Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 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 ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

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 Basho's
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 Basho Prose


The 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  >  Introduction to this site  >  A-10


Samples

9 Basho haiku, 7 renku, one tanka, 6 prose passages, 4 letter sections, 3 bits of speech, one cartoon.

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

Basho wrote so much more than the nature haiku and desolate lonely verses  he is famous for. In the works  hardly anyone knows, Basho tells the story of  humanity.  Here are a vast array of samples.  – for instance, this cartoon:                         Diagram of a Snore

 

 

 

 

 

Haiku on Humanity

Wrapping rice cake
with one hand she tucks
hair behind ear

 

This is Basho’s Mona Lisa, his most graceful hidden woman. Only Basho has the delicacy and precision to draw such a moment out from the flow of a woman’s everyday life.

 

On Life’s Journey
plowing a small field
going and returning

 

Before transplanting rice-seedlings to the paddy, the farmer withhorse or ox pulling the plow goes up one trow and down the next, breaking up the clumps of earth and raking the mud smooth. Would that each man forego ambition leading to war, and instead ‘plow a small field’ so we all may go and return in peace.

 

Crone waves a fan
over the food she cooked
cool evening ease

 

The old woman waves her round paper fan over the hot food to cool it off. This is an impoverished farm house, so we see her husband  has returned from the fields, (taken off his sweaty cloths) and sits in his loincloth. Basho scholar Kon Eizo says, "Watching his beloved wife bestow her heart on the food, he enjoys the evening cool and waits for the food.” So this is a love poem, not the love of young folks beginning their search, but the love of an old couple near the end; after all the years of poverty,  still they love each other.

 

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

 

In a mere seven words (plus particles) can we find the spirit of this child? Children today who work long hours may, through this verse, for a moment, escape from Earth and the labor of a tired body.


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening

 

The water expands as it freezes, cracking the jar from within. Basho takes us into the moment of startling awake at the explosive sound in the pitch darkness, then lying there under the futon, heart pounding, realizing what happened to produce that sound.


The snow we two
watched, has it fallen
this year again?

 

Last winter together we watched snow fall. This year as snow falls, we are far apart. Have the snowflakes we saw fallen again this time around. Our friendship is sustained across the barriers of distance

by something far greater, the passage and return of the seasons.

 

Single Renku Stanzas

Here are three single stanzas by Basho from linked verses he wrote together with other poets, stanzas -   in form identical to haiku - which stand on their own as masterpieces of brief poetry. Each of these appears in Basho4Now sometimes this way, and in other places, together with the stanza before. With the previous stanza, Basho’s stanza takes on a particular meaning. Without that stanza, it applies more universally. Both ways are cool.

 

Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow

 

Carefully, gently she maneuvers her hand under his sleeping head. We feel the delicacy of her love and devotion.


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself

 

The compiler of the BRZ, Shimohara Kiyoshi, said “Basho speaks of the beautiful form of the mother who has given birth to a child who receives love within the world.”


Cherries in bloom
again she climbs the hill
to his grave

 

She has climbed this hill many times, always in April when cherry blossoms are out. Her heart, everything about her, is hidden deep in Basho’s words; through searching, we can find her.

 

A Basho Tanka

Basho was asked to name a newborn baby girl. He wrote this tanka as a blessing to his god-daughter:

 

Spring passes by
again and again in layers
of blossom kimono
may you see wrinkles
come with old age

 

Now your time begins, stretching to infinity before unfocused eyes. Soon you will be laughing in the sunshine – so long as no wars come, and natural disaster, serious illness, and financial ruin also stay away. One spring in youth, you shall be given your first bright colorful ‘blossom-kimono,’ an elegant robe to wear once a year celebrating with family and friends under cherry blossoms. With proper care, a silk kimono will last for generations. May that bright robe pass onto your daughter while you wear one more moderate in color, and that also pass onto her, as you wear the sedate blossom-kimono you inherit from your mother. So may our nation remain at peace, and the happiness in your family pile up layer upon layer until you see wrinkles in the fabric and in your face. Do not despair my child, for you live again and again as

spring passes by and your granddaughters laugh and chatter under cherry blossoms.

