Basho's thoughts on...
• 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-18


Kids in Japanese Literature before Basho

Okura, Tsurayuki, Shonagon, Murasaki,

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

My thesis that Basho is the Poet of Children -- rather than the poet of old men -- can only be sustained by comparison with the children portrayed by authors and poets before Basho. In article C-19 are the children in Western Literature; in the present article, the children in Japanese literature from the 7th century to the 12th.  The Western playwrights heap tragedy on children who suffer and often die, right on stage.  The Japanese do not do this so much, and Basho’s images are mostly happy and uplifting.  We learn that children and their caregivers long ago behave and felt much the same as they do today.

 

We can read for hundreds of pages in classical Japanese literature and see no mention of young children anywhere -- however one male poet 1000 years prior to Basho, Yamanoue no Okura (666 – 730) did pay attention to children. Edwin Cranston says, “With Okura Japanese poetry begins to develop themes outside the traditional trinity of love, death, and divinity…” Okura “staked out new ground” writing poetry of “family life and social concern.” Here are two of Okura’s tanka written in succession:


In rich houses
children have more clothes
than they can wear,
rotting and thrown away
padded garments of silk

 

Unable to clothe
my children even in
rough handspun
All I can do is
sigh in helplessness

 

The contrast of decadent wealth versus impoverished degradation is enhanced by vivid adjectives – “rotting and thrown away,” “helpless” –and pictorial nouns – “padded garments. . . silk … handspun.” Cranston explains that Japanese poets after Okura made no effort to follow his focus on “family life and social concern” – for like all scholars, he knows not the

“social subject matter” and “compassionate intuition” in Basho’s linked verses. We may see traces of Okura’s social consciousness :

 

The crying child’s
face is such a mess

Renting a room
they make no fire
to boil rice

 

The parents do not wipe the snot off their kid’s face, so germs produce skin infection and pus smeared together with dirt and tears. So where does Basho go from here? They seem to be transients who do not go to the trouble of maintaining a fire in the sunken hearth for the hour or more it takes to boil rice. Instead of eating “meals” (which in Japan means with rice) they live on snack foods high in salt and saturated fat. The snotty-faced kid does not get much in the way of nutrition. The observations of the two poets resonate across time and culture.

 

Majestic Chinese
gables on tile roof
of a herbalist

A child well-treated
should not be skinny

 

This dealer in medicinal herbs is so prosperous his house has a roof of heavy ceramic tiles (most houses at this time had roofs of thatch). The Chinese gables at the ends are most impressive; they make the place look like a temple. Growing up in a rich house, where knowledge of herbal remedies and their use is second-nature, why is this child so sickly? Basho creates the question, but gives no hint of an answer. Such is life; we can only observe but never understand.

 

Okura’s headnote to the following ‘long poem’ describes the love of Prince Siddhartha for his son Rahula born before he left society to search for enlightenment. As Buddha he gave up all attachments except for that one, for “even the greatest sage still loves his child.”

 

Eating melons I think of my children,
eating chestnuts I miss them all the more.
From where come these images
incessantly passing before my eyes,
banishing peaceful sleep

 

A father eats the foods his children enjoyed, as Cranston says “swallowing his grief with each bite. . . The image of fruit and nuts… lends Okura’s verse the savor of a sorrow that gathers in the mouth, juicy like tears, gritty like sand, sweet and flavorful and impossible to forget.” Cranston notes the physical-ness of Okura, the way images of food taste in the reader’s mouth, bringing a deep, deep sorrow. Basho too grounded many poems on physical body and food imagery: for instance the rice-less diet of the snotty child, and the malnourished body of a wealthy child.


Parallel construction, as in “eating melons” and “eating chestnuts,” is common in Basho: for instance this passage in a letter to Ensui Basho recalls two foods at a picnic long ago in his hometown:


Scallions in vinegar-miso dressing,
boiled horsetails dipped in soy sauce,
these are what I most remember

 

Okura wrote this verse “on leaving a banquet”

 

Okura must now depart
his children are crying
and their mother waits for him

 

Out of sound is out of mind, and so men at parties and banquets give no thought to the problems that might be occurring at home. Okura recognizes the needs of his wife and children even when he cannot hear them. He thinks from their point of view, as he goes home to give her some relief. This in the 8th century.


