, /  I keep house /  casually


In this world /  we walk on the roof of hell, /  gazing at flowers


Don’t know about the people, /  but the scarecrows /  are crooked


All the time I pray to Buddha /  I keep on /  killing mosquitoes


I’m going to roll over, /  so please move, /  cricket


The moon tonight– /  I even miss /  her grumbling


and, on his fiftieth birthday:

From now on, /  its all clear profit, / every sky


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