The Old Pond

Matsuo Bashō

‘The Old Pond’ is one of the best-known Japanese haiku of all time. This haiku consists of three phrases that contain the syllable count of 5-7-5.


Matsuo Bashō

Nationality: Japanese

Matsuo Bashō was a 17th-century Japanese poet.

During the 20th century, his poetry spread around the world.

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: Life's beauty is found in simple moments.

Speaker: Likely Bashō

Emotions Evoked: Contentment, Enjoyment

Poetic Form: Haiku

Time Period: 17th Century

This poem is considered to be the most important, and famous, haiku in all of Japanese history. It depicts a very simple, yet beautiful image in the way that only Bashō could.

Matsuo Bashō, the poet of this haiku, was a famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He is recognized as the greatest master of haiku or hokku. In ‘The Old Pond,’ also known as ‘The Ancient Pond,’ Bashō plays with the sound of the frog leaping in the old pond and imagery of that ancient place.

The Old Pond
Matsuo Bashō

Old pond...a frog jumps inwater's sound

In traditional Japanese, the haiku reads:

Furu ike ya

kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto

With the Japanese characters being:

古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音

The literal translation of the words of this haiku poem, by Robert Hass, is:

Old pond…

a frog jumps in

water’s sound

However, there is nothing specific about the context or the development of poetic thoughts. One has to take resort to the imagination to get into the core of this poem.

The Old Pond by Matsuo Bashō

Summary of The Old Pond

‘The Old Pond’ is a haiku poem that deals with an ancient pond and the sound made by a frog that jumps into it.

In this haiku poem, there are only three images. One is a static image of an old pond. The second one is a dynamic image of a frog jumping into the pond. Lastly, there is an auditory image that presents the sound that is generated from a frog jumping into the pond-water. While reading the haiku, one has to be imaginative to get to the core of the poem. To begin with, the pond in the poem is an old water body. It seems people have either abandoned the pond or it is there for a long time. Thereafter, the frog that jumps into the pond presents two things, the season and the reason for its jumping. Lastly, the water’s sound creates a resonance in a reader’s mind. This sound has some deeper meaning that is discussed in the latter part of the analysis.


This haiku contains manifold meaning inside its brevity and compactness. To begin with, the literal meaning of the Japanese text is of great importance. As it gives the key to the inner meaning of the text. In the first phrase, “Furu” means old, and “ike” means pond. Here, “ya” is a “kireji” or “cutting word”. Thereafter, in the second phrase, “kawazu” means frog, and “tobikomu” means “jumping into.” In the last phrase, “mizu” means water, and “oto” stands for sound. Here, “no” is a phoneme or an “On.” In Japanese, “On” stands for “sound.” In this way, the literal meaning of the text, in Standard English, is “Old pond—frog jumping into—water’s sound.”


‘The Old Pond’ consists of a total of 17 syllables. In the first phrase, there are 5 syllables and in the second phrase, there are 7 syllables. The last phrase has 5 syllables. Structurally, a haiku poem has a “kireji” or cutting word. Here, the cutting word is in the first phrase. It is “ya” that marks a shift in the poem. Another important element of a haiku is “kigo.” “Kigo” means a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in traditional forms of Japanese poetry. In this haiku, the “kigo” is the “frog.” Generally, in Asia, the frog is associated with the Monsoon season. But, here, as Bashō portrays the scene, there are no sounds except that of the water. So, the kigo in this poem refers to the Spring season.

Literary Devices

There are some important literary devices in this haiku poem. Firstly, the “pond” is a metaphor for the subconscious mind. It can also be a metaphorical reference to the soul. Whereas, the “old pond” seems to be an example of personification. Here, Bashō personifies the pond. Thereafter, in the second phrase, the frog acts as a metaphor. Here, it embodies any external stimulus that incites the human mind to think. Lastly, the “water’s sound” contains an onomatopoeia. The poet uses the sound to portray an image. Moreover, there is also metonymy in this phrase. Here, the poet presents the effect to refer to the cause.

Analysis of The Old Pond

Line 1

The old pond-

The haiku, using Fumiko Saisho’s translation, begins with the image of the old pond. It can be somewhere in a forest or far from human habitation. Bashō associates no other sound with this image. So, the pond is probably at a distance, in tranquility and silence. Moreover, it is old. Being an ancient creature, it has survived the ravages of time. Burdened with the experience of the long years, the pond exists as a sage. The poet somehow connects himself with this pond. There is a closeness in their nature. Both are silent and at peace.

The old pond seems to be a symbol of the subconscious mind. It is there inside everyone. Like the old pond, it exists in silence. Moreover, the poet refers to the subconscious mind of an old person. Here, the old man is undoubtedly the poet himself.

Line 2

a frog jumps in,

Suddenly a frog breaks the tranquility of the pond. It doesn’t start to croak in its usual pattern. The frog simply jumps into the pond. Why does the frog jump into the pond? One has to ask this question first before moving to the climax of this haiku. The frog might have jumped into the pond, not for breeding or laying eggs as it’s not the season of monsoon. So, one thing is clear that the frog does it for its biological instinct. It seems as if the water of the pond rejuvenates the frog. So, it jumps into the pond naturally without any biological urge or chemical upsurge inside its body. Like the frog, a person also needs solace to give time to his mind and soul. Thus, the frog jumping into the water can be a symbolic reference to meditation.

