Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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




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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.


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@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  The Human Story:  >  A-19


Poems of death

17 Basho haiku, 23 renku, 3 letter sections and 3 prose passages about death and dying

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

In grief for a priest who died:

 Falling to Earth / close to their roots / blossoms part.

Blossoms live their brief lives on the twigs, then fall and return to their roots, while the priest  re-connects with his roots in the earth, to be recycled into new life.

 

We consider Basho’s poems on this sad topic in eight categories:

1) Death in War

2) of a father/husband

3) of a mother/wife

4)  of oneself

5) of one’s own child

6) Death of Toin and Jutei

7) Death of animals

8) Basho’s own death

 

Death in War

To become a nun?
parting in the night

By moonlight
she looks deeply at him
in battle gear

 

Her husband goes to join the troops gathering at night, so early morn they can go into battle. If he dies,  the only way she can survive is as a nun. Looking deeply into his eyes at the moment they part, in the moonlight she sees the division in the road that tomorrow will bring, either with him alive or him dead.

 

After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen -

Day and night dreams
of Father in that battle

 

Father died in war when I was small, and I have grown up under the weight of that grief. Now, 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.

 

In the cold wind
at sunset, long-drawn-out
cries of hawks

Foretell the heads to fall
in tomorrow’s battle

 

That great question of existence which can never be answered: Is death ordained? Or random?

 

The punitive force
already has set forth
in solemn dignity

For one night’s vow
he empties his purse

 

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.” Ready to die in the next few hours, he gives all his money to the woman who gave him her body and heart in the past few hours.

 

Ritual wands aflame
spirit of white dove

Prayers for the dead
moon shines on the mirror
stained with blood

 

In Shinto purification rituals; a priest or miko (female shaman) waves the wand with paper streams left and right to absorb unclean energy. The most defiling event, according to Shinto, is death, so at a funeral, many ritual wands are used and defiled, so must be burned. The dove, messenger of Hachiman, the god of war, and patron saint of the Genji warrior clan, and white, the color of that clan, reveal this to be the funeral of a warrior . The mirror represents his pure soul but his blood shed in war stains the mirror to occlude the moonlight.

 

“Tomorrow strangle!”
goose alive and squawking
into straw bag

The moon breathtaking
market for army camp

 

The bird fights against containment, while the farmer does not care what the bird wants and is just doing his job. He shouts or grumbles about tomorrow when the real violence occurs and this bird will go silent. The moon shines over a military encampment, where warriors under a temporary truce wait. While they wait, they have to eat, so a market has sprung up to supply their needs. This is where the farmer brought the goose in a straw bag. Tomorrow who will die? The moon is so bright it takes your breath away.

 

Droplets from
the spear of Bishamon
autumn in our land

The heads of heathen
descend with the moon

 

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. Te 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.”

 

Tomorrow to the enemy
our heads shall be sent

Having Kosanda
hold my sake flask 
 one song to sing


The night before the great battle we are certain to lose, I have my retainer Kosanda hold the sake flask while I sing my final song, so he can pour for me when I am done.

 

Dew where the coffin
has soon disappeared

Torn apart
soldiers’ armor sent
to their country
After Korean campaign
he has vegetable fields

 

“Dew” is the forces of time and weather that wear out and decay all things - - so “dew” is all that remains where the coffin was. The coffin bearers carried it away so quickly, and never again will it be seen. The country where the battle took place and the coffins were buried 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 invasion of Korea, a soldier whose armor was not torn apart, lives in peace until he too disappears in a coffin.

 

Death of a father/husband

Cherries in bloom
again she climbs the hill
to his grave

 

Once a year, when cherry blossoms are in bloom, she comes here, to climb the hill of her grief.


At the memorial service for his follower Isshou had died:

 

Shake, Tomb!
My weeping voice is
the autumn wind

 

 

His old haori jacket
makes the young look old

Soundly, so soundly
the babe in remembrance
is put to sleep

 

Her husband has died; the baby is a memento of him. She has placed her husband’s old padded jacket on the sleeping baby for warmth, so the babe reminds her of him asleep. The two kinds of sleep – nightly and eternal – blend in our consciousness. Putting the child down, reasonably certain to awake in a number of hours, but wondering if in in sleep baby will go to that other world where the other parent is.

