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Appeal To A Toad

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 2 Oct 2015, 03:05

Chora wrote a famous and charming haiku: as a gardener addressing a toad he knew, and who probably knew him.

If this sounds improbable, my aunt had a toad who lived for several years at the bottom of her garden. She would feed him (or her) and as a teenager I was taken to see the toad, who lived under some stones and did indeed hop out to greet us, and would consent to be scratched on the head, and tickled on the chin.

Chora's haiku goes something as follows in (very) free translation:

Dear old Toad
PLEASE hop leftward a little
Planting these bamboos is my job.

I thought that, for once, rather than compress a poem, which is my instinct, I would try to expand one, and also add rhyme and meter. Usually haiku in English are without rhyme, and end on a characteristic falling tone, which is very evocative, but not necessarily faithful to the original Japanese tradition. Other languages however have different and now longstanding traditions about the form translated or composed haikus. That's for another post though.

Here is my longer appeal to Mr Toad, in entirely my own idiom. But with falling tone.

Here we are again
Dear friend.
I know it's a pain
But, might you bend
To the left somewhat?

Respectfully I ask
Knowing each other as we do.
My task
Is planting bamboo.
Am I asking a lot?



By an unknown artist, Japan, 1814. Via The British Museum





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