Although they are from opposite sides of the world, Leo and Tadashi, the main characters in War Sonnets have a lot in common. They are both from families who have farmed the land for generations., a land they love. In those early days, before they are called to war, Tadashi’s haikus and Leo’s sonnets reflect that love and the beauty of nature.
MY STRONG FAITHFUL OX...1
Unki o ninai
Tomo ni rou
My strong faithful ox
Bears my fate on his shoulders
We toil together
I own these hills, as they in turn own me.
My kin are products of this stony earth.
We draw our strength from hill and rock and tree,
This farm’s stark beauty nourished us from birth.
I learned its secrets when I was a child:
The field mouse nest, within a clump of sedge;
The dwelling place of all things strange and wild.
At dusk, in early spring, along the hedge
I heard the woodcock trill its evening song.
Along the wall, I watched the chipmunks play.
Ere winter loosed its grip, I waited long
To hear the wild geese on their northern way.
I am what I became, in large degree,
Because this farm, in early years, owned me.
1Benton, Allen H. “By a Poor Farmer.” The Wheel of Life: Haiku by Followers of Basho. Nymphaea Productions, 2003.
2Fitzwarren, Albert Ezra. Sonnets From Nebraska and Beyond. Jamestown, NY. Arachne, Inc, 1984. (Note: Albert Ezra Fitzwarren is a pen name of Allen H. Benton)
Many thanks to Sam Hakoyama and her family for translating Tadashi’s haikus from English to Japanese.