Help checking the grammar and vocab of a (short) translation of an original haiku

Hello there! I’m not sure I’m posting in the best category but I don’t know where else to turn to!

My sister has a very huge art project going on at the moment and one part of it consists of a haiku she wrote. Knowing my interest in the Japanese language, she asked me to translate it but I’m an absolute beginner so I did my best but I’m sure it’s chock-full of mistakes.
Would anyone of you be kind enough to correct it? Thanks a lot!

From love and from hate
My heart as a burning flame -
Infinite silence

愛からと憎悪 から


Your translation looks very good! There is a lot of freedom in poetry, too, of course. I feel like 無辺 refers to a physical kind of limitless. Without bounds. 無限 might be a better choice, but yours might well be more poetic!

For the flame part, I would go with 炎 (ほのお). I think especially definition 2 here fits well, where it describes the flame can stand for burning emotions, both positive and negative: Jealousy, anger, love and so forth, fierce emotions burning in the heart.





Here I would change the order of the words: (わたしの)炎のように燃える心 (my) heart that burns like a flame. You could also use 熱い instead of 燃える, then it would mean The heart that is hot like a flame.

Lastly, personally I would just leave out the と in the top line. Maybe put a comma there instead.

And it would take a lot more changes to turn the Japanese into a haiku form!


As @Saida said, the translation is nicely done. For the sake of clarity, I might have said 私の心 熱い火. (暑い and 熱い are read the same way, but the second kanji describes the heat of an object, whereas the first is used for the heat of the surroundings in a particular location.) That aside, it seems fine, grammatically, especially since haiku rarely contain full sentences. I think Saida has covered everything else as far as improving the language use of the original goes, aside from, perhaps, the fact that 沈黙 tends to refer to someone’s silence or lack of activity. It’s kinda like someone keeping quiet or staying still when they could be moving. I still like the word, but I’m not sure if the silence in this haiku is meant to have a human aspect.

I know poems are meant to be read as the reader wishes, and asking a poet for explanation is a bit like explaining a joke, but I think one issue here is what sort of ‘from’ we’re talking about. I get the feeling that they are the cause of the burning emotions within the heart, in which case で could be used instead of から. I mean, I think から could work in such a case as well, but it would probably indicate a starting point rather than a cause.

Here’s my attempt at turning it into a Japanese haiku:

愛憎あいぞうで (From/with/because of love and hate)
こころほのお ((My) heart is a flame)
しじまのみ (Only silence) ← OOPS! Seven morae. Hang on… Fixed

(I had a hard time finding a shorter word for 無辺 or ‘silence’, which is why it took so long. Also, I figured I’d keep 無辺 since ‘spatial’ limitlessness might paint a picture of an empty space, which might have been what you were going for.)


I agree with Saida. The only other thing I noticed is that if you wanted you could remove the double から by using 愛憎.
(but on the other hand depending on your interpretation of the poem you might want to try to preserve the two ’from’s)

I definitely don’t want to hijack your own creativity, but I was curious if I could come up with a 5-7-5 version. I’m a beginner writing-wise too though, and no expert on poetry, so I’m sure I made my own mistakes, so consider it with a grain of salt (or avoid it completely).

my own probably bad attempt


In the unlikely event anyone calls you out on any mistakes, I recommend invoking poetic license!


I thought that, too, but than I came across this definition:


Which seems to imply it can mean general silence, too, like, of appliances and animals, too, maybe?

Nonetheless, never heard of しじま. Seems like a nice option, too. I only found 無音 as an alternative, which I thought was a bit too on the nose, especially paired with the 無辺・無限 of limitless. Though I bet the two 無 would look cool calligraphied.

Of course there is also 静けさ, which I think is a cool word, because of the slight irregularity. Also it sounds nice.


FOr poetic effect, and mora reasons, why not write this as しじま無辺. Sounds cool, don’t you think? Of course, it’s still one mora too long.


For my own attempt I sacrificed a lot of original connotations for meaning density (like with 不語 - sure it’s more “unspoken” than “silent” connotation-wise, but it’s two syllables and sounds nice in its own way) to cram into that 5-7-5, especially since… hey, I’d suspect the original author did that in English!

I also like how haikus in Japanese can have each line feel like peeling back another layer of the image until you get a little poetic punchline of sorts in the noun it was all modifying. So I tried to do that but I’m 90% sure I mangled the passive form in the process… (can silences have 気’s that emotions can burn? ehhhh…)


Oh yeah, good point. I don’t know why, but I thought I needed seven morae for the last line. Oops… Thanks. Sigh… back to the drawing board. Sorry, @AnotherBadWeed. I might try again in a while.

