“Octopus Traps” by Matsuo Bashō

Japanese poet Bashō composed the following haiku in the summer of 1688 and later published it in Backpack Notes. The “octopus traps” are jars that would be lowered into the water by fishermen in the afternoon and then raised the next morning. The creatures that had slipped inside what appeared to be a safe haven would then be harvested.

Mere octopus traps,
Evanescent dreams beneath
A midsummer moon.

—Translated by David Bowles, July 2013

Original Japanese

takotsubo ya
hakanaki yume o
natsu no tsuki


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