The lamp once outby Natsume Soseki
English version by Soiku Shigematsu
Original Language Japanese
The lamp once out
Cool stars enter
The window frame.
|-- from Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Soseki, by Natsume Soseki / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu|
/ Photo by George Lu /
This haiku is one that leaves me in silence.
On the most literal level, Natsume Soseki is giving us the image of a lamp going out. When that strong, close light is no longer there, our eyes can then see the stars in the night sky through the window. Just three lines is enough to give us that beautiful moment.
But, of course, the meaning expands, with several possible meanings. One way to read it is that the lamp light could suggest the ego. That is the familiar light we normally live by. It is useful in that it allows us to interact effectively with the immediate environment. But we forget that it also affects our focus and limits our full vision. It is only when it finally goes out, that we can see vastness of the night sky and its glistening, heavenly stars...