Ivan Shishkin.  Moss and Roots.  WikiArt.

a mantle of moss
for the revered oak –
its mat, damp earth

Linked to Carpe Diem #741:  Wrapped in a Straw Mat.

komo wo ki te   tare bito imasu   hana no haru

wrapped in a straw mat
who can this great one be?
flowers of spring

Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Chèvrefeuille explains that

“With this haiku came a preface: “Welcoming the New Year near Kyoto”. In winter plants and trees are wrapped in mats of woven straw to protect them from freezing. People also wore straw raincoats so it seemed that a person was wrapped in the mat. This is an example of the riddle technique, because it is the tree that is wrapped but it is done for the protection of the flowers which have no physical shape at this time. In our time we also try to protect plants and trees from freezing by ‘making the garden ready for winter.’”

Here is our host’s response:

winter garden
colorless and ugly –
spring flowers 

© Chèvrefeuille

Chèvrefeuille explains that his haiku and Basho’s haiku utilize the “riddle technique”:

“The riddle is probably one of the very oldest poetical techniques. It has been guessed that early spiritual knowledge was secretly preserved and passed along through riddles … The ‘trick’ is to state the riddle in as puzzling terms as possible. What can one say that the reader cannot figure out the answer? The more intriguing the ‘set-up’ and the bigger surprise the answer is, the better the haiku seems to work. As in anything, you can overextend the joke and lose the reader completely. The answer has to make sense to work and it should be realistic.”

Here is one of the most famous “riddle” haiku:

A fallen blossom
Returning to the bough, I thought —
But no, a butterfly.

© Moritake 

Painting Ivan Shishkin.
Moss and Oak, n.d. WikiArt. 


34 thoughts on “a mantle of moss

  1. A very interesting post … and your haiku is nicely penned … this riddle technique is intriguing, I’ve got the feeling that something doesn’t carry over in translation somehow though …


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