Wednesday, March 03, 2004


Haiku is often thought of as being deep and universal. While it can be read that wya, it can be seen to be very light hearted in many instances. This is a short verse by the Edo haiku poet KOBAYASHI Issa.

やれうつな はえが手をすり足をする

oh don't hit fly hands rub feet rub

"Oh no! Don't swat me!"
The fly rubs together
its palms and soles

The image of this poem is simple. The poet observes a fly as it rubs its hand together, as flies are wont to do. Issa, however, applies human characteristics to this action. He imagines the fly rubbing its hands--plams together--begging for mercy: Oh no! Don't swat and kill me! The translation is rather mundane, if you ask me. Now that I've explained the gist of the haiku, is there a better way to translate this? It should be light, amusing, and direct. Nothing fancy shmancy.

Note: Japanese is an SOV (subject-object-verb) language unlike English which is SVO. A crude example: "I eat bread." In Japanese, the sequence of words would be "I bread eat." Althought there is a lot more going on, that's one way of understanding the structure at its most simplistic level.

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