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Click here Would you like to report this content as inappropriate? Click here Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. Compare the next haiku with the one that follows by Taigi: I left a bit of my skin on the broomstick.
Wright very occasionally uses a technique that I call a "haiku round". Simply explained, in haiku rounds the reader goes from the third line back to the first line again, going around in an unending circle, repeating the haiku as often as one wishes. Some of the Japanese haiku masters also wrote haiku rounds. It's a technique that should probably be explored more than it has in English. Rhythm and rhyme are often employed when using this technique.
The neighing horses are causing echoing neighs in neighboring barns. Here's an example of a "haiku round" by Taigi: Wright occasionally deals with socioeconomic issues in his haiku: Remember Basho's "Traveler" haiku? First winter shower; you can just call me a traveler now.
Wright's circumstances were quite different: Their watching faces, as I walk the autumn road make me a traveler. Here's a good haiku on an ecological theme: With the forest trees cut, the lake lies naked and lost in the bare hills. Compare the next haiku with one by Alexis Rotella that follows: In a dank basement a rotting sack of barley swells with sprouting grain. Standing in the snow, a horse shifts his heavy haunch slowly to the right. The question mark is not often used in American haiku. Making a quick check, I found it used only once in over haiku in The Haiku Anthology edited by Cor van den Heuvel for example.
Pablo Neruda, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, invented a new poetic form in the last book he wrote before he died which might be considered a special type of Hispanic haiku. The book published the year after his death, The Book Of Questions, contains verses in two-line stanzas written as questions with a cutting word often at the end of the first. Haiku are usually open-ended, especially at the end. The open-ended question can be more effective than perhaps many haiku poets realize.
Wright uses the question more than just a few times in his haiku. Here are a couple of examples: Here's one with a double question: Why did this spring wood grow so silent when I came? One of the most memorable and most quoted examples of the use of the question in Japanese haiku is Basho's: What does my neighbor do to survive? Compare Wright's haiku with one that follows it by the world famous Argentine poet, Jorge Luis Borges: A balmy spring wind reminding me of something I cannot recall.
The afternoon and the mountains have told me something, but now it's lost. Julia, Richard Wright's daughter, was reading through the haiku manuscript in her father's study in Paris just after the funeral and upon coming across the haiku below, she exclaimed, "This is Daddy! Burning out its time and timing its own burning one lonely candle. I would like to close, if I may, with a postscript of four haiku of my own and four by Mexican poets on Afro-Americans: Dong Ha, Quang Tri, Vietnam.
A jazz band jamming. African masks on all the walls some ivory, some ebony. A painful song of Negroes and guitars: Under the full moon: All translations from the Japanese and Spanish by Ty Hadman. In traditional haiku, nature is not a representation of goodness, truth, or beauty but often uncovers truths. These truths are often revealed in a relationship between the human subject and nature. Nature on its own is neither good nor bad; the interiority of the seer defines what is seen, When there is a conflict between the natural subject and the culture it sometimes suggests that certain members of this culture are being exploited by their culture and are made unnatural by the culture and its demands of the subject, such as women exploited for labor and sex.
His natural world discloses women and young girls suffering exposure to natural elements like rain and snow rather than learning from them, pondering them or enjoying them. What one sees is made possible because the culture provides the means, or lack thereof, for one to see it or not.
The theme of human nature causing women to suffer natural elements because of cultural demands is clearly presented in this haiku. Note that it is a drizzling rain and not a torrential downpour. The drizzling rain suggests a slow, steady, experience of suffering rather than a quick or sudden death or injury. However, culture exploits nature both inside and outside the flower shop.
Instead of being in nature and permitted their own natural experiences of life, the flowers are cut and sold in order to fulfill human cultural desires. Upon crunching snow, Childless mothers are searching For cash customers.
I left a bit of my skin on the broomstick. Burning out its time and timing its own burning one lonely candle. To define and illustrate them is difficult since they refer to subtle perceptions and complex states of mind in the creation of poetry. In haiku, two entirely different things are joined in sameness: As autumn approaches winter and he nears the end of his life, he takes a deeper interest in his fellow human beings. Some well-known haiku poets in the twentieth century also preserve the sensibility of sabi. He did not want to convey any emotion, any thought, any beauty; there remained only poetry, only nature.
