This book, by R.H. Blyth, is the fourth part of a four part comprehensive survey of classical Japanese haiku. In the Preface, Blyth states “I must testify in conclusion that haiku, together with the music of Bach and Chinese paintings, have given me the greatest, purest, and most constant pleasure of my life.” Blyth provides comments or an analysis for many of the haiku and below are some examples:
The owner of the field
Goes to see how the scarecrow is,
And comes back.
These scarecrows have far more life than real people. Why is this? It is because they obey all the Buddhist and Christian precepts naturally. They do not take care for the morrow; they let the dead bury the dead. And they are meek and pure in heart, merciful to all who seek a shelter in their rags and tatters. It is but right that owner of the field should go and pay his respects to this superior being, superior not in power or wealth, but in long-suffering and natural piety.
Now I am going out;
Be good and play together.
Issa is not pretending or being fanciful. He wishes the lion to lie down with the lamb, and infuses all things with his own benevolence.
From the rubbish-heap,
A morning-glory has bloomed;
In this verse we feel the “ loneliness ” of nature, each thing living its own, solitary, secret life, of which the most profound expression is, “ My God! My God ! Why hast thou forsaken me?” But we feel, at the same time, the charm of the small flower that sheds its sweetness on the desert air.
You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.
Do you have a chapbook published in 2015 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Dan Campbell and are used with permission.