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Hairimeraku On:2003-08-02 11:36:46

It is a little known fact that Bashou Matsuo, the great master of that restrictive and elegant form the Haiku had but one great disappointment in life, that he never mastered the even more restrictive and elegant form of the Hairimeraku:

in fact it is rumoured that he was implicated in the notorious incident when the sandals of Moshemoshe Dareno-otakudesuka, who in fact was the earliest master of the hairimeraku, were super-glued to the floor. Well, just in case old Bashou is listening to this, somewhere, here is a pocket guide to the hairimeraku.

As you probably know the hairimeraku was introduced to the Nihon-jin in the late sixteenth century by Irishmen from County Clare who, noticing the recent introduction of the potato to their country, thought “Uh-oh it’s perhaps time to leave”, and avoiding with remarkable foresight, the crowds at Ellis Island, nipped round the world to Japan. Steeped, as they were, in the verse forms of their neighbouring county back home and impressed, as they could hardly fail to be, by the emerging form of the haiku of their adopted home they bowed to the inevitable and merged the two, creating a verse form of which the mere fact that it has seventeen syllables, rhyming upon the fourth, eighth, eleventh, fourteenth and seventeenth in the pattern AABBA is but the lowest common denominator, though also the ne plus ultra. Ah! but what an ultra!! See, for example, how the stark, bare bones of a haiku:

saru mo ko-mino wo

Or (for those of you whose Nihon-go no jugyou aren’t going too well)

In the first cold rain
even monkey a small straw
coat seems to want.

 When fleshed out with the voluptuousness of, say:

There was a young belle of old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patches.
  When comment arose
  On the state of her clothes.
She said ‘When Ai itches Ai scratches’

can stretch to the smooth alabaster skin of this hairimeraku:
Fairly young wench
The winds make blench.
  Tattered dress,
  Her own mess,
Cold rains drench
The beauty of such lines, encapsulating as they do the essence, even the horror of compulsive disorders and their consequences while at the same time delineating the harsh necessities of the onset of the winter rains and all in seventeen syllables, is almost mind-numbing.

Or again look at this little gem with its hypermetrical last line and its analysis of the conflict between nature and nurture---how we are compelled to feel both sympathy for, and revulsion with, its ingénue heroine:
A young lady,
Name of Sadie,
  Cherry pit
  Wants to spit
Somewhere shady.
Or this which investigates propriety more frankly though enigmatically:
See that girl there
Climbing the stair.
  She should know,
  Crowd below...
And finally this which must represent the classic ideal of the hairimeraku:
Old man with beard
Thought he was feared
  By those near
  And quite far.
He was weird.
Quite, however, unlike the beautiful hairimeraku.

Cheerio for now from
Richard Howland-Bolton

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