 

    Renku stanza-pairs

Glaring about
she orders the children
to behave

While she puffs the ash
from broiled miso

 

The eternal work of woman: keeping her sons from wrecking the house. They are scattered all over the room, so she has to “glare about” to address all of them – not that they listen. Meanwhile, she broils balls of soybean paste on wooden skewers over a wood fire. A bit of ash has landed on the miso. She brings the skewer close to her mouth, and puffs it away. The astonishing delicacy of this action even the fingers of elves could not perform is the polar opposite of her “glaring about” at her kids. Both ordering and puffing are her breath, her life force. Here is Basho’s genius, his profound appreciation for female life and consciousness.


In the moonlight
my poor mother at work
beside the window

She would hide fingers
stained with indigo

 

After the rest of the family has gone to bed, in the moonlight through open window without glass, mother spins, weaves, or sews. Basho zooms in on her fingers stained from years of dying cloth with indigo. He imagines her covering them with fabric to hide that strange inhuman color in the moonlight. That blue tint draws the eyes in our minds to her fingers where also we see her endurance and fortitude. The link – the thoughts that take us -- from Iugen’s stanza to this trivial but intimate human detail shows the vast range

of Basho’s genius. Only Basho could conceive of a link such as this, a link so personal and bodily yet so full of heart.

 

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet

Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven

 

This poor woman has enough work sewing before winter comes. Basho makes the connection from the woman’s solitary struggle to the bond she has with her daughter. We imagine the pride she feels hearing her daughter produce such beauty on the 13-string harp. Cultures worldwide consider age seven to be the beginning of moral understanding. – so the phrase makes us think forward to her future with Hope - hope floating on the notes rising from her seven year old fingers. Basho, with utmost subtlety and grace, portrays the bond between mother and daughter, the hope for a better future that the growing and developing girl evokes in her mother.


To quiet down
the unsettled heart
of the daughter

Night sweats have stopped
in this morning’s dream

 

Basho creates an understanding mother who comforts and soothes her daughter in this adolescent crises. Shiko follows i with the daughter’s night sweats, copious perspiration which soaks her nightwear and blankets, often accompanied by emotional crying. Thanks to mother’s soothing influence, the daughter has fallen into a deep sleep where a pleasant dream heals her, as a new sun rises.


Basho Prose

 

Days and months are guests passing through Eternity,
the years that go by also are travelers,
and those who float through life on boats
or face old age leading the mouth of horses
make the day-by-day journey their home.
Many of the Ancients even died on a journey.

 

Humanity fills every phrase: days and months are “guests” who visit us then leave, years too are “travelers,” the vivid images of boat people and horse guides, then the poets and sages long ago who

died while traveling 

 

Mountains crumble, rivers flow on, new roads built,
stones buried and hidden in the earth,
trees grow old to be replaced by young trees,
Time passes and eras change,
so traces of them cannot be confirmed.
Yet here, without a doubt, is a memorial of 1000 years.
Now before my eyes, the hearts of ancient people.
One virtue of travel, the joy of being alive.

 

“The hearts of ancient people” are traces of the past – however Basho also searches for the hearts of people alive in the present.

 

When I meet someone with even slight refinement,
my joy is without limit. Even if to the world
he is old-fashioned and stubborn,
a person others throw away as worthless,
to speak with him beside the road in a remote place,
to see him emerge from within the wireweed,
is as finding jewels among rubble or gold in mud.
To write about these matters, to tell others of them,
is one more pleasure of travel.

 

 

…in the day my heart is moved by those
who on occasion come to visit me,
the old one who takes care of the shrine,
the men from the village telling me
of a wild boar tearing up the rice stalks,
of rabbits getting into the bean patches,
farmers’ talk I have not heard before.

 

 

Seek not the traces of the Ancients;
Seek rather the places they sought

 

“Places” means not only geographical places, but rather situations and places in thought. Basho advises us to look beyond the material stuff the ancients left behind, to instead search for the “hearts of ancient people.” In the final year of his life, Basho says “No more” old temples and shrines, but rather the hopes and aspirations and those who built them. Basho – except when he is down – searches not for the old and fading, but for Lightness and Newness, looking forward with hope.


Letters from Basho

Without a pc, printer, or typewriter, or even a ball pen, Basho wrote 229 letters, and these letters, especially the ones to close friends and his brother Hanzaemon, reveal his thoughts. For instance, in this

1692 letter to Kyorai, Basho expresses his contempt for the practice of grading poems for poet to compete against each other. Because poets compete for points, they seek to wow the reader with sensationalism, violence, tragedy, and melodrama.