 

First he wipes off dew
bamboo for a hunting bow

Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears

White shroud departing
in funeral procession

 

A man has cut a fine stalk of bamboo to make a hunting bow, and wipes off the morning dew. The child weeps because father is going to kill an innocent animal -- but can speak no word of this. In Japan and other Asian cultures, white is associated with death, and the deceased is wrapped in a white shroud and placed in a coffin in a sitting position. The coffin was carried on a litter to the buriel place, accompanied by a procession of mourning relatives and priests intoning sutras. The child in silent tears watches the coffin and its contents pass away, as the father’s spirit also departs from the child’s heart.


In a daydream
boiling rice until
evening comes

No concern for others
just waiting to die

 

She boiled the rice, but only in a daydream, so it cannot be eaten for dinner. Without caring for others one is not really living, living only in a daydream, so just to waiting to die.

 

Basho friend Ranran, in his forties, died in 1693. In his essay, Grieving for Ranran, Basho says

 

He went before his 70 year old mother
leaving memories with his seven year old son

 

Ranran’s younger brother Ranchiku notified Basho in a letter, and Basho replied:.

 

I was shocked to hear the news you sent me.
Still I know not whether it is dream or reality.
Since that day so many regrets, such grief unspoken.
I wish to visit you to learn the details,
in a few days, and we can visit his grave.
Nursing your old mother must be your one and only.

 

Ranran died on September 27th under a waning crescent moon; Basho and Ranchiku visited his grave seven days later, the new moon a waxing crescent.

 

Hast thou watched?
these seven nights, over thy grave,
crescent moon

 

Ranran, these seven nights since you died, have you watched the moon disappear then resurrect as this new moon? Are you watching with me now?

 

The miko or female shaman twanged her bow of catalpa wood with one hemp string to, “emit a resonance which reaches into the world of spirits, enabling the shaman who manipulates it to communicate with that world.”

 

Final day of
mourning, sadness speaks
through catalpa bow

Now in a world of grief
her mirror to sell

 

On the 49th and final day of mourning, a widow listens to a miko channel her husband’s spirit. Never again to make herself beautiful, no longer will she need a mirror.

 

In the moonlight
among O-Bon lanterns,
time to weep

Autumn wind more slender
than strands of her hair

 

O-bon is also called the Festival of Lanterns. These are everywhere; in people’s windows, on the ground, hanging from ropes, on rafts floating in the river. The lanterns represent the spirits of the dead; also they light the way for the spirits crossing the boundary. A woman cries for someone who has died, whose spirit is among those who have come back, while the wind more slender than her long hair penetrates into the depths of her heart,

 

Death of a mother/wife

Colors of the rainbow
decorate the boulder

Kite string cut,
soul of the milk-giver
soars to heaven

 

The spectrum appears when sunlight refracts through water in the air so our eyes to see colors not really there. Optical illusion blend with cold hard rock, yet no hint of humanity – then Basho blends earth and sky in an expression of the glory of human life. He begins with a vivid physical image of a bond being broken, then reveals that the bond is between mother or nurse and baby, a bond which lasts till one of them dies. At the moment of death, the spirit parts from the body -- as the colorful kite leaves earth. Life, like bright colors on the dull rock, is only an illusion, soon to disappear.

 

The grief of Rika for his wife:

 

How he huddles
under the futon, cold
horrible night

 

Getting between the heavy quilts, shivering till my old blood warms the space so I can go to sleep. All alone where she used to lie nearby. The nights are long and bitter, and the sun brings no warmth till late morning. With these few words, Basho captures the experience of Rika, or anyone who has lost a spouse in winter.

 

The mother of Kikaku, Basho’s friend and follower for the past 15 years, has passed away. At the memorial service, Basho wrote

 

White flowers
without mother at home
seem so chilly

 

The many petaled white blossoms of the deutzia tree appear in the abundance of May. Kon interprets the verse:

Having lost mother familiar with these flowers for so long a time, at her memorial service, they seem so meaningless and chilly floating in the evening darkness. From the white desolation of the flowers comes the feeling of the person who has lost the warmth (nukumori) of mother.”

This is why I love Kon-sensei’s commentaries: he always brings into focus the warm, positive feelings in Basho’s vision. He notes that after the service, Basho, Kikaku, and Ransetsu made a trio beginning with Basho’s opening verse. Kikaku followed with:

Her fragrance lingering
a brief night’s dream

 

then Ransetsu concluded:.

An assortment
of clouds can be seen,
the moon clear.

