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-19


Murasaki to Basho

From the Tale of Genji to Basho renku, haiku, and prose

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

Come explore the Energy between the Tale of Genji - world’s first novel and until recently,the longest - and Basho more than five centuries later:   men, women, and children interacting with each other.  For this article I have blended a montage of women in the Tale of Genji with related images by Basho and his renku co-poets. More visions of women in the Genji involving children appear in C-18 KIDS IN JAPANESE LITERATURE BEFORE BASHO. Here we focus on adult women from Murasaki to Basho.

 

In 1004 (according to legend), a 30 year-old woman came to Ishiyama Temple, near the entrance of the Seta River into Lake Biwa, for a seven-day retreat, searching for inspiration. The Genji no Ma (Alcove of Genji) is the ‘traces’ of the small room in the side of the main temple building where under the harvest moon she began work on her epic.

 

After staying the night at Seta at dawn
I visit Ishiyama Temple to see the Alcove of Genji:

 

Daybreak…
the sky still purple
ho toto GI su

 

The little cuckoo’s bright five-note call announces the summer. The bird sounds breathless, as if striving to produce the five notes with utmost beauty.

 

The woman known as Murasaki Shikibu was born in about 973. Her family was Fujiwara, and the characters for her given name mean ‘fragrant child’ but whether this was pronounced Takako or Kaoriko or Koshi is unknown. ‘Shikibu’ refers to her father’s position at court. Her mother died when she was a young child – as Genji’s mother does in the Tale. Contrary to customs of the time, her father raised her himself and gave her a ‘boy’s education’; he noticed her intelligence and regretted that she was not male.

 

She married in her twenties, and had a daughter in 999. Her husband was a wealthy man in his forties. “Gregarious and well known at court, he was involved in numerous romantic relationships that may have (no, probably) continued after his marriage to Murasaki.” It is said that Murasaki disliked the men at court (including her husband?) whom she thought to be drunken and stupid. Her husband died in 1001 and Murasaki entered the Imperial court as a lady-in-waiting. Because she was educated, she became tutor to the Empress – however she did not fit in well with the court; in her diaries she wrote that people found her "pretentious, awkward, difficult to approach, prickly, too fond of her tales, haughty, prone to versifying, disdainful, cantankerous and scornful." In other words, she made no effort being nice to people, but gave her all to writing. Murasaki, “purple or lavender,” is the name of a nine year old girl adopted by Genji and reared to be his great love when the time came. (Laura-Mae says, “How convenient.”). From this fictional character, the author received the regal-sounding name she is known by.

 

In The Tale Of Genji Kiritsubo becomes the Emperor’s favorite and bears him a son Genji. The Emperor entranced with Kiritsubo ignores affairs of state, causing disapproval within the court. Kiritsubo bears the brunt of the bad-mouthing by court ladies.

 

Summoned to the palace
ashamed by the gossip

Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow

 

In spite of the gossip about her and her shame, she manages to love the Emperor with all the gentleness and devotion in her heart.

 

Especially concerned about the Emperor’s love for Kiritsubo is the Kokiden Lady, the Emperor’s senior consort and the mother of the Heir Apparent three years older than Genji. Genji is so remarkably bright in both looks and intelligence, and the Emperor obviously favors him over the older child, so people suspect that he might switch the succession to Genji. Kokiden puts out such bad vibes that Kiritsubo sickens and dies, sending the Emperor into grief. Then on the night of Kiritsubo’s funeral, Kokiden insists on playing loud happy music on her harp far into the night. (Bitch!)

As an ancient Chinese emperor lamented for his great love


In the sky our wish for birds to share wings
on Earth we wish for branches to entwine

 

The Emperor in the Tale of Genji laments for Kiritsubo:

 

Morning and evening, the content of our words;
“to line up wings and exchange branches” were the vows we made,
to no avail, for such is life everlasting sorrow

 

The Emperor says Kiritsubo died because “such is life.” It was her destiny, not Kokiden’s fault nor his own fault for abandoning his first wife to play with a younger, sexier model, but the ‘fate she was born with, everlasting sorrow.

