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-17


Supernatural Women

From Lafcadio Hearn to Basho

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

 Two legends about women told by Hearn in his collection of supernatural tales Kwaidan may relate to particular Basho verses. The Legend of Uba-zakura, the Wet-Nurse’s Cherry Tree,’ which is older than Basho, originated in Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku; Basho’s mother came from this province, so it is possible she told it to him when he was a child, a tale from the faraway place where mama lived when she was a child.

 

The Legend of the Wet-Nurse’s Cherry Tree

An old childless couple appealed to the gods at the local temple, Tosai-ji (a short walk from Matsuyamtation) and were blessed with a daughter. An uba breastfeed the infant, and after weaning, was her attendant. The girl grew up in beauty until at age 15 she became fatally ill. The uba went to the temple and beseeched the gods, “spare the child, take me instead”. The gods accepted, the girl got better and the old woman faded. Before she died she told the parents of her bargain with the gods and asked them to fulfill the promise she made to plant a cherry tree in the temple garden in gratitude for the child’s life. They did, and the tree prospered for 254 years. Each Spring, on the anniversary of the uba’s death, the tree came into glorious full bloom. Hearn says “The flowers were always pink and white like the breasts of a woman full of milk.”

 

We notice how feminine-positive the legend is. The little girl is loved and cherished, the uba a paragon of kindness and altruism.  We also notice how physical is Hearn's perception: how he focuses on the colors of milk and nipples, so  every year when cherries are in bloom, I look at the blossoms and consider whether they look like breast milk and a pink nipple.   

 

In 1664, when he was just 19, Basho wrote his third recorded haiku:

 

Cherry blossoms
of the uba — in old age
her memories

 

The standard interpretation of this haiku posits that uba zakura ("wet nurse cherry tree") is one species of cherry tree, and the verse concerns an old man recalling his glorious youth. Another interpretation takes it to mean “a faded beauty,” an old woman who recalls her days (and nights) or youthful elegance under cherry blossoms. The interpretation here,  in accord with the legend, takes the uba in uba-zakura to actually be a wet-nurse. The memories may be of the babe at her breast, the child playing merrily, the teenager getting sick, the prayer to the gods that saved her life. Or Basho may be ‘sketching’ his family’s uba with baby Basho – or maybe his little sister Oyoshi, a baby nursing when seven year old Basho first became aware of the world. Or it can be a sketch of any woman who can remember breastfeeding. All these feminine memories are seen and felt in the gorgeous cherry blossoms filling the tree with pink and white, like the milky nipples long ago.

 

In another collection, Kokoro, Hearn tells the story of a Japanese baby whose mother died from cholera just after she gave birth; before she passed she requested her husband to keep the baby close to her ihai, a small portable memorial tablet, every day for three years.  He did so, and while he had no money to properly feed the baby, Hearn notes the child was strong and healthy.  The idea is that even through she was dead, the mother, through her ihai, did breastfeed  her child. Hearn notes that all Japanese carry about the belief that the dead are still with them, helping and advising them.  Here is a renku in which Basho explores breastfeeding, and we see how ideas from Lafcadio Hearn add to our appreciation of Basho's thought.

 

No longer black

I scratch my scalp with

hardwood plectrum

Breastfeeding on my lap

what dreams do you see?

 

We imagine the story as though Hearn was telling it. This woman has both grey hair and an infant at her breast, so she may be a grandmother who, after her daughter died, saves the life of her grandchild. (A woman who has breastfed before may be able to “induce lactation” and breastfed again, without having a baby or getting pregnant, even after menopause. Anthropologist Sarah Hrdy explains: “In allomothers able to produce milk, there is no colostrum, but otherwise the composition of induced milk is adequate to sustain infant growth.”) The plectrum is for plucking the strings of a shamisen or lute. “She scratches her scalp” in difficulty understanding or accepting her fate: the death of her daughter, the three needs conflicting within her: to nurture the infant, to continue her adult life, and to rest her aging body. The ever-present conflict of these needs drives her to distraction –and so she absent-mindedly uses her tool for plucking strings to scratch an itch under her hair.


Knowing nothing of grandmother’s sorrow, the child delights in the softness of her body and flavor of her milk.  From Hearn, we form the idea that the dead mother is, in fact, feeding her infant through her mother's breasts. The old woman looks into baby’s eyes and forehead searching to see the dreams within. Unlike her own dreams gone sour, these dreams are fresh and new – and she wonders whether her grandchild will overcome the hardship of losing mother to realize those dreams, or whether the mother is nourishing and supporting her child from the other world..

 

We finish this section with a suitable single stanza of Basho renku:


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

 

The vivid physical image of a kit string cut, a bond being broken, the kite floating off to the vastness of space, flows into the spiritual image of the nurse parting from the living earth.

 

The Legend of Green Willow

A samurai on a journey overtaken by storm and night, takes shelter in a cottage. Here live an old couple and a maiden named Green Willow as graceful as a sapling. They fall in love and marry to live happily for five years -- until suddenly one day Green Willow cries out in pain, saying she will now die. Someone has taken an axe to the willow tree which is her heart, its sap her life blood.

 

Her whole form appeared to collapse in the strangest way, and to sink down, down -- level with the floor. Tomotada sprang to support her, but there was nothing to support! There lay on the matting only the empty robes of the fair creature and the ornaments that she had worn in her hair: the body had ceased to exist

 

Tomotada shaved his head to wander about offering prayers for her salvation. Returning to the cottage, he found three willows stumps remaining, two old and gnarled, and a sapling cut down long ago.

 

Green Willow
reaching to the mud
of low tide

 

Scholars say a willow tree on the riverbank has some of her branches ending underwater, but now at low tide, these reach down to mud. If the verse is merely a “nature verse,” this interpretation may be sufficient – however perhaps we can find a more interesting interpretation along a personal, feminine path. Willows in Japan are always associated with the young female. If we allow “Green Willow” to be the young woman in the legend, we can spend some time with her slender graceful youthful form at low tide reaching down for a shell stranded in the mud, a shell containing a creature full of protein, minerals, and omega 3 fatty acids. If we search for humanity in Basho’s works, we find it.

 

We can also meet the human Green Willow in this linked verse:

 

Green willow her hips
and hair like willows

Wretched waiting
wind through the pines
also is yearning

 

Both hips and hair, as slender and flexible as willow branches covered with young green leaves swaying sensually in the wind; a most gorgeous female image. Basho, now 22 years old, chooses to have this young willowy woman waiting for a lover who may never show.Notice the contrast between willow beauty and unfulfilled desire so intense it overflows self to fill the wind with longing.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com





<< Tanka Visions of Women (B-16) (B-18) Jutei: >>


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