Line 3

sound of the water.

In the last line of the haiku, the sound becomes an interesting part of the imagery. The sound is not artificial. An external stimulus is responsible for the creation of sound. When the frog jumps into the water, it generates a short-staying sound. It isn’t shrill. Yet it’s not deep. The texture of the water’s sound lies somewhere in the middle. The poet’s mind gets alert after hearing the song but it doesn’t break his concentration. Rather it heightens his trance and takes him to a next level. One can think about it differently.

While cooking a very special dish, one has to use every material in a specific amount. If anything goes beyond its certain concentration, the dish doesn’t taste good. The opposite is also true. Here, in this haiku, the sound of the water is that special ingredient that must be used in a sound amount. Thus, it can heighten the level of the poet’s mediation.

Similar Poetry

Like Bashō’s ‘The Old Pond,’ here is a list of poems in which the poets explore more by saying less.

You can read about 10 of the Best Haikus to Read here.

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The Old Pond

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Matsuo Bashō

Matsuo Bashō is considered one of the most important poets of the Edo period in Japan, and his contributions to haiku poetry have earned him a place among the greatest literary figures in Japanese history. His poetry often focused on the beauty of the natural world, and he sought to capture the essence of life and the changing seasons in just a few words. 'The Old Pond' is one of Bashō's most famous poems, and it is a wonderful example of his ability to use simple language to convey complex emotions.
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17th Century

Matsuo Bashō lived during the 17th century, a time when Japan was undergoing significant cultural and social changes. Despite this, poetry remained an important part of Japanese culture, and many of the most celebrated poets in Japanese history lived during this time. Bashō's work reflects the aesthetic and cultural values of 17th-century Japan, and 'The Old Pond' is a testament to the enduring power of this era's poetry. To this day, this beautiful poem is still read and studied around the world.
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This poem is a classic, and incredibly famous, example of Japanese poetry. It reflects many of the themes and conventions of this rich literary tradition. Japanese poetry is often characterized by its focus on nature, its use of seasonal imagery, and its simplicity and elegance of language. Bashō's haiku captures these elements of Japanese poetry, while also conveying a sense of Zen-like tranquility and contemplation.
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Bashō's poetry is known for its beauty, and 'The Old Pond' is no exception. The poem describes a beautiful scene of natural tranquility, and it captures the essence of that beauty in just a few words. Bashō's poetry often seeks to find beauty in the everyday world around us, and 'The Old Pond' is a wonderful example of this.
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This poem is a celebration of the natural world and the beauty that can be found in even the simplest of things. Bashō's work often celebrates the small moments in life that can bring us joy and contentment. In 'The Old Pond,' the beauty of the pond and the frog's movements, are celebrated for its own sake, without any need for explanation or justification.
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Nature is a central theme in Bashō's poetry, and 'The Old Pond' is a wonderful example of this. The poem describes a tranquil pond, surrounded by natural beauty. Bashō's work celebrates the natural world, and his poetry often focuses on the changing seasons and the beauty of the landscape around him. Nature is a powerful force in his poetry, and it serves as a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life.
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This is a poem that conveys a sense of contentment and peace. The tranquil scene of the pond suggests a world that is at once beautiful and harmonious. Bashō's poetry often seeks to find contentment in the simple things in life and help readers feel the same kind of peace.
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Bashō's poetry often celebrates the small moments in life that can bring us joy and contentment. In 'The Old Pond,' the beauty of the pond and the frog's splash are celebrated in simple language that should inspire the reader to appreciate nature more deeply.
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This poem mentions one animal directly, a frog. Bashō's poetry often includes references to the natural world and the animals that inhabit it. His work often celebrates the beauty and complexity of the animal kingdom, and 'The Old Pond' can be seen as part of this tradition.
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This is a poem that encourages readers to appreciate the beauty of nature and the simple things in life. The poem is a reminder to take the time to observe and appreciate the world around us. 'The Old Pond' encourages us to be mindful and to find beauty in the everyday moments that we might otherwise overlook.
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This Bashō poem is a meditation on life and the passing of time. The poem captures a fleeting moment in nature, the frog's jump into the water, and reminds us that everything in life is impermanent. The poem encourages us to appreciate the beauty of the present moment and to find meaning nature.
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'The Old Pond' is a poem that celebrates the tranquility and beauty of water (along with how the frog disrupts it). The pond is described as a still and tranquil body of water. The water is a powerful symbol in Bashō's poetry, and it often represents the flow of life and the changing seasons.
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This poem is a classic example of haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry that is typically composed of three lines. Haiku is known for its brevity and simplicity, as well as its focus on nature and the seasons. The form of the poem reflects the simplicity and elegance of the natural world that it describes. 'The Old Pond' is commonly regarded as the most famous haiku poem ever written.
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Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.

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