Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year

How one takes the following New Year's haiku depends upon one's disposition.  I choose to take it in good humor, with a touch of wistfulness.

     I intended
Never to grow old, --
     But the temple bell sounds!

Jokun (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 202.

At the turning of the New Year in Japan, the bells of the Buddhist temples are rung 108 times:  once for each of the 108 desires that are the cause of our life of suffering.  The purpose of the ringing is to bid farewell to those desires.

Josephine Haswell Miller (1890-1975), "The House on the Canal"

As I have noted here in the past, I am not one to draw up New Year's resolutions.  But, if I were of a mind to do so, I would choose this each year:

               . . . we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin, "The Mower," Collected Poems (Faber and Faber 1988).

A lifetime's work.  Never finished.

Best wishes for the New Year, dear readers.

Dudley Holland, "Winter Morning" (1945)


Fred said...


A slightly different translation:

Ah! I intended
Never never to grow old...
Listen: New Year's bell!
-- Jokun --

A HAPPY NEW YEAR to you also.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: Thank you for the alternate translation. It's always good to see other versions. Blyth's and this version are pretty close, aren't they?

I suspect that this translator felt that he/she had to provide some context in the final line. In the original, the final line reads: "kane no naru." "Kane" is simply "bell"; "naru" is "to sound, to make a sound; to ring (when the subject is a bell)"; "no" is "of". Thus, a literal translation might be: "sound of bell" or "ringing of bell." But I can see why he/she might want to add "New Year's."

Thank you very much for stopping by.

Goethe Girl said...

Lovely wishes. I have enjoyed your Chinese posts. I do make resolutions every year, which I write down on the first page of my yearly calendar (actually a book, bought at Staples at the end of each year). One resolution I managed to keep this past year: have someone to dinner at least once a month. The one I have not been very successful with, but that I aim to try again this year: know where everything in my apartment is. All the best to you in health and happiness in 2015.

mary f.ahearn said...

Lovely haiku, a universal feeling in those few lovely lines. The beauty of haiku, surely.
And the wonderful Larkin quote -
Thank you and I hope 2015 is kind to you,

Fred said...


Yes, I would say identical in essentials--ruefulness on hearing the bells and never aging.

I agree--a Japanese reader would have been much more likely to have made the connection between the bells and aging than a Westerner.

Perhaps I mentioned this earlier: I finally found a copy of a translation of all Basho's haiku, or so it claims, and I'm having difficulty finding matches for some of the haiku in this translation with other translations. Ironically, one is my favorite Basho haiku. It's from my favorite haiku collection: A Little Treasury of Haiku, trans. by Peter Beilenson. The haiku is

Aprils' air stirs in
Willow-leaves. . .a butterfly
Floats and balances

When I go through the collection again, I will check only for references to breezes, trees, and butterflies.

John Ashton said...

Mr Pentz,

The haiku of Jokun is wonderful, and those lines of Larkin's have always been favourites of mine. Like yourself I do not make New Year's resolutions, but if I did it would be difficult to better the sentiments expressed in those words.

All the best to you for the coming year.

Stephen Pentz said...

Goethe Girl: I'm very happy to hear from you again. Thank you for stopping by, and for your thoughts on resolutions. If I were to make resolutions, the type you mention are the best to make: practical, and within the realm of possibility! Good ideas both.

Thank you again. Best wishes to you as well, and I hope to hear from you in the coming year.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary: Thank you very much for the kind words. I'm pleased you liked the haiku and the lines from Larkin. Thank you for your long-time presence here. I always appreciate hearing from you. I wish you the best in the coming year.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: I understand your difficulty. As you know, the fact that haiku lack titles makes it difficult to track them down in indexes and tables of contents. And when they are listed alphabetically in indexes, it is often done using the Romaji transliteration of the first line, which doesn't help us who don't know the Japanese original.

I will keep on the lookout for the haiku you mention, and if I come across it, I will report back here. It is a lovely haiku.

Thanks for the follow-up thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Ashton: It's very nice to hear from you at the start of the year. Best wishes to you as well in 2015. I look forward to continuing our exchange of thoughts in the coming year. I always appreciate your taking the time to comment.

Unknown said...


Sending warm wishes for a New Year filled with good friends and good health.
Also sending my thanks and gratitude for your blog which enriches my life and makes me think!!!!

Nige said...

Belated Happy New Year to you, Stephen, and keep up the good work on this beautiful blog.

Stephen Pentz said...

Pam: Thank you very much for your kind words. And thank you for your visits here in the past, and for, I hope, your visits in the future.

I wish you all the best in the coming year.

Stephen Pentz said...

Nige: It's very nice to hear from you again, and I greatly appreciate your kind words. Thank you for your support and for your presence over the years.

Happy New Year to you as well, and best wishes to you in the coming year.