Basho’s “The water’s early bloom”

My Translation
The flowers of the waves
And perhaps the snow too—
Are the water’s early bloom
Original Japanese
Nami no hana to
Yuki mo ya mizu no
Wave/surge/surf ’s/of flower(s)
Snow also water ’s/of
[Return/come back] flower(s)
This poem plays on the fact that the crest of the wave is called “wave’s flower” and looks like blooming white flower petals. It helps most to understand the haiku by imagining waves breaking white in winter. The white is made up of snow, salt, and churning water, and looks like a flower’s bloom. This will disappear soon and return to mere water, before beginning yet another cycle.
Individually “nami no hana” means “flowers of waves” or “wave’s flowers” but together means salt, crest of a wave, or the flower-like pattern on waves in the Sea of Japan during winter. “Kaeri-bana” is a returned flower (one that blooms unseasonably early in winter). “Yuki” written with a different kanji means “to go,” thus with “kaeri” (return) reinforcing the coming and going of waves and nature’s cycle.

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