錣 Neck-plates

Lectured to 90 foreign students yesterday on the subject of haiku. One example poem used:

伏勢の錣にとまる胡蝶かな fushizei no shikoro ni tomaru kochou kana

Perched on the neck-plates

Of the warrior in ambush –

A butterfly! ……… (蕪村 Buson)

We agreed this haiku has great tension and a wonderful image contrast. I wonder what Japanese feel about mentioning the word ‘ambush’ in the translation? Is it implicit in the word 伏勢? Does it improve the haiku?

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4 Responses to “錣 Neck-plates”

  1. Raffael de Gruttola Says:

    It suggests that the warrior has already been killed and the enemy has departed. Naming the butterfly e.g. monarch or sulphur would distract from the intent of the scene. Carlos Colón and I completed a concrete renku last year and my first hokku was:

    W-a-l-l s-t-r-e-e-t p-a-r-k s-u-l-p-h-u-r b-u-t-t-e-r-f-l-y m-o-t-i-o-n-l-e-S

    In the Intro to the book, Nick Avis commented: “the effect of the one line, subtly enhanced by the use of capital letters at the beginning and the end,
    is obviously the butterfly with its wings fully open. The clarity of this unspoken element of this image is something that words alone rarely achieve.”

    In the Buson haiku, the staccato movement of the wings is implied though not mentioned. The ambush would imply the same. Butterflies can be attracted to macabre scenes be it blood or stench of some sort.

    I think the words “in ambush” add to the mystery of the meaning

  2. 先ず錣(しころ)の漢字を訂正させてください。綴(つづり)ではNeck-Plateの意味を表しません。
    さて、私は本格的な研究などしたことがないので、ただ感じたままだけを述べることをお許しください。
    この句から血なまぐさい光景は思い浮かびませんでした。
    広い野原で草に隠れるように潜んでいる兵、仲間とは適当に距離が離れていて、敵はなかなか現れません。
    彼の周りにはタンポポか何かの花が咲いていて、ふと彼は故郷のことなど思い出して、そこに蝶がとんできて・・・。
    と、そんな想像をしました。
    そのほうが絵になると思いました。
    この句が蕪村のものだとしたら、もちろん彼の時代には戦争はありませんでしたし、また蕪村は絵を愛した人だったので、
    胡蝶を際立たせるものとして、錣を持出したのかも知れません。
    伏勢という言葉を知りませんが,おそらく伏兵=ambushでよいのだと思います。

  3. wow, thank you Nico for correcting the kanji. I had been
    asking myself why that character can be translated into such!

    thank you also for Raffael san for the details.

    sincerely,
    eiko yachimoto

  4. Moya Bligh Says:

    This is a very interesting haiku as it captures the stillness
    that a warrior must hold in order not to attract attention,
    even a butterfly is deceived.

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