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  >  Praise for Women  >  B-09


Rice Maidens

5 Basho haiku and 5 renku on young women planting rice

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

Rice, cultivated in Japan for 2000 years, grows over much flat land and extends on terraces into the hills. In Asian cultures, rice is strongly associated with women, fertility, and nurturing children and society as well. Many Southeast Asian cultures believe in a female rice deity, or Rice Mother who inhabits the rice field, protecting the harvest and nurturing the seed rice; still today they make offerings and practice rituals to honor her. Rice is considered a feminine plant, soft, sensitive and shy, like a young girl. It dislikes being 'manhandled' – and so the labor of rice cultivation, except plowing, is done by women who do this work with care and sensitivity “so the rice goddess doesn’t become upset.”


Traditionally rice was planted by the young women of the village; where these traditions are preserved in shrine festivals, the planters are older teenage girls -- in hope that their fertility would magically transfer to the fields. In this article we explore several Basho verses in which the living young women planting rice merge with the divine Rice Mother.

 

In June, water from irrigation ditches is let into the paddies already flooded from the summer rains. A rice paddy is “a pond of knee-deep sludge, the consistency of a malted milkshake.” John Reader explains that deep mud allows organic matter to decay slowly, producing nitrogen at just the rate growing plants can absorb it. The mud holds the nitrogen in (whereas dry fields allow nitrogen to evaporate) so the paddy can produce the same harvest year after year for centuries. Air passages within rice stalks carry oxygen from the leaves to the water-logged roots, so this plant sustains dense populations wherever water is abundant.

 

Here Basho is at a village where, centuries before, women rubbed dye on silk fabric over a large rock with an intricate checkered surface to produce mottled patterns that became famous throughout the land:

 

How they handle
rice seedlings, long ago
rubbing dye

 

The female hands gently separating the countless tiny roots of the seedlings from the dirt of the nursery bed, careful not to damage them, are the same hands which centuries ago rubbed dye onto cloth: the same hands – the same DNA, the same precision and delicacy – inherited from mother to daughter in this village in the heartlands. Dorothy Britton says Basho “contemplates with obvious delight the physical grace of nubile young women’s hands busy at their traditional task of transplanting new rice.” The woman poet Chiyo wrote:


Still their hair
untied, they go forth
to plant rice

 

This is the busiest time of the year. The women have no time to straighten their hair, or their robes – and besides, soon they will be up to their knees in mud. They walk bare-footed into the paddy, chatting and calling out to each other, grimacing and laughing as the mud squishes between their toes. Forming a long straight line, they stoop over and move backwards, inserting each bundle of three green shoots a few inches into the mud. The abundance of thick, loose, flowing black hair suggests the fertility of both women and muddy field.

 

While they planted, the women sang songs to the divine spirits with ancient melodies:

 

Refinement’s
origin – in the heartlands
rice-planting songs

 

In the songs sung by ordinary peasant women in the mud, Basho hears the origins of “refinement” by which Basho means “poetry” as well as all of culture that refines us to a higher state.

 

A Rice Planting Song
 
One shoot becomes a thousand,
in autumn we reap the tax
and when we reap the tax,
Master can take a woman.
 
Planting and planting more
makes my lower back hurt,
how I wish to quit this job,
Gods of the Rice Field.

 

Rice produces more harvest per seed than other grains. The rice tax was 40-60% of the harvest taken by the daimyo owner of this province; meanwhile Master skims off some for himself.  Women work hour after hour in hot, bug-infested fields so the man can enjoy being with a woman who never works in hot, bug-infested fields.  Even nowadays in the Japanese countryside, many old women walk about with their backs nearly parallel to the ground. 

 

 

Hillbillies

singing songs to rice
in their splendor

 

Throughout Japanese thought is the contrast between inaka, villages,

and “miyako,” the splendor of the Capital City

 

One rice field
planted, now to leave
this willow

 

Under the willow branches thick with green leaves, Basho watches the line of women move through the mud, sharing energy with them. When they reach the end of this field, he leaves while they move on the next field. Japanese – especially when planting rice -- make jokes comparing this to the way humans sow their seeds. Throughout Japanese culture, willows are associated with the feminine. A famous old willow stood before the gate to the Yoshiwara Pleasure Quarters -- and today in Japanese cities an area or establishment with yanagi in its name is often where a man can rent a woman. The words ‘woman’ or ‘female’ are nowhere stated, yet the feminine is everywhere in this haiku. It’s a very sexual verse.