Basho also feels the loneliness of the wife while her husband is out and about.


From emaciated breasts
squeezing tears of dew

In his absence
meal tray placed inside
mosquito net

 

Still sick and weak from a difficult delivery, she provides sustenance for a new life. As she sits nursing the baby in her arms, “tears of dew” are her tears falling on the baby, the thin watery fluid coming from her malnourished breasts, the summer sweat between two feverish bodies, the utter misery of their existence – while the father is… She and baby sleep inside the net to keep away bugs, but here she sits inside to eat and nurse the baby. her world reduced to the smallest dimensions, as small as her hopes for herself and her baby, as miniscule as his concern for their welfare.

 

Ki no Tsurayuki in his Tosa Diary (935) takes on the persona of various people on the boat returning to their home in the Capital, although he wrote every verse himself. A parent returning home after a five year absence speaks of a child who died while the family was away.


She was born
but shall not return
to our home
where the young pines
we watch in sadness

 

Basho, like Tsurayuki, uses ordinary words to evoke deep human feelings. The following renku trio refers to Tsurayuki’s tanka


How many moons
shall young pines be hidden
in your belly?

Asking beside the cliff
servant girl does not reply

Clear water flows
on the shore, will you stand
against the current?

 

Basho asks a question of a woman drank herbs to induce abortion. “Young pines” evoke the memories of a child who has died. Here, how long will the spirit of the child never born remain within you? Issun sends Basho’s question to a servant girl, adding a bit of yet deepening the secrecy. Basho then asks her another personal and intimate question: “Will you yield to the hormones urging you to produce more life?

 

On a day the weather prevents the boat from leaving  harbor, the bereaved mother stands on the boat looking down at the shore with scattered gray-and-white clam shells known as “forgetting shells.”

Many were the beautiful shells and stones on the beach,
and thinking only of her love for the one long ago, the woman recited:

 

Waves breaking
oh keep on breaking,
Shall I go down
to gather shells to forget
the one I adored?

 

Unable to endure, to give heart to the boat, he replied

 

Instead of shells
for forgetting her,
a white pearl
shall be the token
for us to remember

 

The woman knows that nothing can alter the breaking of the waves, nor can anything lessen the grief she feels for      the loss of her daughter. She wishes to remain immersed in grief, while the man wants to escape from that grief while still remembering her. He creates an image of perfection, a white pearl, to focus on in recalling her.


Basho also relies on physical occurances and sensations to evoke deep human feelings.

 

Till the embers
are quenched tears
sizzling sound

 

But along with grief in the Tosa Diary are also lighthearted observations supposedly by people on the boat. In the poems said to be by children, we see Tsuryuki’s vision of a child’s thought s. All are anxious to get on their way back to their home in the Capital, but bad weather keeps the boat at a harbor known as Hane which means “wing.” Also they are worried about rumors of pirates lurking on their route. Another little girl speaks out:


If in truth
this place be called
“Birdwing”
may to the Capital
be just like flying

 

Yes! The mind of a small child – the name of the location magically becomes what she wants, a way to fly home free and easy. Tsurayuki’s observations of child perception and concept construction are unique in world literature – until Basho portrayed the child’s mind in numerous verses such as this haiku about the call of the little cuckoo:

 

Ho-toto-GI-su  
singing, singing, flying
oh so busy!

 

Tsurayuki wrote

 

Do I hear
some relationship?
In yellow roses
the croaking of frogs
may be smelled

 

 

Lotus fragrance
smelled through the eyes –
the mask‘s nose

 

A mask used in Noh drama has a tube going downward from the eyes through the nose, so the actor can see the stage around his feet -- so the actor can smell through his eyes – or see through his nose?? Whatever.

