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  >  Children and Teens  >  C-10


Age 7 to 12

Commentaries to #42 to #70 in the Poet of Children

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

Beginning with the transformation at age seven when Basho says the "face becomes clear," till the onset of puberty, kids discover the vastness of "what children do" in this world. 

 

We begin this article with two stanzas both by Basho written in succession, so we see the flow through his own mind:

 

42

Before my eyes
the scene just as is
makes a haiku --
As a child turns seven
face becomes clear

 

目 前 の / けしき そのまま / 詩 に 作る
八ッ に なる子の / 顔清げなり

Me no mae no / keshiki sono mama /shi ni tsukuru
Yattsu ni naru ko no / kao kiyoge naru

 

Not every haiku must be exactly as seen – as many of Basho’s verses were not – however sketching reality is one way he recommends. The two stanzas – both by Basho -- together say that conceiving a haiku should occur naturally, organically, as one’s face develops. For Basho to see that children’s facial features transform at age seven (the Japanese says yattsu, “eight” because they counted a baby as one year old at birth, so we subtract one from Japanese ages) changing from a baby face to the “clear” features of a child, then to write a poem about this phenomenon, he must have watched the faces of many children, especially his three younger sisters. This is not something only Basho saw. Many students of child development – in particular the Swiss psychologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget known for his pioneering work in child development -- note the onset of a new stage at age seven. Cultures worldwide consider age seven to be the beginning of wisdom and moral understanding – which may lead us to the masterpiece WITH HER NEEDLE that follows

 

43

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 rest of the year. Into this poor struggling home, Basho introduces a daughter and a koto, or 13-string harp, an instrument of refinement played only by women. Notice the link between the form 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. We imagine the pride the hard-working mother feels hearing her seven-year-old 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 evokes in her mother, hope rising on the lovely notes emerging from her seven-year old fingers on the harp.

 

44

For some coolness
kids throw off clothes to
wait for the moon 

Straw mats held in front
they run and jump about

“Are you asleep?”
strange that the dog’s tail
holds it shape

 

すずしさの /裸になりて /月を待
筵をたてに / はしりとびする
ねて居るか /おかしく犬の /尾をすべて

 

Suzushisa no / hadaka ni narite / tsuki or matsu
Mushiro o tate ni / hashiri tobi suru                  
nete iru ka /okashiku inu no / o o subete

 

Ryoban shows us little children with no inhibition at all about taking off their clothes when the heat is so oppressive even in the evening. They are waiting for the moon to rise, but this may carry the hidden meaning of “waiting for puberty.” Basho adds euphoric body movement to this portrait of children. He says naked is okay, but how about a bit of restraint? The kids hold thin straw mats about a meter square in front of them as they dash about screaming. Still we see their “moons.” Children still in the paradise of innocence, but feeling the first hints of the shame to emerge when their bodies show sexual traits. One naked child stops running to notice a dog lying nearby. The animal seems fully asleep -- but also holds its tail with attention. Shiba and Akita dogs, the original breeds on these islands, are known for perpetually holding their tails up in a perfect curl, the white fur under the tail curling around to show on top, as round and white as the moon (ahh! the link between the three stanzas).

 

The poet 300 years ago makes this observation, through the eyes of a child, about Japanese dogs, and we can see the same any evening in a Japanese neighborhood; dogs with tightly curled tails. Somehow the brain signals which produce this tail shape are programmed into Japanese dog genes. I, by good fortune, have a shiba dog whose round tail is a work of art: the curl is so perfect and white. Every time I see this stanza I imagine Suzu, and everytime I see Suzu, I recall this trio.


The child who runs and jumps about in naked joy can also observe the world and wonder about consciousness and brain-muscle control. Each stanza deepens our perception of children’s humanity.

 

45

Young and helpless
with bow and arrows,
the boy kneels

White hair seen through
gaps in bamboo blind

 

弓と矢も / まだいたいけに / 膝まずき
白髪さし出す / 簾のあわせむ
Yumi to ya mo / mada itaike ni / hiza mazuki
Shiroga sashidasu / mizu no awasemu

 

The newest student at an archery dojo kneels on the floor, feeling small and weak. To this, we add an image of the dojo where tall powerful men strut about with dangerous weapons, making the boy feel the way he does. The boy kneels in hiza-mazuki, hips resting on heels propped up on feet with toes forward – students of Japanese martial arts will recognize this -- a position of alert readiness; so he struggles to keep his skinny back and shoulders straight, with all the resolution he can muster against the intimidation.

