Haiga and Haiku. Part 8.

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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The haiku and picture by Ryota, 1707-87, is an example in which the connection between the two is rather distant.

Photo Aug 15, 8 52 42 AM

The verse is:

Looking at the light,
There is a wind,
This night of snow.

The wind is seen, not felt, and the mind trembles with the flame in the darkness surrounding it. The snow is falling, silent and invisible. This is the verse, but the picture is of the basket of charcoal, that is half out of the picture. It is black, but shines in the light of the lamp that is to be seen in the verse only.

Another haiga, which has something rather Korean about it, portrays a boat by the shore at night.

Photo Aug 15, 8 48 21 AM

The verse is by Seira, died 1791:

Even the sound
Of the wings, is heard, —
A cold, moon-lit night.

The wild geese are seen, but not the moon, that shines down on the roof of the boat and on the reeds of the bank. The verse is one of sound, the picture of sight; it is the sound of birds, the sight of the reedy shore and moored sampan. It would have been better still, perhaps, to have omitted the wild geese from the picture.

Issa’s picture of the morning-glory . . .


has this verse:

My hermitage
Is thatched
With morning-glories

When he went out in the early morning he found that the whole roof was covered with the flowers of the convolvulus; his house was “roofed” with them. The verse is rather simple, but the sketch, by being even more so, is in perfect harmony with it. There is only one flower, which is used instead of the word asagao, and a short piece of vine, but everything is there. All the flowers sway in the morning breeze, and Issa also is there, though his back is turned to us, gazing at them.

In Issa’s verse and illustration . . .


we see another side of his character, an invariable one perhaps, in persons of strongly critical, cynical nature. The verse is:

Opening its mouth
Uselessly still,
The step-child of the bird.

Under the bird, it says: Both the Swallow and Issa.

We see here the self-pity into which tender-minded people easily fall. (Herein lies the necessity for such haiku poets as Kikaku, and for senryu.). Issa was a step-son, and suffered deeply because of his sensitive and love-desiring nature. He compares himself to a baby swallow. The sketch of the swallow is rather poor, but its angularity suggests, perhaps, the unkindness of the foster-mother.

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