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-12


Prose, Letters, and Spoken Word about Children

Lessons in Child Development

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

Here are ten kids Basho wrote about in haibun or letters: Kyokusui's son Takesuke, Uko's daughter Sai, an abandoned 2-year old, an 11 year old "Priest of the Road,"  a little farm girl he met on his journey to the Deep North, the newborn he named after her, his teenage grandnephew Jirobei and grandnieces Masa and Ofu believed to be 15, 13, and 11, and another teenager named Donshu. His portraits of these children

(including  haiku, renku and tanka) are anthropology; can you think of any other author in world literature who left us so many such portraits of children full of insight into human child nature?

 

The infant Takesuke

In summer of 1690, the samurai Kyokusui was among the entourage of the Lord of Zeze in attendence on the Shogun; they remained in Edo throughout the next year and into the spring of 1692. Meanwhile in Zeze, Basho visited Kyokosui’s mansion where infant Takesuke was Kyokusui’s first son and heir to the household. He wrote a letter to Kyokusui, dated August 4, 1690:

 

Takesuke day by day getting bigger,
endowed with such intelligence
and in good health and mood because your wife,
the uba, and others there in your absence
behave more cheerfully than he,
so Takesuke shows no signs of loneliness.
I am glad to have seen this.

 

Basho could see that the baby was “born with” (umare-tsuki) intelligence, endowed by his parents; thus he also praises Kyokusui and wife. Takesuke is getting bigger because he is drinking breast milk which is germ-free and evolved for human babies to digest. Kon believes that this uba was Kyokusui’s nurse, who has stayed on with the family as a nanny to help care for the children. Whether she feeds Takesuke from her aging breasts is unclear. More likely, Kyokusui’s family has hired another younger uba for Takesuke, possibily with her own baby who grows up together with Takesuke. Because the old uba lives with the family, she is there to help care for the children so the wife – and Takesuke – will not stress out with her husband away in the Capital for 18 months. Maybe this woman does not feed Takesuke, but she does the rest: changing diapers, washing and drying, carrying the baby about, allowing him to play without getting hurt.

 

Readers familiar with child welfare may note that Basho gives a remarkably complete developmental profile on the infant:

1) gaining weight,     2) shows intelligence,

3) health good,         4) father absent

5) but child lives in stable, extended family of women devoted to his care.

6) They remain cheerful even when he is sad (because papa is away) so they cheer him up

and 7) Takesuke “shows no signs of loneliness”.


Doctor Basho looks equally at the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of child development – and sends his observations to the father to help him feel better in his absence from his son. Basho pays attention to children in ordinary daily life, and furthermore he pays attention to people caring for children.

What other old-time poet did this?

 

Juliet’s uba, after telling how she weaned the infant, goes on… and on… and on… with a story of the day before when Juliet:

 

“did break her brow… and cried bitterly…
And then my husband--God be with his soul!
A' was a merry man -- took up the child:
'Yea,' quoth he, 'dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit;
Wilt thou not, Jule?' and, by my holidame,
The pretty wretch left crying and said 'Ay'…

 

Shakespeare (in 1595) observes that an infant may not need to cry -- for if distracted, may stop and even become happy. Read Basho’s letter along with the Nurse’s account: they say exactly the same thing! When the infant is in a bad way, adults act cheerfully to lift the child’s spirit up.

 

In another letter to Kyokusui, dated December 14 of that year 1690, Basho, still in Zeze, again portrays the infant in a way that will please and reassure the concerned father whose job requires him to be far away from his son.

 

Here in Zeze, Master Takesuke growing up,
often laughing, a sturdy lad, as sturdy as
he can be in his second year of life.
And Osome and the uba are without misfortune.

 

Basho’s praise for one-year-old Takesuke pleases Kyokusui because his young heir is the next generation, the next layer, of Kyokusui. The father is a samurai, but nowadays there is no fighting, and samurai have become government administrators. Kyokusui has little opportunity to be manly, and his son is growing up without father present. Basho reaches inside Kyokusui’s heart to reassure him that his son is showing adult traits, becoming a takumashii (strong, sturdy, vigorous) little samurai who can also laugh – just like Dad.