 

The white hair showing in long horizontal gaps between thin bamboo stalks tied in parallel belongs to the boy’s grandfather who hides behind the screen to watch without the boy knowing. He knows that for his grandson to see him would interfere with the boy’s training. How does he know this? (Here I take a step which you may not join.) Granddad is an accomplished archer – in Japanese, a shihan – who has trained in this dojo since he was a child. As the old man watches, he can see himself kneeling there young and helpless 50 years ago. He sees the entire process of little boy becoming aged master.

 

46

Rarely emerging
from mountain shadow,
a cow pisses

Lacquered sheaths dewy
boys’ swords hang low

 

山 陰 を /まれ に 出たる / 牛 の バリ
梨地 露 けき / 児子 のさげ 鞘

 

Yama kage o / mare ni idetaru / ushi no pari
Nashiji tsuyukeki / chigo no sage saya

 

A bunch of young boys, who rarely leave their village in the shadow of a mountain, are off on a quest one morning, ready for adventure: this is when they see the cow peeing. An adult samurai carries his sword in an elegantly lacquered sheath which hangs from his waist. These are little boys with short legs and stick-of-wood swords, so the “lacquer” on the bottom of the “sheath” brushes against the dewy grass. The stream of piss from cow to wet ground resembles the “sword” from boy to wet ground.

 

47

Granddaddy’’s ball sack
sticks to the brushwood

All the children
the “God of Poverty”
they call this

 

祖父 の ふぐり / 柴 に とりつけ
子ども 皆 / 貧乏神 と /名をよびて

 

Jiiji no fuguri / shiba ni toritsuke
Kodomo mina / bimbō-gami to / na o yobite

 

“Granddaddy’s ball sack” is the egg sack of the praying mantis, which the mother mantis attaches to brushwood. It has a shriveled appearance which to a child might look like an old man’s testicles so scrawny and miserable that the highly imaginative kids call it bimbou gami the name of that skinny dirty spirit who brings people hardship and misery.

 

48

Knocking on back door
and running away home

She cries and cries
with never a conclusion
to her hiccups

 

妻戸たたきて逃げて帰りぬ
泣く泣くてしやくりのたまる果てもなし

 

tsumado tatakite / nigete kaerinu 
naku nakute / shakuri no tomaru / hate no nashi

 

What?!  Kids in Basho’s time played “Ring the doorbell and run” (without door bells) and Basho wrote a poem about this boyish prank occuring in many societies with many names:     Ding dong ditch  Nocky nine doors  Ghost knocking     Chicky melly  hickenelly    Chap door run away   Knock, knock, ginger  Friend of the family knocking    In modern Japan, pin pon dashu

 

The tradition of “Ring the Doorbell and Run” can be traced back to the traditional Cornish holiday of Nickanan Night, the first Monday after Lent.  The anthropologist Basho records it in 17th century Japan.   Kyokusui follows with slapstick sarcasm about the woman inside the house upset by the boys’ mischief.

I like the sound-link from knocking to hiccups.

 

 

49

The monk praises the child
who is slow at learning

Winter-withered
pitiful the fallen oranges
covered with frost

Hardly ever used
the bath tub leaks

 

ならいのわるき /子を誉める僧
冬枯れの /九年母おしむ /霜覆ひ
たまたますれば / 居風呂の漏り

 

Narai no waruki / ko o homeru sou
Fuyu kare no / kyunenbou oshimu / shimo ooi
Tama tama sureba / i-buro no mori

 

This monk has modern progressive ideas about children who have difficulty learning; he says they should be praised and supported, rather than criticized and taken down. Basho follows with pity for the learning disabled child: often under an orange tree, as in the garden of an abandoned house, fallen fruit lies in the dew and frost for months, sweet pulp oozing out cracks in the peel, looking altogether wretched – so the child’s brain rots from lack of stimulation. A wooden bath tub never filled with water dries out and cracks. If a section of the brain is hardly ever used, it also leaks. We can go out and buy a new bath tub, but when the brain leaks, all we can do is patch the cracks. So in childhood use it every day with praise, so leaks do not occur.

