Here are twice as many love poems as in article C-1, enough poems to overwhelm you and drive out any notions you have of Basho being austere or detached or impersonal. Enjoy.
Basho did write a few haiku on romantic love, but these are not so interesting. To experience his vision of lovers in love, we must look into his linked verse: first here as a single stanza by itself:
Lying in bed beside him, carefully maneuvering her arm under his head without waking him, gazing at his face watching for any signs of waking, such is her kindness and devotion. For Higashi Akimasa's comments on this stanza see article C-1. A single stanza, without the baggage of the previous stanza, can apply to a wide range of circumstances: EASING IN can be a woman with her lover, either male or female, but can also be a mother with her beloved child. On the other hand, together with the stanza that spawned it, the meaning is more specific:
Sora was writing about the rivalries among court ladies at the Imperial Palace, and we recall the opening chapter of the Tale of Genji where the Emperor summons a young woman, Kiritsubo, to his bed, but other ladies, led by his senior consort, the Kokiden Lady, spread rumors about her; being women themselves, they know exactly what to say to shame a young woman, and she eventually sickens and dies. Basho, however, chooses life, not death. In spite of the gossip about her and the shame she feels, this woman manages to love the Emperor with all the gentleness in her heart. Basho empowers women to overcome bullying and shame by concentrating on her feminine power both delicate and sensual.
The season is mid-summer; garlic is eaten to keep away mosquitoes.
Basho sees beyond stereotypes to the endless diversity of human character and relationships.
Walking together in town, the lovers are surprised to see her (or their) boss coming the other way. He is cool and does not say a word, but her Japanese heart shrinks with haji -- shyness, bashfulness, embarrassment.” Haji is the Sun Goddess hiding in her Rock Cave or any woman today covering her mouth or eyes with her hand. Here she clutches the handle to make the umbrella cover as much as possible without any movements that might make the boss look. Miyawaki Masahiko, in Basho’s Verses of Human Feeling, says,
This is probably the only following stanza that so well expresses the sense of shame
felt when one’s love becomes known to others.”
Furthur discussion in article C-1.
The Japanese says she writes his name (either writing with actual ink, or making the forms with her finger) in kana (actually hiragana) the cursive and phonetic Japanese writing used by women; ordinarily a man’s name would always be written in formal Chinese characters or kanji. So long as his name is in kanji, he remains in the male world; by writing it in kana, she brings him into her female world. Either he is her lover, or the one she desires to be her lover. She cannot possess him now, but by forming the letters of his name in feminine cursive style, she does “with her heart” possess him.
Basho brings the him and her together, but “hiding from each other.” Teenagers, being new to the world of sexuality, feel shame (or embarrassment or shyness) at being seen by a possible lover. His stanza abounds with physical space and body parts in complicated action – yet is a sketch, a few brush strokes and lots of blank space for us to fill in from imagination. Each of the two faces turns so the light does not fall on it directly, and also it cannot be seen directly by the other. Basho sketches the physical components of the shame so crucial in the Japanese mind and throughout this “shame culture”: he seems to see this sort of shame in both young female and young male.
This is the robe she wore when she was with him. Irises in clothing in storage keep away bugs, but her thoughts here are more romantic. Hidden in the link is the teenage girl’s experience of first love.
Kyokusui speaks of any age or gender, how love starts out simple but somehow becomes “intense.” Basho switches to the first person with a stanza that makes the most sense if she is a teenage girl. “Although the turmoil of young love takes away all my appetite, mother insists I eat, to build up my slender body. Why can’t she understand that I cannot eat while this turmoil rages within me? Mother, stop bugging me!”
History books never tell us about the conflicts between mothers and adolescent daughters long ago, so we look to Basho’s linked verse for information. 300 years ago or today, the daughter is concerned only with love, the mother with nutrition, so there is no meeting of minds. May this stanza-pair be a lens through which mothers and daughters realize both sides of their inter-generational conflict.
The Complete Anthology of Basho linked verse comments: “Basho speaks of the beautiful form of mother giving birth to a child who receives the love and affection in the world.”
In graffiti written on the wall at an inn, I see a woman’s name written with so deep a love that it is visible in the scribbles. I smile at this evidence of love in someone I have never met nor ever will – as I speak Basho’s stanza across the barriers of space, time, and circumstances to the writer of the scribbles. In the long pause in the middle segment is Basho’s consciousness of love.
Each year when cherry blossoms are in bloom, she comes here and climbs the hill of her grief.
Watching the moon, and realizing that it, as well as my present love affair, will sink and be gone. Maybe
the love-affair will end when I die, or maybe end before I die. “As dew disappears” means “my life ending.” Basho’s final line is entirely physical, speaking of “chest” and “pain.” Whether this line means the “pain” in my heart from the loss of love, or the pain in my chest from tuberculosis or some other fatal disease, is unclear. The verse flows like a river connecting moon, love-affair, life, and pain, each of these subject to transience.
Big brother’s question really has no meaning, but may somehow console the lovesick sister.
The Sun at its most distant point from us, his heart so distant from mine, how my desperation increases. I use all my skill with cosmetics and clothing, and look at him with all the charm I can muster, yet he does not return my gaze.
She sits on the floor mat leaning against the futon –in evening, still rolled-up -- wondering about, wishing for love. The futon behind her pelvis suggests what is rolled up inside that pelvis.
Blackwood burns slowly, giving off dark smoke which accumulates over the walls, ceiling, and inhabitants in this shack in a mountain hollow where the sun never shines. Who will marry a girl so grimy with soot and rickets from vitamin D deficiency?