 

Basho combines the imagery from both passages into this passage in his journal:

 

Between the pines each pair of lovers lies in the cemetery,
their vows to ‘share wings and entwine branches’
in the end become thus, the sadness overwhelming.

 

No matter who we are, no matter how sincerely we share wings and entwine branches, all end up in the cemetery.

 

In Fukui on his journey to the North, our poet is searching for an “old hermit” he used to know:


Enticed into a hidden corner of town
I find a dubious shack grown over
with evening face vines and bottle gourds,
cockscomb and broom trees blocking the door.
“Yeah, in here, for sure.”

 

He finds a house that looks about right for his friend -- all covered with vines and gourds and shrubs. The climbing vine evening glories (cousin to morning glories) grows in thick coils around things; in autumn the flowers are gone, but the vines end in large spherical gourds. Hechima is another twining plant that produces gourds, but these are cylindrical like bottles. Cockscomb, on stalks up to 3 feet, has composite flowers – flowerets in countless multitudes stick together to form a crest, as on a rooster’s head, in remarkably vivid burgundy red. The broom tree, another 3-foot tall scrub, has a profusion of twigs which are used to make brooms. All these colors and shapes decorate the house of his friend.

 

When I knock on the gate, a forlorn old lady emerges.
“From where hast thou come,pious monk, on thy pilgrimage?
The master hath gone to visit a neighbor.
If thou hast business, call on him there.”
I figure this must be his wife.
Like a scene from an old romance was the feeling I had

 

From this luxuriant and eccentric house comes the wonderful old lady. Through dialogue, Basho gives life to this kind considerate old woman married to an aging hippy. In her words, we find her spirit. She is very old-fashioned, very polite, and very kind – so Quaker speech suits her well. The names of two plants, ‘evening glory’ and ‘broom tree’ are chapter titles in the Tale of Genji. The old trickster Basho left us clues telling us to look into these two chapters out of the full 54. On the next two-pages we follow these clues from Basho into the world of female experience in that old romance.

 

In Chapter II, The Broom Tree, Genji and his brother-in-law To no Chujo are hanging out, talking about the many different types of women available to young aristocratic studs like them. To no Chujo tells a story about,

 

“a foolish woman I once knew . I was seeing her in secret…
She was very beautiful and as time passed,
I felt I must go on seeing her, if only infrequently.
I sensed that she had come to depend on me.
I expected signs of jealousy. There were none…
my affection grew, and I let it be known
that she indeed had a man she could depend on…

Untroubled, I stayed away for a rather long time…
The woman was desperately lonely and worried for the child she had borne…
I went to see her again…She seemed to be weeping…
It could have been a scene from an old romance…
It was clear she did not want to show any sign of anger at my neglect.
And so once again I stayed away for rather a long time.
And when I looked in on her again, she had disappeared.”

 

The woman’s vows are her life -- yet when the man breaks his vow again and again, he is “untroubled.”

 

In Chapter IV, Evening Glory, the Shining Prince stopped by an old house to look at some evening glories, and someone inside sent him a note. To read it, he “took a paper candle” – a piece of paper rolled up with wax on one end and lit – and saw a love note from the woman inside. Basho, in a parody of this incident, uses one to light his trip at night to the outhouse.


Evening glory white
‘taking a paper candle’
to the outhouse

 

Genji finds himself returning again and again to the Evening Glory Lady, though he cannot understand why. He hides his identity from her, while she hides hers from him. She keeps on saying that he makes things difficult for her, that she cannot understand him. And so on. Genji is also involved with another woman who gets VERY jealous. One night when he in bed with Evening Glory, an image of his other lover comes to Genji in a dream, reproaching him for being with “someone who has nothing to recommend her” and he awakes to find his bed partner dead.