 

Western books on pre-modern Japan note disparagingly that night soil was used as fertilizer, however few mention that the feces were separated from the urine, and stored in a koedame, ‘night soil jar’, dug into the ground, for at least one month, producing fermentation at temperatures up to 160° F (70° C) in which complex molecules, including parasites and germs, decomposed. So the night soil was sterilized before being put into the paddies for the maidens to walk barefoot in. These people were not such idiots that would cause their young women to die from infection.

 

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

 

She emerges from fertile mud to nourish her child from her breasts. This young peasant woman’s entire body is soiled and roughened by everyday exposure to dirt and mud full of night soil, with only hard mineral-laden water for washing. Still, she tries to keep her face clean and pretty, for baby to behold. As the tiny mouth sucks her nipple, she gazes into the eyes and forehead, searching to see the dreams within.

As we explore this stanza-pair and the link between the two stanzas, we see how unsubstantial is the notion that Basho was an austere, impersonal “poet-saint” detached from the body and sensations. This Basho-image can only be so well-established as it is in the absence of any knowledge of the female, sexual, breast-feeding, and maternal images in his linked verses. Let this stanza-pair percolate through your mind, washing away that androcentric and impersonal Basho image established by male scholars. See the real Basho; see his attraction to youth and femininity. .

 

Evening dusk,
going back for the pipe
he left behind

Rice maidens for fun
throw mud at each other

Stone Buddhas
there are none without
features missing

 

A traveler took a break from walking to sit and smoke his pipe, then when he got up, he left the pipe. Down the road a piece, he realized and went back to get it – however evening has fallen and the pipe is hard to find. (He sounds like me.) Basho jumps from absent-minded single man at leisure to merrymaking crew of young women up to their shins in the “chocolate milkshake” of rice paddy, flinging mud at each other, joking and laughing, The women’s behavior is ridiculous; it serves no serious economic purpose, so the old-fashioned androcentric tradition-bound mind rejects it. Basho rather sees the ridiculous in the modern way, as amusing and “fun.”

 

Beside the rice field, a row of stone statues of Buddha has stood there for centuries. Looking closely at each one, I see that every single one has patches of raw stone where a feature -- the nose on one, an ear on another – has broken off from the rain, snow, and wind. Rotsu contrasts the deteriorating stone Buddhas with the liveliness and vitality of Basho’s rice maidens. The trio is a sandwich: Basho’s vibrant, feminine, and playful stanza is the tasty filling between two slices of plain white bread, one masculine, the other inanimate. His stanza may not appear so special when considered by itself, however standing out from the stanzas before and after, it becomes a feminine anthem. The female liveliness in Basho’s stanza is all the more lively and feminine in contrast to the leisurely bumbling male and the ancient stone statues.

 

After the group plants every field in the village, it’s time to celebrate; this would be one of the few times in a year when a young woman would get a tiny cupful of sake. Here we see them lined up, either standing to give a toast, or sitting at long tables covered with food and drink, each face between two streams of long black hair.

 

Rice planting
maidens are lined up
to drink sake -

Holding snow in summer
twin peaks of Tsukuba

 

Mount Tsukuba – today, 45 minutes north of Tokyo by train -- is famous for having two peaks almost the same height. The last bits of snow up there do not melt until early summer. Notice how Basho brings our attention to those “peaks.” The great poet sees the “mountains” pressing out under the robes of those maidens drinking rice wine to send a tingle through their bodies and lower their inhibitions.

 

Seeds start to sprout
for our treasured grass

Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself

 

A woman make herself beautiful before giving birth – as in this season Mother Earth puts on green make-up. The lovely infant rice plants look like ordinary grass, showing no sign that four months later they will yield the staple food of Asia. We watch Basho’s mind go from rice sprouting to a woman giving birth to the child she loves, then return to Mother Earth giving birth to countless billions of plants.

 

                 basho4now@gmail.com

 






<< The Sensual Female Basho (B-08) (B-10) In the Mirror >>


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