To start, here is the original text of one of the most famous haiku ever written:
mizu no oto
— Matsuo Basho
(More background on and other poems by Matsuo Basho.)
Next, five of many ‘straightforward’ translations:
A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps…
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion…till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.
Pond, there, still and old!
A frog has jumped from the shore.
The splash can be heard.
Ah! The ancient pond
As a frog takes the plunge
Sound of the water
The old pond, yes, and
a frog leaps in
This poem also drew the more experimental efforts of bpNichol:
The Queerness of It All
as read in a newspaper
Frog Pond turns into
a gold mine
(“His last variation, apparently never published…the circle is the pond, and the tail is the frog’s diving board.”)
Following in bpNichol’s footsteps, here are some other experimental translations of this haiku.
So what do you like best? The traditional or the experimental? The textual or the visual? What’s the most faithful translation? How much should ‘faithfulness’ matter when translating poetry?