 

Basho’s mom died in 1683 while he was in Fukagawa. The next year he returned to Iga to visit her grave and spend time with others “from the same belly.”

 

Without a word my brother opens an amulet case.
“Pray to this lock of mother’s white hair.
As the child returns to Urashima with jeweled box,
your eyelashes are white too.” For a while we cried.

 

The young boy Taro of Urashima village (no connection to the tuber taro) was carried down by a sea turtle to the palace of a sea-goddess and stayed there for a while. Before he returned to his home, she gave him a jeweled box which (as usual in these stories) she told him to never look inside. Back on land he discovered that decades had passed and everyone he knew was dead. In despair he opened the box and a whiff of smoke arose, turning him into an old man with white hair.


Held in hand to melt
in the heat of my tears –
autumn frost

 

In autumn, frost forms only early in the morning; a harbinger of winter to come. Basho weaves together human emotion and seasonal awareness in a ‘sketch’ of a few strands of white hair on his palm.

 

The dead are buried in family plots near the ancestral home. On the first day of the O-Bon Festival, the whole family goes to the cemetery and with lanterns and torches escorts the spirits home.

 

The whole family
white-haired and on canes
visits the graves

 

When father died in 1656 we were all young and healthy. Then mother passed away in 1683. Now we all are showing the years as we go to visit the graves. How soon will we come here to stay and be escorted home in future O-bons? The middle segment sums up the nature of growing old: white hair and osteoporosis.

 

Without trains and planes and ski resorts, mountainous areas were notoriously poor, so, in times of famine, to preserve food for children, families abandoned old women to die in the mountains

 

An apparition --
old woman alone weeping
friends with the moon

 

When she felt her own time coming to an end, she wanted to die in the divine light rather than go through another winter in a dark unheated room where children are crying, eating food that those children need. If she dies as “friends with the moon,” its light will guide her spirit in the other world.

 

In the summer of 1678, the mother of Basho’s follower Fuboku passed away. At the memorial service, Basho wrote:

 

Offering water
for where thou goest
dried rice powder

 

Entering the temple grounds, at a rock basin with spring water, we put our hands together and pray to Buddha; this custom is called “offering water.” Rice is cooked then dried to a powder, for travelers to carry on journeys; adding water makes a meal. Basho suggests that the temple water added to the dried rice powder will nourish Fuboku’s mother on her long journey.

 

Where is the storm?
curtain room shivers

A woman’s spirit
seems to have returned –
awesome her traces

 

Although there is no wind or rain, the low pressue zone around a storm sends a shiver through the curtains hung around a space to keep it a bit warmer in the winter. Basho makes this quiver in the fabric the spirit or ghost of a woman who came here and has now returned to the land of the dead, leaving awesome “traces” of her being.

 

                            Death of oneself        

With that moon
love-affair shall pass
so sadly

Dew also disappearring
in my chest the pain

 

Watching the moon, and realizing that it, as well as this love-affair, will sink, so sadly. Maybe it will end when I die, or maybe before I die. “Dew disappearring” means “my life ending” as in the death poem of the character Mursasaki in the Tale of Genji

 

Seen in place
for a fleeting moment
only to be
scattered by the wind
dew on bush clover

 

Basho’s final line is entirely physical, speaking of “chest” and “pain.” Whether this line means the “pain” in my heart from the loss of love, or the pain in my chest from tuberculosis or some other fatal disease, is unclear. So the moon, my love, my life, and my pain are all subject to transience. We search for the connections between the moon and the love-affair ending, between the love ending and life ending, between life ending and “in my chest such pain.”

 

Death of one’s child

With feeling for those who lost a young son:

 

As the embers
are quenched, tears’
sizzling sound

 

The temple provides braziers for mourners to warm their hands during the service. The tears fall on the embers -- glowing coals covered by ashes -- to extinguish that bit of fire, while they boil for an instant before turning to steam. The repetition of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds, especially in the final “sizzling sound,” may convey the grief of parents for their child.

