"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
Welcome! This blog is about my random thoughts, colourful pictures and paintings, some of my pencil drawings, reflections on things I feel strongly about and my experiences as I journey through life. Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to add your comments and suggestions, but please refrain from spam, racist or uncomfortable comments. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Haiku Poems and Translation

Haiku poems - those short three lines that convey a world of meaning. But the translations - I'm not so sure. I read some haiku poems today and was baffled by the translations. I remember one haiku, which my mother loves and told me when I was a little girl. It is in my native language, Tamil.

"vizhigal vinmeenagalai varudinalum
viralgalo jannal kambiodu daan"

I wouldn't dare attempt a translation but it goes something  like - although the eyes may caress the stars, (you are merely present on Earth with) your fingers remain on the window grilles. Thus conveying the differences in daydreams or more aptly, mooning over stuff against the hard facts and harsh realities of life. It could also mean the planning yet to be done for some big dreams aspired to be achieved. Although, of course the former meaning is more romantic in a poetic sense.

This is the most famous 300 odd years old poetry in Japan. And the literal translation goes something like

The old pond;
a frog jumps in —
the sound of the water.

Furu ike ya                Old pond!
kawazu tobikomu      frog jumps in
mizu no oto                water’s sound

Do you believe the translations (not the Google translator!) retain the beauty and essence of meaning that is originally intended to be conveyed?


  1. I bet that if we heard it in the language that it was written that it would be like music. Thanks for sharing this. I may try to do a three liner today for the sake of meeting the challenge.

  2. Hit and miss exercise. When it was conceived and written it came from the authors perspective, culture, language and everything else that defines them.

  3. I'm not good at interpreting Haiku. The only language I am proficient enough in to read and possibly understand it is English (though I wish I was fluent in other languages) and I can sometimes appreciate it for its beauty but rarely for its meaning.

  4. Unfortunately, translations do so often lose the beauty and essence of the original! I often wonder about Jesus' sayings, or those of other religious speakers, and how much more powerful and/or touching they may have been in the original tongue.

  5. something must be lost in translation, but i don't feel shortchanged by translated works like hafiz. i know something was lost in translation, but there is usually too much in the poem for me to handle anyway:)

  6. Every text is difficult to translate accurately, and much more if we talk about poetry or haikus, you can lose the sense that the author gave to his words.
    A good translator cannot change the language literally, he has to find the way to transmit the feelings that the author wanted to express, and this is a really hard work.
    Greetings from Asturias, Spain.

  7. These are excellent! I hear that water!

  8. Sometimes they do, sometimes not. I like to write haiku but mine are usually written in a short amount of time to go with a photo I post--they are not too "deep" most of the time. It is fun to write one that does have a deeper or double meaning sometimes. Mickie :)

  9. I suspect you have set me an impossible task. Even modern Japanese poetry is very difficult. The culture gap is just too wide.

  10. I agree with the commentor above. Some of them do and some don't. This is a lovely haiku you've posted here, Ruby. Happy new year to you and yours!

  11. Haiku isn't usually something I really "get", but I enjoyed these. Thanks!

  12. Hello, Ruby.

     I was given many crops from your glorious works.
     We are far distantly each other, but this human interchange has cultural significance.

     Thank you for your heartwarming message and many visit, in this year.
     I thank for your encouragement for Japan.

     Healthy and Happy new years for you and yours.

    Close spring, ruma ❀

  13. I'm guessing that the original is even more beautiful than any translation could offer. Poetry is probably best expressed in the language for which it was written. Still lovely though. Thanks for sharing. :)

  14. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Each language has it's own peculiarities and poetry is a form of art with words.

  15. Larry - yes, I believe so. The one I had mentioned here in my native language was the first I heard and I was struck with its beauty.

    Daniel - Yes, some of the translations are really v.good.

    G.B - only rarely can we appreciate the meaning.

    Suldog - Yes, that is true. It would have been very powerful in God's language. When I listen to the meaning of the Sanskrit texts (being a Hindu and not knowing the language), I often wonder if there is not some hidden meaning in what is conveyed.

    Sandy - Thanks

    Ed - some works are brilliant.

    Xurde - Translators must also be poets, not just experts in both languages :)

    Mickie - I love your haikus!!

    Adrian - No wonder the Japanese translators are the most sought after!

    Thanks Ash, Hope you have a great year ahead!

    Thanks Robin!

  16. Thanks Ruma. Happy New year to you and your family!

    Hilary - so true.

    Sunshine - very well put! Thanks :)

  17. I love your Haiku, thanks Ruby.

  18. °º♫
    º° ✿♥ ♫° ·.
    ✿⊱╮ Gosto de haikus... eles me fazem sonhar...
    Bom fim de semana!
    Brasil °º♫
    º° ✿♥ ♫° ·.

  19. Haiku poems can be fun Ruby. I liked that one your Mum told you and its meaning. A good truth - Dave

  20. Very nice to come here and sip tea with you, Ruby

    Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


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