6 thoughts on “furu ike ya”

    1. There are two different Japanese script versions of this poem recorded in different texts. The one given above, and also ふる池やかはづ飛こむみづの音. There are also two variants on the poem: 古池や蛙飛ンだる水の音 (furu ike ya / kawazu tondaru / mizu no oto) ‘An ancient pool / A frog jumping in / The sound of water); and 山吹や蛙飛込む水の音 (yamabuki ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto) ‘Deutzia / A frog jumps in / The sound of water.’ It’s not the case, therefore, that there is a single ‘correct’ version of the Japanese text for poems, particularly when the poets may have written and revised them a number of times.

  1. Basho’s famous “Frog Pond” haiku in 5-7-5 form is:

    Furu ike ya

    kawazu tobikomu

    mizu no oto

    A famous literal American English translation in 3-4-6 syllable lines by R.H. Blyth destroys the 5-7-5 balance of the original:

    The old pond;

    A frog jumps in —

    The sound of the water.

    Here’s my rather cheeky translation in 3-5-3 syllables that preserves the balance and more:

    duckweed pond

    fearless frog jumps in


    My translation:

    1. Emphasizes the allusion to Wang Wei’s classical Chinese poem “Duckweed Pond”

    2. Describes the frog in the character of the Western myth of the hero’s spiritual journey with the word “fearless” and harkens back to Don Quixote and Parsifal to us Westerners

    3. Uses the right words Basho recommends by using onomatopoeia in American English slang “ker-PLUNK-plunk” rather than Blyth’s more literal best words translation “the sound of water”

    4. Capitalizes the first PLUNK to visually simulate the louder sound of the first plunk

    5. And maintains an American English balance of 3-5-3 syllables to Japanese 5-7-5 sounds

    This was first self-published in Little Poems: a lifetime in haiku-like milestones at: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Poems-Keith-McCaughin/dp/B08HTM693R

  2. I agree that it’s better when the translation keeps the original rhythm (here 5 / 7 / 5), but I think that such a translation is a real treason. There is nothing like “duckweed”, “fearless”, and even less “ker-PLUNK-plunk” in the original. No Don Quixote neither, nor Parsifal or whoever. Only the sound of water. So it seems that Blyth’s version, although imperfect, is still much better than that one.

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