gyozui no
sutedokoro naki
mushi no koe


- Uejima Onitsura (1661-1738)


No place
to throw out the bathwater -
sound of insects

- trans. Cheryl A. Crowley


There is no place
        to throw the used bath water.
                Insect cries!

- trans. Harold G. Henderson


This is the best known haiku of the poet Uejima Onitsura, a slightly younger contemporary of Matsuo Basho and nearly as highly regarded as the great master.

The guozui is a hot-water bath enjoyed by commoners in their gardens during the heat of the summer months. The cries of cicadas, on the other hand, are heard in late summer and well into the fall. So Onitsura is deftly using the kigo to show the transition from summer to fall.

This poem is touching in its extremely sensitive deference to nature, as Onitsura is reluctant to dump out the dirty bath water in the garden lest it disturb the insects. Perhaps it helped that the chirping of the cicadas in Japan is much more pleasing than the sound of the North American variety.

Onitsura's poem was extremely popular and prompted this famous and hysterical parody:

onitsura wa
yachu tarai o
mochi aruki


Onitsura
Walked around all night
A pail in his hand

- trans. Donald Keene


Unfortunately, I don't know the author of the parody. It may have been anonymous.

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