This poem is a great example of Yosa Buson’s skill with the haiku form. It uses very few words to depict what is, with some analysis, an incredibly deep image. The poet manages to bring to mind images of the seasons, light vs. dark, hope, change, and more within only three lines.
The light of a candle Yosa BusonThe light of a candleis transferred to another candle—spring twilight.
Explore The light of a candle
‘The light of a candle’ by Yosa Buson describes the simple yet impactful moment of transferring the light from one candle to another during a spring twilight.
The poem suggests a sense of continuity and interconnectedness between the candles, as the flame of one candle is able to ignite the flame of another, creating a chain reaction. The image of the spring twilight also adds to the overall sense of change as the season transitions from winter to spring. It asks readers to consider how with life comes death, and with light comes darkness.
Structure and Form
‘The light of a candle’ by Yosa Buson is a three-line traditional haiku originally written in Japanese. The poem is a perfect representation of the power haiku have to capture (what should be) an unimportant, very simple moment or experience. In this case, the transference of light from one candle to another.
This poem uses a few different literary devices. These include:
- Symbolism: this is seen when the poet uses an image to represent something else. In this case, the candle can be seen as a symbol of knowledge, enlightenment, or the human experience.
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses particularly descriptive language. For example, the use of the words “spring” and “twilight” creates a sense of time and place and contributes to the poem’s overall mood.
- Juxtaposition: the implied contrast between the light of the candles and what would happen when they’re blown out is a great example of how juxtaposition works in haiku.
The light of a candle
The poem begins with a simple statement, as most haiku do. Despite its simplicity, it immediately draws the reader’s attention to the singular object that will serve as the focus of the poem: the candle.
By beginning with the phrase “The light,” Buson directs our attention to the essential quality of the candle – the flame that emanates from it. The use of the definite article “the” suggests that the poet has a particular candle in mind as if this object is already established in the reader’s mind. He’s likely looking at a specific candle rather than a totally imaginary one.
As the poem progresses, the candle takes on a symbolic significance as a source of illumination and warmth in the darkness. The light of the candle represents hope, inspiration, and enlightenment.
is transferred to another candle—
The second line complicates the poem. It asks readers to imagine how, when the wicks of two candles are touched, the flame can move from one to another.
The word “transferred” implies a sense of movement and transfer of energy as the flame from one candle is passed on to another. This suggests that both candles are capable of the same thing: providing light to those who need them.
The third line brings in the natural images that haiku are so well known for. It introduces a new element to the poem, expanding the scene beyond the candles themselves and situating them within a particular context – that of a spring twilight.
The use of the word “spring” signals a time of renewal and rebirth, as the season marks the end of winter and the beginning of new growth. Spring is often associated with hope and optimism, and the use of this word suggests that the transfer of the candle’s light represents a continuation of this theme.
Together, the words “spring twilight” create a sense of a specific moment in time, one that is defined by its fleetingness and its association with a particular season. This line invites the reader to consider the beauty of this moment and to reflect on the ways in which it encapsulates themes of renewal, growth, and impermanence.
Each of the two candles will burn out, but the light and warmth from one can be transferred to the next. Such a feeling is also evoked by “spring twilight.” It occurs at the end of the day and marks the end of something. But it also heralds the next day.
The tone of ‘The light of a candle’ is contemplative and meditative, inviting the reader to reflect on the significance of a single moment and the interconnectedness of all things.
The theme of the poem is the changing nature of life and how, when one life ends (or period in time ends), the next begins. It can also be related to the continuity of all things.
‘The light of a candle’ is about the beauty and significance of a single moment and the ways in which even the simplest things can hold great meaning.
This Yosa Buson poem is important because it reminds readers of how common change and transitions can be, yet also how meaningful they are.
Readers who enjoyed this poem might also be interested in reading some other Yosa Buson poems. For example:
- ‘In the moonlight’– this is a beautiful poem that depicts a night scene filled with the scent of wisteria.
- ‘On the one-ton temple bell’ – this poem describes a moonmoth sleeping on a temple bell.
Some other related poems include:
- ‘After Killing a Spider’ by Masaoka Shiki – is a very thoughtful poem that describes the moment after killing a spider.
- ‘A Poppy Blooms’ by Katsushika Hokusai – is a haiku that examines the poet’s writing process.