Monday, June 11, 2012


to every needle
of the needled pine it clings --
the pearl white dew
forming but to scatter
scattering but to form 

matsu no ha no
ha goto ni musubu
shiratsuyu no    
okite wa kobore           
koborete wa oku                                   

NOTE:   This Masaoka Shiki tanka from 1900 is one of a group of poems he composed about dew upon pine needles.  His translator and biographer, Janine Beichman, thinks this is the best of the series.  Like many people, I have strong feelings about and associations with pine trees.  Having always been up and out-and-about early, I easily recognize the phenomenon and experience  Shiki paints so beautifully and accurately here.  We’ve watched a number of  evergreens grow up from infancy at our house in Tuxedo, New York, both specimens the previous owner planted and our own Christmas trees, which mark all the years of Jane’s childhood.  

Probably my favorite is a tiny ornamental tree we picked up for a song that the grower certainly never meant for post-Christmas planting.  Seeing it standing from our terrace as a mature, but still small, strong, firmly rooted tree, among its now-giant siblings, is wonderful.

Shortly, much too soon for me, my dear daughter will be returning to Maine's  woods where she'll be among millions of fragrant pines, each an individual, but seen from above, from the windows of the low-flying airplanes bound for Portland for example, all part of a vibrant evergreen civilization.  We haven't many pines where we live in Pennsylvania.  I hope and expect Jane will "twig" the change and make friends with the trees in all their changes and all their constancy.   



  1. Thanks for including my translation in your blog. It is a visual treat, and I like your comment too, the way you so poignantly connect it your own parenthood. It's good to see Shiki living on in another land!

  2. Thank you for writing. Your translations of Shiki's work and your Shiki biography have been on my mind quite a bit and, I would say, have helped sustain me these past months. I would love to think you'll visit here again. I try to keep what I post as varied and interesting as possible. Curtis