Although Kyokusui is a samurai, he feels feminine caring for his infant son, and Basho affirms these feelings

which most people at this time would consider un-samurai-like.  

 

15 months later, Basho back in Edo, Kyokusui at home in Zeze; Takesuke age two or three (by the Western count). Basho writes

 

In your letters you have not written me about Takesuke and the others.
He must be getting big and everyday his mischief extreme.

 

Basho recognizes that Takesuke in faraway Zeze is well into his “terrible twos” -- “No!” “No!” -- and he wants to know more. Basho’s observations of Takesuke, and his appreciation for Kyokusui’s feeling for his son, may be firsts in world anthropology. He focuses his attention on the infant along with the hopes of the father for his son and heir: how cool is that?

 

For New Years of 1693 Kyokusi was in Edo and visited Basho who managed to cook some zoni, vegetable soup with mochi dumplings, a traditional New Year’s dish. For New Years of 1694 Kyokusui is home with his family. Basho in Edo sends a letter on

 

That was a meager vegetable-mochi soup I served you.
This year at your house the uba fed you so much you got sick of it.

 

Zoni is traditionally served throughout the New Year season which lasts 20 days. Thus by the end of the First Moon, when this letter was written, one might be tired of zoni. We see that the uba—who probably was Kyokosui’s wet nurse—likes to overfeed her baby. Basho is kidding his friend.

 

p.s.   Takesuke becoming a big boy,
his little sister I have yet to meet,
I long to see them all.
And Osome, is she without misfortune?

 

When Basho last saw the family, there was only Osome and year old Takesuke. But another girl has been born and Basho longs to see them all and know how they are growing. He does, however, sound concerned about Osome’s health.

 

August 25, 1694, Takesuke is now about five. Basho writes another letter to Kyokusui:

 

These days the heat has been so oppressive.
Is Takesuke playing in good health?


Basho cares about Takesuke’s play for play is "what children do."

 

Uko’s baby daugter

Uko’s daughter was born in 1689, so by the time of the following letter from Basho to her, autumn of 1690, her daughter must be near her first birthday (in the Western sense. The Japanese did not “have birthdays” -- everybody just became one year older on New Year’s Day. Simple.)

 

                                           p.s. to  1690 Letter to Uko

 

May you raise Tei-chan without misfortune.
Yoshi from far away also says this to you.

 

Basho politely addresses the infant as Tei dono - “Little Miss Tei” - however he got the kid’s name wrong. Uko’s daughter is Sai. ‘Yoshi’ is short for Oyoshi, Basho’s little sister, now about 40. When Basho was in Iga at his house, Oyoshi asked him to take her best wishes to Uko and the baby; here Basho kindly delivers them. There are three persons in this postscript, all female. Basho pays attention to the energy passing from one female to another. Basho writes ‘like a woman’, with consciousness of women, children, and personal relationships.

 

                                        1691 Letter to Uko 

                                                                                   
 I would like to think Sai-chan is becoming obedient.


In the p.s. to the 1690 letter, Basho called Uko’s daughter “Tei.” In her response, Uko must have used the correct name, so in this letter Basho gets it right. If Sai was one then, in the year past she has entered the ‘terrible twos,’ that period when every waking moment is devoted to proving independence from mama. Japanese women today say the same about 2 or 3 year olds (otonashiku natta deshō).   We see Basho has observed this stage in infant development both in Takesuke and Sai.  He is an anthropologist.

 

An Abandoned Child

The Fuji River enters Sagami Bay where today two Stygian black smokestacks of a paper mill spew pollution into our view of Mount Fuji from train or highway. At the end of September, 1684, Basho and his follower Chiri were traveling west on this road:

 

As we come to the Fuji River, we find an abandoned child
only two years old crying pitifully.
Unable to bear the waves of this floating world,
since life is only waiting for the dewdrop to fall,
they abandoned their child to the rapids of this river.
Bush clover petals scatter one evening,
then by morning lie limp on the ground,
so from my sleeve, I toss some food as we pass by.

