The autumn of my life;
The moon is a flawless moon,
Issa (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 396. Although the phrase "the autumn of my life" could be written at any time of the year, the reference to "a flawless moon" places the poem in autumn.
The final word of the poem is nagara, which Blyth translates as "nevertheless." Following his translation of the haiku, Blyth notes: "Issa was fond of using nagara." Ibid, page 396. However, he does not mention Issa's use of the word in what is likely Issa's best-known poem, although he does translate the poem later in the same volume:
This dewdrop world --
It may be a dewdrop,
And yet -- and yet --
Issa (translated by R. H. Blyth), Ibid, page 433.
Nagara appears twice at the end of the haiku, this time translated by Blyth as "and yet," rather than as "nevertheless." Blyth writes: "This verse has the prescript, 'Losing a beloved child.' This child was Sato-jo, and Issa's feelings at this time are portrayed in Oragaharu [a prose diary containing haiku]. He had already lost two or three children when this baby girl died." Ibid, page 433. Issa's moving description of his daughter's sudden illness and death appears in an earlier post.
Here is an alternative translation of the haiku:
The world of dew
is the world of dew.
And yet, and yet --
Issa (translated by Robert Hass), in Robert Hass, The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashō, Buson, and Issa (The Ecco Press 1994), page 228.
Autumn is indeed the season of "and yet -- and yet --" and of "nevertheless." A song by Mark Linkous (performing as Sparklehorse) comes to mind: "Sad and Beautiful World."
Edward Waite (1854-1924)
"The Mellow Year Is Hastening To Its Close" (1896)
Depending upon one's mood at the moment, or one's overall view of life, "nevertheless" may be an exclamation of joy, a cry of despair, or a sigh of acceptance (or some combination of each of these, in varying degrees). Consider, for instance, this haiku by Bashō:
How old I am getting:
Ah, the clouds, the birds!
Bashō (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn, page 334.
Bashō wrote the poem on November 13, 1694, during his final illness. He died two weeks later, at the age of 50. The poem is preceded by this title: "A wanderer's thought." (Makoto Ueda, Bashō and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary (Stanford University Press 1991), page 407.)
Nagara does not appear in the haiku. However, "Ah, the clouds, the birds!" functions as a "nevertheless," as an "and yet -- and yet --," to Bashō's opening observation. But what sort of "nevertheless" is this? One of joy, despair, or acceptance? Well, that's best left for each of us to decide.
Edward Waite, "Autumn Colouring" (1894)
What a wonderful and breathtaking circumstance: each year, the seasons play out for us the arc of our life. This beautiful and mysterious gift should give us pause. One might fancy that we are part of something that is beyond our ken, and beyond words. In the meantime, autumn and winter and spring and summer come and go, each with its own "and yet -- and yet --," its own "nevertheless." How lucky we are.
Leaves talked in the tree
"It will be,"
Wind with lifted tune
A squirrel shook the bough,
Branch is not changed:
Stands the high stairway where the squirrel ranged,
Just as it stood.
Wind, on fallen key,
"It had to be;"
Leaves drift through the wood.
Geoffrey Scott (1884-1929), Poems (Oxford University Press 1931).
Edward Waite, "Fall of the Year"