 

According to the story, this is by a young boy, about eight years:

 

As I watch
from the boat rowing by,
do the pines
know their foot-weary
mountains also move?

 

This is a question we all ask when we are young, often when looking out the window on a train.

Basho portrays a similar illusion on horseback.

 

Base of Fuji
wearing a conical hat
riding a horse

 

The round conical hats of East Asian farmers, worn to ward of rain and snow as well as sun and wind, have about the same shape as Mount Fuji. Either I or the mountain wears a conical hat, either I or the mountain ride the horse.Either I bounce up and down from the movement of the horse, or the multimillion ton mountain moves up and down from the movement of my eyes.

 

Sei Shonagon and later Basho observe the crawling of babies:

 

A small child of one or two crawling in a hurry,
with sharp eyes finds a speck of dust, picks it up with cute fingers,
and shows to an adult. This is most adorable.

 

On straw mat
we are stuck with unsold
market greens

Crawling baby manages
to snatch rice from tray

 

A family at market has unsold produce they have to carry home. The individual’s meal was served on several dishes on a small tray on legs, about 18 inches square and 9 inches high. Basho portrays infant motor development; the child reaching up onto the 9-inch-high tray is a developmental milestone on the road to standing.


Flawless blue
fabric spreads over
the large yard

Infant crawls about,
getting ‘that place’ dirty

 

At the home-and-shop of a cloth dyer, we see an expanse of fabric dyed indigo blue with no other colors, designs, blemishes anywhere. The baby crawls about here and there, sometimes sitting to explore what she finds.sometimes scooting about on his bottom. Miyawaki notes that the “dirt” on “that place” may be poop, or dirt from the earth, or dust from the house, or - especially in this house - the residue of dyestuffs in any color; any or all of these could be there on the derriere.   I love the contrast of immaculate blue fabric with haphazard collection of whatnot on this soft chubby tush. Basho actually wrote a poem about a baby's rear end. To get the link to the blue fabric stanza, we need a mind as bizarre and fun-loving as his.


 

First on Shonagon’s list of “what is adorable” is “the face of a child drawn on a melon.” In this era little girls in summer drew a face with black ink or face-powder on a melon and attached to a stick with two-color strings to make a hanging toy.


Adorable
on the princess-melon
Empress-to-be

 

Basho links the name of the melon with the ‘little princess’ who will someday marry the Crown Prince. He shows us  a little girl’s plaything, a picture she drew of her idol, the little girl of royal blood whose fairytale dream comes true. She feels about it the way little girls today feel about pictures of their idols in music, movies and royal families. How adorable.

 

More observations from the Pillow Book:

 

Such a pretty baby, as I hold her in my arms,
she clings to my neck and falls asleep.
Oh how I long to help her.

 

A boy of 7, 8, maybe 9 years in his childish voice
reading aloud from a classical work is indeed lovely.

 

Frivolously, children come by.
With appreciation for their childness,
I give them interesting things.
They get used to this and come regularly, settling down, 
and scattering my household utensils, how hateful.

 

 

As lady-in-waiting to the Empress, Murasaki Shikibu observed royal and aristocratic children, and she populated her Tale of Genji with with numerous children. In the first few pages, Genji is born, and every character who sees the infant praises his beauty – but the author fails to give us any images of baby Genji doing anything.


By Chapter V she has developed her writing talents to the point where she vividly portrays the humanity of nine year old Murasaki:


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. ..

 

Murasaki lives with her grandmother who is a nun and adopted the child when her mother – the nun’s daughter – died:


Her face was flushed from weeping.
“What is it?” the nun looked up. “Another fight?”…
“Inuki let my baby sparrows loose.”
The child was very angry. “I had them in a basket.”
“So childish!” said the nun. “I can’t be sure I will last out the day
and here you are worrying about sparrows.
I’ve told you many times it’s a sin to put birds in a cage.
Come here.”

 

The child knelt down beside her.
“I worry about you, you do seem so very young.
Your mother was more grown up at your age….
What will become of you when I am gone?” She was crying.
The girl gazed attentively at her and then looked down.
The hair that fell over her forehead was thick and lustrous.

