4/06/2005

Deer (shika)

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Deer (shika)

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Animal


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Explanation

The deer (Cervus nippon) is a sacred animal in Buddhism and in Shintoism too.
It has been introduced to other countries under the name of Shika Deer or even Sika Deer, see below.

There are many other kinds of deer.
Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) is a deer species of Europe and Asia Minor.
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), known as Elk in North America.

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Ogata Gekko 尾形月耕 (1859 - 1920)


kigo for all autumn
this is the most important haiku season for deer, where it is identified with the momiji maple leaves

deer, shika 鹿 しか
..... suzuka すずか
..... sugaru すがる
"red maple-leaf bird", momijidori 紅葉鳥

stag, male deer, ojika 牡鹿
mejika 牝鹿(めじか)emale deer
..... saojika, 小男鹿
great deer, Elk, oojika 大鹿

deer's voice / deer "cries":  shika no koe 鹿の声
shika naku 鹿鳴く(しかなく) deer is calling
deer is barking, mating call of a deer
(see discussion below)

"longing for a wife", mating deer, tsuma kou shika 妻恋う鹿 
shika no tsuma 鹿の妻(しかのつま)"wife of the deer"
tomojika 友鹿(ともじか) deer together

deer flute / deer call (mimics sound of a deer calling)
shikabue 鹿笛

The longing cry of a deer in autumn has been subject of poetry all over the world. During the mating season in October and November one can hear the buck cry and see them fight for the bride.


yoru no shika 夜の鹿(よるのしか)deer at night

shikagari 鹿狩(しかがり) deer hunt, deer hunting

shinroku 神鹿(しんろく)"deer of the gods"

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春日のの鹿も立ちそう花御堂
kasuga no no shika mo tachisoo hana midoo

Kasuga Field's deer
also attend, I see...
Buddha's birthday flowers

Kobayashi Issa, Tr. David Lanoue

Comment by Nakamura Sakuo
The deer is a servant of the Shinto-shrine, Kasuga Shrine.
Hanami-dou (blossom-filled temple) is Buddha’s holy house.
Judging from Christian religious point of view they are both heathen.
According to Western commonsense, it seems to be that an Arab’s camel visits a synagogue.



Read more about the Deer, Kasuga Shrine Mandala
and the Flower Pavillion (Hana Midoo)


In Buddhism, the Deerpark of Varanasi, where Shakyamuni Buddha held his first sermon, is the most famous place for deer.

Buddhist Dharma Wheel with Deer


© Tibetan Treasures
http://www.tibetantreasures.com/NewFiles/4fhcw12.0306.lg.jpg


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さをしかの角に結びし手紙哉
saoshika no tsuno ni musubishi tegami kana

tied around one
of the stag's antlers --
a letter


- - - Comment from Chris Drake :
This hokku is from the 8th month (September), at the beginning of the deer mating season, when mature stags' antlers are at their full length. At this time Issa was traveling around near his hometown, but the hokku in Issa's diary following this one is about deer in the deer park in Nara, so I take the present hokku to be about a stag in the Nara deer park, too. Like foxes, monkeys, and several other animals, deer were sacred in Japanese shamanism, and the deer in the Nara park are believed to be manifestations of the three main gods of the nearby Kasuga Shrine: they act as messengers for these gods and also carry the gods when the gods want to travel between this world and the other world.

The Nara deer park is also revered by Japanese Buddhists as the manifestation in Japan of the deer park in Sarnath, India, where Shakyamuni Buddha preached his first sermon. As in Sarnath, the park is a sanctuary for deer, and the Shinto priests of the Kasuga Shrine and the monks of the nearby Kofukuji Buddhist temple guard the deer very strictly. In fact, in Issa's time killing a deer was punishable by death. In medieval art that fuses Shinto and Buddhist images and spirituality, the head deity of Kasuga Shrine is commonly shown riding on a stag, and just as often only a divine stag is shown, sometimes standing below a full moon or with a full-moon-shaped mandala on its back.

Because they are protected, the deer in Nara are unafraid of humans and sometimes approach them for food. Issa may have seen the stag in this hokku from close range, since he can see that the folded paper knotted around one of its antlers is a letter. In Issa's time letters were folded sideways until they were long and narrow. This allowed the sender to loop them around other objects and tie them tightly. Perhaps Issa imagines it's a love letter.