 

In panic, to protect his reputation at court, Genji covers up the whole affair. He also discovers that she was the same woman To no Chujo jilted. Genji becomes sick with worry that someone might find out what happened, but after a few months of illness he recovers and goes back to playing the field. So the two chapters portray one woman betrayed by two men, each man thinking he did nothing wrong, yet the woman died and her daughter grew up unknowing and unknown to her father.

 

Remember this tale was written not by a man who could overlook such behavior, but by a woman who would notice. It is a wonder that women, even after being treated this way, continue to be as gracious and hospitable as that old woman in her house covered with evening glory vines and broom trees blocking the door.

 

Genji’s son Yugiri and wife Kumoikari have eight children. A wet-nurse feeds the baby even though mother is present and healthy. 

 

(Yugiri) was awakened by the screaming of a child. It was screaming very lustily,       and vomiting. The nurse was with it, and Kumoikari sending for a light
and pushing     her hair roughly behind her ears, had taken it in her arms.
A buxom lady, she was offering a well-shaped breast.
She had no milk, but hoped that the breast would have a soothing effect.”

 

This astonishingly intimate female portrait is unique even in the Tale of Genji. Of the innumerable women in the Tale, only Kumoikari reveals her breasts to us. The author Murasaki demonstates her female knowledge of female and child psychology.

 

 Basho and his co-poets also portrayed the form of the female breast in linked verse: Traditionally rice was planted by the adolescent girls and young women of the village; after every paddy in the village was planted, it was time to celebrate:


Rice planting
maidens are lined up
to drink sake --

Holding snow in summer
twin peaks of Tsukuba

 

Mount Tsukuba, 45 minutes by train north of Tokyo, 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 the image of snow brings our attention to those “peaks” growing under the robes of maidens lined up to drink sake lowering their inhibitions.

 

Basho wrote:

 

Wrapping rice cake
with one hand she tucks
hair behind ear

 

One version of this haiku has the footnote,

 

and from here I think of the Tale of Genji.

 

A modern Japanese female scholar discusses this haiku, but says nothing at all about women today tucking hair behind ear. Her entire focus is on connecting Basho’s haiku with the scene of Kumoikari “pushing her hair roughly behind her ears.” This is what scholars do; constantly looking back from Basho to the ancients, never looking forward from Basho to our time. Instead let us absorb what we can from the Genji episode while also searching for what the verse can mean in our world today;

 

Fourteen days before his death Basho participated in a poetry gathering hosted by his woman follower Sonome, and wrote a greeting verse to her: while he often concentrates on the hidden women, here he concentrates on the one actually before his eyes -- this his final chance to see her.


White chrysanthemum
no speck of dust rises
to meet the eye

 

According to Shiko, Basho said about WHITE CRYSANTHEMUM:

 

“This is a verse about the beauty of Sonome’s elegance.
Because I knew that today’s one meeting would be the remnant of a lifetime, I thought to watch for a vision in this hour.

 

Basho made his final study of female beauty, and 700 years before the author Murasaki portrayed the beauty of Murasaki: 


They had been together for so many years, and here she was delighting him anew.  She managed with no loss of dignity — and it was a noble sort of dignity — to be bright and humorous. He counted over the several aspects of beauty and found them here gathered together; and she was at her loveliest. But then she always seemed her loveliest, more beautiful each year than the year before, today than yesterday. It was her power of constant renewal that most filled him with wonder.


Genji thinks about his wife Murasaki:

 

There was something uniquely appealing about her, having to do, perhaps,
with the fact that she always seemed to be thinking of others.

 

In his Will dictated two days before his death, Basho sends a message to his follower Jokushi:

 

May you enjoy till the end your wife’s unchanging kindness

 

Does this message contain Genji's appreciation of Murasaki? 

 

The character Murasaki’s death poem:


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

 

and a similar haiku by Basho:

 

Shining dew

unshaken off, bush clover’s

undulation

 

Both Murasaki and Basho portray the physical reality of dew, wind, and bush clover to suggest the Buddhist message that all is passing.

 

 

                                           
                                  basho4humanity@gmail.com

 

 






<< Jutei: (B-18) (B-20) Shonagon to Basho >>


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