Being a mother is not, for these women, a part of this sexual economy of exploitation. Unfortunately, Wright is aware of far too many women who are represented by the plights of the women in the haiku above. He can only watch as they lose the innocence Wright expresses in haiku number A little girl stares, Dewy eyes round with wonder, At morning glories. During their youth, young girls wait patiently for some unknown good to touch their lives. As this promise of hope turns into a dream deferred, the girls become victims of cultural demands who are made to suffer while they are waiting.
From these warm spring days, I can still see her sad face In its last autumn. The focus here is on the juxtapositions of seasons. The speaker is calling to mind an old memory during warm spring days. Because spring represents growth, renewal, and rebirth and autumn represents decay, death, and the onset of old age, this haiku suggests that the speaker may not be in tune with nature because he recalls her sad face during these warm spring days.
While his fiction and nonfiction works explicitly advocate his position, he is only able to express this indirectly in his haiku. The primal outlook on life for which Wright gives witness coincides with his belief that there is a preeminence of intuition over knowledge in the search for truth. This is what leads Wright to call into question the basic assumptions of existence, that is, questioning the life one is socially and politically taught to live. In his haiku, as in all of his works, Wright admonishes us, that for us to see ourselves truly as human beings, we must give our utmost attention to comprehending the relationship between humanity and nature.
Yoshinobu Hakutani Hakutani, Yoshinobu. Richard Wright and Racial Discourse, pp. University of Missouri Press, In , less than a year before his death, Wright selected, under the title This Other World: Projections in the Haiku Manner, out of the about four thousand haiku he had composed since the summer of the previous year. Blyth, a well-detailed study of the genre and a commentary on the works of classic and some modern Japanese haiku poets. Above all, his fine pieces of poetry show, as do classic Japanese haiku, the unity and harmony of all things, the sensibility that man and nature are one and inseparable.
In his prose work, despite the social and racial conflicts described, he had an insatiable desire to find peace and harmony in society. Bigger Thomas's muted protest before execution and Cross Damon's last message to his fellow human beings as he lies dying are meant to unite division in human life. Only when Fred Daniels in "The Man Who Lived Underground" achieves Zen-like enlightenment, his peace of mind with the world, is he shot dead by police.
It is in another country that Fishbelly Tucker's quest for manhood, his dream of happiness and love, can be fulfilled. Although Wright wanted to belong to two cultures, American and African, as Black Power demonstrates, he was at times torn between the two worlds and remained an exile in Europe. His haiku, on the other hand, poignantly express a desire to transcend social and racial differences and a need to find union and harmony with nature.
While his prose exhibits a predilection for a rational world created by human beings out of their narcissistic image of themselves, the humanism expressed in his haiku goes beyond a fellowship of human beings. It means an awareness of what human beings share with all living things. The human images in his haiku represent life at its deepest level. The genesis of Wright's poetic sensibility is clearly stated in "Blueprint for Negro Writing," even though his theory is Marxist and hence political rather than literary.
An African American writer's perspective, Wright defines, "is that part of a poem, novel, or play which a writer never puts directly upon paper. It is that fixed point in intellectual space where a writer stands to view the struggles, hopes, and sufferings of his people. Yet he consciously created a poetic vision through and against which racial conflict could be depicted. The first chapter contains a long series of images from nature: There was the delight I caught in seeing long straight rows of red and green vegetables stretching away in the sun to the bright horizon.
There was the faint, cool kiss of sensuality when dew came on to my cheeks and shins as I ran down the wet green garden paths in the early morning. There was the vague sense of the infinite as I looked down upon the yellow, dreaming waters of the Mississippi River from the verdant bluffs of Natchez.
There were the echoes of nostalgia I heard in the crying strings of wild geese winging south against a bleak, autumn sky. There was the tantalizing melancholy in the tingling scent of burning hickory wood. There was the teasing and impossible desire to imitate the petty pride of sparrows wallowing and flouncing in the red dust of country roads. There was the yearning for identification loosed in me by the sight of a solitary ant carrying a burden upon a mysterious journey. There was the disdain that filled me as I tortured a delicate, blue-pink crawfish that huddled fearfully in the mudsill of a rusty tin can.