Deer mating in the fall has been a common image in waka for strong, intense love since ancient times -- and Issa actually does mention love in the next hokku in his diary, which is about Nara deer. Perhaps a man who knows waka has written a love letter he wants to keep secret, and he has agreed with his equally secretive lover to tie it around a stag's antler. Or, since does are in heat now, the stag must be a bit rambunctious and excited, so perhaps the man wants to express the strength of his love to his lover by tying it around a stag's antler.

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小男鹿や後の一声細長き
saoshika ya ato no hito koe hosonagaki

a stag,
later a single long
thin cry

Tr. Chris Drake

This autumn hokku is from lunar 8/21 (October 10) of 1808, when Issa climbed a mountain not far from his hometown with two of his haikai students. The time is the height of the deer mating season, and on this day Issa wrote several hokku about lonely, suffering stags crying. In the present hokku Issa evokes a stag crying out with deep longing for a doe. Earlier its voice had been fierce and strong, but at last it grows weaker, and after a silence its final cry is deeply moving in its fragility, as if the stag were forcing himself to continue his long, thin stream of sound by sheer will power, even though there is no response. Issa notes in another hokku that it was common for stags to cry all night long, so the exhausted deer in this hokku may have rested and moved on to a new site on the mountain.

The sad-sounding cries of the stags were so moving that on the same day Issa wrote:

shika no koe hotoke wa nan to notamawaku

stag cries --
what do the Buddhas
say about this?


Issa asks the various Buddhas, surely including Amida, if they don't have some way of easing the pain of all these stags, who are literally crying from the depths of their being. Issa may be referring to words in various sutras, or, more likely, he may be making a direct appeal to the mercy of Amida and other Buddhas, asking them if they would be willing to speak out in some form or another.

The nightly cries of the stags seem to be causing Issa pain, since he knows no way of helping them or of separating himself from their difficult desire:

shika no mi ni natte shika kiku hitori kana

one man
listens to stags
as a stag himself


I take this "one man" (the phrase also means "single man") to refer to Issa. He is not shaking with lust or crying out deep, guttural sounds, but he feels the stag cries are somehow his own as well. In addition to being naturally sensitive to animals' feelings, Issa may also feel the stags express a kind of wild energy that is driving him to try to return to his hometown, receive half his father's house, and get married there in spite of strong opposition from his half brother, his mother-in-law, and many villagers. At the time he writes these hokku Issa is staying not in his natal home but with various students and at temples he knows near and in his hometown because he wants to negotiate further with his resisting brother about his father's inheritance. Three days after writing these hokku, Issa signed an agreement with his brother, who then refused to carry it out until an unspecified date in the future. Issa's wanderings continued, and when he returned to Edo he found he was homeless, since the small house he had been renting was now occupied by people he didn't know.

Chris Drake


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


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kigo for all sping

haru no shika 春の鹿 (はるのしか ) deer in spring

haramijika 孕み鹿 (はらみじか) pregnant deer


kigo for late sping

kigo about the horns (tsuno, Geweih)

otoshizuno 落し角 ( おとしづの) loosing the horns
..... shika no tsuno otsu 鹿の角落つ(しかのつのおつ)
..... wasurezuno 忘れ角(わすれづの)


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kigo for all summer

shika no ko 鹿の子 (かのこ) fawn, Bambi
..... kojika 小鹿(こじか)
shika no komadara 三夏 鹿の子斑(かのこまだら)speckled fawn
shika no ko 鹿の子(しかのこ)"child of the deer)
oyajika 親鹿(おやじか) mother deer


. . . . .

kigo for early summer

fukurozuno 袋角 (ふくろづの) summer horns
lit. "horns in a bag"
shika no fukurozuno 鹿の袋角(しかのふくろづの)
shika no wakazuno 鹿の若角(しかのわかづの)young horns of the deer
..... rokujoo 鹿茸(ろくじょう)
. . . CLICK here for Photos !



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kigo for all autumn

soozu 添水 そうず "animal chaser" deer scarer
shishiodoshi, shishi odoshi 鹿威し the deer scarer


. Japanese Garden - shishi-odoshi .

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kigo for all winter

fuyu no shika 冬の鹿 (ふゆのしか) deer in winter

noro 麕 (のろ) Japanese deer
noroshika のろしか , ノロジカ
Capreolus capreolus
. . . CLICK here for Photos !