 

50

All the children
I see have this year’s
smallpox scars

 

見るほどの / 子供 にことし / 疱瘡の跡
Miruhodo no / kodomo ni kotoshi / imo no ato

 

The disease smallpox was caused by a virus in the blood vessels of the skin producing a rash with small bumps which became blisters, leaving scars on the face of those who survived. A serious form of the disease killed one third, a milder form about 1%. Paying attention to the children, Basho sees smallpox scars still raw and unhealed by time, indicating that earlier this year there was a local epidemic -- but it is over and the children who survived now go around outside where Basho can see them. The verse, like a photograph in National Geographic, records the life of people on this globe. Another writer would focus on children dying from smallpox; Basho shows us the ones who live through it.

 

51

Harvest Moon –
children standing in line
temple verandah

 

名月や / 児立ち並ぶ / 堂の縁
Meigetsu ya / chigo tachi narabu / dou no en

 

A temple hall is surrounded by a wide verandah with a rail people can lean on while watching the moon. Compare Chigetsu’s verse:

 

Stretching up
and pointing, children
view the moon

 

We appreciate the children’s life force, their excitement at getting a little bit closer to the Moon. Chigetsu, like Basho, pays attention to “what children do.” The glory of the moon merges with the glory of the child. Because it contains more of the children’s action, more of their character, I prefer Chigetsu’s verse.

 

52

The moon clear –
attendant to a child
scared by a fox

 

月澄む や / 狐 こわがる /児の共
Tsuki sumu ya /itsune kowagaru / chigo no tomo

 

The road is dark and in the cold moonlight even familiar things become fearsome shadows. Foxes in Japanese folklore bewitch people and make them do evil. The years have taught Basho that the fox’s howl is only the cry of another being lonely in the night – but how can a child know this? When things get scary, every child needs someone bigger who can be trusted.

 

In his book Sex and Power, author Leonard Shlain says

“A magical moment occurs in every child’s life when he or she realizes that the moon is the child’s personal companion! As we move through the nighttime landscape, approaching objects glide by and then recede in the distance behind us. Not so the distant moon, which always keeps pace rice alongside us… There is something vaguely comforting, especially to a small child who has a natural fear of the dark, in knowing that the moon is a reliable and faithful companion that will not only light the child’s way but also be a steadfast companion during nighttime excursions.

 

Records from 8th Century Japan tell of people facing the rising full moon, clapping their hands twice before their faces, to worship the Buddha. By Basho’s time, nono-sama was a child’s name for both Moon and Buddha. Grandmothers taught their little grandchildren to bow and pray to nono-sama as the Moon rose into the sky. The folksong Nono-sama originated within the Pure Land sects whose kindergartens still teach it to small children.

Non-no Nono-sama Buddha

May I be gently hugged to the chest

of Mother I love, O Buddha.

Non-no Nono-sama Buddha

May I be firmly held by the hand

of Father I love, O Buddha

Non-no Nono-sama Buddha

As the holy lantern rises we see

the clear shining halo of Buddha

 

The song – like Basho poetry – focuses on body parts, physical action, and human affection. Both Mother hugging and Father holding are “attendants” to the child. The Buddha is usually depicted in paintings and sculpture with a halo around his head – and this halo is the Moon. As Basho approaches his own death and merging with the infinite, he offers children an attendant to walk along with on the road to knowledge, an attendant as clear and radiant as the Moon-Buddha.


53

Sacred child’s
one tree so lovely
plum in bloom

 

御子良子の/一本ゆか/梅の花
Okarago no / hito moto yuakashi / ume no hana

 

During ceremonies at the Ise Shrine, the daughter of a priest or a little girl from the village may serve as “sacred child” and offer food and prayers to the Sun-Goddess. 

 

Almost every Shinto shrine has a number of plum trees, but here at the greatest of them all, the home-shrine of the Sun Goddess, there is only one, and it’s hard to find. My dictionary of seasonal references says of a plum tree in full bloom: “From the sturdy old tree’s crooked and gnarled trunk, the merging of branches rising straight to heaven has an awe inspiring sculptural beauty”. No one ever comes back here behind the Hall where the offerings are prepared, so the tree remains undefiled by contact with ‘the world’. Likewise, the Sacred Child from her purity and innocence can communicate with the Sun Goddess. 