There was the languor I felt when I heard green leaves rustling with a rainlike sound. There was the experience of feeling death without dying that came from watching a chicken leap about blindly after its neck had been snapped by a quick twist of my father's wrist. There was the thirst I had when I watched clear, sweet juice trickle from sugar cane being crushed.
There was the speechless astonishment of seeing a hog stabbed through the heart, dipped into boiling water, scraped, split open, gutted, and strung up gaping and bloody. There was the love I had for the mute regality of tall, moss-clad oaks. There was the saliva that formed in my mouth whenever I smelt clay dust potted with fresh rain. There was the cloudy notion of hunger when I breathed the odor of new-cut, bleeding grass. And there was the quiet terror that suffused my senses when vast hazes of gold washed earthward from star-heavy skies on silent nights.
BB [Black Boy], Two kinds of natural images are intermingled. On the one hand, those representing harmony and tranquillity in nature are presented as simple descriptions: Unlike the first series, this one predominantly consists of images from nature that generate feelings of joy and happiness, a sense of harmony between man and nature.
Each experience had a sharp meaning of its own" BB, Of the eighteen sentences beginning with "There was," fourteen of them feature images of nature, harmony, and joy: Even the two sentences that contain images of unfriendly nature basically differ from those in the first series that contain images of society and conflict. The second series includes the following: There was the morning when I thought I would fall dead from fear after I had stepped with my bare feet upon a bright little green garden snake" BB, But in these passages his feelings of anxiety have little to do with nature itself, since nature is not to blame for such feelings.
Indeed, the poetic passages in Black Boy signify Wright's incipient interest in the exaltation of nature and the usefulness of natural images for his poetic sensibility. The primacy of the spirit of nature over the strife of man is further pronounced in his later work, especially Black Power. In "Blueprint," one of the theoretical principles calls for the African American writer to explore universal humanism, what is common among all cultures.
The truth is that the question of how much of Africa has survived in the New World is misnamed when termed "African survivals. BP [Black Power], Wright's exploration of the Ashanti convinced him that the defense of African culture meant renewal of Africans' faith in themselves. He realized for the first time that African culture was buttressed by universal human values, such as awe of nature, family kinship and love, faith in religion, and honor, that had made the African survival possible. This primal outlook on life that he witnessed in Africa had a singular influence on his poetic vision.
Before discussing Ashanti culture, he quotes a passage from Edmund Husserl's Ideas that suggests that the world of nature is preeminent over the scientific vision of that world, that intuition is preeminent over knowledge in the search for truth. This relationship of human beings to their world is somewhat remindful of Emerson, who emphasizes the preeminence of the spiritual and transcendental over the material and empirical.
As Emerson urges his readers to realize their world rather than to attain material things, Wright defines the primal vision in African culture as the preeminence of spirit over matter. Similarly, Wright's interpretation of African philosophy recalls a teaching in Zen Buddhism. Unlike the other sects of Buddhism, Zen teaches that every individual possesses Buddhahood and all he or she must do is realize it. One must purge one's mind and heart of any materialistic thoughts or feelings and appreciate the wonder of the world here and now.
Zen is a way of self-discipline and self-reliance. Its emphasis on self is derived from the prophetic admonishment Gautama Buddha is said to have given to his disciples: But there are differences between Zen and Emerson.
Fascinated by the mysticism of the East, Emerson adapted to his own poetical use many allusions to Eastern religions. From time to time, however, one is surprised to find in his essays an aversion to Buddhism. This "remorseless Buddhism," he wrote in his Journals, "lies all around, every enterprise, every sentiment, has its ruin in this horrid Infinite which circles us and awaits on dropping into it.
For Emerson, the association of this Buddhistic enlightenment with an undisciplined state of oblivion to the self and the world is uncongenial to his stoicism and self-reliance. The African primal outlook upon existence, in which a person's consciousness, as Wright explains, corresponds to the spirit of nature, has a closer resemblance to the concept of enlightenment in Zen than it does to Emersonian transcendentalism. To the African mind and to Zen, divinity exists in nature only if the person is intuitively conscious of divinity in the self.