I think it sounds great! Just… are you sure that’s done? I wanted to do it from the moment I started translating that line, but I was worried it was just my Chinese sensibilities getting to me. I think I would definitely do it in Chinese.

Hm… maybe, yes, but since I saw 出さない, which was clearly active, I thought it might mean that there had to be something or other that might make noise. Perhaps I’m just reading too much into it… In Chinese, 沈黙 is definitely all about ‘not speaking’ though.

I came across it by chance while looking through example sentences for ‘silence’ in my EN-JP dictionary.


I think it is done. It would be しじまが無辺だ, just without the が and だ. I think が is a particle easily dropped in casual speech, and of course だ can be implicit a lot of the time, too.


I could see an ending like:
不変不語 / 普遍不語 / (a version where we can figure out other two-mora synonyms for either half and thereby swap out 不語)
working really well with Jonapedia’s version with extra cool jukugo points

(sorry if we’ve gotten off the original track of helping with grammar by the way… it was good grammar!)


Sounds good, but I felt it would be nice if the last five syllables were distinctly pronounced. I mean, I don’t know how Japanese people read ん in haiku – maybe they make a proper effort to pronounce it for as long as any other mora. However, the problem (IMO) is that the first two lines and the last two lines are disconnected, so you can’t really rely on the first two lines to shore up the meaning of the last one, which is what I’ve seen in quite a few haiku. Personally, I thought it would be nice if the last line sounded ‘self-contained’ and fairly complete.

By the way, I didn’t know 永の and 不語 existed until I read your version, and I felt those were really cool.

Anyway, @AnotherBadWeed, I’ve come up with an alternative last line. (So @Saida, I now have five morae. Phew. :smile:) ‘Infinite’ is gone, converted into ‘only’, but hopefully that still conveys the same image. My understanding is that のみ is a more literary version of だけ, so I felt it might fit better.


I don’t know about how they read it, but you definitely have to count it.


I assumed it was like in singing, where sometimes it’s sung as one beat, and thought it had to count for the morae, but doing a little bit of research, I looks maybe like it can be counted or not!
Just on the Basho Wikipedia Page
I found:


where the first line is かぴたんも


where the first line is たびにやんで


(next would be to find a Japanese language source to discuss the matter but that would take more digging…)


Thanks a lot for all your enrichment of the initial haiku! I’m trying to take into consideration everything you said but it takes some time for me to catch up especially since I’m very new to Japanese.

For the first line I think
is just perfect. It really captures it in a way more satisfying than my original attempt. I didn’t know whether the use of で would be correct so I left it out. Didn’t know either that you could drop the repetition. So that works wonderfully.

炎のように燃える心 is a bit long but definitely better than what I originally did. For the sake of keeping it closer to the required 5-7-5 I’ll lean more towards 心が炎

炎 has a much more appropriate meaning as we’re indeed talking about passion, violent emotions.

For the last line, would


have felt satisfying
As the final product will be a calligraphy I think the double 無 would slap! But there’s the mora problem… sigh

不変不語 this looks great too. And 不 plays nicely to reinforce the impression of nothingness.I really like it too.

At last, のみ as in “nothing but” suits me really well. So we’d have

And the number of mora would fit!


You know, when Japanese haiku get translated into English, there is no pressure to keep to the syllable count either :wink: . Just because the original is a haiku, doesn’t mean the translation has to be also, we’re still missing the 季語 anyway… so none of these are haiku, if we want to do it by the book.


Yes, and I was. (Though @rodan has raised an interesting counterexample.) I just thought it might sort of affect the rhythm, nonetheless.


As I see that you really got caught up in it I wanted to give you a bit more about the project

The whole thing is inspired by this song


I’ve found a source here:

Under the header 「旅に病んで」の字余り
and I’m reading it a tad quicker than I ought to, but I believe its explanation is that the +1 mora is used as a rhythm-jarring addition for emphasis. So my impression is that you DO count ん, but it’s poetry, so hey, you can break from the format a bit as a technique, like using a slant rhyme intentionally for example.


Is there really always supposed to be something indicating the season? (I haven’t studied Japanese literature in any detail yet.)

「しじまのみ」, actually. The word order changes in Japanese, like with 「それだけ」=‘only that’. But I’m glad you like it. :slight_smile:


About the reference to a season the silence is supposed to refer to winter!

Oh boy, sorry. I told you my Japanese is very very basic. I could never have done what you all did!