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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Issa Haiku

in and out
of prison they go...
baby sparrows

Issa - 1823

rôya kara detari ittari suzume no ko

Or: "he goes.../ baby sparrow." In my earlier translation, I began with "flying in and out of prison," but Shinji Ogawa thinks that the word "flying" spoils Issa's surprise. Someone is going in and out of prison, and we must wait until Issa's punch line to discover the identity of that someone: baby sparrows! The little birds know nothing about human law and punishment. They fly easily back and forth between the carefully demarcated human realms of "prison" and "freedom." Such categories mean nothing to them.

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