 

Although they find joy in this practice
It merely sinks into shame and depravity.
With no thought for Newness or Lightness,
their poems strike against our ears,
artificially prepared as in a notebook
with crucified corpses and severed heads
scattered round and round the words,
old-fashioned and heavy handed,
I cannot stand to hear one bit of them

 

Basho is certainly no saint; he has his share of negative thoughts, and gets caught up in his judgements.    (I don’t think he would be a fan of video games.) His ideal for poetry is diametrically opposed to the popular style that brings joy to so many people. Without “one bit” of artificial, striking images,extraordinary and shocking events, or any form of heaviness, Basho simply tells it the way it is in ordinary life, searching for poetry in everyday sensations and feeling, lightly and gently, as he described:


As looking into a shallow stream over sand

 

Sometimes the best part of a Basho’s letter is the p.s. – the part he wrote after he thought he was finished, signed his name, but then thought “Wow, I forgot to say…” Here are the postscripts to Basho’s three letters to his woman follower Uko: in the first Basho sends best wishes to Uko’s baby daughter, and relays best wishes from his youngest sister Oyoshi to Uko.

 

 p.s. to Letter of 1690

 

May you raise Tei-chan without misfortune.
Yoshi from far away also says this to you.

 

p.s. to Letter of 1691

.

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.

 

p.s. to Letter of 1693

 

With those jerks in Nagoya, all lines appear to be down;
much unfinished business.
however, the hip cushion you sent me,
this winter I wrapped it around my head
and it kept out the cold.

 

Uko made the cushion to warm his hips while sitting – well, this winter; he liked wrapping it around his head. This is the real Basho, not some saint or Buddhist hermit, but as Shoko calls him, ‘Dear Uncle Basho,’ a bit strange, but still an okay guy.


Basho Speaks of Poetry

 

Basho’s followers left accounts of him speaking about how to make a verse. On this two-page spread are three Basho haiku along with his spoken word to explain these particular verses. Modern poets may find them useful.


Under the trees
soup, vinegar salad, and
blossoms hurray!

 

“As I gained some feeling for the rhythm
in this verse on blossom-viewing, I produced Lightness.”

 

The cold of early spring has passed, but there is still a chill in the air. Under a canopy of pinkish white blossoms, on ground scattered with petals, we lay out our favorite foods. Amidst the excited chatter of

girls and women in their blossom kimono, the songs and laughter of relatives and friends, some more petals have fallen on the food. Lightness is everyday common subject matter, everyday language, and “a relaxed rhythmical seemingly artless expression.” Lightness is us, real people, having fun, sharing food and drink.


Unlike our faces
may your haiku be
first blossoms

 

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

 

The haiku is itself an statement on how to write haiku: to express freshness and youth even when old and decrepit. Basho speaks of a “quality of turning,” how the words change their direction in interesting ways, instead of being flat and boring; the word in modern Japanese means a musical composition. Basho says gracefulness of sound arrangement, which is a musical quality, makes a superior verse. Basho poetry is music. Japanese score a haiku in three measures of four beats to a measure: three beats and pause, four beats without pause, three beats and pause I strive to follow the physical form of four beats to a measure

(including pauses) in each and every line of poetry translation.

 

On the saddle
sits their ‘little monk’ —
daikon-gathering

 

“To have the little boy stand out in relation to
the daikon-gathering was the making of this verse”

 

One pleasant early-winter day, an entire farm family has come out to gather this year’s giant white radish crop. The youngest son -- not an actual apprentice monk but rather an ordinary kid whose head has been shaved close, too small to help pull the thick heavy radishes from the ground -- has been set on the horse tied to a tree where he will not get in the way. This is not just any little boy, but “their little monk”— the youngest son loved by the whole family. The image of “little monk” makes the child “stand out,”  the bald round head on a child‘s body sitting on the horse high above the horizontal field, watching his elders at work. This “standing out” without heaviness is what “makes” the verse.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Sun Bumps Her Forehead 日に 額 を うつ (A-09) (A-11) Three Myths Confining Basho >>


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...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 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 ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

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 Basho's
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 Basho Prose


The 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