To Emerson and Whitman, for example, God exists in nature regardless of whether the person is capable of such intuition. Just as, in Zen, a tree contains satori only when the viewer can see it through his or her enlightened eyes, Wright saw in African life a closer relationship between human beings and nature than between human beings and their social and political environment: Africa, with its high rain forest, with its stifling heat and lush vegetation, might well be mankind's queerest laboratory.
Here instinct ruled and flowered without being concerned with the nature of the physical structure of the world; man lived without too much effort; there was nothing to distract him from concentrating upon the currents and countercurrents of his heart. He was thus free to project out of himself what he thought he was. Man has lived here in a waking dream, and, to some extent, he still lives here in that dream. Wright thus created an image of the noble black man: Africa evokes in one "a total attitude toward life, calling into question the basic assumptions of existence," just as Zen teaches one a way of life completely independent of what one has been socially and politically conditioned to lead.
As if echoing the enlightenment of Zen, Wright says: Wright's discussion of the African concept of life is also suggestive of Zen's emphasis on transcending the dualism of life and death. Just as Zen master Dogen taught that life and death are beyond human control and not separate, the funeral service Wright saw in an Ashanti tribe showed him that "the 'dead' live side by side with the living; they eat, breathe, laugh, hate, love, and continue doing in the world of ghostly shadows exactly what they had been doing in the world of flesh and blood" BP, , a portrayal of life and death reminiscent of Philip Freneau's "Indian Burial.
The pre-Christian African was impressed with the littleness of himself and he walked the earth warily, lest he disturb the presence of invisible gods. When he wanted to disrupt the terrible majesty of the ocean in order to fish, he first made sacrifices to its crashing and rolling waves; he dared not cut down a tree without first propitiating its spirit so that it would not haunt him; he loved his fragile life and he was convinced that the tree loved its life also.
The concept of unity, continuity, and infinity underlying life and death is what the Akan religion and Buddhism share. If my writing has any aim, it is to try to reveal that which is human on both sides, to affirm the essential unity of man on earth. Indeed, his reading of the African mind conforms to both religions in their common belief that mankind is not at the center of the universe. It is this revelatory and emulating relationship between nature and human beings that makes the African primal outlook upon life akin to Zen Buddhism.
Like transcendentalists such as Emerson and Whitman, Japanese haiku poets were inspired by nature, especially its beautiful scenes and seasonal changes. Where they came from is unknown, but they must have adapted their living to the ways of nature. Many were farmers; others were hunters, fishermen, and warriors. While they often confronted nature, they always tried to live in harmony with it: Buddhism and Shintoism constantly taught them that the soul existed in them as well as in nature, the animate and the inanimate alike, and that nature must be preserved as much as possible.
Interestingly, haiku traditionally avoided such subjects as earthquakes, floods, illnesses, and eroticism-ugly aspects of nature. Instead haiku poets were attracted to such objects as flowers, trees, birds, sunsets, the moon, and genuine love.
Those who earned their livelihood by labor had to battle with the negative aspects of nature, but noblemen, priests, writers, singers, and artists found beauty and pleasure in natural phenomena. Since the latter group of people had the time to idealize or romanticize nature and impose a philosophy on it, they became an elite group of Japanese culture. Basho was an essayist, Buson was a painter, and Issa was a Buddhist priest, and each of them was also an accomplished haiku poet. The genesis of haiku can be seen in the waka, or Japanese song, the oldest verse form of thirty-one syllables in five lines As an amusement at the court one person would compose the first three lines of a waka and another person was challenged to provide the last two lines to complete the verse.
The haiku form, a verse of seventeen syllables arranged , with such exceptions as and , thus corresponds to the first three lines of the waka. Hyakunin Isshu One hundred poems by one hundred poets , a waka anthology compiled in by Fujiwara no Sadaiye, contains haikulike verses, such as Sadaiye's "Chiru Hana wo" The Falling Blossoms: Chiru hana wo Oikakete yuku Arashi kana. Look at them, it is the storm That is chasing them. The focus of this verse is the poet's observation of a natural object, the falling blossoms.
