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The Form and Meaning of “Listening to the Moon” Essay

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Updated: Feb 26th, 2022

Yosa Buson’s haiku “Listening to the moon” follows the classic Edo traditions in form and meaning. It consists of three lines, follows the general traditional rhythm, includes the reference to the season, and provokes philosophical thoughts. It is hard to tell whether the original had exactly a 5/7/5 syllable structure, but the available translation slightly deviates from it to 6/8/6 (“Haiku: An Album” 946). However, the number of lines and the rhythm still make it close to the traditional haiku form.

Buson is one of the famous Japanese haiku poets of the Edo period. The common theme of that time’s literature included a description of nature, which is clearly seen in “Listening to the Moon” (“Haiku: An Album” 946). The poet emphasizes the sounds to bring the reader into the philosophical mood by writing about “gazing at the croaking of the frogs” and “listening to the moon” (“Haiku: An Album” 946). He suggests listening to the silence since the skies cannot make any sound and watching the natural noise although it can’t be seen. Sometimes being quiet provokes inner dialogues and teaches a person something new about themselves.

Japanese people traditionally watch nature during this season and reflect on their lives and future plans. The haiku also mentions a “field of ripe rice,” so Buson is likely describing autumn (“Haiku: An Album” 946). The fields are alive and mature, the frogs create monotonous background noise, and the moon is shining its light down on the ground. Buson spent much of his early years travelling before he settled in Kyoto and concentrated on poetry (Dougill para. 1). Perhaps, haiku’s philosophical nature helped him to reflect on his life and see future plans clearly. Some readers may find an opportunity to slow down, imagine the ripe rice field, and listen to the moon while considering their goals. Haiku poets did not put clear directions or lessons into their literature creation. The point was to encourage the reader to think and reflect.

Works Cited

Dougill, John. Writers in Kyoto, 2016, Web.

“Haiku: An Album.”, p. 946.

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