Basho's thoughts on...
• 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  >  The Human Story:  >  A-17


Dreams of War / Light of Peace

2 Basho haiku, 14 renku, 1 haibun on War; 5 haiku, 1 renku, and 1 tanka on Peace.

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

One Basho haiku on war, SUMMER GRASSES, is among his most famous, yet many more Basho visions of war and peace appear in his renku. May these 23 works become resources in the struggle for Peace. 

 

On Life’s journey
by plowing a small field
going and returning

 

世を旅に /代描く小田の / 行き戻り
Yo o tabi ni /shirokaku oda ni /iki modori

 

Before the paddies receive rice-seedlings, the farmer with horse or ox pulling the plow goes up one row 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 the women and children may go and return in peace.

 

In the cold wind
at sunset, long drawn-out
cries of hawks
Foretell the heads to fall
in tomorrow’s battle

 

風寒き夕日に / 鷹の声ひきて
軍にあすの / 首を占ふ

 

Kaze samuki yuuhi ni /kari no koe hikite
Ikusa ni asu no / kubi o uranau

 

Koeki’s stanza is magnificent by itself, but equally stunning is the way each element – the wind, the sunset, the “long drawn-out cries” – feeds energy into Basho’s ode to Fate. Basho completes and fulfils Koeki’s vision. In the link between the stanzas is the horror and cruelty of war. Each time I read this pair, I am again astonished by the direction Basho chose. He took the elements Koeki provided and blended them into that great question of existence which can never be answered:

Are the future and death ordained? Or are they random?

 

Basho’s stanza is pacifist because of what it does NOT say. If it read something like “foretell which side will win” or “foretell who will kill the most enemy” then it would it would be masculine, competitive, war-mongering. The way Basho wrote it, FORETELL THE HEADS TO FALL contains no sense that our side is better than theirs, no competition, no concern for winning; all who die are equal in tragedy.

 

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

 

うき年を/ 取りて はたちも /漸漸過ぎぬ
父のいくさを / 起きふしの夢

 

Uki toshi o /torite hatachi mo /yaya suginu

 Chichi no ikusa o /oki fusa no yume

 

 

Father died in war when I was small, and I have grown up under the weight of that grief. Now, finally having reached age 18, in the prime of youthful vigor, I look back over those years of dreams constantly reverting to that one moment on a battlefield I have never seen in reality.

 

The Japanese does not indicate the child’s gender; Miyawaki, assuming this teenager is male, says,

“For a boy, his father is his model to learn from by observation, his goal in life. Having reached the age when now he can go to war, to see a dream of father in battle is the same as being on the battlefield himself. His regrets for his father can never be forgotten. The bond between father and son is well expressed.”

 

Written in 1687, can this stanza-pair reach the heart of one – girl or boy -- whose parent died in war or terrorism. I encourage teenagers who have lost a parent to explore this verse, especially as you approach eighteen. Also I hope adults who counsel bereaved teenagers will show it to them. The clear, straight-forward expression of personal feeling may be consoling.

 

“Tomorrow strangle!”
goose alive and squawking
into straw bag
The moon breathtaking
market for army camp

 

明日しめん / 雁を俵に/ 生け置て
月さえすごき / 陣中の市
Ashita shimen / kari o tawara ni /ike-oite
Tsuki sae-sugoki / jinchuu no ichi

 

 

The bird fights against containment while the farmer does not care what the bird wants and is just doing his job. We hear his annoyed and ungrammatical shout or grumble about tomorrow when the real violence occurs and this bird will go silent. Basho responds with the silent glory of the moon over another scene which could become violent tomorrow: a military encampment, warriors here to do battle, but under a temporary truce, they wait. While they wait, they have to eat, so a market has sprung up to supply their needs. Here the farmer brought the goose in a straw bag. Tomorrow who will die? The bird? The one who kills the bird? The warriors who eat that goose for their final meal? Thousands of warriors? The moon is so bright it takes your breath away. My daughter Jean says, the two stanzas “make each other shine.”

