Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


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

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


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



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


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


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


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


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


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



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  Praise for Women  >  B-15


Six Renku Icons of the Feminine

Superb examples of Basho's mastery of linking as well as his reverence for women.

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

 Basho said that his followers wrote haiku equal to his, but could not reach the depths he discovered in renku. Here are six superb examples of those depths he found in women and girls.  


In each pair another poet begins with a vision and Basho follows with female activity and consciousness to fulfill that vision. Between the two stanzas is the journey of Basho’s mind from first stanza to his creation. Here we find female positive attitudes so different from the typical Japanese male attitudes of thisera which, according to historian Tokuza Akiko, demanded “the total subordination of women.” Basho instead makes the woman or girl an Icon of the Feminine, a symbol for qualities of women worldwide and throughout time.

 

Glaring about,
she orders the children
to “behave!”

While roasting balls of miso
some ash she puffs away 

 

行儀能 /せよと子供を /ぬめ廻し
やき味噌の灰 / 吹きはらいつつ 
                             
Gyougi you / se yo to kodomo o/ nume-mawashi
Yaki miso no hai / fuki-harai-tsutsu

 

Children scattered about the room, mother at the sunken hearth in the center has to “glare about” – sweeping her eyes strongly all around ‐ to address them all, notthat they listen. The stanza abounds with human activity in three lively verbs:“glaring about,” “ordering” and her spoken command “behave!” Along with the mother’s activity is all the activity of the children: crawling, running, climbing,arguing, fighting, breaking or swallowing things, this winter day in 17th century Japan.

 

Meanwhile, mother is broiling balls of soy bean paste on skewers to make a side dish. A bit of ash from the fire has gotten on the sticky miso. She lifts the skewer close to her mouth, purses her lips, and puffs a short burst of air at the ash to propel it from the miso. The astonishing delicacy of this action even the fingers of elves could not perform is the polar opposite of her glaring and shouting at her kids – yet both ordering and puffing are her breath, her life force which the yogis call prana.  

 

Basho does something no other male poet does: he portrays the activity of an ordinary (not royal or in any way special) woman, with no adult male presence, no romance or sex, no suffering or dying, no causing of problems for men to solve. She simply is ALIVE and expresses her life-force as positive, whole, and iconic.

 

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet

Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven

 

お 針して / 秋 も 命 の / 緒を繋ぎ
琴 引 娘 / 八ッ に なりける

 

O-hari shite / aki mo inochi no / o o tsunagi
Koto hiki musume/ yattsu ni narikeru

 

This woman has enough work sewing before winter comes; she may “make ends meet” in autumn, but has to survive the whole year. Into this poor struggling home,Basho introduces a daughter (a future women) and a koto, or 13-string harp (which you can imagine as the string instrument of your culture). If mother owns a koto,she must have been well-off in the past, but fallen on hard times. Notice the link between the grid of needlework and the strings and frets on the harp. Both stanzas convey the diligence and constant effort of the female, the action of her hands producing order, rhythm, and beauty.

 

The daughter plays her mother’s koto here and now - and also plays it through the months, years, decades of practice required to master the instrument. Basho praises the young girl in the early stages of her discipline. Cultures worldwide and throughout time consider age seven to be the beginning of wisdom and moral understanding. We imagine the pride the hard-working mother feels hearing her daughter produce such beauty. With utmost subtlety and grace, through the powerful effect music has on the brain, Basho portrays the bond between mother and daughter, the hope for a better future that the growing and learning girl evokesin her mother, hope riding on the lovely notes rising from her seven-year-old fingers on the harp strings.

 

Startled by clappers
a window in the thicket

Sister cries
for her life married
to a thief

 

鳴子 おどろく/ 方 藪 の 窓
盗 人 に /連れ添う妹が / 身をなきて

 

Naruko odoroku / kata yabu no mado
nusubito ni / tsuresou imo ga / mi o nakite

 

In this house (or shack) they feel threatened. They startle at ordinary autumn sounds in a rice-growing village: the clatter of noisemakers over fields to scareaway hungry birds. Trees and shrubs grow wild around the house, so from   the road only one window can be seen. Is that window an eye watching the road, armed and ready, to defend his freedom? All that humanity in two short lines. Basho continues, clarifying that the man is a thief, yet focuses on the woman “married” -- probably without license – to him. She suffers, but little does he care about her feelings. Chosetsu’s stanza is profound social realism, but a masculine reality; Basho looks rather at the female side of the gender coin.

 

My thoughts go to Nancy in Oliver Twist, also married to a thief, the despicable Bill Sykes (and I see her played by Kay Walsh in the 1948 movie with Alec Guiness as Fagin). Nancy participated in the evil of Fagin’s gang yet, when the time came, she foughtcourageously for life and decency. Hear her scream hysterically at Fagin:

It is my living; and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home;
and you're the wretch that drove me to them so long ago,
and that'll keep me there, day and night, day and night, till I die!"