To a beautiful picture Sadaiye adds his feeling about this phenomenon: This seventeen-syllable verse form was preserved by noblemen, courtiers, and high-ranked samurai for more than two centuries after the publication of Hyakunin Isshu. Around the beginning of the sixteenth century, however, the verse form became popular among the poets. It constituted a dominant element of another popular verse form calledrenga, or linked song. A renga consisted of a continuous chain of verses of fourteen and seventeen syllables, each independently composed, but connected as one poem.
The first collection of renga, Chikuba Kyogin Shu, contains over two hundred tsukeku adding verses linked with the first verses of another poet. As the title of thisrenga collection suggests, the salient characteristic of renga was a display of ingenuity and coarse humor. Chikuba Kyogin Shu also collected twenty hokku starting verses.
Because the hokku was considered the most important verse of a renga series, it was usually composed by the senior poet attending a renga session. The fact that this collection included fewer hokku in proportion to tsukeku indicates the poets' interest in the comic nature of the renga. Basho's poem was totally different from most of the haikai poems written by his predecessors: As most scholars observe, the changes and innovations brought about in haikaipoetry were not accomplished by a single poet.
The haiku, then, was a unique poetic genre that was short but could offer more than wit or humor: Furu ike ya Kawazu tobi komu Mizu no oto. A frog leapt into- List, the water sound! One may think a frog an absurd poetic subject, but Basho focused his vision on a scene of desolation, an image of nature. The pond was perhaps situated on the premises of an ancient temple whose silence was suddenly broken by a frog plunging into the deep water. As Noguchi conceived the experience, Basho, a Zen Buddhist, was "supposed to awaken into enlightenment now when he heard the voice bursting out of voicelessness, and the conception that life and death were mere change of condition was deepened into faith.
He was describing the sensation of hearing the sound bursting out of soundlessness. A haiku is not a representation of goodness, truth, or beauty; there is nothing particularly good, true, or beautiful about a frog's leaping into the water. It seems as though Basho, in writing the poem, carried nature within him and brought himself to the deepest level of nature where all sounds lapse into the world of silence and infinity. Although his vision is based upon reality, it transcends time and space. What a Zen poet like Basho is showing is that man can do enough naturally, enjoy doing it, and achieve his peace of mind.
This fusion of man and nature is called spontaneity in Zen. The best haiku, because of their linguistic limitations, are inwardly extensive and outwardly infinite. A severe constraint imposed on one aspect of haiku must be balanced by a spontaneous, boundless freedom on the other. From a Zen point of view, such a vision is devoid of intellectualism and emotionalism.
Since Zen is the most important philosophical tradition influencing Japanese haiku, the haiku poet aims at understanding the spirit of nature. Basho thus recognizes little division between man and nature, the subjective and the objective; he is never concerned with the problems of good and evil.
The satori that the Zen poet seeks is defined as the state of mu, nothingness, which is absolutely free of any thought or emotion; it is so completely free that such a state corresponds to that of nature. For a Zen-inspired poet, nature is a mirror of the enlightened self; one must see and hear things as they really are by making one's consciousness pure and clear.
Classic haiku poets like Basho, Buson, and Issa avoided expressions of good and evil, love and hate, individual feeling and collective myth; their haiku indeed shun such sentiments altogether. Their poetry is strictly concerned with the portrayal of nature-mountains, trees, flowers, birds, waterfalls, nights, days, seasons.
For the Japanese haiku poet, nature reflects the enlightened self; the poet must always make his or her consciousness pure, natural, and unemotional. This characteristic can be shown even by one of Basho's lesser-known haiku: Hiya hiya to Kabe wo fumaete Hirune kana How cool it is, Putting the feet on the wall: Basho was interested in expressing how his feet, anyone's feet, would feel when placed on a wall in the house on a warm summer afternoon. His subject was none other than this direct sensation. He did not want to convey any emotion, any thought, any beauty; there remained only poetry, only nature.
Because of their brevity and condensation, haiku seldom provide details. The haiku poet delineates only an outline or a highly selective image, and the reader must complete the vision. Above all, a classic haiku, as opposed to a modern one, is required to include a clear reference to one of the four seasons.
