The light of a candle

Yosa Buson

‘The light of a candle’ by Yosa Buson captures a moment of beauty and symbolism in the everyday act of lighting a candle.


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: Life is temporary

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Contentment, Empathy, Resilience

Poetic Form: Haiku

Time Period: 18th Century

Yosa Buson speaks to life's temporary nature, through the image of two candles, in this beautiful haiku.

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 Buson

The light of a candleis transferred to another candle—spring twilight.


‘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. 

Literary Devices 

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.

Detailed Analysis 

Line One 

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.

Line Two 

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. 

Line Three 

spring twilight.

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. 


What is the tone of ‘The light of a candle?’ 

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.

What is the theme of ‘The light of a candle?’ 

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. 

What is ‘The light of a candle’ about? 

‘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.

Why is ‘The light of a candle’ important? 

This Yosa Buson poem is important because it reminds readers of how common change and transitions can be, yet also how meaningful they are.

What is Yosa Buson known for? 

Yosa Buson was a Japanese poet and painter who is known for his contributions to the development of haiku poetry. Along with Basho and Issa, he is considered one of the three great haiku masters of the Edo period in Japan. 

Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem might also be interested in reading some other Yosa Buson poems. For example: 

Some other related poems include: 

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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