The crow has flown away

Natsume Sōseki

‘The crow has flown away’ by Natsume Sōseki is a beautifully contemplative haiku about a crow, tree, and the whole natural world


Natsume Sōseki

Nationality: Japanese

Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) was a Japanese novelist and haiku poet.

Through poetry, Sōseki delves into the complexities of the human psyche.

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: Nature is ever-changing and beautiful.

Themes: Death, Journey, Nature

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Anxiety, Contentment, Gratitude

Poetic Form: Haiku

Time Period: 19th Century

This is a classic example of a haiku in its contemplation of nature's every-changing beauty.

The poem describes a crow, a tree, and the sun, creating a small landscape for readers to consider. This poem is a very good example of a haiku in its gentle contemplation of a still and peaceful scene in the natural world, something that’s very common in Sōseki’s verse

The crow has flown away
Natsume Sōseki

The crow has flown away;swaying in the evening sun,a leafless tree.


‘The crow has flown away’ by Natsume Sōseki depicts a crow that has departed, leaving behind a tree that stands bare and devoid of leaves. 

The poem begins with the poet describing a crow flying away, leading readers to two more images. The next line depicts how a nearby tree gently moves and sways in the warm glow of the evening sun. This haiku invites readers to reflect on the beauty found in the stillness of a leafless tree against the backdrop of a setting sun.

Structure and Form 

‘The crow has flown away’ by Natsume Sōseki is a three-line haiku that is contained within a single, short stanza. The lines were originally written in Japanese, as well. This means that (since the poem was translated to English) much of the formatting of the haiku was lost. 

Haiku are known for their use of a specific syllable pattern. Specifically, the use of five syllables in the first and third lines and seven syllables in the second line.

Literary Devices 

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, “swaying in the evening sun.”
  • Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “swaying” and “sun” in line two. It’s important to note that this literary device is only in the English translation of this poem. 
  • Allusion: a reference to something outside the poem’s context. For example, the poet uses symbolism to imbue the crow, sun, and tree with additional meaning that requires interpretation of the reader’s part. 

Detailed Analysis 

Line One 

The crow has flown away;

In the first line of the poem, the poet introduces the central subject of the haiku, which is the crow. The crow has flown away, the poet says, indicating that the scene has recently changed and that only a few moments before, one could’ve observed the bird. 

This line opens up the rest of the haiku, implying a change or transition from the presence of the crow to something else. The absence of the crow creates a void that may inspire readers to consider feelings of emptiness or solitude.

Line Two 

swaying in the evening sun,

In the second line, the poet introduces another subject which, at the end of the second line, is unknown. The word “swaying” conveys a gentle, rhythmic motion, suggesting that the subject is responding to a breeze or natural forces.

The phrase “in the evening sun” is also important as it adds a specific setting and atmosphere to the scene. It implies that the sun is setting, creating a warm and golden light that bathes the surroundings. It’s in the third line that the poet finally reveals what this subject is. This helps readers envision the scene as a whole. 

Line Three

a leafless tree.

In the third line, the poet introduces the final element of the scene being described. The line provides a straightforward description of the swaying object –  a tree. The poet emphasizes that the tree is devoid of leaves or “leafless.” This detail indicates that it is either winter or a season where the tree has shed its foliage.

The absence of leaves could symbolize dormancy and vulnerability. The tree’s leafless state contrasts with the previous imagery of the crow and the swaying motion. The juxtaposition of the lively crow in line one with the lifeless tree in line three creates a visual and emotional contrast.


What is the tone of ‘The crow has flown away?’ 

The tone of the poem, ‘The crow has flown away,’ is contemplative. The poet’s speaker is considering a scene and its beauty. They do not pass judgment or express any great degree of emotion. 

What is the theme of ‘The crow has flown away?’ 

The theme of this poem is change. The poem explores the small, important changes in the natural world as well as the ever-changing cycle of life and death. 

What is the purpose of ‘The crow has flown away?’

The purpose of this poem is to evoke a sense of contemplation and encourage the reader to pause and reflect on the natural world.

What symbols does Sōseki use in ‘The crow has flown away?’ 

Sōseki uses several symbols in this poem. The crow can be seen as a symbol of life, movement, or departure, while its absence represents a transition or change in the scene. The leafless tree symbolizes dormancy and the cyclical nature of seasons. The evening sun could be said to symbolize the passage of time.

Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Natsume Sōseki poems. For example: 

  • Over the wintry– is a haiku that captures the desolate beauty of a winter landscape.

Other related poems include: 

Poetry+ Review Corner

The crow has flown away

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.

Natsume Sōseki

This is a good, although not very well-known, example of Sōseki's verse. This poem showcases his ability to capture the essence of nature. Through concise language, Sōseki contemplates the subtleties of existence, drawing attention to the ordinary moments often overlooked.
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19th Century

This poem aligns with the emphasis on simplicity and sensory observation found in many 19th-century poems. This style often sought to evoke emotions through to the point, allowing readers to connect with the natural world on a deeper level. Sōseki's haiku reflects the influences of traditional Japanese poetic forms prevalent during this period.
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This poem belongs to the complex tradition of Japanese poetry. It reflects the influence of classical Japanese poetic forms, such as haiku, with its focus on nature, brevity, and suggestive imagery. Japanese poetry often seeks to convey profound emotions and insights through subtle and understated language, as this poem does. Sōseki's haiku aligns with this tradition.
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The theme of death is present but is not central to the poem. The absence of the crow and the barrenness of the leafless tree evokes a sense of loss and mortality. The poem serves as a gentle reminder of the inevitability of endings.
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This poem captures a moment within the larger journey of life. It portrays the crow's departure and the tree's stillness as markers of change and transition. It encourages contemplation about the paths readers take and the significance of the moments in between.
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Nature serves as the backdrop and primary source of inspiration in 'The crow has flown away.' Sōseki's haiku celebrates the beauty of the world and all the different things one might see within it. By focusing on elements like the crow, tree, and evening sun, the poem invites readers to appreciate the subtleties of nature.
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This poem can, in some ways, evoke a sense of anxiety. The absence of the crow and the starkness of the leafless tree may reflect a feeling of emptiness or unease. The poem's atmosphere of solitude and stillness may resonate with readers.
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The swaying of the tree in the evening sun creates a sense of peace and harmony. The poem encourages readers to find contentment in the simplicity of nature and the beauty of fleeting moments. It serves as a reminder to appreciate the present.
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The poem prompts readers to recognize the beauty of the nature of the world. It invites a sense of gratitude for the experiences and connections readers encounter, even in moments of absence or change.
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The poem is suggestive of the autumn season because the tree's leaves have fallen off. The poem captures the atmosphere of change and transition often associated with the season. The leafless tree and the departure of the crow also provoke the melancholic beauty and contemplative mood that autumn brings.
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This poem highlights the presence and absence of a bird, the crow, in the scene. Birds often symbolize freedom and the connection between the earthly and the divine. The crow's departure signifies a change or transition.
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This poem relates to the topic of sunsets by capturing the atmospheric beauty and mood often associated with this natural phenomenon. The mention of the evening sun in the second line sets the stage for a scene painted with warm, golden hues.
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This poem symbolizes transformation through its depiction of the crow's departure and the leafless tree. These elements evoke the shifting nature of life, the changing seasons, and the passage of time. It's a good example of the theme, but it leaves readers wanting more.
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This poem adheres to the haiku structure and uses concise language to evoke imagery and emotions. It demonstrates the essence of haiku poetry, which encourages mindfulness and a connection to the natural world. It's a good example of the form but not a well-known one.
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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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