Japanese Peony Poems


The following selection of Japanese poems, or haiku all date from the Edo period (1603-1868). During this period, painters and poets were held in high regard and enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy elite. Tree peonies had an important role in classical Japanese art and aesthetics. As in China, when depicted in art, they often represented wealth and status. They could also be cast in a more sensual way, standing in paintings and poetry for female beauty and allure. However, peonies are not always used as metaphors, in some of these poems the flower itself is the muse.

About to bloom,
And exhale a rainbow,
The peony!
– Buson


When the peonies bloomed,
It seemed as though were
No flowers around them.
– Kiitsu


The stamens and pistil
Of the peony gush out
Into the sunlight.
– Taigi


The peonies do not allow
The rain-clouds a hundred leagues round
To approach them.
– Buson


In the stillness,
Between the arrival of guests,
The peonies.
– Buson


Dusk on the flower
Of the white peony,
That embraces the moon.
– Gyodai

The peony
Made him measure it
With his fan.
– Issa


Dear, dear,
What a fat, happy face it has,
This peony!
– Issa


The peonies have fallen,
We parted
Without regret.
– Hokushi


a bee
staggers out
of the peony
~Basho


a rice bowl
filled to the brim
one peony
~ Buson


what peonies!
one poem per flower
will not do
~ Ryumin


the feeling of
being drunk with tea
thanks to peony
~ Chisoku


the peony flower:
it’s a woman with plenty
of meat on her bones
~ Hakuo


the applause
of one and all shower
the peony
~ Issa


for peony blossom viewing
a pale kimono is good
and chinese tea
~ Torin


half a mind
to dress up and bow down
to the peony
~ Shiki


though mine
I hesitate to pluck
the peonies
~ Baishitsu


that peony!
I want to dash cold water
on her face
~ Kaken