A Journey Through Japanese Haiku

Blessed with Birds

Culture Environment Lifestyle

Buson’s haiku expresses delight at the autumn arrival of birds at his home.

小鳥来る音うれしさよ板びさし 蕪村

Kotori kuru / oto ureshisa yo / itabisashi

Joyful at the sounds when
the small birds come—
wooden eaves

(Poem by Buson, perhaps written around 1768.)

Autumn’s migratory birds include not only larger varieties like geese but also small birds such as thrushes and waxwings that flock together to fly south. Others like goldcrests and jays descend in fall from their usual homes in the hills and forests to the plains and areas beside human settlements. Buson’s haiku refers to this movement.

The poem describes the writer’s pleasure in hearing recently arrived birds walking and chirping on the eaves of his home. The keyword itabisashi or “wooden eaves” was associated in waka with the sounds of falling rain or hail, but Buson offers a fresh variation here. While breaking free from waka tradition is a feature of haiku, there is more to this poem.

The reader senses the poet listening for the faint signs of the birds excitedly coming and going. The sounds of their light footsteps on the dry, wooden eaves also implicitly express the freshness of the clear autumn air. Twentieth-century poet Hagiwara Sakutarō praised this haiku for a lyricism he saw as similar to Western poetry.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

literature haiku Japanese language and literature