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-16


Abandoned Child

2 renku, 2 haiku, and one haibun about these poor children.

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

Basho's compassionate account of the abandoned child he met in 1684 has been misunderstood so the compassion is lost.  In this article, I try to repair the damage done with a dose of reality. 

 

 

Parents in Japan, as well as in other societies, abandoned infants. Although the child might survive if taken up by others and have a better life than the parents would have provided, still this is oftenconsidered a form  of infanticide—as described by the Roman Christian philosopher Tertullian: "it is certainly the more cruel way to kill. . . by exposure to cold and hunger and dogs". Tertullian, however, was speaking about ancient Rome. In 17th century Japan conditions were more cruel, or more kind - according to which sources you follow. Some tell us abandoned children were a frequent sight along roads, suggesting that the Japanese were a cruel and heartless people. Others say abandoned children were reported to the village leader who would to find a home to take in the child. In this chapter are Basho’s observations of this problem which occurs in all societies where support for mothers and infants is insufficient. 

 

In Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, King Leontes claims that his Queen committed adultery and her newborn daughter was not his: He goes on, insanely, to Antigones.


We enjoin thee, as thou art liege-man to us,
that thou carry this female bastard hence
and that thou bear it to some remote
and desert place quite out of our dominions,
and that there thou leave it,
Without more mercy, to its own protection
And favour of the climate.

 

These people were rich. More often children are abandoned because there is no way to feed the child, nothing that a baby can eat – or because a mother cannot live without working, and cannot work while taking care of a baby. Basho gave us this image:


Wearing frost,
the wind for a bedcover
abandoned child

 

A layer of frost coats the ground as a bitter wind whips by. This child may not be ‘real’ but instead be part of a metaphor, a poetic expression for the feeling in the actual frost and wind. In Basho’s time, however, and our time as well, children do sleep without adequate shelter or blankets; this child huddling for warmth

can be as real to us as our hearts allow.

 

Wind from the pines
blows steadily on and on
past midnight

There’s an abandoned child”
reports the gatekeeper

 

Shiko sets the place, near pine trees; the weather –the wind blows zun zun, continuously, not so strong a wind, but it never lets up -  and the time. Nowhere does Shiko say anything about human life. Basho follows with an abundance of humanity – not only the child and the gatekeeper, but also the one who left the child outside the temple or mansion and snuck away in the dark, and the narrator, either a priest or owner of the mansion woken up by the gatekeeper - all these people are contained in Basho’s words.


Who abandoned this child? Why? Will the priest or mansion owner take in the child? We contrast the inconstancy of the parents with the steadiness of the chilly wind. Basho wrote of compassion

for these children:

 

The aged nun has
  a story to tell

Filled with pity,
her message to rescue
abandoned child

A deer pulls the sleeve
of someone in the village

 

 

 The first poet provides an empty space with boundaries – the aged nun and her enthusiasm in telling the story – with no story content. Basho fulfils this vision within the boundaries set.  The old Buddhist nun recalls a night long ago when she commanded a temple servant to go out and rescue that baby crying. Buddhism tells us to let go of attachments and accept the passage of life and death – but this nun chose instead to rescue a life. She feels the glory of her deed. 

 

Kikaku transfers the compassion in Basho’s stanza to a deer – probably female -- who found the abandoned child in the mountains, and was “filled with pity” for this baby of another species.  Realizing her absolute inability to do anything to help, she walked, carrying compassion with her, to a village where she chose a human being with a warm heart, and pulled on her sleeve, to get her to come up to where the child was.  (Could this really happen?) 

 

The poet places the “pity” and “message to rescue” from Basho’s stanza into an entirely different species and reality, so compassion transcends the barriers between us and another life form. This stanza by Kikaku embodies the spirit of renku. The connection between aged nun and compassionate deer, like a riddle, is Kikaku’s mastery – and we note that Basho set this up for him. 

 

 The Fuji River flows on the west side of the mountain and 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 something like “I’m sorry     I cannot give the child any good food.” Basho scholar Imoto Noochi conveys, with great precision,

the feeling in Basho’s Japanese 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.

They are traveling on foot and 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 she has a powerful tool which Basho calls “ crying pitifully.” That cry tugs at the heart of every woman within hearing distance. 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 gave the child some food; but 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 a major road meets a large river. The time is late September; the weather pleasant both day and night; there will be no frost for at least another month. 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.

 

In my phone conversation with Bodart-Bailey, she clearly expressed her view that 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-obeyiance. Bodart-Bailey actuallly means it was a moral offence. I, however, fail to see how a command to the village to care for abandoned children 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 this situation.

 

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?

And what can I do that will actually help?

 

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Learning to Read with Basho (C-15) (C-17) Child and Teen Welfare >>


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