 

The little girl actually has a character worthy of attention.  Notice the focus on hair. 

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 was leaning against an armrest, demure and pretty,
like a nadeshiko, he thought, with the dew fresh on it. . .

 

The nadeshiko, a delicate frilled carnation, sweetly scented, with five deeply

cut fringed petals, has since ancient times been a symbol for the loveliness of

young Japanese women: Basho wrote.

 

Everyone of you
in nadeshiko time

 

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.

 

Every theme in the passages from the Genji appears in the following trio: the young girl’s beauty and charm, long hair and difficulty combing it, age and maturity, her doll play along with her skill on a stringed instrument.


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

Harp held in her hand
heavy upon her lap

 

 

She has been sick for many days, forbidden to wet her hair because this might bring on more sickness.

Her hair has grown tangled and messy, so passing a comb through it is painful. Girls today may appreciate her hair’s “distress.” 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.


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.


Genji’s young daughter, the Akashi princess, is compared to the slender edge of pink blossom appearing as a flower bud starts to open.

 

The Princess so pure, only the bud tip green, 
shows who she will become

 

Murasaki understood genetics well enough to realize that the “bud tip" of baby girl contains the information which will blossom into a whole and unique woman.


In Iga, before he left town in 1672, young Basho applied Murasaki’s flower/baby image of “only the bud tip green” to the slender edge of crescent moon on the third evening of the lunar month, emerging from the darkness of no moon on the first two nights.


An image seen –
still an edge emerging
evening moon

 

The slender white crescent of moon is the infant form, the seed,the “bud tip” which will grow into the enormous shining globe dominating the night sky at mid-month.


For New Years of 1693 Basho received a letter from Ensui with a haiku telling of the birth of Ensui’s first grandchild, a girl:


New Year’s Day
still an edge emerging
plum blossom

 

Ensui took the phrase “only the bud tip green” from the Tale of Genji and also from Basho’s haiku of two decades before, and applied it to his infant granddaughter emerging from the womb, and also to the New Year emerging from winter. In the Tale, the Akashi Princess does become the Empress, so we see Ensui

had high hopes for his granddaughter.

 

Basho responded in a letter on April 4th of that Spring.

 

The plum blossom "only the bud tip green"
shall be all the more treasured.
I am happy you have a grandchild,
my joy as great as yours.

 

‘Her immaturity just shows that the best is yet to come. Basho links his heart with Ensui, matching his joy with his own. He recognizes and affirms Ensui’s positive feelings about the newborn female; he says it is okay for Ensui to treasure her. (this in Asia where infant females were, and sometimes now are

allowed to die). We cannot read this letter without feeling the warmth in Basho’s heart. He expresses it so clearly.


Ten months passed. For the New Year of 1694, Basho sent another letter to his oldest friend:


In the spring of last year the scent of plum blossoms
I heard of ‘only the bud tip green,’ this year gradually
shall become fragrant and colorful,
so I guess how much you love her.

 

The whole tree will become gorgeous, as the infant who can now stand by herself goes out into the world. Basho again links his heart with Ensui’s, feeling Ensui’s love for the baby in his own chest. Both Ensui and Basho, two Asian men in the 17th Century, praise the life of a newborn female. They seem to have

not gotten the message that girls can be ignored in favor of boys.

 

The following haiku is not in the letter to Ensui, however was written this spring, apparently after Basho mailed the letter but was still thinking about his old friend having a granddaughter.

 

Plum blossom scent
Behold the sun rises
On mountain trail

 

February the coldest time of the year, early morning the coldest time of the day, the mountains colder and windier than anywhere else, yet wild plum blossoms are colorful and fragrant. Of course, this haiku is fine by

itself, without referring to Ensui's granddaughter, however if we look at the haiku along with Basho’s and Ensui’s poems, the passage from the Genji, and Basho’s letters to Ensui, it becomes more and more likely that both “plum blossom” and “sun rises” represent Ensui’s granddaughter emerging from the womb. Because the major symbol for the entire nation is the rising Sun, and in Japan the Sun is a Goddess,

and because last spring and again this spring Basho’s heart traveled to Ensui’s granddaughter, the

haiku beckons us to such an interpetation. 

 

Basho wrote this provocative stanza of renku:

 

Plump and healthy
the young son sitting
on the lap

 

A picture of chubby baby boy in an advertisement for baby food: we are certain this male child is getting the best. His sisters may not fare so well. Basho is not condoning preferential treatment for male babies; rather he is photographing what he sees, for us to judge. In his letters to Ensui, he says with complete and utter clarity: Cherish the female as well.

 

For those who love children, the chapter of the Genji to read is #37, “The Flute”. First we meet the infant Kaoru, son of Genji’s youngest wife. Bamboohoots emerge in summer to be boiled and cut into bite-sized chunks.


Able to walk a few steps, the boy tottered up to a bowl of boiled bamboo shoots.
He bit at one and, having rejected it,scattered them in all directions….
Just cutting his teeth, the boy had found a good teething object.
he dribbled furiously as he bit at a bamboo shoot.

 

Murasaki Shikibu, like an anthropologist, pays attention to a small child for some time without the child suffering, dying, or in danger; she observes ordinary infant behavior so we can see that babies 1100 years ago were like babies today.


From Murasaki’s image, Basho creates:

 

Boiled bamboo shoots
a baby’s drool dribbling
dew on bamboo grass

 

Exploring wetness: Yummy bamboo shoots mixing with saliva in my mouth, drool dripping from Kaoru’s mouth in the Tale of Genji, morning dew on the countless large flat leaves of bamboo grass growing over lowlying dew-covered ground; the profusion of “b” and “d” and “l” sounds – all from the lips – accumulating in a drippy, dribbly feeling.


Kaoru is believed to be Genji’s child, though in the infant’s face, his uncle Yugiri sees traces of the true father, his deceased friend Kashiwagi:

 

The boy came running out.
He had on a single robe of deep purple.
The fair skin glowed, and there was in the round little
figure, something, an extraordinary refinement…
there was remarkable strength in the eyes,
and the arch of the eyebrows reminded him very much
of Kashiwagi, and that sudden glow when he laughed….

 

Yujiri describes the reflection of father’s face in the child’s with all the clarity and precision of Gregor Mendel observing peas to discover the laws of genetics.  Descent through the male line is fascinating. 

 

Basho also describes the effects of genetic inheritance on the human face: In the Buddhist society of Japan a younger son unlikely to inherit the household might be given to a temple to become a monk.


The Priest sends away
my ordinary clothing

That my face
resembles my mother’s
fascinates


The priest in charge sends the clothing I will no longer need to my former home; from now on, I will only wear monk’s robes. As my clothing goes back to my mother, so do my thoughts. Even as I “leave the world,” she continues to be part of me. My face is made from the same genes as her face, so of course they are similiar; this is fascinating – in Japanese, yukashi, “attracting me to it.” Descent through the female line also is fascinating.

 

Most wonderful of the children in the Tale of Genji all is this scene of Genji’s two royal grandsons along with Yugiri who is their uncle: they call him their “General.”

 

….the Third Prince, now three, the prettiest
of Genji’s royal grandchildren came running up.
“If you’re going over there, General, take my royal highness with you.”

Yugiri smiled at the immodest language.
“If you wish to go. But am I to walk past a lady’s curtains
without a by-your-leave? That would be very rude.”

“No one will see. Look, I’ll cover my face. Let’s go, let’s go.”

He was charming covering his face with his sleeves.
The two of them went off to the Akashi princess’s apartments.
The Second Prince was there, as was Kaoru.
Genji was fondly watching them at play.
Yugiri deposited the Third Prince in a corner,
where the Second Prince discovered him.
“Carry me too, General,” he commanded.
“He’s my general,” objected the Third Prince, refusing to dismiss him.

