Death Poems - Koha


Koha (Kooha) 香波
"Fragrant Wave"

? - 1897、August 14

I found very littel information about this poet.
If you, gentle reader, have any more information about this poet, please let me know or add it as a comment to this entry.

There is one death poem of him/her available at google books

fude nagete tsuki ni mono iu bakari nari

I cast the brush aside -
from here on I'll speak to the moon
face to face.

Tr. Yoel Hoffman


Haiga by Ashe, the Greenleaf Files
source : http://thegreenleaf.co.uk


The Japanese does not mention "face to face",
so I offer two possible translations

I throw my brush away -
from now on I speak only
to the moon

'from now on I speak to nobody and nothing but the moon'

I throw my brush away -
from now on I only speak
to the moon

'from now on I just speak to the moon,
rather than attempt to represent it.'

Thanks to Lorin Ford, there is this to consider:

" Thanks for your translation of Koha's death poem, Gabi. It's a revelation to realise that 'face to face' isn't indicated in the original Japanese. The poem reads quite differently without it. I like it better, in fact, as 'face to face' struck me as a literary conceit that distracted from the simplicity of the renunciation of the brush and the artwork or poetry they represent.

I wonder if Hoffman might've been attempting to import an allusion to:

1 Corinthians 13:12
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

(A verse from the Bible which has been alluded to many, many times in literature and film, as have many other bible passages.)

Lorin Ford


another way of looking at this:

The new translation is very illuminating. I feel the poet is alluding to the zen phrase warning us not to confuse fingers pointing at the moon with the moon itself. 'Moon' symbolising consciousness/buddha nature/all-that-is/oneness/god (whichever label the reader prefers).
The breaking of the brush may indicate the end of 'pointing'; that is the end of thoughts attempts to illustrate/understand/witness the 'moon'.

'speaking only to the moon' could suggest realisation/enlightenment as in the quoted Chiyo-ni poem. Or, as this is a death poem, "from now on I speak to nobody and nothing but the moon," may be refering to the poets belief that after death there is only 'moon', that she/he will return/reunite with the 'moon'. The moon being consciousness/buddha nature/all-that-is/oneness/god etc.


Mariko Shimizu reminds us

The more conventional exprssion is

fude o oru, to break the brush,
when a painter or writer gives up his work.

I have an impression that the poetess used the word "nageru," instead of "oru," though she must have the latter on her mind; she threw /cast / put away / aside her brush and was not going to use it to write her haiku.

my brush shall be no more in use --
i have only the moon
to talk to

I have a different image from the one you posted.
The person standing on the tiers and supposedly talking to the moon somehow reminds me of Friedrich Nietzsche. Because of the long coat? This is ominous, isn't it?
My image of 香葉 is that she is seated looking at the moon, out of a shoji sliding door in the clay wall.

source : my facebook

After studying the ShoboGenzo Zuimonki by Dogen, Marik writes:

no more poetry
now I have only the moon
to talk to

Discussion at Translating Haiku Forum


ooyuki to kaku koto tanoshi nikki hatsu

how nice to write
the first diary entry
in heavy snow

The name of the poet is given as 大場香波.

source : HAIKUreikuDB


Japanese Reference
(does not lead to any useful results)



death poems, farewell poems 辞世 jisei

A death poem (絶命詩) is a poem written near the time of one's own death. It is a tradition for literate people to write one in a number of different cultures, especially in Joseon Korea and Japan with the
jisei no ku (辞世の句).
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Jisei, a "farewell poem to life"
. Death and Graves in Haiku

. . . . .

Jisei to wa sunawachi mayoi tada shinan

Death poems
are mere delusion-
death is death.

Toko (1795)
source : Mitch Campbell 2009

Reference : Japanese Jisei Colletion

tabi ni yande yume wa kareno o kakemeguru

. Death Haiku of Matsuo Basho 1694 .


shira-ume ni akuru yo bakari to nari ni keri
shira ume ni akuru yo bakari to nari ni keri

The night almost past,
through the white plum blossoms
a glimpse of dawn.

Tr. Bonta

it is now the moment
when white plum blossoms
lighten into dawn

Tr. Crowley

pure white plum blossoms
slowly begin to turn
the color of dawn

Tr. online ref

The cut marker KERI is at the end of line 3.

- - - - - and two more noted as his JISEI

. fuyu uguisu mukashi Ooi ga kakine kana .
the hedge of chinese poet - Wang Wei 王維 -

uguisu ya nani gosotsukasu yabu no shimo

hey you uguisu -
what are you looking for
in the frosted bush?

Tr. Gabi Greve

- - - - - Translations and comment by Chris Drake:

Buson's three deathbed hokku are regarded by most Japanese commentators as a single series with imagistic and tonal links between them, so I translate all three here:

winter warbler
on Wang Wei's hedge
so long ago

fuyu-uguisu mukashi ōi ga kakine kana

warbler, what are
the small sounds you make
in that frost-covered bush?

uguisu ya nani gosotsukasu yabu no shimo

3. Early spring
now the dawns
are filled with white
plum blossomst

shira-ume ni akuru yo bakari to narinikeri / or: shiraume no....

