Document 922

50 Haikus by Japanese Masters

Author(s): David Purves

Copyright holder(s): David Purves


The haiku format is a form of poetic expression based on Zen Buddhism. This was developed from ancient Chinese models in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Haiku are normally restricted to three lines with a maximum number of seventeen syllables in a 5-7-9 syllabic pattern. There are no contrived rhymes, no metrical shackles and no title. Japanese artists, under the influence of Zen philosophy, have tended to use as few words as possible to express their feelings, and the resultant precise focus (being closer to the complete silence of cosmic consciousness) intensifies insight into the heart of experience. Dr Suzuki, Zen’s distinguished historian, tells us, ‘When a feeling reaches its highest pitch, even seventeen syllables may be too many.’

Early authentic examples of haiku occur in the writing of Sogi (1421-1502), but Matsuo Basho (1644-94) is regarded by many Japanese as their finest exponent of haiku. The following examples of haiku illustrate the use of this format until the beginning of the 20th century, when haiku were first introduced into the West, through the medium of English translations. Haiku have since become internationally fashionable, although the extent to which many haiku currently published in English, embody the quality of consciousness in the Japanese tradition, is open to question. Authentic Japanese haiku have never been concerned with wit, rhetoric, gimmickry, exhibitionism or pretension.

Unfortunately, contemporary English may not now be a satisfactory register for haiku, since English has become detached from its social roots in any particular community, as a result of globalisation. It has been argued by some poets, that English has now become spiritually exhausted as a poetic language, and widespread adaptation as a technological medium for utilitarian purposes. Comparisons between renderings in Scots and English of haiku by Japanese masters suggest that recreations in literary Scots, have an energy and frisson that harmonise well with the true spirit of haiku. Accordingly, the following 50 haiku have been rendered in Scots, a register which has a long record for poetry of a high order.

C’awa lat’s see
aw the rael flouers
o this dulefu warld!

Basho (1644-94)

The fishmongir’s staw---
hou cauld the deid lips
o the sautit bream.


The lairk lilts abuin
aw day an the haill day
is no lang aneuch.


Back at the lair ---
Ah bend ma sabbin
til the Back End wund!


Bi the craw’s
mankit forleitit nest,
a braw ploum tree.


The auld pypar’s puil,
a mukkil puddok.


Back End muin
an the breingin tyde faems up
til the verra houss yett.


Waesum lassie cat---
that thin an shilpit lyke
on radge an barley.


Cum lat’s gae
an hae a look at the snaw
or we’r aw beirit.


Doverin on horseback,
the reik frae the tea fyres
drifts up til the muin.


The end o the road
but we ir aye leevin yit,
this Back End forenicht.


Wuthert gress
pylin even on anaith
het waves.


Here a dreich muir:
Ah’l airt ma naig ti whaur
the sweet burds sing.


Ir the sum short cuts
in the mukkil lift abuin,
simmer muin?

Lady Sute-jo (1633-98)

The laiverok ---
tovin i the lift abuin---
hir yung wul sterve.

Sora (1649-1710)

Haepit for burnin---
the brushwuid for aw
ettils aye ti bud.

Boncho (?-1714)

Ah think verra shame,
aw thir braw claes on me---
no ae steik ma ain.

Lady Sono-jo (1649-1723)

Even in ma ain
hame toun again, Ah sleep nou
lyker a traivlar.
Kyorai (1651-1704)

hou wul it keep itsell
sae smertlyke.

Ransetsu (1654-1707)

The bern’s brunt doun
but nou Ah can fairlie see
the cauld muin abuin.

Masahide (1657-1723)

Blissit nicht
throu the mesks drifts
the whyte braith o dancers.

Kikaku (1661-1707)

Abuin the boat
aw the bellies pass
o the wyld geese fliein.


Parritch haepit
in a perfit bowle,
sunlicht o Ne-erday.

Joso (1662-1704)

Aboot the lair
whuffs o Spring haar hings on--
Ah’m haurlie leevin.


Thir brainches
war the first ti bud--
fawin blossoms.


Sailboats in lyne---
owreby, a gray lyke island
dernt in the mist.

Hokushi (1665-1718)

Nicht snaw---
the neibor’s cock craw
souns myles awa.

Shiko (1665-1731)

Smaw boats fishin---
eftir whit, thinks Ah, as snaw
pouthers ma hat.


Eftir yon fell dream
hou unco vieve an rael
this braw iris is!

Shushiki (1669-1725)

Up on the rock
the waves can juist rax til
fresh snaw.

Tanlan (1674-1741)

In the melon patch,
the thief an sleikit tod
meet ither heid on.

Taigi (1709-72)

Ayont saucht
the gray kytes skraich even on
in the gloamin.


Deer i the rain---
thrie cries ir heard
an syne nae mair.

Buson (1715-83)

Dew on the brammil
a hantil sair jaggie thorns
sherp an whyte.


Throu the snaw
the lichts o yon hames that clasht
thair yetts on ma face.


haurlie ever seen
cam twyce the-day

Kito (1740-89)

Gean blossoms—
in siclyke pairts the verra gress
aye blooms anaw.

Issa (1763-1827)

A guidlyke warld
the kristal dew-draps faws
in yins an twas.


Juist you tak tent
aw ye creepie-crawlie things
the bell o transcience.


Flies swairmin aw owre-----
whitever dae thay want wi
thir auld runkilt haunds?.


Whitna lyke warld----
whan lotus flouers ir ploued
doun intil the grund.


Look oot, ye fyreflies!
Ye’l mebbe clour yeir wee heids
on that whunstane.


Closer an closer
nou ti paradise
but hou cauld Ah im!


In ma houss wi me
the verra myce an fyreflies
git alang brawlie


In this warld
even the butterflies,
maun aern thair keep.


Thing ti be forgot:
the pot whaur this flouer blooms
this ae Spring day.


The Gowk sings ti me
whyles, til the ferr ben,
turn aboot.


Dew faw,
an the seeds o Hell
ir sawn aince mair.


In the blouster
the chesnuts race alang
the bamboo porch.

Shiki (1867-1902)

Basket chair its lane
left in the pine tree’s shaidae


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Cite this Document

APA Style:

50 Haikus by Japanese Masters. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 21 July 2024, from

MLA Style:

"50 Haikus by Japanese Masters." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 21 July 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "50 Haikus by Japanese Masters," accessed 21 July 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 922

50 Haikus by Japanese Masters


Text audience

General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2004
Title of original (if translation) Various
Author of original (if translation) Various Japanese masters
Language of original (if translation) Japanese
Word count 1039
General description 50 haikus with an accompanying introduction

Text setting


Text type

Prose: nonfiction


Author details

Author id 17
Forenames David
Surname Purves
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1920
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Retired Biochemist
Place of birth Selkirk
Region of birth Selkirk
Birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Master Grocer
Father's place of birth Selkirk
Father's region of birth Selkirk
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife
Mother's place of birth Selkirk
Mother's region of birth Selkirk
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All circumstances
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes