Fine Japanese Calligraphy by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase


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by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

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H3027 Haiku by Chiyojo - My little dragonfly hunter, ...
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

My little dragonfly hunter, I wonder where he is off to today (tombo tsuri kyou wa doko made itta yara)

My little dragonfly hunter.
I wonder where he is
off to today.
[1]

Chiyojo

Japanese Haiku Designs by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

These original, hand-lettered designs are perfect for personal and commercial use. For personal use the Adobe PDF designs are ideally suited for arts and crafts such as quilting, stained-glass, sewing - there is no limit to their uses. They are also perfect for tattoos and come with the line art that your tattoo artist will need to ink the design - they don't even have to know Japanese! Just print the design and you have all you need - and the designs are high-resolution images that can be easily resized. Personal use designs start at $14.95.

Commercial use designs come in three size (72, 300, and 600 dpi JPG). The lower resolution is suitable for images used on websites. The higher resolutions are suitable for all print illustrations such as for CD covers, books, magazines, and advertisements. These designs are subject to a generous  licensing agreement. Prices start from $34.95.

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This article is intended to be a scholarly work discussing the meaning and translation of this poem. Copyrights are retained by the original authors and used here under Fair Use Doctrine. We encourage you to support all the artists, as we have, by purchasing the referenced works.

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For help viewing the Japanese text see Displaying Japanese Characters

 

My little dragonfly hunter, I wonder where he is off to today (tombo tsuri kyou wa doko made itta yara)

Cursive
 

My little dragonfly hunter, I wonder where he is off to today (tombo tsuri kyou wa doko made itta yara)

Cursive Design

My little dragonfly hunter, I wonder where he is off to today (tombo tsuri kyou wa doko made itta yara)

Cursive Design

My little dragonfly hunter, I wonder where he is off to today (tombo tsuri kyou wa doko made itta yara)

Semi-Cursive

My little dragonfly hunter, I wonder where he is off to today (tombo tsuri kyou wa doko made itta yara)

Semi-Cursive

(5 designs in catalog)


My little dragonfly hunter.
I wonder where he is
off to today.
[1]

Translations of this poem tend to be either too literal or too detached. The last two lines are a single sentence that are simply spoken words - words you could imagine any mother saying a thousand times: "I wonder where he is off to today?" I think this is important to preserve in the translation and that it is essential to the beauty of the poem.

I imagine that Chiyojo is talking about an emotion that she must have felt a hundred times when her son was alive - that of simple motherly concern that her little boy was out somewhere, she didn't know exactly where, catching dragonflies. Indeed, the poem stops with the simple statement that she feels concern on where he might have gotten off to.

... and she caught herself, stopped herself. But for that instant it was as if her son were alive and had gone outside to play.

In my opinion she is capturing two things: the first is the obvious pride and seriousness that her boy felt for dragonfly hunting and the second is the concern she felt when he was outside and she would worry until he was again safely home. This was how she felt again for a moment ... it was , how she use to so often feel.

What is left unsaid by the poem is the instant after. When she realized all of this was gone.

Buchanan seems to take this position when he writes, "This poem was composed after the death of her little son, her only child, who was fond of hunting dragonflies. Though not described directly, the sorrow of the mother is beautifully and poignantly expressed." [2]

The whole point of the poem is not the moment the poem describes, but what we all know must come afterwards and it is simply heartbreaking. There is no more human a statement as Buchanan's, "Though not described directly, the sorrow of the mother is beautifully and poignantly expressed."

Lafcadio Hearn, on the other hand, takes this in a different direction where he conjectures that Chiyojo knows her son is dead and is thinking about her son in the after-life. He writes, "The verse is intended to suggest, not to express, the emotion of the mother. She sees children running after dragon-flies, and thinks of her own dead boy who used to join in the sport - and so finds herself wondering, in presence of the infinite Mystery, what has become of the little soul. Whither has it gone? - in what shadowy play does it now find delight?" [3]

In this poem, Chiyojo is a mother not a philosopher.

