Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

One plum blossom―
one blossom’s worth
of warmth

Hattori Ransetsu

From Genpōshū, the collection of Ransetsu’s poems compiled after his death. This is a famous haiku. But the usual interpretation―that with each newly-blossomed plum flower, the warmth of spring increases―somehow does not fit. In Genpōshū, it is in the spring section, but the title note says “Cold weather plum” (kanbai), which means it is about late winter. The poem breaks, then, after “One plum blossom.” Only one plum flower has blossomed, still only one―but you feel the warmth of that flower, early herald of spring, almost more than if there were many.