Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story: Basho
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Renku, Haiku, and Tanka
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time for Basho
• Basho Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 370 Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY -- Basho Amazes Me! How About You?
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention
with praise to women,
children, and teenagers

Hundreds upon hundreds of
Basho works (mostly renku)
about women, children,
teenagers, friendship,
compassion, love.

These are resources we can
use to better understand
ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial
power of the feminine
emanating from
Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover his
"gentleness and humanity."

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages
of Basho material, to edit
and improve the material,
to receive 100% of royalties,
to spread Basho’s wisdom
worldwide and preserve
for future generations.

Quotations from Prose


Days and months are guests
passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass
through it yourself.
Some poets have made
no effort to pass through,
merely counting things and
trying to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one
as an expression of the
same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  Humanity and Friendship  >  D-12


Widow Chigetsu

Three Basho letters to Chigetsu, two renku links by him and her plus five Chigetsu haiku

Legend:
Words of Basho in bold
Words of other poets not bold

Chigetsu’s samurai husband was in charge at the Otsu post station of the delivery of important packages by horse. Because they had no son to inherit the household, they adopted Chigetsu’s younger brother Otokuni to be their “son.” When her husband died in 1686, Chigetsu, as was the custom for widows, became a Buddhist nun, although she continued living at home with her family in the Zeze section of Otsu. Here is one of her haiku:

Stretching up
and pointing, children
view the moon

 


We appreciate the children’s life force, their excitement at getting a little bit closer to the Moon. Chigetsu, like Basho, pays attention to “what children do.” The glory of the moon merges with the glory of the child.

 

After Basho finished his journey to the Deep North in the autumn of 1689, he went to Ise and his hometown Iga (Mie-ken). From Iga, Zeze is just across a range of low mountains to the north. Basho spent much of that winter here.

 

In Zeze, I visit the home of an old nun named Chigetsu. There was that nun Shosho who wrote of “that one’s voice” –
in old age she lived somewhere around here.

 

The 13th century poetess Shosho was, in her youth, consort to an Emperor. In old age, she went to live in seclusion a short distance north of Zeze. She is famous for her tanka:

 

That one’s voice
makes it so difficult
for us to part
Knowing not our thoughts
how the rooster crows!

 

Shosho’s poem, like so many Basho verses, ends with pure sound sensation. The sound of the rooster forces them to part -- so he will not be seen early morning close to her house -- but then the same sound makes parting so difficult; whenever one of them tries to say “Oh how I love you!” the bird lets loose one of his loud lusty cries to the dawn, and the romantic moment falls flat. They gaze at each other and try again, but again the stupid bird defeats them.

 

Basho visits Chigetsu in the coldest time of the year. They have a poetic conversation in the form of renku stanza-pairs. Basho opens with a greeting verse to her:

 

Here I speak
to the nun Shosho --
village snow

She was the pure sand
here the winter wind

 

Basho, through the language of poetry, praises Chigetsu for being an image of that Shosho who lived nearby here centuries ago. Chigetsu responds with standard Japanese humility: “No! No! You must not compare me to the great Shosho.”


Chigetsu begins the second exchange with a desolate image of poverty and living alone in snow country.

 

A straw broom
only this, in old age
snow on the house

Surrounding the brazier
robes dyed black

 

 

Basho counters with warmth and intimacy. Both Basho and Chigetsu wear black robes of vivid contrast to the snow. One person cannot surround a brazier (without getting burned); there have to be two people both moving close to the fire. Basho thus compliments his hostess for the warmth she provided with her home and brazier.


Basho stayed on the grounds of Gichuji Temple in Zeze beside Lake Biwa for autumn of 1690, and again in summer and autumn of 1691, and spent much time with Chigetsu and other folks in the Zeze group of Basho followers.


For New Years of 1691, Chigetsu sent her servant Rokubei with presents from her house in Zeze to Basho’s house, a walk of about 36 miles over a low range of mountains. Basho replied with a letter Rokubei carried back to Chigetsu.

 

Rokubei stayed here one night.
For all he did, you should not scold him.

 


Basho is concerned that Chigetsu will scold Rokubei for imposing on his family, but he assures her that his family was happy to have Rokebei stay. Basho pays attention to servants.

 

My sick bowels for 53 days now have felt fine
and this spring I will take care of my health
and become fierce as a demon.
Needing no cushion in the palanquin,
shoulders and hips painful, I entered Iga.

 

Basho counts the days he is free from his chronic disease: Really? Exactly 53! In a letter to a woman, he tells the condition of his bowels; now that’s personal! He rode into Iga in a palanquin carried by four bearers, but his butt was so pain-free he did not need a cushion underneath that butt -- however the space within the palanquin was confining so after many hours his hips and shoulders hurt. So much body consciousness.