 

Basho says “I toss some food as we pass by” which sounds pretty callous ‐as if he were throwing scraps to a dog ‐ but these words are an idiom (like “raining cats and dogs”)that does not really mean what it says. Japanese language instructor Shoko says Basho’s real meaning (honne) here is “I’m sorry I cannot give the child any good food.” Basho scholar Imoto Noochi conveys, with great precision, the feeling in Basho’s heart:

 

“In his powerlessness he was overcome with self-recrimination.”

 

We must realize how absolutely powerless Basho and Chiri are in this situation. Neither has a cell phone, and there is no one to call. They have nothing—diapers, soft bland food, bedding—that this child needs. Traveling on foot they cannot carry a child with them. They have no house nearby where they can take care of her. Maybe you think they can carry the child door to door, asking folks to take her in. No. If they — two men, strangers in this village—did that, the people would consider the child their responsibility and be more likely to refuse.

 

What this child needs is simple: a woman with a home. Japanese villages are insular; the initiative to help the child must come from within the village. The best thing Basho and Chiri can do for this child is to give her some food and then go away, so the village women can go into action. This child is very small but has a powerful tool which Basho calls “crying pitifully.” That cry tugs at the heart of every woman hearing. But Japanese women will stay away as long as two strange men are nearby.

 

Beatrice Bodart-Bailey violates all logic in her contention that Basho “though he knew it would not survive the frost of night, he went on his way without further ado… Basho felt no twinge of conscience at passing, leaving the child to die.” An illustration by the 20th century woman artist Ogura Reiko presents another image of this scene. This is no isolated mountainside, but rather a village where major road meets large river. The time is late September; the weather pleasant both day and night; This is no helpless baby; at two years she can walk and run and speak a few words, her favorite being “No!” Abandoned by her mother, she may not take so well to two strange men in black robes who try to comfort her; the compassionate act, then, is to leave.

 

Bodart-Bailey says Basho was that “horrible man who left the child to die.” In her book on the shogun Tsunayoshi, she notes that three years after this incident, he promulgated an edict commanding villagers to take in and care for infants abandoned in the village. So if (IF!) Basho had encountered this child three years later than he did, she says “Basho’s conduct of doing no more than sharing his provision with a deserted child and recommending it to the Gods was now (she should have said “would now be”) a criminal offence”. No! The Edicts were commands, not laws; villagers were not convicted for non-obedience, unless the authorities had some other reason to prosecute them. Bodart-Bailey actually means it was a moral offence. I, however, fail to see how a command to the village to care for children abandoned within the village would apply to a traveler passing through the village.

 

With no knowledge of Basho’s works about children, of the affection he expresses for infants, and altogether no knowledge of Basho scholarship, she invents this derogatory conclusion. Basho and Chiri did not “leave the child to die.” They left the child to give her a chance to be taken in by a woman able to care for her. His compassion, together with his powerlessness, produced self-recrimination – so he accuses himself of being callous -- when in reality he was as kind and compassionate as possible in these particular circumstances.


To the ancient poets who sang of the pathos in monkey’s cries:

 

You hear the monkey,
what about this abandoned child
in the autumn wind?

 

So, Child, did Father hate or Mother reject you?
It is not that Father hated or Mother rejected.
This under heaven is the wretchedness
of your birth,and all you can do is cry.

 

He ends with the core idea of Japanese Buddhist determinism, the idea that there is a fate attached to our birth, and so shoganai, “it can’t be helped”, nothing can be done. Compassion, however, did flow in 17th century Japanese villages, so sometimes something could be done. Basho has given us a sketch of the dilemma that confronts us each time we encounter the poor or homeless; do I walk by and forget? Do I toss a few coins or a word of greeting to the person? Do I wish the government or a charity would do something? Or do I actually help the person?