 

Ritual wands aflame
spirit of white dove
Prayers for the dead,
moon shines on mirror
stained with blood

 

幣火にもえて / 白鳩の神ン
奏聞(?)/ 月照鏡 / 血ぬるらん

 

Nusa hi ni moete /shiro-bato no shin
soumon (?) / tsuki teru kagami / chi numeruran 

 

(A grammatical particle is missing in Basho's stanza, but whatever this was, the meaning is clear.) In Shinto purification rituals, a priest or female shaman waves the nusa, wooden wands with white paper streamers; left and right to absorb unclean energy. Death being the most defiling occurrence, at a funeral, many ritual wands are used and defiled, so must be burned. To the Japanese, the dove is the messenger of Hachiman, the god of war, and patron saint of the Genji warrior clan; and white is the color of that clan, so the spirit of a white dove rising from the red flames of burning wands suggests the funeral of a warrior. Basho continues the opposition of red and white: mirror represents the pure soul of the deceased; his blood shed in war stains the mirror so no reflection.

 

                   ----------------------------------------


To become a nun?
parting in the night
By moonlight,
at him in battle gear
she looks, searching 

 

尼に成るべき /宵のきぬぎぬ
月影に/鎧とやらを/見透して
Ama ni naru beki /yoi no kinuginu 
tsukigake ni /yoroi to yara o /tsuki sukashite

 

Her husband goes to join the troops gathering at night, so early morning they can go into battle. If he dies, she can only survive as a nun.  She looks at him, searching to see into the future: the division in the road tomorrow will bring, either the world with him alive, or him dead. The double verb occurs in the original as in the translation, at the very end of the verse, William Strunk, Jr. in The Elements of Styletells us to “place the emphatic words at the end.”  Mia notes that the comma between ‘looks’ and ‘searching’ “makes the reader pause on line, placing the woman’s stillness in contrast to the movement of her leaving husband.” The woman is still, yet active (she looks) and conscious (searching). So Basho focuses on the woman’s humanity.

 

                       ----------------------------

 

Droplets from
the spear of Bishamon
autumn in our land
The heads of heathen
descend with the moon

 

毘沙門の / 鉾 の したたり / 国 の 秋
外道の 首 の / 落 かかる 月
Bishamon no / hoko no shitatari / kuni no aki
Gedou no kubi no / ochikakaru tsuki

 

Bishamon, one of the Seven Lucky Deities, god of fortune in war, patron of warriors, wears armor and a helmet, and holds a spear in his right hand to fight against evil spirits. The poet seems to have blended Bishamon with the husband-and-wife gods Izanagi and Izanami who created the Japanese islands by stirring the void with the point of a jeweled spear; as the spear was lifted back up, a drop fell from it, creating Awaji, the first island of Japan. The droplets from Bishamon’s spear turn into the tinted leaves and colorful fruits of koku no aki, “autumn in this nation.” 

 

Basho replies with a stanza certain to evoke controversy. From 1597 to 1639, the Japanese cut off the heads of hundreds of Christians for their faith. The BRZ explains that gedou means “demons who disturb or hinder Buddhism; heretics; it is the role of Bishamon to exterminate them.” Moonset represents mourning for the dead, however without condemnation of the killers.

 

You may enjoy looking back over the four past stanza-pairs ; in each pair, Basho writes the following stanza, and each time he uses an image of the moon to complete and fulfil the previous stanza. Such is his genius.

