Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: Poetry Month #4: Basho’s Frog Jumps In!

Are you familiar with the famous frog haiku by Matsuo Basho? I love this haiku. There is a freshness and wit to the observation that are irresistible. I thought it would be interesting to look at a few different translations side by side. So much wiggle room in a translation – the poems really all seem quite different though they are based on the same original. (Would love to hear the opinion of any Japanese speakers on which they think is best).

The original in Japanese by Basho:

Furu ike ya
Kawazu tobikomu
Mizu no oto

Trans. by D.T. Suzuki:

Into the ancient pond
A frog jumps
Water’s sound!

Trans. by Kenneth Rexroth:

An old pond –
The sound
Of a diving frog.

Trans. by Allen Ginsberg

The old pond
A frog jumped in,
Kerplunk!

Trans. by Tim Chilcott

ancient is the pond –
suddenly a frog leaps – now!
The water echoes

Trans. by Sam Hamill

At the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water

Trans. by Lucien Stryk

Old pond
leap – splash
a frog.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

14 thoughts on “Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: Poetry Month #4: Basho’s Frog Jumps In!

  1. Pingback: Vote For Your Favorite Basho Frog Translation! | Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

  2. Well, I voted on Facebook, rather than on the blog. I voted for Rexroth, but I am delighted to see how the preferences are spread out among many of them.

  3. My friend Susan Marsh Tanabe says:

    “The literal translation is:
    old pond it is
    frog dives in
    water sounds

    In Japan this poem, known by all, is jokingly translated into meaningless English which SOUNDS like the Japanese original….

    Fool in care
    Come was to be
    Come miss not

    “Personally I like the Sam Hamill…but without the word ‘into’…”
    (which would make it
    “At the ancient pond
    a frog plunges
    the sound of water”)

    xo

  4. Pingback: Quick Tally on Frogs Jumping Into Ponds | Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

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