hige dono ni saki kosare keri hatsu-gatsuo
has first crack
at summer's first bonito
by Issa, 1812 aged 50.
In an earlier translation, I rendered hige dono as "Mr. Long Beard." Robin D. Gill prefers "Sir Whiskers," since it might connote a nobleman or samurai; in Robin's word, "a bigshot." In the present haiku, this connotation makes sense. A nobleman is the first one to enjoy the season's first bonito. Robin speculates that another possible meaning of "Sir Whiskers" might be "cat," in which case a cat (or cats) beats Issa to the first bonito. Shinji Ogawa agrees. Shinji explains, "Bonitos swim, along the Black Current (or Japan Current), from the Philippine Sea to the northern sea around Hokkaido. They pass near Tokyo (Edo) in spring [old calendar = summer] on their way to the north. They return to pass Tokyo in the fall on their way back to the south." In haiku, bonito is a summer season word.
To unsubscribe, visit http://cat.xula.edu/issa/