WASHOKU
Momijinabe 紅葉鍋 (もみじなべ) stew with deer meat

lit. "red leaves stew"

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CLICK for more photos
日本羚羊 Nihon Kamoshika

kamoshika 羚羊 (かもしか) Japanese serow
..... kamoshika 氈鹿(かもしか
kamoshishi かもしし
kandachi 寒立(かんだち) "standing in the cold"
Rupicapra rupicapra. Gemse, Gams, Gämse; Berggämse
(also used for antelope)



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Worldwide use

Ireland


quote
Fia Rua, Cervus elaphus, Red Deer
... most red deer in Ireland are descended from introduced animals. The only true native herd is in Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry; some animals from this herd have been moved to National Parks in Connemara and Glenveagh, to increase the native population. Also, many deer throughout the country are actually hybrids (mixes) of red and Japanese sika deer.
source : wicklowmountains nationalpark.ie


forest stroll...
among the tall pines
a glance of Fia Rua


- Shared by John Byrne -
Haiku Culture Magazine, 2013


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Mongolia

. Roe deer, Antelope, Saiga antelope .

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North America

In most parts of North America they are hunted in the rut and this is early winter (December).
Most deer is seen in spring, when the does are more daring, needing to feed to nurse the fawns. Then the fawns emerge in early summer. Aside from trees bare of leaves (allowing sightlines), autumn is the hardest time to see deer.

fawn
kigo for early summer

deer hunting
kigo for winter



More details about the seasonal behaviour of elks:
Elk through the seasons
source : www.rmef.org



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Things found on the way


Discussion about translating:
"shika no nakigoe 鹿の鳴声"



Issa has various haiku about this sound
translated by David Lanoue



我形をうさんと見てや鹿の鳴
waga nari o usan to mite ya shika no naku

glimpsing suspicious me
the deer sounds
the alarm

This migh be translated differently to bring out the kire YA in the second line. Gabi

... ... ... ... ...


どこをおせばそんな音が出る山の鹿
doko o oseba sonna ne ga deru yama no shika

where were you poked
to make that sound...
mountain deer?


わか鹿や二ッ並んで対の声
waka shika ya futatsu narande tsui no koe

two young deer
side by side...
a duet


有明や十ばかり対に鳴く
ariake ya shika jû bakari tsui ni naku

sunrise--
ten deer at least
singing in pairs


鳴な鹿柳が蛇になるほどに
naku na shika yanagi ga hebi ni naru hodo ni

don't cry deer!
the willow tree only looks
like snakes


山寺や縁の上なるしかの声
yamadera ya en no ue naru shika no koe

mountain temple--
on the verandah
voice of a deer


鹿鳴や犬なき里の大月夜
shika naku ya inu naki sato no ôtsuki yo

cries of the deer--
in a village without dogs
a moonlit night


薮並やとし寄鹿のぎりに鳴
yabu nami ya toshiyori shika no giri ni naku

in the thicket
the old deer calls
for honor's sake


夜あらしや窓に吹込鹿の声
yo arashi ya mado ni fukikomu shika no koe

night storm--
blowing in the window
voice of a deer


鹿鳴や川をへだてて忍ぶ恋
shika naku ya kawa o hedatete shinobu koi

they cry to each other
across a river
deer in love


ほたへるや犬なき里の鹿の声
hotaeru ya inu naki sato no shika no koe

barking--
in a village without dogs
voices of deer

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

あきらめて子のない鹿は鳴ぬなり
akiramete ko no nai shika wa nakinu nari

giving up
the childless deer
sings no more


In other words, the deer doesn't bother with a mating call. This haiku, composed in the Ninth Month of 1821, seems to refer to Issa's own frustration as a would-be parent. His first three children by this point in time had all died.


Comment by Gabi Greve

I wonder about the translation SINGS ... Here is my first version

> giving up -
> the childless deer
> makes no more calls


(Discussing this translation here)

Listen to the voice of Deer in Nara here, says Sakuo. Click the NOTE MARK ♪.
http://www.pref.nara.jp/nara/oto/2.html


............ Some further versions of translating this haiku

I'm afraid "makes no more calls" seems to mean that he decides not to use the phone any more(!). A possibility is "calls no more", but this has a somewhat archaic feel to it. "has lost his voice" or "loses his voice" might be worth considering, though David's "sings no more" seems just fine to me, with the footnote.