 

Let’s switch from the moon to the stars

 

No stars could be seen
on that fateful night
Empty stomachs
especially in battle
are decisive

 

星さえ見えず/ 二十八日/
ひだるきは /殊に軍の /大事也
Hoshi sae miezu /nijuuhachi nichi
Hidaru ki wa / koto ni ikusa no / daiji nari

 

 

“That fateful night” – in Japanese, “the 28th of the month -- refers to a famous incident in 1193 immortalized in myriad media. The Soga brothers were five and three years old when their father was killed. Their mother trained them to avenge his death when they grew up. After spending their entire lives planning, they succeeded on the 28th night of the Fifth Moon. One brother died in the fighting, the other was executed.

 

If something is “written in the stars,” it is destined to happen – so when the stars are hidden by clouds, we feel no sense of what lies ahead. Numerous Basho stanzas approach that question “What is fate?” – as IN THE COLD WIND. Here he asks “Does fate determine the victor of the battle?” His answer is that victory is determined by which side has been provided enough nutritious food. Remembering that these people had no wheeled vehicles, no electricity, no refrigeration, no plastics, we realize that providing an army with decent food was a logistical nightmare, and the army that didn’t get enough to eat is the army that lost.

 

                   -------------------------------------------------------

 

The punitive force
already has set forth
in solemn dignity

For one night’s vow
he empties his purse

 

すでに立つ/ 討手の使い/ いかめしき
一夜の契り/銭がかづける

 

Sude ni tatsu /utte no tsukai / ikameshiku
Iichiya no chigiri / zeni ga kazukeru

 

The emperor has ordered troops to subjugate the rebels; the samurai gather, and when morning comes, leave camp with strict, solemn military precision. Meanwhile, the commander of the rebels (Han Solo) has spent the night in a brothel, and when morning comes makes a hasty departure so he can prepare his army. Before he leaves, since he is not likely to need cash ever again, he gives all he has to his partner in “one night’s vow.” Here is a courtesan who got lucky: now, instead of living out her days until her nightly sex with a different customer brings on syphilis and she dies -- she can purchase her freedom and return to her village, a hero because she saved her family from ruin, marry and have children. After her one night with him, we feel her joy when she realizes what he has given her, and also her grief knowing why he is giving away all his cash.

 

                             -----------------------------------


As dawn comes
we realize in the night
bell was stolen
Hut of a border guard
to a country defeated

 

明けわたる /鐘ぬすむ夜は /しらしらと
やぶれて國の /境守る庵

 

Ake wataru /kane nusumu yo wa /shira shira to
yaburete kuni no /sakai moru io

 

 

For the first morning in their lives, the villagers heard no sound from the local temple, so they realized.       A temple bell is far too heavy for one or two people to carry; many have no work together. When a nation-state has been defeated, before the conqueror takes control, there is bound to be vandalism. Not only has the border guard disappeared, but also the border itself lost all meaning.

 

                       --------------------------------

 

Battle lost,
the heroes retreat
and go home
Once more night falls
and day breaks in fog

 

負軍 /功者に引て / かえる也
ふたたび暮るる / 霧の明方
Make ikusa /kousha ni hikite /kaeru nari
Futatabi kururu /kiri no akegata

 

 

These samurai, instead of fighting to the death, giving all for glory and honor, they are able to go home and support their wives and children. The road is long, two inglorious days in depressing weather, yet at least they are alive.

 

                      --------------------------------

 

In the Battle of Ichinotani, in 1184 on the beach at Suma (western Kobe), the Genji forces led by Yoshitsune, overwhelmed the Heike clan who had possession of the infant Emperor. Yoshitsune with 30 samurai on horseback climbed the cliff and hung their troop-bell from a pine tree at an overlook. The Genji attacked from two sides and Yoshitsune’s warriors dashed down the cliff, setting fires. The surviving Heike panicked and ran for their boats to escape. Basho, 500 years later, describes the scene:

 

From Bell-Hanging Pine, gazing down below,
I see the mansion of the Emperor.
The chaos of that era, the clamor of that day
images gather floating across my mind:

 

The Empress Dowager reverently hugging the Infant,
the Royal Mother’s legs catching in her royal skirt,
all the noble folk tumble onto the cabin boat,
court ladies run back and forth with precious items,
lutes and harps wrapped in cushions and futons
are thrown onto the boat,
delicacies for the Emperor spill to become food for fish,
vanity boxes scatter like seaweed discarded by divers.
A thousand years of sadness linger on this shore
even in the sound of waves breaking.