54

Hey children!
let’s go rushing out
gems of hail

 

いざ子供 /昼顔咲かば /瓜剥かん
Iza kodomo / hirugao sakaba / uri mukan

 

Basho is actually speaking to his followers, telling them to be more like children, overcome inhibitions and fears and preference for comfort, to go out there into the cold freezing weather and live life to the fullest.  He wrote another similar haiku:

 

Hey let’s go
snow-viewing till we
tumble over

 

いざ行かん雪見にころぶ所まで
Iza yukan yukimi ni korobu tokoro made

 

As adults we may worry that he will be injured;  as children, we realize this is all play.

 

In the hills of Iga, at play with children:

55

First snowfall,
from fur of rabbits
make whiskers!

 

初雪に/ 兎の皮の / 髭作れ
Hatsu yuki ni / usage no kawa no / hige tsukure

 

Rabbits in Japan are a sub-species of the northern European snow-rabbit, so have evolved the enormous snowshoe-like feet and powerful legs they need to run fast and leap through the air on snow.

They are ‘field rabbits’, not burrow-rabbits; adults live singly and do not dig underground for shelter. During the day they rest in the bushes, and at night they search around for grass. Babies are born able to see and move about (whereas newborn burrow-rabbits are blind and helpless). Unlike squirrels who use their paws to bring food to the mouth, rabbits move the mouth to the food. Whiskers on the side of the face enable rabbit to feel more than mouth can reach.

 

The poet is in his hometown with those 40 years younger; these are the hills where Basho played as a child. Joyful in the year’s first snow, the kids go bounding about like rabbits, so Uncle Basho suggests they find some real rabbits somewhere, pull off some fur, and stick it on their faces between nose and mouth, to complete the picture. Basho’s disciple Kyorai pointed out that we should not be surprised when we notice that the verse “makes no sense” -- it is not supposed to be logical or make sense. It’s a joke shouted by one child to another as they run about in the snow. Adults may not find the joke funny, but if it amuses children, it has achieved its purpose.


56

Boys! Leave some

plum branches unbroken
to prod your ox

 

里の子よ / 梅折り残せ / 牛の鞭
Sato no ko yo / ume ori-nokase / ushi no muchi

 

The ox, who has stayed alive all winter on hay, wanders about the farm searching for new green growth so he can put some muscle on those bones and pull the plow through the mud before rice planting.

While their sisters inside the house spin yarn and weave fabric, the little boys do what boys in villages worldwide do: watch after animals (as in Kunta Kinte’s village in Roots). The little rascals—with complete and utter disregard for the thousand years of elegant Chinese and Japanese poems on plum blossoms—have broken off the slender, young branches, covered with buds and blossoms, to swat the ox’s butt to make him go where they want. Weird kids. Basho is concerned that they will take ALL the branches for this purpose so there will be no blossoms to view this year. Weird Basho. There must be hundreds of branches on each tree.

For years I thought this verse “had no point”; it did not fit in with any idea I had of what Basho would think. Finally I realized how completely the verse defies the normal expectations of adults, revealing the freedom of the child to transcend the limitations of the adult mind.

 

57

Fisherman’s child
to announce a whale
blows into a shell

 

海士の /子が鯨を告げる / 貝吹いて

Ama no ko no kujira o tsugeru kai fuite

 

Whalers would spot whales from stations along the shore and launch boats to catch them with harpoons and lances. Doho tells us the Master said that a poem is the experience of the heart which go and returns“... you should know that a poem combines things” Basho’s single stanza -- a half-dozen words and a few particles -- combines the intriguing trio of child, whale, and shell; we start with medium-size child, then move out to enormous whale, and return to tiny shell in boy’s hand, then spread out to fill the area with sound. That sound carries this child’s life force. Still moving, the mind goes to the villagers rushing to their boats to chase the fleeing whale, waves surging, the boy watching excitedly from his post.