Norman

Aaaa, so true. So here is my next try

> giving up -
> the childless deer
> calls no more for love

Gabi

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The English verb for the call of a deer (in rut, especially) is "bell."
(Presumably related to "bellow"?)

Lewis Cook

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giving up -
no more belling
from the childless deer

Norman

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BELL sounds strange to my German ears too, even if it might be the right word biologically ...

bellen, ... that is what a dog does in German, to bark.
Gabi

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"To bell" was a new verb to me too... but yes, my (English) dictionary confirms it.

That is, if we are talking about a MALE deer. There is still a puzzle in my mind -- how would a stag know that he was childless? I did not think that deer lived in couples...
And if we are talking about a FEMALE deer, then bell would not be the verb to use...

And how about "child"less? In English, a young deer is called a fawn -- but a fawn stops being a fawn after a year (I believe), while it could theoretically remain the stag's "child" all its lifetime...

This haiku is challenging our English vocabulary, as well as our Japanese!

Isabelle.

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The kidai here is surely the mating call of the male shika. In drawing the metaphor of himself, it seems the poet has sacrificed verisimilitude, but that doesn't lessen theimpact of the haiku for me.

Norman

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giving up <>
the childless deer does not even
cry any more

I find CRY is a better humanification than SING in this haiku, if there has to be one anyway ...
Gabi

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I've read that mating call of the deer is called "bugling"

giving up
childless deer
bugles no more

Natalia L. Rudychev

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with no offspring
the shika buck gives up --
whistles no more

I felt using the name of the deer and its sex important to understanding the poem. Also, I think the sound more a whistle. I have heard the deer and hunters name its call as a whistle.

Chibi

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As for the ... shika buck ...
I think this is not necessary. SHIKA is a Japanese word, simply meaning deer, not any special kind ... and no normal American will understand it. Better leave it out in this case, I suggest.

> with no offspring
> the buck gives up --
> whistles no more

Gabi

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Shika (Cervus nippon), more commonly known in English as 'sika', is well-known here (and in Britain and France) where it has been naturalised for more than a century. I agree with Chibi, and tend to specify 'sika' in haikai, because the rutting season is not the same for all deer - roe deer, for instance, have a summer rut.

Search results on Google:
155,000 pages for "sika deer"
880 for "shika deer"

The name 'sika' is also used exclusively in French (compare German 'Sikahirsch') so, because the word is long-established, we'd need to look back long before Googel to find the origin of the "misspelling". Language changes all the time - words borrowed from other languages, all the more easily. This year's misspelling may be correct next year...

Norman

SHIKA 鹿 しか in Japanese starts with the sound SHI.
SIKA is a mis-spelling.
Gabi


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It impresses me more and more the ripples that this frog causes in the haiku pond!!

Gabi san and Norman san

We have hundreds of "shika" deer on the Berry College Campus in Rome, Georgia. I have always heard (herd ... hehe) them called "shika" here in Georgia, but, I can see by Norman's exploration the more popular "google"ese is "sika".

fauxku:

fawnless
noble sika --
no bell

hehe... chibi

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Contribution by Larry Bole
Translating Haiku Forum 


I don't know how a stag would know he has a son, but this seems to be a topic in Japanese haiku.

In Nobuyuki Yuasa's translation of Issa's "The Year of My Life" (Ora ga Haru), Issa both writes and quotes a couple of haiku by others on the topic.

This is from Chapter 13 (no Japanese available):

"According to Buddha's teaching, man and beast are one in their essential nature. If that be true, then the mutual love between a child and his parent mut be the same for animals as for men, and there can be no difference between them."

[There follow six haiku, three by others, and three by Issa, illustrating his proposition]

A human father
Drove away a crow
For the children
Of the sparrows.

--Onitsura


For his child's sake
A father deer
Calls out against danger
On a summer hill.

--Gomei


A father frog
Stepped out,
Child on his back
To join the chorus.

--Tooyoo


A wind rustling
Through bamboo leaves
Brought a father deer
Hurrying home.

Out in the darkness
Of the passing rain,
I hear the crying
Of the childless deer.

Round the bush
That hides her children
A mother lark
Circles, singing.

-- Issa

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo



HOERU 吼える ほえる

吼る鹿おれをうさんと思ふかよ
hoeru shika ore o usan [to] omou ka yo

barking deer
do you think I'm
a suspicious character?


