tsumu mo oshi/ tsumanu mo oshiki/ sumire kana
I regret picking
and not picking
From the Bashȏ period, this haiku is included in The Classic Tradition of Haiku, an anthology edited by Faubion Bowers. I often find haiku to be either very cryptic or very simple, in which case I try to read too far into it. This one, however, is simple but at the same time poignant. The first option leaves the speaker with the decay of the flower, and thus the regret that there can be no maintenance of its beauty. The second option prevents the speaker, who lives in a material world, from possessing this beauty. The beauty of the violets is ephemeral and, no matter what, the speaker will suffer regret.
The nature of haiku creates an unusual atmosphere. It is composed of a 5-7-5 syllabic pattern. However, the English translation of this haiku does not follow the structure. In the past, I have attempted the art of haiku, but I never was truly able to capture the beauty and truth in such few words as those which I had read. It never felt quite right. Could this be that the English language does not lend itself as naturally to the form? Luckily, though, none of the substance is lost in translation. By researching the symbolic meaning of flowers, my findings concluded that violets are associated with being preoccupied by thoughts of love. Perhaps the speaker is regretting having walked away from a chance at love and also at experiencing a love that may have nastily decomposed.
It is fulfilling to get so much emotion and meaning from such few lines. I think that is what draws me to reading haiku. Surely, it is even more beautiful in its original language.