58

Tired of children
for the one who says this
no blossoms

 

子に飽くと / 申す人には / 花もなし
Ko ni aku to / mousu hito ni wa / hana mo nashi

To not-get-tired of children, we need to be one with them, giving up the heavy complications of adulthood, having the playful spirit of a child. Adults who cannot do this, or refuse to try, get no blossoms.

 

59

Missing teeth, Granddad’s
nembutsu sounds strange

 

歯ぬけの 祖父の / 念仏 おかしき
Ha nuke no jiji no / nembutsu okashiki

 

Grandfather, a devout aging Buddhist of the Pure Land sects, chants the nembutsu prayer, Namu Amida Buttsu, calling for salvation from the bodhisattva Amida, for much of his day; the sects teach that each repetition brings salvation not only to the chanter but to all beings. Another person is hidden in the words: the child who notices. An adult would ignore the old man mumbling same words over and over again through missing teeth, however the child’s sharp ears pick up the irregularities in sound, and his clear open mind recognizes the cause. Granddad is old, and the nembutsu ancient, however the child encompasses them both with fresh astute observation, mischievous humor, and no concern at all for salvation.

 

60

Plum blossom scent –
old storybooks read
by a young girl

 

梅が香や/ しらら落窪 / 京太郎
Ume ga ka ya / shirara ochikubo / kyoutarou

 

The second and third lines of the Japanese are actually names of three characters in a story a young girl reads in a storybook popular in Basho’s time. (Rather than give you the names which will be utterly meaningless to you, I change to the information which these names gave readers of that time.) She reads beside the open window near a plum tree in bloom, her youth in contrast to the classical elegance of plum blossoms and the romantic tales old centuries before she was born. Unable to go outside and wander as her brothers can, she does her traveling inside books. Tales from long ago inspire her -- as old storybook Little Women inspired the young girls who were Gertrude Stein, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Ursula Le Guin, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, and J.K. Rowling.

 

From the 17th century Japanese commoner children went to private schools known as terakoya. Girls studied homemaking skills, arts, and music, and could read and write in the phonetic kana alphabets.

Boys learned to read and write the thousands of Chinese characters used in formal Japanese. Once the basics of writing were mastered, the boys practiced with copybooks such as Tenkin Orai, a series of letters appropriate to each month, giving students a wide range of content to copy, so they would learn all those characters and how to use them effectively.

 

61

Your copy books --
from whose satchel shall
the year spring?

 

庭訓の往来誰が文庫より今朝の春
Teikin no /orai ga bunko yori / kesa no haru

 

On the first day of school after New Year’s break, also the start of Spring, a teacher tells students to take out their copies of Teikin Orai and practice writing New Year’s greetings (similar to the nenga-jo Japanese send out at the end of the year to arrive on New Year’s morning). It would be clearer for the teacher to ask “from whose satchel shall the best penmanship spring?” or even clearer, “who can do the best writing?” But this teacher’s question is more interesting to the children, and they play along with the game, and shout “Me! Me! From my satchel the year shall spring!” So all work hard to get better. Instead of simply telling the students what to do, this teacher adds interest to the learning process.

 

62

Nine-year-old
high priest's high spirits
last the autumn

 

This is not an actual priest, but rather a young boy who acts with all the confidence and self-assurance of a Shinto priest.  Autumn is the season when many people become sad as winter comes on, but this boy 

keeps up his vibrant spirits through the season of beauty and sadness. 

 

63

Starting to learn
the alphabet from
ra-mu-u-i-no --

Foolishness has stopped,
youngster in the bedroom

 

いろはおば /らむういのより / 習 初め
わるさ も やみし/ 閨 の 稚い

 

Iroha oba / ra-mu-u-i-no yori / narai-some
Warusa mo yamishi / neya no osanai

 

The classical Japanese alphabet poem starting with i-ro-ha has 48 sounds, and most children invariably practice it from the beginning to the end – this child, however, is a deviant; he practices from the middle of the sequence -- like beginning with “l-m-n-o-p” in our song. But now the mischief maker sleeps. Research shows that sleep consolidates what we learn awake. During sleep, the brain puts together all the different bits of learning, so we retain them. Each stanza expresses some aspect of the learning process.

 

From the 17th century Japanese commoner children went to private schools known as terakoya. Girls studied homemaking skills, arts, and music, and could read and write in the phonetic kana alphabets.