15

In the Noh play Snow on the Bamboos by Zeami, a stepmother sent a little boy outside in his shirt sleeves to clear snow off the bamboos, then locked the gate so he could not come inside. His mother and sister searching for the boy, swept away the snow under the bamboos to find his corpse. In 1666, Basho, age 22, wrote

For those left behind by their child:

 

Withered and bent
bamboos under snow, your child
gone before you

 

 

 

In the bitterness

of delusion, squeezing out
milk to throw away

Beside unfading stupa
in distress she cries

Shadow figure
in the cold of dawn
lights a fire

 

 The delusion is that life will be fair or kind to us. Milk still forms in her breasts which she squeezes out to throw away, while she dreams of the baby this milk is produced for, such is the bitterness in her heart. A stupa is a pagoda-shaped wooden tablet set up by a tomb, on which phrases from a sutra are written for the repose of the dead's soul. This, unlike her baby, will remain. At this time relatives of the deceased remained in a mourning hut all night and read sutras. Daybreak is so cold that someone has built a fire so the mourners can warm their hands – however subjectively and symbolically, this “shadow figure” is the spirit of the dead child who has returned for a moment to warm and console mother with the gift of fire. Later in life, whenever she builds a fire, she will feel her child’s presence.

 

The term "consumption" for tuberculosis came about due to the weight loss: the infection consumes the body, although the memories continue in a fading physique.

 

“Lingering on”
I take out the doll and
look at her face
Again starting to weep
the cough of consumption

 

The flow of images -make this one of Basho’s most heart-rendering verses. He begins with a single word of speech or thought to open the mind The second and third lines provide the specific physical actions which evoke memories: taking the doll down from a shelf and looking at the face. The fourth line adds deep and reoccuring emotion, and the fifth provides the sad context for the entire scene: tuberculosis.

A woman dying of tuberculosis remembers the doll she played with long ago; looking at the doll’s face recalls her own young healthy face; she cries for her life ending; she hears and feels herself cough. Or a mother whose daughter is dying looks at the doll she played with long ago; the doll’s face reminds her of the child’s face; she weeps for her daughter lingering on. Or the daughter has died, but mother must linger on with memories of that hacking cough.

 

The Death of Toin and Jutei

Basho’s nephew Toin grew up in Basho’s house, like a 17 year younger brother. At the end of 1692, he came down with tuberculosis, and Basho took him into his hut to nurse him

 

                              From Letter to Kyoroku, end of April, 1693

 

For five or six days now, the misery has been intense,
and he appears close to death.
Last evening Torin came over to nurse him all night long.
But this is tuberculosis and there is no quick end to it.
The splendor of cherry blossoms dwells on my heart,
and thinking this the sick person’s final blossom season,
I showed took him to see them, and he was joyful.

 

                                           Letter to Keiko dated June 2, 1693

 

This spring my nephew known as Toin,
after enduring hardship beyond thirty years,
died of illness. While he was sick my soul suffered
and after he died the heartbreak would not stop.
In the depression of my spirit,
though cherry blossoms were in full bloom
I passed spring in a dream so no verse could I write.
To console my depression
I gave into the recommendation of Sampu and Sora
to write a poem on ‘hototogisu at water’s edge’

 

Sampu and Sora, the two followers in Edo who truly saw into Basho’s heart, realized that their master needed the challenge of writing a haiku to a theme they set, to get over his depression.

 

And then by chance the poem came from reality:

 

Ho toto gi su
the call spreading sideways
over the water

 

The words from Sotoba’s poem,

‘Light on water touches heaven
white mist sideways upon bay’

may be seen in my use of ‘sideways’

 

The haiku is a sort of spiritual riddle; find the similarities among

1) the white mist spreading sideways over the water,

2) the sound hototogisu spreading out over the water

3) the spirit of Toin spreading out into infinity.

 

The call of the “time-bird” comes from deep inside the forest where it cannot be seen or located — like a voice from the dead. The white mist spreads apart, drifting lazily. If the mist is spreading sideways it must be cold mist (since warm mist would rise). Cold, like death.How does sound spread over water differently from the way it spreads over land? Over water sound seems to drift, as if coming from far, far away.

 

Toin’s “wife” (probably common law) caught tuberculosis from him; in summer of 1694 Basho took her son Jirobei on a journey while she and her two daughters moved into Basho’s hut. Basho’s neighbor Ihei, a man who takes care of neighbors, sent a letter to Basho in Kyoto notifying him of her death. Basho replied as follows:

Jutei was a person without happiness and Masa and Ofu the same unhappiness; To say enough about this is difficult.
I must send a separate letter to Old Kosai,
but request you both read this quick letter.
For all the help and energy you put out,
which you told me about in your letters, I am most grateful.
Because I had a hunch this might happen
I asked you to take care of her in case of a mysterious turn of fate.
Everything, yes everything, is in the world of dream and illusion.
In one word, it has no logic.Anyway, manage things as best you can.
I suppose Rihei is upset; tell him to calm down
and not lose his composure.

