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-10


In the Mirror

Basho poems exploring reflection

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

A mirror was associated with the Sun-Goddess; being round and shiny, a “child of the sun”; the soul originally clear as a mirror; sins like dust easily wiped off to restore purity.


Basho explores three types of mirror: one, used by woman to see her face and hair when putting on make-up and styling, 2) shrine mirror on display to represent the Goddess, and 3) shrine mirror hidden away inside the shrine to represent the hidden and inner spirit.

 

Of whose nation
a momento? moon shines
like a mirror

Fascinated by a song
composed for the koto

 

The moon has watched through the ages every country rise, continue, and fall. When we look into a mirror facing us, we see our own face – but when the mirror is turned away from us, we see elsewhere: thus the rear-view mirror in my car enables me to see what is going on behind me while I drive forward. Likewise the moon – says Basho – when we look it, it turns our vision back to the past, it becomes a momento of the past.

 

The next poet explores another means for turning vision back and connecting with the past: music. Modern composers try to make music new and different, but music on a traditional instrument such as the 13 string koto continuously holds on to the past. Every song contains remnants of many older songs and every performance reflects all past performances. As the moon brings to mind the past, composing a song brings to mind the decades and centuries of musical experience which go into the song. The nature shared by moon, memory, mirror, and music makes each one of these fascinating.

 

Spring unseen
on back of the mirror
plum blossoms

 

The back of a mirror is bronze with inlaid design of blossoms or birds. Basho looks through the mirror to “see” the Spring which cannot be seen, the spring which never changes or passes away . The front of the mirror is “the interface between physical and spiritual,” while the back also is a separate reality Basho seeks to “see.”


Ritual wands aflame
spirit of white dove

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

 

Nusa are wooden wands with white paper streamers used in Shinto purification rituals; a priest or miko (female shaman) waves the wand 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 thrown away or burned. The dove is the messenger of Hachiman, the god of war, and patron saint of the Genji clan, and white is the color of that clan of warriors, so the spirit of a white dove rising from the red flames of burning wands suggests the funeral of a warrior who has died.

 

The opposition of white with red continues in Basho’s stanza. The mirror represents the pure soul of the warrior who has died, but his blood shed in war stains the mirror to occlude the moonlight. The death of a warrior in this pair, the death of a nation in the last pair, both seen in the mirror realm.

 

Oh so many
disappointments
assail me

The mirror reflects
my laughing face

 

In her misery she grimaces into the mirror, laughing with ugliness in mockery of happiness, which the mirror reflects. The mirror cannot lie: it can tell what it sees..

 

My beloved
sends me this letter
I rip to shreds!

The face of a demon
I cry at the sight 

 

Unable to endure the message in the letter, I tear it to shreds, then when I go to do my hair, I am shocked to see in the mirror the demon of my jealousy still within my face.

 

Notice how in these verses, Basho fulfills the previous stanza with a mirror image.

 

Wretched in the dew
my wife’s fallen hair

Speaking of love,
in the mirror her face
still I can see

 

Fallen hair” means the wife has died – for a woman’s hair contains her life force. “Dew” is the forces of wetness that rust, corrode, and wear out all things. Through physical images—morning dew and long straight hair – Basho touches the heart of the man who has lost his wife. The following poet, introduces the mirror the wife looked in to style her hair; she looked in the mirror so often it holds a copy of her face – or maybe the husband and wife were so in tune with each other that their faces came to resemble each other. A mirror watches the beauty of a woman rise, continue, and fall – so it contains a record of her face

 

The major shrine of Atsuta, near Nagoya, fell into disrepair in the centuries of civil that racked Japan until early in the 17th Century Tokugawa Ieyasu forced the country into peace. The shogunate he created financed the repair of this shrine

 

Repolished
shrine mirror clear
shining snow

 

The mirror that has been repoloished now can truly represent the spirit of the kami enshrined here. Fresh snow also shines like the Sun Goddess.

 

The warriors’
sword exhibition
gets violent

Woman soon cry out
so they are banished

Appearance
warped by a mirror,
her resentment

 

At a Shinto festival, warriors exhibit their skills while dedicating them to the gods. Men in the audience get a thrill from long sharp swords waved about, but while the women know it’s a show, they respond with real emotion. Men cannot stand it when women make a fuss, distracting from the solemnity and also disturbing the entertainment, so they forbid them from attending. This contrast between appearance and reality, Basho portrays in a woman shocked to see her beauty marred by a warp in the mirror. Adults know that warped images in a mirror are not reality, that they disappear without a trace -- but still the partial loss of the beauty she has carefully cultivated brings her anguish.

 

With no home
only wrapped in silk
soul's mirror

What the miko thinks
is what she speaks

 

A hidden shrine mirror would be wrapped in a fine silk cloth, then encased in a wooden box. When a mirror represents the human soul, the wooden box is the physical body – so here the poet describes the soul of a man who has died. The miko, or female shaman, acts as a medium to speak for the deceased soul. She says what the soul who has taken over her mind tells her to say. Her mind is a mirror which reflects the messages coming from the land of the dead.

 

Carmen Blacker, in The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan, explains that the miko 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

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.

 

Young village girls were sold to a brothel to save the family from financial ruin. Brokers went to areas struck by famine, searching for “bargains.” Historian Mikiso Hane describes how a girl was told she was going to the City to be a maid or waitress, but then was forced, from age 12 or 13, to have sex, sometimes with brutal or insulting men, every night of the week, and was beaten if they refused or tried to escape. She remained in slavery till death – which, with no defense against venereal diseases, by typical by age 22 – however for as long as she could stay alive and healthy, she could live in luxury other village girls could only dream of. The brothel provided a two-room suite, decent food – far better than what she got at home -- expensive kimono, makeup, and the mirror she needed to make herself beautiful – for she was merchandise and male customers paid high prices for a night with her.

 

Now to this brothel
my body has been sold 

Can I trust you
with a letter I write?
mirror polisher

 

Basho gives her thoughts she wishes to send in a letter She has no way to get her letter out without the brothel seeing it, so she asks the man polishing her mirror if he will post it outside (without telling his employer). In Basho’s day, mirrors were bronze-plated with an amalgam of mercury. In time the plating got cloudy. Mirror polishers were craftsmen who grinded the surface on a whetstone, and polished with mildly acidic fruit juice, to restore the original clarity – so the mirror polisher is, in effect, a servant of the Sun Goddess, one who can be trusted with a woman’s private message. Every time she looks into her wonderfully clear mirror to do her hair or make-up, she will see him, the carrier of her message; she will see her beloved reading the letter, and she will see the holy Sun shining with Hope. Here is Basho’s genius in all fullness, his deepest penetration into the human heart: “Can I trust you?”

 

 basho4humanity@gmail.com 






<< Rice Maidens (B-09) (B-11) She Walks in Beauty >>


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