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

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