 

The mustard greens we divided and sent about,
the sake shall entertain a multitude of followers.


Group consciousness being central to Japanese thought, Basho communicates his family’s gratitude for Chigetsu’s presents by telling how they shared and will share them with others.


                                 p.s. to Letter to Chigetsu:

 

Your daughter-in-law always, always
breaking her bones till it hurts to see her.
and so we should feel gratitude.
I hope you will be very, very aware of this.

 


Basho speaks of the yome, Chigetsu’s daughter-in-law who came to this household decades ago. Without Abigail Adams to remind him, Basho “remembers the ladies.”


I do not believe Basho is suggesting that Chigetsu is a cruel mother—in-law; if he thought that, Basho, being Japanese, would never said so outright. Sociologists and anthropologists should take note; here is a unique record of a man in pre-modern Japan showing consideration for a women (other than his mother). Western books on Japan emphasize the mother-in-law’s cruel oppression of the yome who lived in misery until she could pass the misery onto a younger yome -- as if nowhere in Japan did in-laws get along with each other. People cannot be generalized in this way.


In the movie Ballad of Narayama (1983) the old grandmother’s final deed before she goes to the mountain is to show her son’s new wife a secret hollow in the stream near their house where fish like to rest, so at any time she can reach in and pull one out – thus ensuring that even in famine her descendants will have something to eat. The love between the two women, old and young, is palpable. Certainly in Basho’s time as well, some old mothers welcomed the future into their household.

 

Four Haiku by Chigetsu

 

Frogs -- who may live up to 10 to 15 years -- sleep all winter in the mud at the bottom. Come spring they awaken and come to the surface to search for food. Chigetsu wrote,

 

Reservoir
frogs being born

by the warmth

 

Mountain cherry
blossoms fall – in the stream
a water wheel

 


This water wheel is part of a system bringing water to a rice field.The delicate pink petals fall on

and stick to the dark wet wood. The verse contains three types of movement:
the blossoms fall -- the stream flows -- the wheel turns.

 

So you steal
offerings to the Gods—
village crow

 


The O-hotoki was a Shinto ceremony performed around Kyoto in the 11th moon. While a sacred dance was performed in front of the shrine, food such as mikan are offered to the kamisama in prayer for warmth in the winter to come. The na at the end of the upper segment expresses a sort of resigned contempt - for which I translate “soo…” Chigetsu captures the essence of our relationship with those miserable, arrogant birds that fly wherever they want, not giving a shit what we think of them and how they get their snacks.


Chigetsu wrote this haiku:

 

Hands stopped
by the bush warbler,
kitchen sink

 


Chigetsu, in a samurai mansion in the country, would have a suwari-nagashi made of wooden planks carefully fitted together with joints tight enough to prevent leakage, built into the floor in front of a slatted window, used in a seating or crouching position. The bottom tilts slightly to the rear so water can drain out a spout in the wall. Water is drawn from a huge lidded jar of well water standing next to the sink. A bundle of rice straw folded in half and tied was used for scrubbing. This description may help your mind enter into Chigetsu’s verse. Chigetsu portrays her hands at work in the February freezing cold well water, then the bright call of the bush warbler takes her consciousness away from her hands.


While Basho was staying in Zeze in 1691, Chigetsu must have told him she got a letter from Basho’s woman follower Uko. He wrote a letter to a Uko on October 3, 1691

 

p.s. For the letter you sent to Chigetsu
you have made me grateful.
Gentle your heart’s intention,
returning again and again.
Chigetsu also knows that feeling.

 

He praises the gentleness of woman, and also the solidarity of women. He seems to be building bridges between these two women followers.


Basho returned to Edo in winter of 1691 to stay at a rental house.


(Letter to Chigetsu, dated June 21, 1692):

 

For one year a dream has been like reality.
On each of us old age presses. The day
may not be as far as today or tomorrow.


Seven months ago, Basho parted from Chigetsu in Zeze; he says the time apart from her is both reality and a dream. Basho is 48 and Chigetsu in her sixties. In this time old age is said to begin at 40. (Young people still think this.)

 

The summer heat at the Gichuji Cottage
is one sort of the memories that arises

(thanks to you and your group in Zeze).

Here where everything is rough and approximate
everything is disabled, so unable to forget the extent of my obligation, I feel only longing to be with you…

 


“Rough and approximate” (omaka naru) is his current state, staying in a rental house in downtown Edo without a place of his own. Since he now feels that way, Basho feels an on (obligation) to the Zeze people for giving him such a peaceful place to stay last year. Natsukashi means “to long or yearn for”. There is nothing sexual in this; it is simply the warmth in Basho‘s heart.