 

From Chosetsu’s stanza I feel the warped humanity of Fagin and Sykes as the police and mob close in on them,  while Basho’s leads to the tragedy of Nancy, but also to her liveliness and integrity.

 

Young village girls were sold to a brothel for a money loan, confined to the pleasure quarters, forced to have sex with a customer every night, the system set upso she will never pay off the loan and remain here till her death – with no defense against venereal disease, typical by age 22.

 

Now to this brothel
my body has been sold --

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

 

此 ごろ 室に / 身を 売られたる
文書いて / たのむ 便よりの / 鏡 とぎ

 

Kono goro muro ni /mi o uraretaru
Bun kakite / tanomu tayori no / kagami toki

 

Rotsu portrays the consciousness of a young woman trafficked in any era. Basho gives her thoughts she has written down and wishes to send to someone - Miyawaki notes, “maybe her boyfriend back in the village.” She has no way to send her letter without the brothel intercepting, so she asks the man polishing her

mirror if he will post it outside (without telling his employer). The mirror in Japan has for a thousand years been associated with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Being round and shiny, a mirror was considered a ‘child of the sun.’ The clarity of mirror came to represent the clarity the Sun Goddess gives us. In Basho’s day, mirrors were plated with an amalgam of mercury (as in the dental fillings of my childhood). In time the plating got cloudy. A mirror polisher was a craftsman who ground the surface on a whetstone, and polished with mildly acidic fruit juice. By restoring the original clarity of a mirror, he joins the myth as a servant of the Sun Goddess, one who can be trusted with a young woman’s private message. Here is Basho’s genius in all fullness, his deepest penetration into the vulnerable human heart: “Can I trust you?”

 

The boss pretends
not to see their love
yet he knows

Figures half-hidden
behind the umbrella

 

見ぬふりの / 主人 に 恋を /しられけり
すがた 半分 / かくす 傘

 

Minufuri no / shujin ni koi o / shirarekeri
Sugata hanbun / kakusu karakasa

 

 

Walking together in town, the lovers are surprised to see, and be seen by, “the boss” (who did not know of their relationship). He is cool and says not a word, but - in traditional Japan, a society where shame and the impulse to hide is instilled in girls  ‐ the heart of one behind the umbrella shrinks with haji, shy, bashful, embarrassed. What passes through her mind? The boss imagining her naked and doing IT? Him condemning her for having sex without marriage? She clutches the handle so the umbrella covers as much as possible with no movements to attract his attention.


Renku scholar Miyawaki Masahiko, says, “Probably no other following stanza so well expresses the sense of shame (or embarrassment or shyness or discomfort) felt when one’s love becomes known to others.” Miyawaki is Japanese, writes in Japanese, about Japanese people accustomed to this “shame society,” yet his comment takess this stanza-pair into the vast realms of anthropology or women’s and gender studies. He reveals the feminine icon Basho has hidden behind the umbrella, the shame behind all the hiding Japanese women do, the shame women (and men) all over the world feel for their sexuality, the shame they live with and escape from. Basho asks us, people raised in different cultures, with different perceptions of love, young or old, straight or gay, wealthy or poor, attractive or not so, do we, or did we,  feel “shame” (or whatever we call it) when, together with a sexual partner in a non-sexual situation, we were seen by an authority figure who gets the picture?

 

By moonlight
my poor mother at work
beside the window --

She would hide fingers
stained with indigo

 

もる月を/ 賤しき 母 の / 窓 に 見て
藍 にしみ 付く / 指かくすらん

 

Moru tsuki o / iyashiki haha no / mado ni mite
ai ni shimi-tsuku / yubi kakusuran

 

 

Iugen sees mother, long ago and far away, doing the night work of women throughout the ages, after her family has gone to sleep, sewing or mending their clothing in that light from above through the open window. From this iconic maternal image, Basho zooms in on her fingers stained from years of soaking

cloth in indigo dye; the blue tint draws the eyes in our minds to her fingers. She feels the need to cover them with fabric to hide that strange inhuman color in the moonlight. Miyawaki says,


In the behavior of mother hiding her fingers, the child separated far from her realizes her personality.

The moonlight conveys the feelingsin the child’s heart along with memories of mother working in

desperation to raise us in spite of poverty.

 

The link – the thoughts that take us – from Iugen’s stanza to this astonishingly trivial but intimate human detail shows the vast range of Basho’s genius. Only Basho could conceive of a link such as this, a link so personal and bodily yet so full of heart. Both Mona Lisa and Whistler’s Mother rest hands motionless on lap;

in Michelangelo’s Pieta Mary holds the dead Jesus motionless on her lap. Basho surpasses these icons by giving the hands of the Eternal Mother activity and self-consciousness.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Female Icons in Four Seasons (B-14) (B-16) Tanka Visions of Women >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


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

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


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



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


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


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


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


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


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



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com