Monday, September 24, 2012

From the "Bureau of Public Secrets" . . . literally

The original, presented, transliterated, and translated by Robert Aitken:
The old pond;
a frog jumps in —
the sound of the water.
Furu ike ya               
kawazu tobikomu    
mizu no oto              

Old pond!
frog jumps in
water’s sound

Now. Six more translations:

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps . . .
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion . . . till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.
Translated by Curtis Hidden Page

Into the ancient pond
A frog jumps
Water’s sound!
Translated by D.T. Suzuki

The old pond;
A frog jumps in —
The sound of the water.
Translated by R.H. Blyth

An old pond —
The sound
Of a diving frog.
Translated by Kenneth Rexroth

Pond, there, still and old!
A frog has jumped from the shore.
The splash can be heard.
Translated by Eli Siegel

Old pond
     and a frog-jump-in
Translated by Harold G. Henderson

To read the other twenty-four translations, along with Robert Aitkin's commentary and analysis, go to the Bureau of Public Secrets' "Matsuo Bashô: Frog Haiku."


  1. Darn if I can distinguish between Aitken's and R. H. Blyth's translations, except for an uppercase and a comma. Aitken did some heavy borrowing.

    And here's a recent collaborative riff from the Japanese and Chinese translator (and friend) Jan Walls and Donna Fleischer (and the colophon for word pond):

    A frog looks around
    leaps into ancient waters
    word pond

    And, finally, my very own variation:

    frog swims
    an omstroke

    Thanks, Sarah, for keeping the song going. xx


  2. I love your translations and interpretations, Donna!!! Thank you. I didn't realize you know Chinese. (Or work on it.) (Or whatever.)