Snipe in Haiku – Survey of Japanese Literature, cont.

The sparse language of haiku evokes so well the feeling of the snipe marsh.  Here is a mid century translation of “kokoro naki…,” a poem in classical Japanese by Saigyō.  This translation was by Keene (1955):

Even to someone
Free of passions this sadness
Would be apparent:
Evening in autumn over
A marsh where a snipe rises.

Snipe - Japanese Art

For those interested, I reference you to the following site on the translation of classical Japanese poetry, focusing specifically on the above poem by Saigyō:


Snipe in Haiku – Survey of Japanese Literature

In my literary wanderings, seeking poems and prose that include reflections on the snipe, I have found there is a veritable cornucopia of haiku on the diminutive game bird.  There must be something universal in the solitary nature of the snipe and its habits and habitation.

Here I reference the Japanese poet Issa, and his modern translator David G. Lanoue, for this haunting poem:

all people must
grow old…
the snipe rises

–Issa, 1804

Snipe - Japanese Print

From David’s translation notes “This is an enigmatic haiku. Since the snipe is an autumn bird, perhaps Issa sees it as a sign of his own growing old.”




On Winter Snipe Shooting – Nick Kenney, 2001

It leaps from bog and watery fen,
to make it’s airy dance.
It darts and weaves above the glen,
to give me but one chance.
I see it move, and hear it speak.
It’s flight is hard to follow.
I know this game of hide and seek.
It rushes on, across the fallow.
Now, the gun is set in place,
and recoils hard against my shoulder.
The mind has figured out the pace.
The day has just gone colder.
So, let the search to find begin,
to grasp the prize at end of race.
The joy and pain are mixed within, for this angel, fallen from grace.
— Nick Kenney, c2001

Excerpt from “Fowling, a Poem (In Five Books)” by John Vincent, 1808

“Shrill cries the snipe beneath the friendly moon,

Wand’ring to find the springs, constrain’d to quit

The long frequented marsh, who’s rushy pools,

Lock’d up in ice, repel his searching bill.”

— Excerpt from John Vincent’s “Fowling, a Poem (In Five Books)”, published 1808


This passage describes beautifully how closely snipe shooting is associated with winter in northern climes.  Even with the summer-like spring we are having here in Oregon now, the mind and heart wander periodically back to the marsh in winter.