Page:Kwaidan; Stories and Studies of Strange Things - Hearn - 1904.djvu/212

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A small selection of hokku on butterflies will help to illustrate Japanese interest in the æsthetic side of the subject. Some are pictures only,—tiny color-sketches made with seventeen syllables; some are nothing more than pretty fancies, or graceful suggestions; but the reader will find variety. Probably he will not care much for the verses in themselves. The taste for Japanese poetry of the epigrammatic sort is a taste that must be slowly acquired; and it is only by degrees, after patient study, that the possibilities of such composition can be fairly estimated. Hasty criticism has declared that to put forward any serious claim on behalf of seventeen-syllable poems " would be absurd." But what, then, of Crashaw's famous line upon the miracle at the marriage feast in Cana?—

Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit.[1]

Only fourteen syllables—and immortality.

  1. " The modest nymph beheld her God, and blushed." (Or, in a more familiar rendering: " The modest water saw its God, and blushed.") In this line the double value of the word nympha—used by classical poets both in the meaning of fountain and in that of the divinity of a fountain, or spring—reminds one of that graceful playing with words which Japanese poets practice.