 

There is no information as to who Rihei was.

 

.At Jutei’s Hatsu-bon, the first Festival of the Dead after she died.

 

To the nun Jutei who has passed away:

 

“Of no account”
think not this of thy self,
Festival of Souls

 

The KBZ says Basho’s meaning is:

“Even a trivial being such as yourself who has become small by living in a corner, you need not be so self-effacing. You too can become a splendid Buddha. In this Festival of Souls, I pray for the repose of your soul.”

 

Death of Animals

Octopus trap
over fleeting dreams
smmer moon

 

The traps are laid out in the evening; an octopus crawls in, thinking it a fine place to rest –then when the brief summer night becomes morning, the octopus cannot get out, and someone comes to make sushi out of the little fellow. Octopuses are highly intelligent, possibly more so than any other order of invertebrates. Maze and problem-solving experiments have shown evidence of a memory system that can store both short- and long-term memory. Does an octopus dream? Can an octopus who is alive and comfortable realize its life is soon to end? Can we?

 

Pines and oaks,
are battered, the storm
makes a sound

Child shot by an arrow
bed of the wild boar

 

The arrow penetrates the flesh and the baby screams in agony while the mother screams, like a storm battering the trees, in grief and rage at her inability to help her child. Basho crams so much life and activity in a stanza.

 

On the stage a humble
cottage the forlorn cry
Without virtue
loud squeal of surprise
at the scene

A dog being stabbed
that voice is so sad

 

First, the dejected cry of someone in a stage play whose happiness has vanished. Next, the moron in the audience who reacts noisily. Finally Basho gets REAL with the actual cry of a life being snuffed out.

The altogether ungentle wild boar produces a baby so small and round that it has a cute name of its own, urabou, separate from the adult inoshishi. The mother gathers dirt, grass and twigs to build a mound where she sleeps with and nurses her baby.

 

As a clam’s
body from shell parting
autumn passes

 

This haiku, the final words in Basho’s travel journal, A Narrow Path in the Heartlands, compares the passage of autumn to the body of a clam torn from its shell – a most intimate and physical image of animal death Furthermore, Basho suggests that the relationship formed between author and reader will now be torn apart.

 

The Death of Basho

Basho on his death-bed wrote two farewell-to-life poems:

On a journey taken ill     Clear cascade –
dreams on withered fields  into the ripples fall
wander about         green pine needles

 

 

For myself I must say, as the crossover
from Life to Death rises before me,
I have no reason to be writing poetry,
but as usual this path is stuck in my heart.

 

 

“So the corpse shall be sent to Kiso’s graveside.
There at the crossroads of East and West
where ripples are clear against the shore
and vows of a lifetime are deep,
when beloved friends come to visit
they shall not be put to inconvenience.

 

The 12th century warrior Kiso Yoshinaka is buried on the grounds of Gichuji Temple in Zeze beside Lake Biwa. Ordinarily Basho would have been buried in Iga with his family, however here he makes a special request for burial at Gichuji. Iga is far from the main road between Edo and Kyoto, while Zeze is right alongside that major road – and so at the end Basho thinks of his friends’ and followers’ convenience.

 

from the Diary of Shiko, November 28, 1694

 

The day is warm as if the sky of a small spring were returning
and Basho is annoyed by flies gathering around the white shoji panels,
so they go to catch them with bird-mochi stuck to bamboo poles.”
Basho is amused to note that some are skillful and others not
and he says with a smile:

 

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

 

to melt his attendants’ hearts with happiness.
“After this, he says nothing more and passes away,
leaving each of us bewildered, thinking it not yet his final parting”

 

Basho maintains Lightness to the very end. The flies “sure” (-rame) “enjoy” (yorokobu) “having” (yadosu) him the way you “have” or “keep” a pet. Basho is the flies’ pet, and they enjoy flying around in the smell of his infection and diarrhea. Even in his final words Basho uses lively specific verbs to create humor. His comment is so light and playful, and he is smiling, that his attendants assume he is not about to give up the ghost at this particular moment, so they continue swinging bamboo swords at flies. And that’s when he slips away, the ninja from Iga.

 

                      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...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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