 

Murasaki portrays the weird trippy logic of small children’s thinking in her era or ours. 

 Shonagon shows us children’s actions in brief tidbits, whereas Murasaki goes further with psychologically detailed scenes. Basho and his followers in renku also portrayed the qualities of children that defy and confound adult norms:


At New Years
we bring along our
little buggers

Though meaning we hide
they stand and listen

 

On 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 brought the kids along with us, but really they did not want to go.

but how much do these highly attentive language sponges pick up? 

 

As the character Murasaki approachs death, the author has her interact with a small child who she raised:

 

Little Niou, the prettiest of them all, seemed to be everywhere at once.
Choosing a moment when she was feeling better and
there was no one else with her, she seated him before her.
“I may have to go away. Will you remember me.”
“But I don’t want you to go away.” He gazed up at her,
and presently he was rubbing at his eyes, so charming
that she was smiling through her tears. “I like my granny,
better than Father and Mother. I don’t want you to go away.”
“This must be your own house when you grow up.
I want the rose plum and the cherries over there to be yours.
You must take care of them and say nice things about them,
and sometimes whenyou think of it you might put flowers on the altar.”
He nodded and gazed up at her, and then abruptly,
about to burst into tears, he got up and ran out.

 

Okura introduced social consciousness into Japanese poetry, then Tsurayuki introduced consciousness of the child’s mind. Shonagon goes beyond these two men to portray the child in self-determined action, but she does this only in short bits. Murasaki Shikibu gives us fully developed scenes in which children speak and express their psychological reality.

 

Among the many uniquenesses of The Tale of Genji is that in this vast narrative of four generations, an endless variety of events occur yet without war, bloodshed, natural or man-made disasters. Lady Murasaki could write this way because Japan was at peace under the rule of the aristocratic Fujiwara clan of which she was a member.


A century later, the aristocrats lost power to military clans, so from the 12th century, war destroyed the lives of children. In the Tale of the Heike mpiled before 1330) the teenage Atsumori plays his flute for his family’senjoyment, then the next day is killed on the beach because he forgot toring that flute; Basho’s  sums up Atsumori’s story is the haiku IN THE SHADE; see Dreams of War / Light of Peace.

 

The 15th century anonymous chronicle Yoshitsune contains the story of Yoshitsune’s wife giving birth on the forest floor but when this baby is three she and her parents are all die in suicide. In both stories, a scene of humanity is followed by violent death. The chronicle also tells of Yoshitunse going to visit the home of the Sato brothers who both died protecting Yoshitsune. He speaks with warmth and humanity to the young sons, telling each what his father did to save Yoshitsune, hoping he will grow to be as brave; then their

grandmother gives a speech seconding Yoshitsune – yet throughout all this, the boys may as well be inanimate objects; they never speak or act; their consciousness is never portrayed.

 

Children rarely appear in history or literature unless they are royal or get killed. Authors (except for Tsurayuki and Shonagon and Murasaki) set us up with a lovely scene of child life, then shock us with

that child’s death. Death makes the account of a child interesting enough to become literature – until  Basho came along to praise the life of children in more than 100 poems.


A rather strange passage appears in Yoshida Kenko’s Essays in Idleness (1330): following is Donald Keene’s translation:


“A fierce looking brute of a soldier once asked a companion
‘Do you got any kids?’
‘Not one” replied the other.
“Then,” said the soldier, ‘I don’t suppose you know what deep feelings are.
You probably haven’t a drop of warmth in you. That’s a frightening thought.
It’s having children that makes people understand the beauty of life.”

 

The story contradicts our stereotypes of people based on their appearance. We do not expect a “fierce looking brute” to love and respect children. Kenko says no more about this gentle warrior, so all we can do is wonder – however we can find the same sentiment in Basho:


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

 

The words of Jesus may help us understand Basho’s meaning.

 

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin.
And yet I say unto thee that even Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

 






<< Child and Teen Welfare (C-17) (C-19) Kids in Western Literature until Shakespeare >>


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...
• 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