A groom has been adopted from the far north where there are no attractive women but many bears. Able to speak a few words of Japanese, frustrated in trying to communicate with his bride; he just stands there, “a wordless butterfly in a haze” gazing as the beauty he has been given.
Hormones confuse the youth's eye-hand skills so he cannot manage the elegant phrases and calligraphy to impress her. He asks a monk to write the letter for him, but the monk being experienced in these matters, writes in sexual allusions the boy cannot understand -- though the girl might.
She knows how to use her eyes to charm a man. A 1000 koku is a decent income for a samurai, not great, but livable. Her chance for 1000 koku about to ride off into the distance, she acts boldly and vigorously to keep him here.
“Stay, stay, stay – just a little bit longer.” She has a delicacy and fascination which makes men feel protective and want to stay with her.
She has the lantern but stumbles about in the dark searching for the bamboo flask of oil. Then she steps on his boil, which is excruciatingly painful for him. When finally he leaves, they do not feel so comfortable with each other.
“Showers” are rain that fall suddenly and unexpectedly, and stop soon, leaving us drenched and cold. They suggest ejaculation. Basho says that even with only heterosexual relations, people die for love -- so the wind makes a sound. As we put up our hands to cover our eyes when we cry, tears fall on our kimono sleeves, so “water flowing on sleeves” means tears. The great fire, whapped to a frenzy by the wind, could not be put out by the tears, so someone died. This was written in 1665; the great Meireki fire burned down Edo nine years earlier.
Japanese, both men and women, applied camellia oil to their hair so it would be glossy and hold a style.
The hairdresser uses rice bran to remove this oil from her hands. The bill collector needs a physical, sensory, feminine “heart of love” rather than that masculine heart of money.
Sunk in misery, she make a laughing face, actually a grimace, into the mirror, a mockery of laughter, which the mirror reflects.
Unable to endure the message in the letter, I tear it up, then am shocked to see in the mirror the demon of my jealousy.
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. 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.
I meet him by chance on a ferry boat; the situation is not very comfortable for either of us, although the river goes on flowing. The rock so heavy it can only be moved by a thousand men pulling on ropes tied around it; so I can never bring his heart to mine. With no possibility of fulfillment, I can only throw away the love I feel.
Basho wrote both of these stanzas n succession, so they are the equivalent of a tanka:
Basho expresses emotions through physical actions of specific body parts; “her neck sinks into her collar” is a physical sensory avenue to her inner feelings: not only is she disappointed by the failure of gods and Buddha to fulfill her desires: she no longer believes they listen at all, or that they even exist.
His clear definite promises – “hard as nails” –were all a sham; his heart was never in the words. She can wait here forever; he does not care. As things get cold in autumn, dew is heavy – but “dew” here means “tears” and also impermanence and disappointment, wearing out and decaying all things, both living and non-living, so the young grow old and bitter. Basho’s verb in Japanese is more than simply “wiping away” the tears, but rather a bold and vigorous “sweeping away” of all that heaviness.
Wild boars are stout, heavy, ungentle beasts with vicious tusks. The tuber taro grows in patches of enormous flappy leaves shaped like elephant-ears. The boar really wants the underground starchy corms – however the leaves get in the way. The mess of ragged and torn elephant-ear leaves suggests, to Basho, the turmoil in the heart of one who waits in vain for love. His stanza -- with or without the wild boar one -- goes out to all impoverished youths who learn to wait for love in a thin jacket allowing in the chill wind.
The daughter in a box hides in her house, as an owl hides in the forest, occasionally heard but never seen, until she emerges swiftly on silent wings to discover love. Basho is pessimistic: she will only find sorrow. Horse chestnuts are large, bulky, and misshapen.
Disappointed in love, she cuts her hair, and her spirit sends this message to his dreams. She sees through the false love she thought was real, realizing that such love disappears as surely as the moon fades into the morning sky and gorgeous blue morning glories wilt to become refuse in the rain.
Ono no Komachi, said to be the most beautiful women Japan ever produced, ended up a lonely old hag. She went from having plenty of hot romances to none at all. She regrets the loss of those attributes which used to bring her love.
Pines require good soil drainage, preferring sandy soils, so they often grow near the sea where they suffer furious winds.
The ‘rock’ is his heart -- one minute clear and trustworthy, the next minute hidden and unreliable. The turmoil in my heart as he keeps on changing signals is what the pines close to the sea endure during storms. This Basho is so passionate!
The Japanese for “pine,” matsu, also means “to wait” i.e. “to pine,” so poems on pine trees often suggest waiting for love, and the double meaning works in English as well
After the sun sets on a romance, the moonlight is the passion that remains between two hearts. Basho makes sunshine laughter and moonlight tears. Instead of joking to cheer up the one sunk in misery, it is better to speak of the loss, and allow tears to console – for a new day will come with sun rising through the pine forest.
Her hips and hair, as slender and flexible as willow branches covered with young green leaves sway sensually in the wind. She waits for a lover who does not show, her unfulfilled desire so intense it fills the wind.
Not an actual place name, “Love Cape” describes a long narrow strip of land jutting out into the embracing sea. The wedding ornament on a stand resembles an island, symbolically the isle of eternal youth, with a arrangement of pine, bamboo, and plum, which do not wither in winter, so they represent strength and, perseverance, the qualities expected of a wife. The daughter’s marriage vows are as sincere as fresh snow is pure white; may they last as long as the pine tree, said to live for a thousand years.