Yosa Buson ~ Selected Haiku

Yosa Buson, (1716-1784) a favorite of Masaoka Shiki, was the second most well-known hokku & renga poet of the Edo period. He was a fan of Matsuo Bashō, as well as a superb painter and lay monk. His style differs from that of Bashō in that he included scenes from his imagination into his work, whereas Bashō was renowned for observatory haiku.
The old man

The old man
cutting barley–
bent like a sickle.

White blossoms of the pear

White blossoms of the pear
and a woman in moonlight
reading a letter.

The willow leaves fallen

The willow leaves fallen,
the spring gone dry,
rocks here and there.

The spring sea rising

The spring sea rising
and falling, rising
and falling all day.

The winter river

The winter river;
down it come floating
flowers offered to Buddha.

Washing the hoe

Washing the hoe–
ripples on the water;
far off, wild ducks.

Early summer rain

Early summer rain–
houses facing the river,
two of them


fish the cormorants haven’t caught
swimming in the shallows.

Lighting one candle

Lighting one candle
with another candle–
spring evening.

He’s on the porch

He’s on the porch,
to escape the wife and kids–
how hot it is!

Before the white chrysanthemum

Before the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate
a moment.


the sound of the bell
as it leaves the bell.

The behavior of the pigeon

The behavior of the pigeon
is beyond reproach,
but the mountain cuckoo?

Listening to the moon

Listening to the moon,
gazing at the croaking of frogs
in a field of ripe rice.

Blow of an ax

Blow of an ax,
pine scent,
the winter woods.

Evening wind

Evening wind:
water laps
the heron’s legs.

A bat flits

A bat flits
in moonlight
above the plum blossoms.

Harvest moon

Harvest moon–
called at his house,
he was digging potatoes.

Variations on ‘The short night

Below are eleven Buson haiku
beginning with the phrase
‘The short night–‘

The short night–
on the hairy caterpillar
beads of dew.

The short night–
washing in the river.

The short night–
bubbles of crab froth
among the river reeds.

The short night–
a broom thrown away
on the beach.

The short night–
the Oi River
has sunk two feet.

The short night–
on the outskirts of the village
a small shop opening.

The short night–
broken, in the shallows,
a crescent moon.

The short night–
the peony
has opened.

The short night–
waves beating in,
an abandoned fire.

The short night–
near the pillow
a screen turning silver.

The short night–
shallow footprints
on the beach at Yui.

Not quite dark yet

Not quite dark yet
and the stars shining
above the withered fields.

My arm for a pillow

My arm for a pillow,
I really like myself
under the hazy moon.

The end of spring

The end of spring–
the poet is brooding
about editors.

His Holiness the Abbot

His Holiness the Abbot
is shitting
in the withered fields.

Ploughing the land

Ploughing the land–
not even a bird singing
in the mountain’s shadow.

Calligraphy of geese

Calligraphy of geese
against the sky–
the moon seals it.

Buying leeks

Buying leeks
and walking home
under the bare trees.

Straw sandal half sunk

Straw sandal half sunk
in an old pond
in the sleety snow.

They end their flight

They end their flight
one by one—
crows at dusk.

Blown from the west

Blown from the west,
fallen leaves gather
in the east.

Old well

Old well,
a fish leaps–
dark sound.

Sparrow singing

Sparrow singing–
its tiny mouth


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