In Basho's "The Old Pond," said to be written in the spring of , a seasonal reference to spring is made by the frog in the second line: Although the frog traditionally is a kigo, a seasonal reference, to spring, Yone Noguchi interprets "The Old Pond" as an autumnal haiku: It is also imperative that a haiku be primarily concerned with nature; if a haiku deals with man's life, that life must be viewed in the context of nature rather than of society.
The predilection to portray man's life in association with nature means that the poet is more interested in genuinely human sentiments than in moral, ethical, or political problems. That haiku thrives upon the affinity between man and nature can be illustrated by this famous haiku by Kaga no Chiyo , a foremost woman poet in her age: Asagao ni Tsurube torarete Morai mizu A morning glory Has taken the well bucket: Since a fresh, beautiful morning glory has grown on her well bucket overnight, Chiyo does not mind going to her neighbor to borrow water.
Not only does her action show a desire to preserve nature, but the poem also conveys a natural and tender feeling for nature. A classic haiku, while it shuns human-centered emotions, thrives upon such a nature-centered feeling as Chiyo's. Nor can this sensibility be explained by logic or reason. Longer poems are often filled with intellectualized or moralized reasoning, but haiku avoid such language.
Because the haiku is limited in its length, it must achieve its effect through an internal unity and harmony. Feelings of unity and harmony, indicative of Zen philosophy, are motivated by a desire to perceive every instant in nature and life: One of Basho's later haiku displays this sense of unity and relatedness: Aki fukaki Tonari wa nani wo Suru hito zo What does the neighbor do For a living? Although a serious poet, Basho was enormously interested in the commonplace and in common people.
As autumn approaches winter and he nears the end of his life, he takes a deeper interest in his fellow human beings. His observations of the season and his neighbor, a total stranger, are separate, yet they intensify each other. His vision, as it is unified, evokes a deeply felt sentiment. In haiku, two entirely different things are joined in sameness: Basho's oft-quoted "A Crow" depicts a crow perching on a withered branch, a moment of reality: Kare eda ni Karasu no tomari taruya Aki no kure A crow Perched on a withered tree In the autumn evening.
This image of the crow is followed by the coming of an autumn nightfall, a feeling of future. Present and future, thing and feeling, man and nature, each defining the other, are thus unified. The unity of sentiment in haiku is further intensified by the poet's expression of the senses. Basho's "Sunset on the Sea," for instance, shows the unity and relatedness of the senses: Umi kurete Kamo no koe Honoka ni shiroshi Sunset on the sea: The voices of the ducks Are faintly white.
The voices of the ducks under the darkened sky are delineated both as white and as faint. Interestingly, the chilled wind after dark evokes the whiteness associated with coldness. The voices of the ducks and the whiteness of the waves refer to two entirely different senses, but, each reinforcing the other, the images create a unified sensation. This transference of the senses may occur between color and mood, as shown in a haiku by Usuda Aro, a contemporary Japanese poet: Tsuma araba Tozomou asagao Akaki saku Were my wife alive, I thought, and saw a morning glory: It has blossomed red.
The first line conveys a feeling of loneliness, but the red morning glory reminds him of a happy life they spent when she was living. The redness-rather than the whiteness or blueness-of the flower is transferred to the feeling of happiness and love. The transference of the senses, in turn, arouses a sense of balance and harmony. His recollection of their happy marriage, a feeling evoked by the red flower, compensates for the death of his wife, a reality.
Well-wrought haiku thrive upon the fusion of man and nature and upon the intensity of love and beauty this fusion creates.
A haiku by Takarai Kikaku , Basho's first disciple and one of the most innovative poets, is exemplary: Meigetsu ya Tatami no ue ni Matsu no kage Lo, on the tatami mats The shape of a pine. The beauty of the moonlight here is not only humanized by the light shining on the man-made object but also intensified by the shadows of a pine tree that fall upon the mats.
The beauty of the shadow reflected on the man-made object is far more luminous than the light itself, for the intricate pattern of an ageless pine tree as it stamps the dustless mats intensifies the beauty of the moonlight. Not only does such a scene unify an image of man and an image of nature, but it also shows that man and nature do interact.
