In the moonlight

Yosa Buson

‘In pale moonlight’ by Yosa Buson is a Japanese haiku that depicts a night scene filled with the scent of wisteria.


Yosa Buson

Nationality: Japanese

Yosa Buson was a celebrated Japanese poet and painter from the 18th century.

He is most known for his haiku poetry that explores the beauty of the natural world.

The poem is quite simple, as most haiku are. It uses only three lines with a limited number of words. These convey a specific scene clearly and powerfully. ‘In the moonlight’ is a wonderful example of what a haiku can accomplish in the hands of a masterful writer.

In the moonlight
Yosa Buson

In pale moonlightthe wisteria's scentcomes from far away.

In the moonlight by Yosa Buson


‘In the moonlight’ by Yosa Buson is a beautiful and simple poem about an experience in the natural world.

The first line introduces the reader to a scene marked by the pale moonlight. This is expanded on when they add an important detail—the scent of wisteria. This is the most important element of the poem. And it is enhanced by the fact that it’s drifting in from far away. This adds a wistful and nostalgic quality to the poem, suggesting that the speaker imagines a different place and time.


Throughout ‘In the moonlight,’ the poet engages with themes of nature and memory. The latter is up for interpretation. It depends on one’s feelings regarding the way the scent of wisteria is drifting in from somewhere “far away.” It may, for some readers, evoke a sense of nostalgia and perhaps suggest that the speaker recalls a different time and place. Whether this is true or not, the poem certainly engages with the theme of nature. As with most haiku, this one uses natural images to create a scene and move the reader towards a particular emotion.

Structure and Form

‘In the moonlight’ by Yosa Buson is a three-line haiku that, in its original Japanese form, followed a syllabic pattern of 5-7-5, with the first line containing five syllables, the second: seven, and the third five again. With this translated version, the syllables are altered. Such is the case with most translated haiku. Despite this fact, this version does give readers a good idea of Yosa Buson’s intentions with the poem.

Literary Devices

Throughout ‘In the moonlight,’ the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two. This ensures that the reader moves smoothly from one line to the next.
  • Imagery: occurs when the poet uses especially vivid imagery in their descriptions. Haiku depend on imagery to make them effective. In this case, words like “pale” and “moonlight” help create a specific image. This is added to “wisteria’s scent,” which should trigger the reader’s senses.
  • Atmosphere: it is the overall feeling that the poem creates. Its atmosphere might be dark and dreary or peaceful and calm. In this case, the latter is closer to correct.

Detailed Analysis

Line One

In pale moonlight

In the first line of the poem, the poet sets the scene, bringing the readers’ attention to “pale moonlight.” It should be noted that he doesn’t describe the moon itself but the light it casts. It’s pale, suggesting that it’s not bright enough to see too far. But, luckily, it’s not sight that the poem is really concerned with. Rather, smell.

The first line is quite short, as are all the lines of a haiku. It is also enjambed. This creates the effect that all three lines are one simple sentence rather than lines of a poem separated into syllabic categories.

Line Two

the wisteria’s scent

The second line adds a lot. Now, in the pale moonlight, the reader is enchanting the “wisteria’s scent.” This refers to a type of flowering vine that buds blue and purple flowers. They’re often seen hanging around archways and blooming in spring and early summer. Again, rather than sight, the speaker is interested in smell. They’re thinking about what the wisteria smells like as they experience the pale moonlight.

These first two lines are a great example of how imagery creates a particular tone, mood, and atmosphere.

Line Three

comes from far away.

In the third and final line of ‘In the moonlight,’ the speaker adds a detail that may change one’s perception of the scene. The wisteria is not close by. Instead, the scene comes from “far away.” This suggests that the speaker is thinking of another location, time, or event.

This line adds a feeling of nostalgia and memory to the poem. Perhaps, the speaker, while standing in the moonlight, only imagined the smell. It could transport someone to a specific place in their memory that may be particularly moving for them. The wisteria’s scent could, in theory, be a metaphor for memory. It drifts in from “far away.”


What is the tone of ‘In pale moonlight?’

The tone is solemn and peaceful. The speaker is acknowledging the world around them and perhaps considering their past in a clear manner. These natural images are transporting and beautiful.

What is the mood of ‘In pale moonlight?’

The mood is contemplative and, again, peaceful. The reader should be transported to the scene the speaker briefly describes. They may also find themselves wondering what the wisteria represents and how the speaker is feeling about it.

Why did Yosa Buson write ‘In pale moonlight?’

The poet likely wrote this poem to capture a particular moment that was meaningful. It conveys a certain sense of peace one can find in the natural world through very short lines. This is what makes haiku so popular and the best poems so effective.

What is the purpose of ‘In pale moonlight?’

The purpose of this poem is to make readers feel a particular set of emotions and perhaps trigger a feeling of nostalgia within their minds. The brevity of the poem means that a lot of details are missing. But it also means that readers can interpret it in different ways.

What is the meaning of ‘In pale moonlight?’

The meaning is that one should take the time to stop and consider the smallest sights, sounds, smells, etc., around them. These, like the smell of the wisteria, can be transporting.

Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘In the moonlight’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:

  • A Poppy Blooms’ – is a beautiful haiku about the poet’s writing process.
  • After Killing a Spider’ – is a thoughtful poem. It describes the negative and dark effects of killing a spider.
  • Everything I touch’ – is a beautiful Japanese haiku written by one of the four great haiku masters. This piece speaks on what one might receive in return when they reach out with tenderness.
  • The Old Pond’ – deals with an ancient pond and the sound made by a frog that jumps into it.
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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