 

                An 11 year old "priest of the road" 


Basho wants to view the site of an ancient battle from the nearby mountain:                      

 

      All the more yearning for long ago
      I decide to climb to the peak of Mount Tetsukai.
      The child who is my guide hates this idea
      and tries in many ways to distract me
      but I coax him with a promise to buy him
      a snack at the tea house below the mountain
      and he reluctantly gives his consent
 

Mount Tetsukai is only 777 feet, but very steep, and there is no hiking trail, no trail at all, which is probably why his young guide wishes not to climb it. The boy tries to con Basho out of the idea, giving various excuses, but Basho keeps on pushing, and finally wins him over with a promise to take him to the McDonalds at the base of the mountain when they get down.                                               

 

Looking like a four-year-younger brother
of a fellow in the village who said he was fifteen,
for hundreds of feet he goes ahead of me,
crawling up steep precipices twisting like sheep guts,
slipping and almost falling many times but grabbing
onto azalea bushes and bamboo grass roots.
Out of breath and covered with sweat,
eventually we pass through the gate of the clouds,
all due to the power of this Priest of the Road
whose heart at first was not into going.

 

Instead of simply telling us how old the kid looks, Basho gives us an arithmetic problem to figure out. He calls the boy a “priest of the road” who gave him the power to climb the mountain, although he did not want to go on this adventure in the first place.


The passage is a remarkable word-video of a Japanese 11-year-old in the 17th century dealing with an eccentric old geezer. Though the “traces” of ancient battles linger on this shore, Japan is now at peace, and this enterprising young lad can earn a few coins and a free meal by guiding tourists up the mountains near his home.  He has climbed in these hills scores of times with his friends – but never on this route.      He will have quite a story to tell them tomorrow. 

 

 

The “tiny princess”  in Tochigi

In Summer of 1689 Basho and Sora, on their journey to the Deep North, were lost among the fields of Kurobane on the Nasu plain. A kindly farmer loaned them his horse for them to follow as far as it would go, then let return on its own. The farmer’s two children came running after. Basho spoke to the little girl and was charmed.

 

Two little ones follow in the footsteps of the horse,
one a tiny princess who says her name is Kasane,
an unfamiliar name but a gentle one

 

This is a Time of Peace; small children are not afraid of strangers. We see Dad was doing childcare while farming. Kasane is fortunate to have a father like this. She said her name was Kasane: ka as in ‘cot,’ sa in ‘sock’ ne in “nest.” Kasane(ru) is ordinarily not a name, but rather an active verb, “to pile up in layers, one on top of another.” Furthermore, in the dimension of time, kasaneru is “to reoccur, again and again, in succession”.

The newborn girl in Zeze

Nine months later, in the Spring of 1690, Basho was in Zeze beside Lake Biwa. Someone in the neighborhood asked a Basho follower to arrange for the Master to choose a name for their newborn daughter. Basho remembers the Kasane in the Deep North, and passes her name on to another. The following haibun ending in a tanka are his prayer for his goddaughter’s happiness and longevity.

                                 

During my pilgrimage to the Deep North,
in one of the villages there was a little girl
who looked no more than five years old.
She was so small and indescribably charming
that I asked her name and she said Kasane.
What an interesting name!
In Kyoto rarely is it heard
so I wonder how has it passed down
and what is that “layers, again and again”?
“If I had a child this name she would receive”
I said in jest to my traveling companion
andnow unexpectedly, through an acquaintance
I have been called on to be Name-giving Parent.

 

The farmer and wife wanted a special name for their daughter, not just a name fashionable in the capital city. What were they thinking of when they linked her heritage and destiny to this lovely multi-faceted word? Without being biological parent, Basho gets the magical opportunity to give life through a name, and through a poem.

