On the one-ton temple bell

Yosa Buson

‘On the one-ton temple bell’ by Yosa Buson is a beautiful haiku. It describes a moonmoth sleeping on a temple bell. 


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.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: The beauty of nature is fleeting and should be appreciated.

Themes: Beauty, Nature

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Contentment, Enjoyment

Poetic Form: Haiku

Time Period: 18th Century

The image of the temple bell, with its powerful sound is a fantastic metaphor for the fleeting nature of life and the impermanence of all living things.

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The poem is only three lines long, but, like all incredible haiku, it provides readers with a beautiful and thoughtful image to consider long after one finishes the lines. In this case, a moonmoth, a type of moth that has large round spots and is a striking green/blue color, is sitting on a much larger temple bell. 

On the one-ton temple bell
Yosa Buson

On the one-ton temple bellA moonmoth, folded into sleep,Sits still.
On the one-ton temple bell by Taniguchi Buson


On the one-ton temple bell’ by Yosa Buson is a short haiku that describes a moonmoth sitting on a “one ton temple bell.”

The poem is only three lines long, as traditional haikus are. In the first line, the speaker describes a one-ton temple bell. This brings in religious allusions and should inspire the reader to consider the sound the bell might make if it’s rung. It could ring, one might feel, at any moment. In contrast to the pending sound is the moonmoth. It sits on the bell, unmoving and unperturbed by the possibility that it might be disturbed violently in the near future. It is “folded into sleep.”

Structure and Form 

‘On the one-ton temple bell’ by Yosa Buson is a three-line traditional haiku that was originally written in Japanese and has been translated into English. This means that the original structure has been lost. For example, in traditional haiku, the writer creates a syllabic pattern of 5-7-5. Or five syllables in the first and last lines and seven in the second line. In this case, with the English translation, the lines have seven, eight, and two syllables.

Literary Devices 

Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to: 

  • 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.
  • Imagery: one of the most important literary devices used in haiku. It occurs when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. For example, “a moonmoth, folded into sleep.”
  • Alliteration: in this English translation, there is also an example of alliteration. It can be seen in the repetition of the “s” sound in the final line with “sits still.” 

Detailed Analysis 

Line 1

On the one-ton temple bell

In the first line of ‘On the one-ton temple bell,’ the speaker uses the phrase that came to be utilized as the most common title. This is often the case with haiku, which are generally quite short and direct. In this case, the poet starts off by describing a “one-ton temple bell.” This phrase is evocative enough that it allows the reader to easily imagine what it is the poet is thinking about. But, due to the brevity of the poem, it does leave some room for creative interpretation. 

The word “on” is one of the most important in this line. It creates a feeling of expectation as the reader is, as of yet, unaware of what is “on” the bell. 

Lines 2 and 3

A moonmoth, folded into sleep,

Sits still.

The second line reveals that there is a “moonmoth” on the bell. This beautiful type of moth is lime green to light blue in color. It would likely contrast, color-wise, and texture-wise, against the bell. It’s softer and alive, while the bell is hard and impenetrable. The moth is “folded into sleep,” the speaker adds. It’s peacefully sleeping on the bell, something that could, at any moment, ring. 

This creates an interesting dynamic. The moth is sitting still, as the third and final line adds, seemingly unconcerned that the bell could ring at any moment. This is an image of peace that most readers are going to easily be able to connect to. Like most haiku, this one uses natural images and can, if readers dig deep enough, contain a message for readers in regard to human life and the way that one moves through it.


What is the purpose of ‘On the one-ton temple bell?’ 

The purpose is to celebrate a quiet moment and provide readers with the opportunity to feel it in the same way the poet did. Whether or not he saw it for himself, it’s interesting enough to where it feels as though he did. 

What is the tone of ‘On the one-ton temple bell?’

The tone is descriptive and peaceful. Readers should walk away from this poem feeling pleasure at the simple image they’ve been provided. 

Who is the speaker in ‘On the one-ton temple bell?’

The speaker is unknown. It is someone observing a moth on a temple bell, meaning that they would have to be in a position to do so. Other than this, there is no information about who this person is. 

Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed  ‘On the one-ton temple bell’ should also consider reading some related haiku 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 each out with tenderness.

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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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