74. Lady Chiyo and the broken water bucket

Kaga no Chiyo (1703-1775) is widely regarded as one of the greatest female haiku poets. She is perhaps best known for her poem: "A morning glory twined round my bucket - I ask for water". The overgrown well-bucket is a frequently illustrated subject in Japanese pictorial art. Stevenson* believes that this inspired Yoshitoshi to illustrate an anonymous verse: "The bottom of the bucket which Lady Chiyo filled has fallen out - the moon has no home in the water." There is however another possibility. Yoshitoshi may have wanted to link Chiyo's poem to that of Adachi Chiyono (1223-1298), the first woman Zen abbess who took the spiritual name of Mugai Nyodai. Her poem describes her struggle to attain enlightenment: "I tried hard to save the old bucket as the bamboo hoop was weakening, and about to break. Until at last the bottom fell out. No more moon in the water." (Nov. 1889; contributing author Risa Bear.)