 

Spring passes by
again and again in layers
of blossom-kimono
may you see wrinkles
come with old age

 

Extensive commentary for this haibun and poem is article C-14 BLESSINGS UNTO KASANE,

C-8 BEING A BABY, and D-1 GIVING HOPE

 

Jirobei, Masa, and Ofu

In 1690, Basho’s nephew Toin lives near Basho’s hut with his “wife” Jutei and three children, a boy Jirobei, believed to be about 11, and two girls Masa and Ofu, 9 and 7. Sora also lives nearby. Basho in Zeze writes to him on October 13:

 

Tell them that between parent and child,
brother and sister, there should be no discord.

 

Basho apparently got a letter from Sora telling of conflict in the family. We get a hint of why, after Jutei’s death, Basho wrote that she had “no happiness” and her daughters “the same unhappiness.” Two months later, along with a letter to Kyokusui, Basho sent a package with this note:

 

The package marked “Toin” should be taken
to the little nuns of my retainer of long ago.

 

In 1676, 15 year old Toin accompanied his uncle to Edo and so can be called Basho’s “retainer of long ago.” When Basho was in Kyoto he, like everyone else, bought souvenirs for the folks at home, his grandnieces Masa and Ofu, whom he calls “little nuns” as a term of affection.

 

While I know this is a bother,
if you would have Seiroku deliver it –-
Kyobashi, Yumi block, to Ishimaru Kento –
it will be received with gratitude.

 

We see that “Ishimaru Kento” (an alias) lives with “two little nuns” who are apparently Jutei’s daughters Masu and Ofu; From this letter we see, vaguely but still clearly, that Toin and Jutei were 1) a couple and 2) fugitives. But even in a family of fugitives, little girls like to get presents from far away, especially presents from their granduncle Basho.

 

Toin died in the spring of 1693, and Basho allowed his son to stay part-time in his hut so he could give the fatherless boy some male rearing, and give Jutei, Masa, and Ofu some free time away from the young adolescent Jirobei  who just lost his father (or possibly step-father).  The next summer he took Jirobei on a long journey. Basho left Edo with his grandnephew so Jutei, sick with tuberculosis, could move into his three-room hut  and be nursed by her two daughters, believed to have been 13 and 11 at this time.  Not so great a solution, but the best they could do.

          The Final Journey 

 

Sora went with them 50 miles to Odawara and climbed to the barrier gate at Hakone Pass (elevation 2575 feet). From Hakone Pass, Sora returned to Edo while Basho and Jirobei continued west to Mishima in Suruga province (Shizuoka-ken). They arrived in Shimada the evening of the 7th, and the next day Basho sends this letter to Sora:

 

Thank you for your weary trek as far as Hakone.
Jirobei has learned a bit, and is doing well,
but by and by, his body gets exhausted, again and again.

 

Basho nowhere tells us his grandnephew’s age. Evidence suggests Jirobei was about 15 years old, able to move about nimbly and quickly, but without much endurance – until pushed by day-after-day of exertion to develop endurance (as in modern middle-school athletic clubs.) Basho the anthropologist.

 

Because the Oi River was flooding from the summer rain, Basho and Jirobei had to stop in Shimada on the eastern bank for three days.  Basho again describes Jirobei on this journey in another letter written a month later:

 

For three days Jirobei rested his legs
and my energy too was nourished,
so in happiness we encountered the water.
I wrote you before that Jirobei got exhausted.
Well, after his three-day rest
he became robust and really makes an effort.
However when returning horses are discounted,
for four or maybe five miles I let him ride.

 

“Thanks, Uncle!” People on one-way journeys rented the horse at one post-station, and left it at another, so it had to be returned anyway.

 

Another 60 miles down the road:

 

Then, just as we came upon the turnoff to Nagoya,
both his legs and shoulders became strong together,
His first journey continues to be praiseworthy.