As the haiku has developed over the centuries, certain aesthetic principles have been established. To define and illustrate them is difficult since they refer to subtle perceptions and complex states of mind in the creation of poetry. Above all, these principles are governed by the Japanese national character as it developed over the centuries, and they do not necessarily mean the same today as they did in the seventeenth century.
Discussion of these terms, furthermore, proves difficult simply because poetic theory does not always correspond to what poets actually write.
It has also been true that the aesthetic principles of the haiku are often applied to other genres of Japanese art such as Noh drama, flower arrangement, and the tea ceremony. One of the most delicate principles of Eastern art is called "yugen. It was also a philosophical principle that originated in Zen metaphysics. In Zen, as noted earlier, every individual possesses Buddhahood and must realize it.
Yugen, as applied to art, designates the mysterious and dark, what underlies the surface. The mode of expression is subtle as opposed to obvious, suggestive rather than declarative. In reference to the works of Zeami, the author of many of the extant Noh plays, Arthur Waley expounds this difficult term: It is applied to the natural grace of a boy's movements, to the gentle restraint of a nobleman's speech and bearing. The symbol of y? Such scenes convey a feeling of satisfaction and release, as does the catharsis of a Greek play, but yugen differs from catharsis because it has little to do with the emotional stress caused by tragedy.
Yugenfunctions in art as a means by which man can comprehend the course of nature. Although yugen seems allied with a sense of resignation, it has a far different effect upon the human psyche. A certain type of Noh play like Takasago celebrates the order of the universe ruled by heaven. The mode of perception in the play may be compared to that of a pine tree with its evergreen needles, the predominant representation on the stage.
The style of yugen can express either happiness or sorrow. Cherry blossoms, however beautiful they may be, must fade away; love between man and woman is inevitably followed by sorrow. This mystery and inexplicability, which surround the order of the universe, had a strong appeal to a classic haiku poet like Basho. His "The Old Pond," as discussed earlier, shows that while the poet describes a natural phenomenon realistically, he conveys his instant perception that nature is infinitely deep and absolutely silent.
Such attributes of nature are not ostensibly stated; they are hidden. The tranquillity of the old pond with which the poet was struck remained in the background. He did not write "The rest is quiet"; instead he wrote "The sound of water. Basho's mode of experience is suggestive rather than descriptive, hidden and reserved rather than overt and demonstrative.
Yugen has all the connotations of modesty, concealment, depth, and darkness. In Zen painting, woods and bays, as well as houses and boats, are hidden; hence these objects suggest infinity and profundity. Detail and refinement, which would mean limitation and temporariness of life, destroy the sense of permanence and eternity. Another frequently used term in Japanese poetics is sabi. This word, a noun, derives from the verb sabiru, to rust, implying that what is described is aged.
Buddha's portrait hung in Zen temples, as the Chinese painter Liang Kai's Buddha Leaving the Mountains suggests, exhibits the Buddha as an old man in contrast to the young figure typically shown in other temples. In this kind of portrait the old man with a thin body is nearer to his soul as the old tree with its skin and leaves fallen is nearer to the very origin and essence of nature. Sabi is traditionally associated with loneliness. Aesthetically, however, this mode of sensibility smacks of grace rather than splendor; it suggests quiet beauty as opposed to robust beauty.
Basho's "A Crow," quoted earlier, best illustrates this principle. Loneliness, suggested by a single crow on a branch of an old tree, is reinforced by the elements of time indicated by nightfall and autumn. The picture is drawn with little detail and the overall mood is created by a simple, graceful description of fact.
Furthermore, parts of the picture are delineated, by implication, in dark colors: The kind of beauty associated with the loneliness in Basho's poem is in marked contrast to the robust beauty depicted in a poem by Mukai Kyorai , Basho's disciple: Hana mori ya Shiroki kashira wo Tsuki awase. The guardians Of the cherry blossoms Lay their white heads together. The tradition of haiku established in the seventeenth century produced eminent poets like Buson and Issa in the eighteenth century, but a revolt against this tradition took place toward the end of the nineteenth century under the banner of a young poet, Masaoka Shiki On the one hand, Basho's followers, instead of becoming innovators, as was their master, resorted to an artificiality reminiscent of the comic renga.