 

Notice the remarkably well-organized structure:

an introductory section of four lines,

seven vivid photographic images each with one or more lively active verbs,

and a two-line closing statement.

 

The only power the Heike still have is possession of the Emperor, so they hold him close. The Empress Dowager, Kiyomori’s widow, carries her six-year-old grandson, the royal Infant, a living descendant of the Sun Goddess. Her daughter has more mundane problems. The feeling of confusion piles up with each of the seven images, then releases in “sound of the waves breaking.”

 

The amazing thing about this passage is the absence of men. In the actual battle, there were thousands of men here, killing each other or dying horrible deaths, yet Basho has eyes only for the women and what they are doing to survive and continue their commitment to their clan in this madness created by men. By focusing on the women trying to save their lovely noble possessions, Basho may be suggesting that they are more heroic than the so-called “heroes.”

 

One “hero” who died in the battle of Ichinotani was 18 year old Taira Atsumori, known from a young age for his talent on the bamboo flute. His clan ruled Japan for some years, but in 1182 were driven from Kyoto to Suma. The night before the enemy attacked, they had a party to enjoy themselves while they could. Atsumori played his flute, touching the hearts of all who heard. In the morning the attackers overwhelmed them. The Taira fled to cabin boats they had waiting on the beach. In the chaos and confusion, teenage Atsumori forgot his flute. He went back to get it and returned to the shore where he was cut down by an enemy warrior.

 

Basho is at the temple near the battle place where the actual flute of Atsumori is kept:


In the shade of
green leaves to hear
his unblown flute

 

須磨寺や /吹かぬ笛聞く /木下闇
Suma-dera ya / fukanu fue kiku /koshita yama

 

 In summer the multitude of green leaves blocks out the sunlight, so there is a shade, a sort of darkness, under the trees – and also ‘shade’ suggests the presence of a ghost. In this place where Atsumori played his flute five centuries ago, Basho feels the vibrations (the ghost) from that performance still lingering in the earth and stones. He seeks to ‘see’ what is no longer present, and to ‘hear’ the sound of long ago, remaining in “traces.”

 

Five years later, on a hill in northern Japan, Yoshitsune met his end, killing his wife and infant daughter and committing ritual suicide before the enemy could get to them

 

Summer grasses –
great warriors, the traces
of their dreams

 

夏草や / 兵どもが /夢の跡
Natsu-gusa ya /tsuwamono domo ga / yume no ato

 

Since that epic tragedy came to pass, the grass on the hill has grown green and thick, then withered in the frost, for 500 cycles. Nothing remains of all those men killing each other, however Basho sees in spirit what is hidden in Time, the ‘traces of their dreams’ lingering among the grass.

 

I was surprised to see that haiku scholar William Higginson thought that the verse SUMMER GRASSES “glorifies war” and assumed that his readers would see it that way too. In thirty years of knowing this verse, I never considered such an interpretation. The whole point of the verse, as I see it, is to highlight the vanity of war—the vanity of male achievements in comparison to the fertility of the Earth and the power of natural forces

.

I have seen all of the works
that are done under the Sun and behold,
all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
                                                              Ecclesiastics 1: 14

 

Vanity, vanity, vanity. Men, chasing after self-importance, running into conflicts , dragging women and children along with them.