 

Basho has noticed something very important about children and even teenagers: that they develop. They are not stuck with yesterday’s self. Given a few days of concentrated input, they change. In a few weeks of natural communication with local children, a “foreign” child will learn their language and speak it without an accent. After just ten days of Basho’s Boot Camp (even with a three-day furlough), Jirobei discovered an energy no one knew he had. He changed from being a wimpy 15 year old to a “robust” young man, who can just walk and walk, carrying a backpack, without tiring. Basho portrays the transformation of a child into a young man; “he legs and shoulder became strong together” so his body and brain developed as a whole. Basho is honored to accompany Jirobei on his journey into manhood.

 

Kyorai tells how in Nagoya Basho defended his new style of Lightness against followers accustomed to more traditional poetry:

 

To followers who had doubts about the style, he said

 

Only this, apply your heart to what children do.

 

Not what children say, or how children appear, but what children do (kodomo no suru koto). Children’s actions are whole – not split up by the conflicting parts of the adult self. Children see things invisible to an adult; lose a needle in the grass; ask a child to find it. Children can learn in minutes or days what adults cannot learn in months or years of practice. With their low ratio of body weight to surface area (their Lightness), flexible joints, and superlative sense of balance, they achieve what adults will not even attempt (skateboarding or ballet, for instance). Their small size allows them to take advantage of physical features and spaces adults do not notice. Basho would have agreed with George Nissen, who as a college student in 1934 invented the trampoline. Nissen said, to be creative: “You’ve got to watch kids. You learn from kids. And sometimes you have to act like a kid.”

 

Sampu owns a business so, like a modern shachō (company director), has a highly respected position in Japanese society. He financed the building of Basho’s three room “hut” in Fukagawa. Now in 1694, Basho is far away, traveling with Jutei’s son Jirobei. Jutei stays with her two daughters. The mother is sick in bed, so Masa and Ofu, believed to be 13 and 11, are in charge of the house. As we see below, two neighbors, Ihei and Basho’s cousin Torin, are keeping an eye on things. On July 13th from Zeze, Basho writes to Sampu:


I know sometimes you visit them in Fukagawa though,                           with Jutei being sick, your tea is not properly served.                                Since you are so busy you need not trouble yourself about them,               however make sure the girls follow Ihei and Torin’s instructions              to protect the house in my absence and are especially careful with fire.

 

We can learn so, so much about Japanese society here:

1)   The importance of serving tea “properly” to a guest, especially a VIP guest

2)    the involvement of neighbors in caring for a family in need

3)    the ability of young teenage girls to rise up and get the job done

4)    the concern about fire in a land of wooden houses

5)    Basho tells Sampu not to go to any trouble, then tells him to go to the trouble.

 

On July 24, Basho wrote a letter to Ihei, his neighbor in Fukagawa:

 

…and Ofu, with summer coming on, is she okay?
Please write and tell me all about her condition.

 

Basho only mentions Ofu, not Masa, so it appears the younger girl suffers from some health problem her sister is free of. The Japanese summer is mushi atsui, day after day of sultry, muggy heat which makes all health problems worse. (Just imagine there is no air conditioning anywhere.) Also in her house work -- as in villages worldwide today – the young teenage girls breathes in wood smoke full of particles that lodge in their lungs and cause “consumption” (tuberbulosis of the lungs). Basho is worried about his grandniece’s delicate health.

 

On July 23, in Basho’s hut, Jutei died. Basho’s neighbor Ihei notified Basho by a letter he received on July 29th. He wanted to send the 15-year old back to Edo to manage his mother’s affairs and see his sisters, but no one was available to escort the youth 300 miles to Edo and after he was done there, back to rejoin Basho. Two weeks later, on August 14, Basho notifies Sampu in a letter:

 

Jirobei is now on his way to Edo, two fellows,
Shiko and Izen, accompanying him, so there should be
no problems and you need not worry about him.

 

We see Basho actually cares about how the young teenager is doing.  Jirobei, in one summer,  traveled

from Edo to the Kansai, back to Edo, and again to Kansai, over a thousand miles mostly on foot.  

