Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sir Whiskers

小林一茶 1812年50歳
hige dono ni saki kosare keri hatsu-gatsuo

David’s English
Sir Whiskers
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.
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Sakuo haiga


Pris said...

Another very illuminating post. It helps so much to see the alternative translations. Your image, as always is excellent!

Unknown said...

Thank you, Pris san for your sharp compliment.
I am very glade to see that you caught the meaning of my alternative action to David's translation.
Cat is good!
Whisker is good!