These three visionary hokku were literally written just before Buson died. He had been suffering from general weakness and severe chest pains since late in the fall of 1783, when he was sixty-three, and in the twelfth month he was too weak to leave his bed. In the middle of the night of 12/24 (Jan. 16, 1784) he called Gekkei, a painter who was studying under him and taking care of his needs, to bring a brush and inkstone, and he dictated the first two hokku. Then he rested for a while, and as the first light of dawn was appearing he dictated the final hokku to Gekkei. Two versions of the third hokku are given because the first version, published by Buson's protege Kitō, differs from the manuscript left by Gekkei, who made the original transcription. My translation follows Gekkei's version (shira-ume no....).

The first hokku evokes the great 8th-century Chinese poet and painter Wang Wei, a contemporary of Li Bo and Du Fu who wrote mostly nature poetry influenced by Daoism and Zen. As a painter he was also a major precursor of of later "literati artists" who sought to evoke the spirit of a landscape and valued the rhythms of natural scenes above mere technical verisimilitude. Wang did much of his best work at his country house, where he secluded himself from the world and from the wars ravaging China at the time. He was one of Buson's favorite painters, and in the first hokku Buson seems to feel his soul is traveling between 1784 and the 8th century. He hears a "winter warbler," that is, a warbler which has come down to a low-lying area to forage in the winter. In the cold months warblers make only a short, sharp cheeping call which is very different from the beautiful calls they acquire in spring. Buson is sure that the calls of the warbler outside are coming from the hedge planted around Wang Wei's country house a thousand years earlier, perhaps since in death Wang Wei and Buson are no longer separated by time. In Japanese poetry birds are often represented as souls visiting from the other world, and Buson may feel his soul has already flown as far as Wang Wei's hedge.

In the second hokku the bird seems to have come closer to the room in which Issa is lying. The bird may still be making short cries, but Buson also hears, or in his mind's ear he hears small, faint sounds coming from near or inside a frost-covered bush just outside. Are the sounds the pecking of the warbler, or its sharp footsteps scratching frosted leaves or spikes of frost on the ground, or the rustling of leaves on the bush? Buson wants to know what the small bird is doing so frenetically. Some Japanese commentators feel Buson is overlapping the warbler with himself as a kind of double. He seems worried about why the worried bird keeps making so many small sounds. Is it unable to find any food in the frost-covered garden? Will it survive? Buson seems to want to go down into the garden to help the bird with whatever it's doing. He also seems to sense the similarity between his own weak, scattered speech and the sounds made by the warbler. Perhaps this realization leads him to stop worrying and talking too much to Gekkei and to silently calm his mind, to prepare to leave the frost-covered bush of his body, and to accept death.

The third hokku suggests Buson has reached an area of peace and has experienced some kind of revelation during his final morning. Time continues to expand and contract, and the time when Buson recites the third hokku is concurrent with another time flow, a situation that causes Buson to ask Gekkei to make a headnote saying the hokku takes place in the future, in early lunar spring several days after lunar 12/25, when he will no longer be in the world. White plums are in blossom this morning, and they were in blossom yesterday morning, and they will be in blossom at dawn for several more weeks because it is now early spring. The faint but clear and sweet fragrance of the new plum blossoms wafts everywhere, and by implication the warblers are surely now calling out in their spring voices that sound to humans as if they were singing "Ho-, Hokekyo," or "Lo-, Lotus Sutra."

The Lotus Sutra mentions Amida Buddha's Pure Land, and the white plum blossoms suggest great purity, so Buson seems to be seeing a vision of himself in the Pure Land even while he is still alive. He has already been in the Pure Land for a few days, or perhaps forever, since the Pure Land is a land of timeless time. Buson was a believer in Hōnen's Pure Land school, and his protege Kitō writes that Buson was so peaceful when death came that he was surely reborn in the Pure Land. The sun setting in the west is a much more common image of the Pure Land, which is said to lie beyond the western edge of the universe, but Buson did not rely on this traditional image. He chose to evoke transcendent purity at dawn, an image of rebirth that perhaps transforms the cold frost image in the previous hokku and endows it with lambent cosmic dimensions.
Chris Drake

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


Here is one more jisei haiku about the moon

tsuki mo mite ware wa kono yo o kashiku kana

I have even seen the moon -
now I can say good bye
to this world

Kaga no Chiyoni, September 8, 1775

Related words

***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 


1 comment:

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa - 1812

kore ga maa tsui no sumika ka yuki go shaku

well here it is,
the place I'll die?
five feet of snow

Tr. David Lanoue
Viewed as his death verse,
this haiku was etched on Issa's gravestone. Issa wrote this some time after the 24th day of Eleventh Month, 1812, when he returned to his native village, determined to fulfill his father's dying wish for him to live in the family home. By Second Month of 1813, his inheritance dispute with his stepmother was resolved, and he returned for good. In March 2015 while visiting Issa's home province of Nagano, I and Issa scholar Tsukasa Tamaki viewed the original manuscript in which this haiku appears: a small notebook filled with Issa's haiku in black with corrections in red by his haiku teacher and benefactor Natusme Seibi.
To the side of the middle phrase, tsui no sumika ka ("my last residence?"), Issa offered an alternative middle phrase, which Seibi rejected by crossing it out. Professor Tamaki translates Issa's alternative version as "my death place?" We agreed that Seibi was wrong to reject this much stronger statement. I've emended my translation to reflect Issa's rewrite.