Jirobei, along with Shiko and Izen, rejoined Basho now in Iga in September. The four of them plus Oyoshi’s son Mataemon went with Basho to Nara for the Chrysanthem Festival, and then on to Osaka.

 

Just 16 days before his death, Basho wrote a letter to Kyokusui, in which he says

 

Moreover your children are without misfortune,
it is my pleasure to dedicate

 

The kanji for “dedicate” has a rather long reading; tatematsuru.Often when you enter a Shinto shrine, you will see stone markers with this kanji carved in, or it is inscribed on a torii entrance gate. We join Basho in his dedication to the “no-misfortune” of children.

 

    On his deathbed

On his death bed at a boarding house in Osaka, four days before the end, Basho chose two teenagers, his grandnephew Jirobei and an Osaka youth named Donshu, to attend him. Shiko tells us in his diary:

 

As night grows late Basho calls to Donshu who has been nursing him          and we hear the sound of rubbing on an inkstone, so we wonder           what is going on in there.

 

Shiko is not in the room and records what he hears through the wall: The stick of India ink being rubbed in the well of an ink stone, so Basho’s haiku is written down by a teenage boy.


In sickness:

 

On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

 

We cannot know what Donshu thought about Basho's poem.  He probably felt honored to be the one who  recorded Basho's death poem - however this was not the final haiku Basho wrote, for when he awoke the next day, Basho dictated another poem to Shiko

 

Clear cascade
into the ripples fall
green pine needles

 

 See E-9 FIVE FINAL HAIKU for furthur commentary.

 

A day and a half later, Basho dictated his Will to Shiko:

 

The two persons remaining have lost their direction
and must be upset. Please consult with Old Kosai
and others to make a proper decision for them.

 

The “two persons remaining” are Masa and Ofu, now orphans. On his death bed Basho cares about how his grandnieces will manage.  Basho cares.  

 

                          From the Diary of Kagami Shiko, November 28, 1694

 

Realizing that today would be Basho’s final moments,
the followers stay in the next room saying not a word,
while attending to the left and right of his sickbed
are only Donshu and Jirobei. Concerned that these two children
might have trouble hearing Basho, Shiko watches from behind.”


Ten followers are here, but Basho only allows the two teenagers to attend him.

Notice how Shiko patronizes them.

 

“Basho opens his eyes around noon and looks
around the room. Understanding what he wants,
they give him some rice gruel and help him sit up
and he moistens his lips with it.
The day is warm as if the sky of a small spring
were returning and Basho is annoyed by flies
gathering around the white shoji panels,
so they go to catch them with bird-mochi
stuck to bamboo poles.”

 

It is one of those warmish days in early winter when already spring seems coming back to us. All other insects have died from the night cold, but flies are somehow tougher. Tori-mochi is the sap from the mochi tree, a type of ilex or holly stuck around the end of a bamboo pole to make a fly (or bird) catcher. Instead of waiting for the fly to come to the sticky, you swing the sticky at the fly. To flick the fly before it flies away requires stillness-in-motion, a talent Basho learned growing up in Iga, famous throughout Japan as a training center for ninja. So here we are, Basho’s final words describing the activities of two teenage boys.

 

Basho is amused to note that some are skillful
and others not and he says with a smile:

 

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

 

to melt his attendants’ hearts with happiness.

 

Basho maintains Lightness to the very end. The flies “sure” (-rame) “enjoy” (yorokobu) “having” (yadosu) him the way you “have” or “keep” a pet. Basho is the flies’ pet, and they enjoy flying around in the smell of his infection and diarrhea. Even in his final words Basho uses lively specific verbs to create humor. His comment so light and playful, and he is smiling, so his attendants assume he is not about to give up the ghost at this particular moment, so they continue swinging bamboo swords at flies.

 

“After this, he says nothing more and passes away,
leaving each of us bewildered,
thinking it not yet his final parting”

 

And that’s when he slips away, the ninja from Iga.

 






<< Teenagers -- Commentaries to #s 71 - 105 (C-11) (C-13) Journey with Grandnephew >>


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