In Haiku Poetry Ancient and Modern (MQ, London, 2002), Jackie Hardy, the editor of the anthology, published this translation of Basho’s verse :
shizukasa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe
the stillness !
the voice of the cicada
sinks into the rocks
The version usually accepted of the second part of this haiku is “the cry of the cicada penetrates the rocks”. It is true that the song or cry of the cicada has this specific feature, “to penetrate” or “to pierce”, but the verb used in this translation is “to sink into”, like it goes down into something, and is deposited on the bottom of a pot, a vase, the sea… The expression suggests the very long time the cries of the cicadas take to accumulate, stratum upon stratum, stratifying themselves down on the bottom of the rocks.
How many thousands of years may have passed by the time these rocks have become storehouses of silence ?
As it said that water forms the shape of the vessel into which it is put, so the cries of the cicadas deposited within the rocks must also their shapes. The rocks as storehouses of silence.
Eseu publicat în limba engleză în revista Ko, spring – summer 2008 – Nagoya, Japonia.
Original text in romanian :