 

                             ----------------------------------

 

Dew where the coffin
has soon disappeared
Torn apart
soldiers’ armor sent
to their country
After Korean campaign
tending vegetable fields

 

棺いそぐ / 消がたの露
やぶれたる/具足を国に/ 送りけり
高麗のあがたに /畠作りて

 

Hayaoke isogu / kiegata no tsuyu
Yaburetaru /gusoku o kuni ni /okurikeri
koma no agata ni / hatake tsukurite

 

“Dew” is the forces of time and weather that wear out and decay all things - - so “dew” is all that remains where the coffin and father inside were. The coffin bearers carried it away so quickly, and never again will it be seen. How do other poets follow Basho’s lead? The country where the battle took place does not destroy the old, damaged armor, and has no reason to keep it, so they send it to the country of the deceased.

After coming home from the disastrous Japanese invasion of Korea which continued from 1592 to 1598,      a surviving warrior makes his living growing and selling vegetables. This soldier whose armor was not torn apart, lives in peace until he too disappears in a coffin.

 

                          -------------------------------

 

Basho wrote both of these stanzas in succession:

 

Even monks
and old men regardless
forced to march
Earth pounded into mochi,
a poor ritual offering

 

坊主とも /老いともいはず /追立歩
土の餅つく/神事おそろし

 

Bozu tomo / toi tomo iwazu / oi-tate-bu
Tsuchi no mochi / shinji osoroshi

 

All the men, even bald monks and grandpas, were conscripted into the armies. No one was able to grow much food so there was famine. Without enough rice, people mixed in dirt with glutinous mochi to make the sacred rice-cake offerings to the divine spirits -- who will be dissatisfied and continue to send us this endless war. For what? So some man somewhere can feel he is top dog.

 

                     ------------------------------------


Sled pulling
firewood, one path
through the snow
Each house’s warrior
in winter seclusion

 

薪引 /雪車一筋の/跡有て
おのおの武士の /冬籠る宿
Takigi hiku / sori issuji no / ato arite
Ono ono bushi no /fuyu gomoru shuku

 

 

Prints left in the snow by a man pulling firewood on a sled suggest the hard life of this man in winter. He    is a warrior from spring to autumn, but must survive winter so he can back to his real occupation. In this mountain village one member of every house is a warrior, all waiting for spring when, like a vast area of snow melting from the mountains to flood the valleys, they can march to war. All that battle energy frozen and contained in Basho’s stanza, waits to flow freely in the vast waste of humanity that is war.

 

                           -------------------------------------------


Tomorrow to the enemy
our heads shall be sent
Having Kosanda
hold my sake cup
one song to sing

 

明日はかたきに/ び送りせん
小三太に /盃とらせ / ひとつうたい
Asu wa tataki ni /Kubi okurisen
Kosanda /sakezuki torase /hitotsu utai

 

 

Tomorrow is the great battle and we are outnumbered – so our heads will be cut off, wrapped in cloth, and sent to them. The warrior Kosanda is my retainer – Basho gives him an identity -- and in gratitude for the years he has served, in recognition for our common vow to die for each other and our side, I hand him my cup to hold while I sing one song, my final song in this life.

 

                           ------------------------------------------

 

Finally, early in the 17th century, Tokugawa Ieyasu put an end to the centuries of civil war, so by Basho’s time, travel on the roads was safe, money or packages could be transported, people were more prosperous, spent more money, published and read more books. On his journey in 1689, Basho visited the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko (“Sun-Light”) dedicated to Ieyasu, considered an avatar of the Sun Goddess. Here Basho wrote,

 

His Honorable Light now shines
everywhere under Heaven and benefits
overflow to the Eight Corners of the Land,
so in the lives of the four classes of citizens
there is reassurance and calm.

 

The peace and social order established by Ieyasu has now in 1689 lasted for eight decades, so people feel reassured that it will continue. The Shogun in Basho’s time, Ieyasu’s great-grandson Tsunayoshi, told his grand councillor that those who govern should be like “the sun that sends its light to even the most wretched corner of the land.” He inherited this idea from his great-grandfather Ieyasu who brought Peace to the land and is enshrined in a place called “Sunlight.”  

