Category Archives: Matsuo Basho

Translation: Matsuo Basho

To start, here is the original text of one of the most famous haiku ever written:

古池
蛙飛び込む
水の音

furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
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-jumping-in-the-
Water’s noise!

old pond……
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

old pond
frog leaping
splash

This poem also drew the more experimental efforts of bpNichol:

———

The Queerness of It All

frQg
pQnd
plQp

———

Basho Update
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?