Boys learned to read and write the thousands of Chinese characters used in formal Japanese. Once the basics of writing were mastered, the boys practiced with copybooks such as Tenkin Orai, a series of letters appropriate to each month, giving students a wide range of content to copy, so they would learn all those characters and how to use them effectively.

 

64

Sleeve on one side
missing, winter shower
gets inside robe

Four or five sons
barking in a ruckus

 

かた々は / 袖なききぬに / もる時雨
倅 四 五 人 / ほえて くるしき

 

Katagata wa / sode naki kinu ni / moru shigure
Segare yon go nin / hoete kurushiki

 

The cold rain gets inside the robe because instead of one sleeve there is just a large opening around the shoulder. Why, you ask, is one sleeve missing? Basho provides the answer: the family has five boys and apparently no girls, so no one to help mother make clothing for this zoo. She ran out of fabric while making multiple robes and had no time to spin more yarn or do any weaving – what with all the chaos of five sons. The boy with his young blood will soon get used to his one naked arm – as children today manage in shorts in midwinter. Boy! are they making a lot of noise, the sound of their humanity -- but not the sound of war or insurrection, rather the ordinary hubbub of family life with multiple boys.


65

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

While roasting balls of miso

some ash she puffs away
from broiled miso

 

行儀能 /せよと子供を /ねめ廻し
やき味噌の 灰 / 吹きはらいつつ

 

Gyougi you /se yo to kodomo o / neme-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, not that 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 about, climbing, arguing, fighting, breaking or swallowing things, this winter day in 17th century Japan.

 

Meanwhile, mother is roasting balls of soy bean paste on skewers to make a side dish for the children to eat. 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, the sounds of her life force, the energy or prana she gives to the food her children will eat.


66

Socks taken off to dry
shimmers in sunlight

At New Year
we take along our
little buggers

Though meaning we hide
they stand and listen

 

足 袋ぬいで /干す 昼 の かげろう
年 長に /ちいさき やつら / 供 させて
隠す たより を / 立ちながら 聞く

Ashi-bukuro nuide / hosu hiru no kagerou
Nenchō ni / chiisaki yatsura / tomo sasete
Kakusu tayori o/ tachinagara kiku

 

For New Year’s Day we get dressed up to visit shrines and friends and people important in our lives – so we adults have a lot to talk about: We drag the kids along with us, but really they do not want to go. We told them to keep their cloths clean, but their socks got smelly and have to be dried in the sunshine where the odor wafts from them. We hide our meaning in a maze of adult words with references to people and things they know not – but how much do the language sponges understand?

 

Young Prince Genji sees nine-year-old Murasaki for the first time, secretly watching her with her grandmother, a nun, who cares for the child now that her daughter, Murasaki’s mother, has died.

 

A girl of perhaps nine in a soft white singlet and russet robe; she would one day be a real beauty. Rich hair spread over her shoulders like a fan. . . She was charming, with rich unplucked eyebrows and hair childishly back from the forehead...The nun stroked the girl’s hair. “You will not comb it and still it’s so pretty”. . . The hair that fell over her forehead was thick and lustrous.

 

Girls today may appreciate  “thick lustrous hair… childlishly back from her forehead… and spreading over her shoulders like a fan… though “she will not comb it” “fly into a tantrum” when someone tries to brush their hair.Genji “adopted” (i.e. kidnapped) the young girl, and kept her in seclusion, training her to be the love of his life when she matured.

 

She had already taken out her dolls and was busy seeing to their needs. All manner of furnishings and accessories were laid out on a yard-high shelf. Dollhouses threatened to overflow the room. . . “You must try to be just a little more grown up.” said her nurse. “Nine years old, no, even more, and still you play with dolls. It will not do. . . Why you fly into a tantrum even when we try to brush your hair.”

 

She played the koto for him, briefly and very competently.
He thought her delightful as she leaned forward
to press a string with her left hand.
He took out a flute and she had a music lesson.
Very quick, she could repeat a difficult melody
after but a single hearing.

 

A unique moment in world literature, this praise for the sensory-motor intelligence of a young girl not even ten: she plays with dolls but also can listen to a difficult melody one time on one musical instrument and reproduce it on a completely different instrument. Little Miss Mozart.

