A poem about a frog written in 1686 by Japan’s most famous poet is Japan’s best known poem[UPDATED: 10-2-2023]
Matsuo Basho, the 17th-century Japanese haiku master said to be Japan’s most famous poet as well as one of the world’s most influential, wrote the most famous Japanese poem and the most famous haiku ever penned.
The poem, which he wrote at the age of 44 in 1686, is a very a simple poem about a frog.
Translators have been trying ever since to find the perfect way to render the poem English, and there are unsurprisingly a myriad of versions of the poem in English translation as well as many other languages.
Old pond – frogs jumped in – sound of water. (Lafcadio Hearn)
Into the calm old lake A frog with flying leap goes plop! The peaceful hush to break. (William J. Porter)
Old pond frog leaping splash (Cid Corman)
A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps … A part, unstirred by sound or motion … till Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps. (Curtis Hidden Page)
The original Japanese is:
Furu ike ya, kawazu tobikomu, mizu no oto