 

How glorious
young leaves, green leaves
light of the Sun

 

あらたふと / 青葉若葉の/ 日の光
aratau to /aoba wakaba no / hi no hikari

 

Here is the glory of photosynthesis occurring in countless young leaves all over a nation at Peace.

 

Today again
on the stone to worship
the rising Sun

 

今日も又 /朝日を拝む / 石の上
Kyou mo mata /asahi o ogamu / ishi no ue

 

George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), was a contemporary of Basho .

In 1653 he wrote

The first step to Peace is to stand still in the Light

 

By “Light,” Fox means the Inner Light in our hearts, whereas Basho worships light of the Sun,

yet both say in Light is the way to Peace.

 

New Year’s Day
sun on every field
is beloved

 

元日は /田毎の日こそ /こいしけれ
Ganshitsu wa /tagogto no hi koso /koishikere

 

At New Years the Sun is weak and cold while the rice fields are barren expanses of withered rice stubble in the frost, still She shines with the promise of warmer light to come – and so Basho loves her. Only in a time of Peace can people appreciate such a moment; when there is war, we are too worried about major problems to focus on such an ordinary moment

 

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

 

蔵壺に /小坊主乗るや / 大根引き
Kara tsubo ni / kobouzu noru ya / daikon hiki

 

This is not an actual apprentice monk, but rather an ordinary kid whose head has been shaved close – a bald head being less work for mother. “Daikon gathering” in Japanese tradition suggests a happy family excursion, so I have added in the word “their” – we feel not this is not just any little boy, but “their little monk”— the youngest son loved by the whole family. Pre-eminent Basho haiku scholar Kon Eizo explains ON THE SADDLE in this way:

 

‘There is nothing to fear and all is calm and mild. Here is a candid photograph of peaceful daikon gathering in a simple farm village, its focal point, the little boy. A fine example of Lightness.”

 

Notice Kon‘s words: “nothing to fear…calm and mild…peaceful… simple farm village…little boy.”

Such is the material for Lightness.

 

From Kon’s commentary, I define ‘Lightness’ as ‘a peaceful feeling of wholeness.’ At times Basho sought to be like poets 500 years before who lived during those years of turmoil, and could only find peace by separating from ‘the world.’ Basho has known the sabi of classical Japanese poetry, the desolation of a lonely soul meeting the vast impersonal universe, but sails into uncharted waters, extending his poetic vision beyond sabi to the Lightness in the ordinary activities of his neighbors. Lightness, peaceful family life, the hope of women and children everywhere.

 

Basho, the Poet of Peace.

 

In 1690 asked to name a newborn baby girl, Basho chose Kasane, and wrote this tanka blessing his goddaughter

 

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

 

行く春を/かさねがさねの /花ごろも
しわよるまでの /老もみるべく
Iku haru o / kasane gasane no /hana goromo
shiwa yoru made no / oi mo mirubeku

 

Newborn Kasane, now your time begins, stretching to infinity before unfocused eyes. Soon you will be laughing and playing in the sunshine, so long as no wars come and natural disasters, fatal illness and final ruin stay away too. One spring in youth, you shall be given your first blossom-kimono, an elegant robe to be worn once year at your family’s blossom-viewing picnic, then folded away till next year’s celebration. The springs shall come and go with clouds of pink blossoms filling the treetops to fall in a shower of petals as you blossom into a young lady elegant in your impeccably layered kimono. I pray the day comes for you to pass this youthful kimono onto your daughter, while you wear one more moderate in color and pattern – and this too passes onto her, and you to the dark sedate robe of an older woman.

 

Kasane, may our nation remain at Peace and the happiness in your family pile up layer upon layer until wrinkles in the fabric no longer smooth out and you see wrinkles of old age cross your face. Do not despair, my child, for you live again as spring passes by and your granddaughters laugh and chatter in their blossom kimono.


basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






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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:
• 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