 

67

Water forbidden
black hair’s distress --
At an age
to take care of dolls
she is lovely

Weight of the zither
she holds on her lap

 

水ゆるされぬ / 黒髪ぞうき
まだ雛を / いたわる年の / うつくしく
かかえし琴の / 膝 や おもたき

 

Mizu yurusarenu / kuro kami zo uki
Mada hina o / itawaru toshi no / utsukushiku
Kakaeshi koto no / hiza ya omotaki

 

 A young girl has been sick for many days, forbidden to wet her hair because this might bring on moresickness. Her hair has grown tangled and messy, so passing a comb through it is painful. 

 In spite of what Murasaki’s nurse says, the girl continues to lavish her affection on dolls – developing her consciousness and skills for taking care of babies. The Japanese says “koto” but, since she holds it on her lap, the term apparently means a smaller stringed instrument such as the zither; the Japanese koto is derived from the Korean zither (gayaceum) which is played this way. From Sukan’s ideal of loveliness, Basho jumps into body sensation; the words he uses – omotaki, heavy in weight; kakaeru, “holds”; hiza, “lap” – all so physical and intimate; the little girl holds the instrument on her lap the way she would a baby or a baby doll. This degree of body consciousness compares to Young Murasaki leaning forward to press a string with her left hand. Because of this reference to the Tale of Genji, Basho’s stanza evokes not only the tactile and muscle-joint sensations but also the beauty of her harp playing.

 

68

Lingering on…”
I take down the doll and
look at her face
Again starting to weep
the cough of consumption

 

名残 ぞと / 取 置 雛 の / 顔 を みて
また 泣 入りし / 労咳 の せき

 

Nagori zo to / tori oku hina no / kao o mite
Mata naki irishi / rougai no seki

 

The symptoms of tuberculosis are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. The term "consumption" came about due to the weight loss: the infection consumes the body, although the memories continue in a fading physique. The flow of images -- which is the same in this translation as in the original – make this one of Basho’s most heart-rending verses. He begins with a single word of speech or thought to open the mind without specifying content. The second and third lines portray physical action: taking the doll down from a shelf and looking at the face. The fourth line adds deep and reoccurring emotion, and the fifth provides the sad context for the entire scene: tuberculosis.

A woman dying of tuberculosis remembers the doll she played with long ago; looking at the doll’s face recalls her own young healthy face; she cries for her life ending; she hears and feels herself cough.

Or a mother whose daughter is dying looks at the doll the child played with long ago; the doll’s face reminds her of the child’s face; she weeps for her daughter lingering on, and hears her cough. Or the daughter has died; the bereaved mother lingers on, looking at the doll to recall her healthy child, and remembering that horrible hacking cough.

69

No one comes
to make little sister
give me a break

Boiling rice is a drag
and tears fill my eyes

 

隙 くれし / 妹 をあつかう /人 も 来ず
飯 焼く事を / 倦みて 泣 けり

 

Hima kureshi / imo o atsukau / hito mo kizu
Meshi taku koto o / umite nakakeri

 

Here are three females: the sister speaking, her younger sister, and the mother (or oldest sister) who is too busy to assist one daughter in corralling the younger one – who just wants to play -- to do her fair share of the endless work in this household with so many people.

 

Shoeki tells us the work she is doing. Nowadays we put uncooked rice and water in an electric cooker, push a button, and wait. Before there were such cookers, the job was done on a steady, smoke-free gas fire. In Basho’s time the wood or charcoal fire had to be maintained in the kamado, or cookstove, just right so the rice would keep on boiling yet not stick to the bottom of the pot. As she kneels before the stove and looks inside to tend the fire, smoke gets into her eyes.

 

70

Lilies of the field
in crescent moon shadow
line up in bloom
To my dear children
what can I compare?

 

三日月の / かげに笹百合 /さきならい
お子様がたを / 何にたとえむ

 

Mikazuki no / kage ni sasa / yuri sakinarai
o-kosama gata wo / nani ni tatoemu

 

Between the two stanzas, both by Basho, we travel through his mind.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Age 3 to 7 (C-09) (C-11) Teenagers -- Commentaries to #s 71 - 105 >>


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