Tr. David Lanoue

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

Here is a haiku by Basho about the voice of the deer:
shirigoe = the lingering cry


ぴいと啼く尻声悲し夜の鹿
pii to naku shirigoe kanashi yoru no shika

crying beeeee” . . . ,
the lingering sound so sad:
night deer

Tr. Barnhill


Hee ........ the lingering cry
Is mournful:
The deer at night.

Tr. Blyth


they make a cry ‘beeeee’ ...
a lingering sound so sad:
the deer of the night

Tr. Chilcott


Written in 1694 元禄七年九月十日 in a letter to Sanpuu 杉風 Sanpu.

The sound BI is usually written like this び.
びいと啼く尻聲悲し夜乃鹿


- kanashii, kanashiki 悲しい, 悲しき sad, miserable sorrowful -
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


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SIKA DEER (Shika Deer)

Sika deer are not native to Europe.

Originally from Asia, these chestnut-brown creatures have now established themselves in small pockets across the country. Their short and stocky shape is well suited to life on woodlands and marshes. They can push through the reedbeds and remain hidden, and their muscular form makes them good swimmers.

Males invest an enormous amount of energy into growing their antlers which become bigger each year. These status symbols are shed in April or May.

The mating season runs from August until October, and young are born eight months later.

Sika deer have been mating with the native red deer and the result is a declining number of pure-bred deer. Without genetic analysis it is hard to distinguish between the hybrids and the pure-breeds.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/nature/sites/wildlife/pages/sika_deer.shtml




Japanese Sika Deer have been introduced into a number of other countries including Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Britain, France, Ireland, Jolo Island (south of the Philippines), New Zealand, Poland, Morocco and the United States (Maryland). In many cases they were originally introduced as ornamental animals in parkland, but have established themselves in the wild.

Sika, romanized shika in the Hepburn system, is the Japanese word for deer in general. The full Japanese word for Cervus nippon is nihonjika.
More is in the Wikipedia on Sika Deer


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HAIKU


The Deer (Haiku)

The Stag, majestic
Stood watching his herd as they
Waited to go eat

Stepping into the
Sunlight, he paused to taste the
Air, then said “OK”

Each doe as she passed
Bowed before him then went to
Eat the freshest grass

He watched as they all
Walked with graceful dignity
Through the green pasture

Then, in a playful
Spirit, he leapt into their
Midst and nibbled grass

The hunter paused in
Wonder as the herd approached
With the fawns dancing

A melody came
From the birds and the herd
Listened for danger

Camera arose
This hunter came only to
Take many pictures

The dance of the deer
Went on until the Stag heard
Twigs snap behind him

He called to the herd
“Time to go, gather your babes
We must leave this place”

Then disappearing
Into the forest, the Stag
Was the last to leave

Scenting Man, he turned
Toward the hunter raising his head
High, then he was gone

Time stopped, the hunter
Sat amazed at his last shot
Of the wondrous buck


This is what memories are made of….

Copyright © 2005 Spritsong (Dee Anne Blades) Shadow Poetry

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Deer Haiku and Haiga by Narayanan Raghunathan, India



so many forests ~
so many deer summer
perspectives in green



Click on the following Haiku to see the Haiga

mysterious jungle
great cosmos of deer
peaceful dhyaana ~


nigoodam vanam
maha harina prapancham
shaanthi dhyaanam ~
[ Sanskrit ]


mother deer asleep ~
a triplet of fawns
wander into twilight



Quoted from wonderhaikuworlds.com

twilight stars emerge ~
a herd of deer re-align
their luminous spots  

shyam

a stag, solitary
among sunlit grass ~
distant human voices  

shyam


deers at dusk
tasting the leaves of grass -
strange footsteps

Ninasha


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autumn stars
as deep in the woods
stags hunt

my hands
warm in my pockets
... the calls of stags

through the dark
of the autumn evening
deer tracks


Ella Wagemakers
Autumn 2011


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Related words


. shika tsunokiri 鹿角切り cutting the antlers of deer  
at Kinkazan, Miyagi
at Kasuga Taisha shrine, Nara


***** WASHOKU ... Meat from the Mountains  


. ANIMALS in all SEASONS - SAIJIKI


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8 comments:

. Gabi Greve said...


giving up
the childless deer
sings no more


akiramete ko no nai shika wa nakinu nari

あきらめて子のない鹿は鳴ぬなり

by Issa, 1821

In other words, the deer doesn't bother with a mating call. This haiku, composed in the Ninth Month of 1821, seems to refer to Issa's own frustration as a would-be parent. His first three children by this point in time had all died.