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Henderson suggests the translation:

The dragonfly hunter -
today, what place has he
got to, I wonder ... 
[4]

Rendered by Curtis Hidden Page as:

I wonder in what fields today
He chases dragonflies in play,
My little boy - who ran away.
[4]

Blyth suggests the translation:

The little dragon-fly hunter, -
How far I wonder,
Has he gone today.
[5]

Lafcadio Hearn suggest the translation:

Catching dragon-flies! ... I wonder where he has gone today! [6]

Buchanan suggests the translation:

Dragonfly catcher,
How far have you gone today
In your wandering?
[7]

Calligraphy Notes:

1) For the designs I used hiragana for Dragonfly (tonbo). This is a very feminine poem and I think the cursive, and more so the designed cursive using hentaigana convey the emotions.

I hope in seeing this poem and the options for designs that you will be more receptive to the more artistic designs.

Translation Notes:

1) 蜻蛉釣り (tonbo tsuri) - composed of 蜻蛉 (tonbo) meaning "dragonfly" and 釣り (tsuri) meaning "fishing; angling". So the term literally means "Dragonfly fishing".

Today we use the expression "tonbo tori" catching dragonflies with a net. But, when this poem was written a line was used and the process was much more like fishing - so "tsuri" was used rather than "tori".

Lafcadio Hearn discusses this a bit on page 118 of A Japanese Miscellany (full text available online). This is a great read - did you know Japan use to be known as Akitsushima and was written with the kanji literally meaning "Island of the Dragonfly"? Akitsu being an ancient word for "dragonfly". The version in the dictionary has the same pronunciation, but different kanji ... too bad.

Notice that dragonfly is written in romaji as both tombo and tonbo. Technically Japanese does not have a single character "m" only an "n", but in this situation the "n" is often pronounced like an "m" and so the romaji reflects this. A dictionary would use tonbo.

Finally the "My Little" is not in the original Japanese. Chiyojo is talking about her little boy and this sentiment fits the poem. A more direct translation would be:

Dragonfly hunter.
I wonder where he is
off to today.
[1]

2) 今日 (kyou) - means "today; this day".

3) は (wa) - Written as "ha" but it is read as "wa". This states "today" as the topic.

4) どこまで (dokomade) - "how far; to what extent".

5) 行った (itta) - past tense of the verb 行く (iku) meaning "to go".

6) やら (yara) - yara is a particle denoting uncertainty

Recommended Reading:

References:

[1] Translation by Timothy L. Jackowski, Takase Studios, LLC.

[2] Buchanan, Daniel C. (1973) One Hundred Famous Haiku. Tokyo, Kenkyusha Printing Co. 67.

[3] Lafcadio Hearn (1901) A Japanese Miscellany‎. Boston. Little, Brown, and Co. 118.

[4] Henderson, Harold G. (1958) An Introduction to Haiku. United States of America. Doubleday Anchor Books. 82.

[5] Blyth, R. H. (1963) A History of Haiku Volume One. Tokyo. The Hokuseido Press. 223.

[6] Lafcadio Hearn (1901) A Japanese Miscellany‎. Boston. Little, Brown, and Co. 118.

[7] Buchanan, Daniel C. (1973) One Hundred Famous Haiku. Tokyo, Kenkyusha Printing Co. 67.

Related Sites:

Classical Japanese Database - by Carl Johnson. A resource in the Zen tradition.

Related Sites:

Haiku of Kobayashi Issa - An archive of over 9000 Kobayashi Issa haiku and translations and insightful commentaries.

Jeffrey's Japanese <-> English Dictionary - This is an independent dictionary based on the Edict data maintained by Dr. Jim Breen of Monash University.

Haiku Source - A Selected Collection of Japanese Haiku - Includes a few English translations

Wikipedia - Haiku - Overview of Haiku including brief biographies of Japan's most influential poets


Copyrights are retained by the original authors and used here under the Fair Use Doctrine.
We encourage you to support the authors, as we have, by purchasing the referenced works.