(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“The Sea Darkens” belongs to a period of Bash’s career in which he was searching for his unique identity as a poet. Most critics agree that he reached at this stage a peak level in the composition of haiku. To see how the poem distributes the seventeen syllables among the lines in a 5-5-7 (irregular) pattern, it is necessary to look at the Japanese words:

5Umi kurete The sea darkens5Kamo no koe The cries of the wild ducks7Homokani shiroshi Are faintly white.

Bash wrote this haiku on the first of his four long journeys. The poem, written on a day spent on the seacoast, appeared in a travel journal of that trip, Nozarashi kik (1687; The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton, 1966), in 1687.

Bash uses synesthesia as a significant convention in this poem. Synesthesia refers to one sense being described in terms of another. Thus, the sound of the duck is described as being a color, white. The cosmic loneliness, or stillness, amid the approaching darkness is broken by the sounds of the ducks flying overhead and is interpreted as “seeing white,” so to speak, rather than as “hearing sound.” Thus, a vision of the ultimate interrelatedness of all things and events in the universe is captured in this tiny poem.

The Sea Darkens Bibliography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aitken, Robert. A Zen Wave: Bash’s Haiku and Zen. New York: Weatherhill, 1979.

Campbell, Liberty. To a Far Province with Bash. Pittsburgh, Pa.: J. Pohl Associates, 1983.

Crowley, Cheryl A. Hakai Poet Yosa Buson and the Bash Revival. Boston: Brill, 2007.

Henderson, Harold G. An Introduction to Haiku: An Anthology of Poems and Poets from Bash to Shiki. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958.

Kerkham, Eleanor, ed. Matsuo Bash’s Poetic Spaces: Exploring Haikai Intersections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Miner, Earl. Japanese Linked Poetry: An Account with Translations of Renga and Haikai Sequences. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Qiu, Peipei. Bash and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.

Sato, Hiroaki. One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English. New York: Weatherhill, 1983.

Ueda, Makoto. Matsuo Bash. New York: Twayne, 1970.

Ueda, Makoto. Matsuo Bash. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1983.

Ueda, Makoto. Zeami, Bash, Yeats, Pound: A Study in Japanese and English Poetics. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1965.