Rest from Moon-viewing ~ Haiku of Japan

雲をりをり人をやすめる月見かな 芭蕉
kumo oriori hito o yasumeru tsukimi kana

clouds sometimes
give rest to people

(trans. David LaSpina[1])


"Cloudy Moon at Matsue" by Kawase Hasui

This is Bashō at his most playful. Moon-viewing was serious business back in the day. It was a social event and so everyone of a certain class were out, viewing (or pretending to view) and socializing. Any of the artistic people would have been tripping over themselves trying to come up with profound things to say about the occasion. Bashō is pointing fun at them a little—and at himself, for he was just as involved in the practice as anyone. Yes, the moon is beautiful and it can be a moving and spiritual experience to watch it, but sometimes we need a break, conveniently given to us by passing clouds.

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Hi thereDavid LaSpina is an American photographer and translator lost in Japan, trying to capture the beauty of this country one photo at a time and searching for the perfect haiku.

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  1. That is, me! If you like this translation, feel free to use it. Just credit me. Also link here if you can.

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