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Fukuda Chiyo-ni
in Modern English Translations by Michael R. Burch

Fukuda Chiyo-ni (1703-1775), also known as Kaga no Chiyo, was a Japanese poet, painter and calligrapher of the Edo period. She began writing haiku at age seven and by age seventeen was popular throughout Japan. At age 52 she became a Buddhist nun, shaved her head, adopted the name Soen (“Escape”), and took up residence in a temple.

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
held my well-bucket hostage
I went begging for water!
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
asano eikou yoku baketto entanguru watashiha mizuwo motomeru

The haiku above is one of her best-known and I have other translations of the same poem later on this page.

Chiyo-ni wrote this poem in calligraphy on a portrait of Matsuo Basho. I take it to mean that she liked Basho's poetry but wanted to develop her own unique voice.

To listen, fine ...
fine also not to echo,
nightingale.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Upon her engagement to the servant of a samurai:

Will it be bitter,
the first time I pick
an unripe persimmon?
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This poem was apparently written for her only son, who died:

My little dragonfly hunter:
how far has he wandered
away, I wonder?
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her husband died when she was 27 years old:

Rising, I see,
and reclining I see
the web of the mosquito netting ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

After she had shaved her head, become a nun and retired from public life:

No more
fixing my hair ...
merely warming my hands by the fire ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Auspicious straw!
Even the compost
looks glorious!
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
fukuwara ya gomi sae kesa no utsukushiki

How alarming:
her scarlet fingernails
tending the white chrysanthemums!
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
shirogiku ya beni saita te no osoroshiki

The moon settled
in a flower-strewn stream ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My elderly parents
become my children:
strident cicadas
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminating
my fishing line:
the midsummer moon.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
tsurizao no ito ni sawaru ya natsu no tsuki

Whatever ...
Leave it to the weather:
withered pampas grass.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
tomokaku mo kaze ni makasete kare-obana

Heat waves shimmering
above the wettened rock ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
kagero ya hashite wa nururu ishi no ue

The moon
a morning blur
amid cherry blossoms
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
tsukikage mo tatazumu hana no asaborake

Loneliness
abides within the listener:
the cuckoo’s call
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
nan to naki mono no isami ya hototogisu

Skylark,
what do you make
of the trackless sky?
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Returning
from moon-viewing:
we humans, voiceless.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
meigetsu ni kaerite hanasu koto wa nashi

The harvest moon
illuminates these snowdrifts
I trample.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
meigetsu ya yuki fumiwakete ishi no oto

How contentedly they snore
in the boondocks:
full moon
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
uramachi no ibiki akarushi kyo no tsuki

The butterfly tip-toes at ebb-tide ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Along her path
butterflies flit,
front and back
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Voiceless
as a butterfly:
the Buddhist service
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Whirling its wings
the butterfly
creates its own wind ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The waterweed
washes away
unaware of the butterfly’s weight
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now and then
a dandelion intrudes
on a butterfly’s dreams
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sometimes a butterfly
emerges from the mist ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A butterfly settles on
cherry blossoms:
nap time!
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moonflowers blossom:
a woman’s nakedness
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My painted lips
purified:
crystalline springwater
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A woman’s desire:
wild violets’
entangled roots
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her day off:
the prostitute wakes
to a frigid morning.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

With the waning moon
silence enters the heart.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We stoop to pick up ebb-tide pebbles
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ebb-tide:
everything we stoop to collect
slips through our fingers ...
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To entangle
or unentangle the willow
is the wind’s will.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Inflating the frog’s belly: looming downpour
Inflating the frog’s belly: pregnant thunderheads
The frog inflates: monsoon soon
The frog inflates: prophet of the deluge
Thunderclouds inflating: the frog’s belly
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her death poem:

Having seen the moon
I can say farewell
to this planet.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
tsuki mo mite ware wa kono yo o kashiku kana

Isn’t it good
to wake up alone,
unencumbered?
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
miagari ni hitori nezame no yosamu kana

She wakes up
alone,
unencumbered.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
miagari ni hitori nezame no yosamu kana

Her body-debt paid
she wakes alone:
a frigid night.
—Chiyo-ni (1705-1775), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
miagari ni hitori nezame no yosamu kana

Coolness—
strangers meet on a bridge
late at night.
—Chiyo-ni (1705-1775), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A woman’s passion
flowers from the roots:
wild violets.
—Chiyo-ni (1705-1775), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Also a poet arranging words
with its airy wings—
the butterfly.
—Chiyo-ni (1705-1775), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It’s child’s play for the cranes
circling the clouds
to celebrate the year’s first sunrise
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cicadas chirp
oblivious to death.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since morning glories
possessed my bucket
I seek water elsewhere!
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
asano eikou yoku baketto entanguru watashiha mizuwo motomeru

My well-bucket being held hostage
by morning glories,
I went begging for water.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
asano eikou yoku baketto entanguru watashiha mizuwo motomeru

Since my well-bucket’s
being held hostage by morning glories,
I go begging for water.
—Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
asano eikou yoku baketto entanguru watashiha mizuwo motomeru

The following are links to other translations by Michael R. Burch:

The Seafarer
Wulf and Eadwacer
The Love Song of Shu-Sin: The Earth's Oldest Love Poem?
Sweet Rose of Virtue
How Long the Night
Caedmon's Hymn
Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings
Bede's Death Song
The Wife's Lament
Deor's Lament
Lament for the Makaris
Tegner's Drapa
Whoso List to Hunt
Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs
Meleager
Sappho
Basho
Oriental Masters/Haiku
Miklós Radnóti
Rainer Maria Rilke
Marina Tsvetaeva
Renée Vivien
Ono no Komachi
Allama Iqbal
Bertolt Brecht
Ber Horvitz
Paul Celan
Primo Levi
Ahmad Faraz
Sandor Marai
Wladyslaw Szlengel
Saul Tchernichovsky
Robert Burns: Original Poems and Translations
The Seventh Romantic: Robert Burns
Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch

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