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山路来て 何やらゆかし すみれ草

松尾芭蕉(まつおばしょう)

Matsuo Basho

山路(やまじ)()て (なに)やらゆかし すみれ(ぐさ)

yamaji kite / nani yara yukashi / sumire gusa

Coming upon a mountain path / I feel somehow charmed / the violets

Key Haiku Terms

季語 kigo seasonal words - Within the poem, at least one word or phrase should symbolize one of the four seasons. 

切れ字 kireji cutting words - These are small words that often function as a placeholder so the verse has the right number of moras.  They also function to give a certain emotional or sentimental flavor to the poem.

山路(やまじ)()て (なに)やらゆかし すみれ(ぐさ)

Coming upon a mountain path / I feel somehow charmed / the violets


VOCABULARY

  • 山路 mountain path
  • 来て coming
  • 何やら somehow; for some reason; something; some kind of
  • ゆかし curious; eager to know (or experience); nostalgic; charming; admirable [a more modern word might be 慕わしい【したわしい】 (dear; beloved) ]
  • すみれ草 Fuji dawn (a type of violet flower)


COMMENTARY:

山道(やまみち)(ある)いていたら、(みち)のわきに(ちい)さなすみれが()いていました。なんとなく(こころ)がひかれました。

I was walking along a mountain path when I saw a small violet blooming on the side of the road. My heart was somehow drawn to it.

VOCABULARY:

  • 山道 mountain road
  • を (direct object marker)
  • 歩いていたら while walking [continuous ~ている form of 歩く (to walk) + たら (indicates supposition: if … then; when; after]
  • 道のわきに on the side of the road [道 (road) の (connector particle) わき (side) に (on)]
  • 小さな a little
  • すみれ violet flower
  • 咲いていました had bloomed
  • なんとなく somehow; for some reason; vaguely
  • 心がひかれました to have one's heart-strings pulled; to feel the call of …; to be charmed by [literally, "to have one's heart pulled"]

The violets are not roses or a towering sunflower that are easily noticed. They are small and insignificant, and yet, they caused the poet to not only stop to admire them during his weary journey but to take the time to compose this poem that even hundreds of years later is read and loved.

That was a pretty amazing すみれ草, don't you think?

It's a reminder to stop and smell the roses, er, the violets.

- Do violets even have a scent, Clay?

- I don't know. Google it.

Anyway, the point is, take some time today to enjoy the finer aspects of life. If you are stressed or tired from your life's journey, take notice of the small violets all around you.

This haiku ends with an inverted noun. The noun (すみれ草) is what is being described by 何やらゆかし and therefore, in more natural Japanese, すみれ草 should go first. This is to emphasize the violets and to surprise the reader/listener.

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