 

…however this year with my legs bound in Edo
when again to be in your eyes cannot be determined.
Warmest regards
                                                                         Basho

 

For the harvest moon on October 3, 1694, Basho held a party in the new hut his followers in Iga built for him behind the Matsuo house. Chigetsu sent her servant Chozo with some goodies to share.
Chozo carried Basho’s letter back to her.

 

Chozo brought your presents,
the barrel of Southerner’s wine
and the twenty pieces of wheat gluten,
for which we are grateful.

 


Namben-sake, ‘Southerner’s wine,’ was originally Dutch but became a famous product of Kyoto. Fu (gluten) is the high-protein part of wheat flour extracted by kneading in salt water so the low-protein starch washes away, drying, and baking in bite-sized pieces. According to the Menu for Moon-Viewing, Basho’s list of his selections to serve his guests that harvest moon night, the gluten was simmered in broth and served as a nimono – similar to Western “wheat meat.”

 

When my guests are here to view the moon
I shall know how happy each one is.
Chozo seemed exhausted, so I said he could stay the night,
but he insisted that he had to return, so I let him go.

 

Chozo brought the barrel of wine (equal to two large modern sake bottles), the gluten, and a load of senbei (crackers) and mochi (rice cakes) attached to a carrying pole, over the range of mountains between Chigetsu’s house in Zeze and the Matsuo house in Iga. Going back without all that stuff will not be so exhausting.

 

He should be commended,
searching for an unknown road.


Kon, the world’s foremost authority on Basho’s letters, comments:


“It would be good to notice the gentleness in Basho’s ordinary heart seen in his consideration for the servant Chozo as well as for Rokubei (Chigetsu’s servant who brought presents to Basho three years ago).


Repeat: “the gentleness in Basho’s ordinary heart”

 

If Tosuke and Benshiro are without misfortune, this brings me joy.


Tosuke and Benshiro must be the children of Chigetsu’s household (and most men would not mention them at all). Chigetsu wrote:

 

By grandchildren

pulled from the futons,

end of the year

 

The futons are on the tatami floor and the children pull grandma to a stance. The contrast is between vibrant youth and sleepy old age, between the old year ending and the new year about to begin.

 

Give my special thanks to Misses Oseki and Oichi.

 

When Basho was in Zeze and stayed at Chigetsu’s house, her servants Oseki and Oichi cooked and cleaned for Basho, and Basho knows they helped prepare and package these presents. Basho spreads his family’s gratitude throughout Chigetsu’s household.

 

My brother Hanzaemon said with joy “This much!”
He sends his appreciation upon my words.

 

Hanzaemon was stunned to see how much food and drink Chigetsu sent. Notice how often the word yorokobu, joy, appears in Basho letters.


Some will say that Basho’s expressions of gratitude and appreciation in his letters are merely cliches, or idioms, however his choices of which clichés and idioms to use are a reflection of his heart. Scholars with no knowledge of Basho’s letters say Basho was detached and impersonal; when they see how personal and humane are his letters, they should not say these are trivial and disregard them. Instead they should change their thinking about Basho to fit his letters – especially his letters to Chigetsu, Uko, Ensui, Sora Sampu, Kyokusui, and Kyorai.

 

p.s. For the one bamboo pole of snacks,
we again want to make you know our thanks
so we will eat them together.

 

Basho, being Japanese, focuses on group and family consciousness.


From this letter on October 3rd until Basho died in Osaka on November 28th, we have no more records of Basho’s interaction with Chigetsu – although Chigetsu’s adopted son Otokuni did come to Osaka to share the experience of Basho’s dying. His corpse was carried up the Yodo river from Osaka to Zeze. Chigetsu and her daughter-in-law worked together to produce the shroud in which he was buried in Gichuji Temple where he said:

 

The mountains in silence nurture the spirit
the water with movement calms the emotions.

 

                                   
                           basho4humanity.com

 

 

 






<< One Fine Woman, Uko (D-11) (D-13) Madame Sonome >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story: Basho
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Renku, Haiku, and Tanka
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time for Basho
• Basho Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 370 Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY -- Basho Amazes Me! How About You?
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention
with praise to women,
children, and teenagers

Hundreds upon hundreds of
Basho works (mostly renku)
about women, children,
teenagers, friendship,
compassion, love.

These are resources we can
use to better understand
ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial
power of the feminine
emanating from
Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover his
"gentleness and humanity."

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages
of Basho material, to edit
and improve the material,
to receive 100% of royalties,
to spread Basho’s wisdom
worldwide and preserve
for future generations.

Quotations from Prose


Days and months are guests
passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass
through it yourself.
Some poets have made
no effort to pass through,
merely counting things and
trying to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one
as an expression of the
same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com