Th poem takes place against the backdrop of a warm summer day. The poet uses an intense example of juxtaposition to emphasize the loss of soldiers’ lives. The poet alludes to these losses through two simple lines that speak to the unfulfilled dreams of soldiers. He also symbolizes them through the waving summer grasses that, in fall, decline and eventually die.
Waves of summer grass Matsuo BashōWaves of summer grass:All that remains of soldiers’Impossible dreams.
Explore Waves of summer grass
‘Waves of summer grass’ by Matsuo Bashō is a beautiful and deeply sad haiku that speaks about death.
The poem depicts waves of grass swaying in the summer breeze, serving as a metaphor for the soldiers who have perished. The phrase “All that remains of soldiers’ impossible dreams” suggests that these soldiers had dreams and aspirations that were ultimately unattainable, likely due to their untimely deaths.
This poem does not explicitly specify one setting, but based on the imagery and context within the poem, readers can infer that the setting is likely a landscape or a natural environment during the summer season.
The mention of “summer grass” in the first line suggests a time of warmth and growth, indicative of the summer season. This setting creates a backdrop for the swaying motion of the grass.
While the specific location or surroundings are not mentioned, the poem focuses more on imagery, emotions, and contemplative themes.
Structure and Form
‘Waves of summer grass’ by Matsuo Bashō is a three-line traditional haiku. The lines were originally written in Japanese, meaning that the traditional haiku syllable structure of the first and third lines having five syllables and the second having seven, is lost in translation.
In this poem, the poet makes use of a few different literary devices. For example:
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet imbues their descriptions with sense-triggering images. For example, “Waves of summer grass.”
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three.
- Sibilance: occurs when the poet repeats the same “s” sound in multiple words. For example, “dreams,” “soldiers’” and “impossible.”
- Juxtaposition: can be seen in the contrast of the summer grass to the deceased soldiers in the next lines.
Waves of summer grass:
The first line of the poem is incredibly peaceful. Like in many haiku, this line serves as a way to bring the reader into the setting, letting them know exactly where or when a poem is taking place. In this case, in the middle of summer when the grass has grown long.
The poet is also implicitly alluding to the passage of time in these lines. The grass grows tall in summer but will eventually die as the seasons change (a discussion of time is also very common in haiku poems).
All that remains of soldiers’
The second line changes the poem dramatically. It carries significant emotional weight and provides a poignant commentary on war.
This line highlights the stark contrast between the previous image of vibrant summer grass and the grim reality of the soldiers’ fate.
By using the phrase “All that remains,” Matsuo Bashō emphasizes the idea of loss and destruction. It implies that the soldiers, who once had hopes, dreams, and identities, are now reduced to mere fragments or memories. Their physical presence has been erased, leaving behind only intangible remnants.
This line encapsulates the overarching theme of futility and unattainability that runs through the entire haiku. Matsuo Bashō concludes the poem with a concise and impactful statement that should linger in the reader’s mind.
The phrase “Impossible dreams” suggests that the soldiers, who are represented metaphorically by the waves of summer grass, had aspirations and desires that were unrealistic or impossible to achieve. It conveys a sense of tragedy and dashed hopes, emphasizing the profound loss and waste of human potential resulting from a war.
By using the word “dreams,” Bashō implies not only personal ambitions but also broader aspirations for a better future. Dreams often symbolize hope and the pursuit of happiness.
The tone begins contemplatively and then moves to become more mournful and sorrowful as the poet contemplates the many soldiers who have lost their lives during any war throughout time.
The mood is depressing and respectful. The poet creates a scene that allows readers to mourn the loss of individuals’ lives while also respecting their memories.
The theme of this poem is loss, and the huge hole death can leave behind. The poet acknowledges how much is truly lost when someone dies, like their dreams and aspirations.
The purpose is to speak on the tragic consequences of war and the unattainability of human aspirations. It serves as a poignant commentary on the human condition and the profound impact of conflict.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Matsuo Bashō poems. For example:
- ‘Autumn moonlight’ – is a traditional haiku that’s beautifully written about the seasons.
- ‘In the twilight rain’ – is a beautiful 3-line haiku that juxtaposes an evening rain with a bright hibiscus flower.
- ‘The shallows’ – is a beautiful, traditional haiku about a crane landing in cool, shallow water and the ripples it makes.