David Lanoue
http://cat.xula.edu/issa/

...................................

The translation of "SINGS" might call for reconsideration.
More about the voices of Animals:

http://haikutopics.blogspot.com/2006/07/voice-of-animal-xx-no-koe.html

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. . . ISSA said...


people's voices
she hides her children...
the doe

hito-goe ni ko wo hikikakusa me-jika kana

.人声に子を引かくす女鹿かな

by Issa, 1819


Tr. David Lanoue
http://cat.xula.edu/issa/

Gabi Greve - Seashell Game said...

女男鹿や毛に毛がそろうて毛むつかし
meoto jika ya ke ni ke ga soroute ke muzukashi

husband and wife deer -
their hair is all the same
but sometimes it's different

寛文12年, Basho at 29 years

(This is a pun with ke muzukashi、to be hard to get along with.)
.

anonymous said...

Kobayashi Issa

さをしかや社壇に角を奉る
saoshika ya shadan ni tsuno wo tatematsuru

on the shrine’s altar
the buck offers
his antlers

The antlers take on religious significance: a sacrifice offered to the god of the shrine. In the very next poem in his journal, Bunka kuchō (“Bunka Era Poem Collection”), Issa rewrites the scene, shifting from Shinto to Buddhist associations.



御仏の山に落すや鹿の角
mi-botoke no yama ni otosu ya shika no tsuno

on Buddha’s mountain
he sheds them . . .
the buck’s antlers

Issa’s image of a buck shedding his antlers on a temple mountain is allegorical. Like monks who shave their heads, the buck seems to be relinquishing worldliness. Shedding the weapons with which he earlier battered rivals in the struggle to win and keep a mate further suggests the notion of celibacy. The buck, Issa hints, has become a monk, taking his first step on the road to enlightenment.

http://simplyhaiku.theartofhaiku.com/autumn-2012-winter-2013/features/animals-and-shinto-in-the-haiku-of-issa.html

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa -
tr. Chris Drake

しかの子にわるぢゑ付けななく烏
shika no ko ni warujie tsuke na naku karasu

cawing crow,
don't you dare make the fawn
do something it shouldn't!

- - - - -

芒萩かのこに智恵を付けにけり

tall grass, bush clover
show the fawns
how to live

COMMENT by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

俄川飛で見せけり鹿の親
niwaka kawa tonde mise keri shika no oya

at a sudden stream
a mother deer demonstrates
how to leap right over

and
an old buck
tests the water's depth --
a sudden stream

jii-shika no sebumi itasu ya niwaka-gawa

Read the comment by Chris Drake
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/translatinghaiku/message/4420

Gabi Greve said...

fukurozuno

神仏の血を混沌と袋角
shinbutsu no chi o konton to fukurozuno

confusion in the blood
of Kami and Buddhas -
growing summer horns

Akamatsu Keiko 赤松[ケイ]子


This seems to be about the famous deer of Nara, who roam freely in the grounds of temples and shrines.

More about SHINBUTSU
.

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

角おちて恥しげなり山の鹿
tsuno ochite hazukashige nari yama no shika

old antlers gone
the mountain stag
suddenly bashful

(Tr. Chris Drake )

This spring hokku is from the beginning of the 3rd month (April) of 1820, when Issa was living in his hometown. Although there is a lot of individual variation, stags generally shed their old antlers in late February or March and begin growing new ones a week or two later. The old antlers drop off when the stag's testosterone level falls markedly during the winter, and new antlers begin growing as his hormonal levels rise again in late spring and early summer. Antlers are mainly for display to does and for impressing other stags and beating them out during the competitive mating season in the fall. Stags are said to be very conscious of their appearance, and when they have full antlers they like to show off and strut around and spar with other stags, so the loss of their antlers and low testosterone levels in early spring can bring about a marked difference in their behavior. Issa doesn't know about hormones, but this stag is clearly different from the proud, assertive stags he saw the previous autumn during rutting season. The stag's new antlers have yet to appear, and it looks as if the stag has become bashful and hesitant or embarrassed to be seen without any antlers at all.

Chris Drake.