Haiga and Haiku. Part 7.

The images and text are from Haiku, Volume 1, Eastern Culture by R. H. Blyth, published by Hokuseido in Japan. No year of copyright.

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(Below), a picture of Basho saying good-bye to his disciple Sora, is by Buson.


It is quite imaginary, in that Buson never met Basho, but better so, since Buson is free to show us how he wished to see him. It is no romantic figure. Basho is plain of countenance, simple in dress, an amiable, frail-looking creature, nothing about him to show him to be what he was, the greatest man Japan has produced. The picture illustrates Buson’s transcription of Oku no Hosomichi [The Narrow Road to the Deep North], a short diary of travel, which breathes through it and in this illustration, Basho’s warm, unaffected simplicity.

The picture by Senna, 1650-1723:


The Slope of Osaka, east of Kyoto, has grasped the spirit of the place, its mountains and cherry blossoms and pine trees. It has also something peculiarly Japanese, something that is almost unique in haiga, a quality that we see, but can never reproduce, in children’s pictures. The verse is:

At the time when
The Slope of Osaka hardens,
The first cherry blossoms.

In Korin, 1661-1716, contemporary of Basho, we see the opposite tendency, a delight in painting for its own sake; he corresponds to Swinburne in English literature. So the picture of azaleas (below) has a superficial resemblance to haiga, but is utterly different in spirit and technique. The azaleas are only the excuse for a brilliant exhibition of significant form, but, form of what?


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