The Sound of Water, in English
An old pond and
A frog leaps in,
Sound of water!
A well known poem by Matsuo Basho (松尾 芭蕉, 1644–1694) describing the sound of water. Even this simple haiku can have multiple translations. Sometimes the last line, 水の音, Mizu no oto, is simplified to “splash”. If one tries to be literal, then the line goes 水, mizu, water and の音, no oto, of sound. This works out to be “water’s sound” or the “sound of water”. Gramatically this is reverse of the French construction, “Le bruit de l’eau!”
We all interpret poems differently. My take is that Basho is laughing at the idea of water speaking when a frog jumps in.
Late in life, overcome with the loss of his mother and life in general, Bashō left Edo (Tokyo) and took to traveling alone on the Edo Five Routes. In 17th century Japan, these higways were thought to be full of thieves and bandits and considered dangerous. At first Bashō expected, if not hoped, to die in some forgotten spot. However, as his journey progressed, his mood improved, and Bashō met friends and grew to enjoy the scenery along the route.
Eventually, Basho returned to Edo where in 1686, he wrote this poem.
古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ Mizu no oto
Un âgé étang et
Une grenouille bonde,
Le bruit de l’eau!