mushi no koe
- Uejima Onitsura (1661-1738)
to throw out the bathwater -
sound of insects
- trans. Cheryl A. Crowley
There is no place
to throw the used bath water.
- 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.
is a hot-water bath enjoyed by commoners in their gardens during the heat of the summer months. The cries of cicada
s, 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 America
Onitsura's poem was extremely popular and prompted this famous and hysterical parody
yachu tarai o
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.