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-19


Kids in Western Literature until Shakespeare

children and teenagers in the Odyssey and ancient Greek tragedies, Canterbury Tales, and six plays by Shakespeare, along with comparable images from Basho.

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-18 are the children in Japanese literature from the 7th century to the 12th. In the present article, the children in Western Literature; I have removed from the passages sections about  people and places not relevant to the children in the passage, focusing on the children. 

 

In the Odyssey (8th Century BCE)

Telemachus is  one young person in ancient literature fully portrayed with self-determined action and speech, and one of the few who does not die in tragedy. A baby when Odysseus left to fight in Troy, he grew up without his father, and has every reason to believe him dead. The adolescent Telemachus whines and complains about his lot:

 

I should not have sorrowed so over his dying
if he had gone down among his companions
in the land of the Trojans, so all the Achaians
would have heaped a grave mound over him,
and he would have won great fame for himself
and his son hereafter. But now ingloriously
the storm winds have caught and carried him away,
out of sight, out of knowledge,
and he left pain and lamentation to me.

 

Compare Telemachus’ attitude about his father’s death to that of the 18 year old in this Basho renku pair:

 

After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen --

Day and night dreams
of Father in that battle

 

Father died in war when I was small, and I have grown up under the weight of that grief. Now, in the prime of youthful vigor, I look back over those years of dreams constantly reverting to that one moment on a battlefield I have never seen in reality.

 

Sometimes Telemachas was disrespectful to his own mother. He orders Penelope about and disregards her opinion. At one point he tells her:

 

Mother, go back to your quarters.
Tend to your own tasks, the distaff and the loom
and keep the women working hard as well.
As for giving orders, men will see to that, but I most of all:
I hold the reins of power in this house.

 

Mothers of teenage sons may laugh, or cringe, at this portrait of adolescent male hormones in action. Let us compare Basho's grandnephew Jirobei. The boy was about 14 when his father, Basho's nephew Toin died in 1693.  There is very little information about Jirobei before 1694, but we know he was living with his mother

who was ill and his two sisters, Masa and Ofu, about 12 and 10. We imagine that Jirobei  became more troublesome when he turned 14, living in cramped quarters with three females, one old and dying, and the other two around puberty, and his father dead. Sounds at risk to me.

 

Basho took care to relieve the tension in Jutei’s house. In 1693, he brought Jirobei to live part-time with him. And the next summer he took Jirobei on a long journey With Basho and Jirobei on the road, 13 year old Masa and 11 year old Ofu had to care for their dying mother and also do housework – but it would have been even more difficult for them if they also had to deal with their adolescent brother. We would be mistaken to expect him to do much work around the house – and might be surprised at the trouble he could cause in the Big City. Taking Jirobei away from Masa and Ofu was another Basho act of salvation to his nephew’s family.

 

As he goes on long journeys, Telemachus becomes stronger and more independent until by end of the story he equals his father in manhood. Jirobei also became a man on his journey with his granduncle: Basho says in a letter to Sora:

 

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.

Then, just as we came upon the turnoff to Nagoya

both his legs and shoulders became strong together

 

 

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 with their 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.  “His legs and shoulders became strong together,” are simple physical words which express whole-body development  coming from integration of the whole brain. The final sentence is very beautiful:


His first journey continues to be praiseworthy.

 

Basho feels honored to accompany Jirobei as he becomes a man. 

 

           Antigone and Cassandra

Telemachas is the outstanding teenage boy in Greek drama, and Antigone the ultimate teenage girl. 

When her uncle, Creon, who has become king, refuses to allow her brother a proper buriel, she defies the law, buries her brother, and is caught.  She claims that the gods want his buriel, and he puts the will of the gods ahead of man-made laws, responding with courage, passion and determination seen in some young girls of today.

 

Many of the problems in understanding this play disappear when you realise that Antigone is a very young girl. Thus Antigone should be thought of as a 15 year old at most, and possibly as much younger (12 or 13). Her behaviour - wild and defiant is not unheard of in girls of that age. In fact it was recognised as a problem in Athenian culture (as it in in modern cultures).  

 

Thus I find it highly unlikely that the male Athenian audience will sympathise with Antigone at the start of the play. She seems like a typical wild and undisciplined child, defying her elders and making scenes!

 

So, is she a girl with “courage, passion and determination.” Or is she is “typical wild and undisciplined child, defying her elders and making scenes”?  The same question could be asked of young girls today. Here is a short speech by Antigone which could easily be said by one of her modern sisters: 

 

 “Do not believe that you alone can be right.
The man who thinks that,
The man who maintains that only he has the power
To reason correctly, the gift to speak, the soul—
A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty.” 

 

One Basho renku stanza-pair portrays a conflict between a teenage girl and a grown man. 

Company boss
got our chrysanthemums,
what a pain!

Strict not to let his
daughter meet people

 

A teenage girl speaks to herself: “We carefully cultivated those chrysanthemums in a vase, but the boss come to visit and made such a fuss about how beautiful the flowers were, that father had no choice but to give them to the jerk! Losing the flowers is not such a big deal, but I hate the way he lorded over papa. Just because he’s the boss, he thinks everything belongs to him!!”

 

Basho continues the theme of patriarch versus teenage girl: “and look how he treats his daughter, keeping her in the house, not letting her go outside and have any fun with other people her age.  He tries to cultivate her the way we did those chrysanthemums, giving her everything she wants but making her grow in a single place where she will be “safe,” without ever meeting any people who could be dangerous.  As Antigone put it, 

A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty.” 

Just as Antigone fought for what she believed that true,  Cassandra, the daughter of Priam and Andromache, shared Antigone's commitment to the truth.   Appollo blessed her with foresight, yet also cursed her so no one would believe her.  Throughout the play,  she realizes everything and predicts every danger, but no one believes her.  She realized that the Trojan horse was full of enemies, and tried to burn it down, but the people stopped her and so their city was destroyed.  She says: 

 

               I could persuade no one of anything"

 

and many young girls today will appreciate her misery. 

 

The truth-telling by Antigone and Cassandra, like that of Rosalind in Shakepseare's As You Like It

                 

  Do you not know that I am a woman
  When I think, I must speak 

 

or like 14 year old Juliet begging Romeo:

 

       Oh swear not by the moon, 'th unconstant moon
       that monthly changes in her circles orb 
       lest that thy love prove likewise variable

 

comes to a Basho stanza about a miko, a female shaman in Shinto temples, who had to be a virgin so she could recieve truth from the gods, and so a teenager. 


What the miko thinks 
is what she speaks

 

So, teenage girls, when you feel you must tell the truth, remember Antigone, Cassandra,

Rosalind, Juliet, and Basho's miko, all about your age, with the same commitment. 

Telling the truth is the idealism of the young; you have not learned that everyone lies.

 

 

In Medea (431 BCE)

 

Euripides’ play begins with a wet-nurse; she tells the audience of Medea’s rage with her husband who has betrayed her to marry the daughter of the King. The wet-nurse worries about what revenge Medea will take, especially now that she has lost all love for her children because they are HIS children.

 

Now she hates her children.
When she sees them, there is no joy in her.
Here come her children. They've finished playing.
They've no notion of their mother's troubles.
Young minds don't like to dwell on pain.
Children, do you hear what sort of man your father is to you?
My curse on him! No. He is my master—but a bad man to his own family.
Of that he's guilty.

 

This wet-nurse is foresighted; her worst fears are realized. Basho rather shows us a wet-nurse whose suckling has grown up in health and prosperity:

 

Threshing rice
the uba’s good fortune
chrysanthemums

 

The King fears Medea and orders her into exile, but gives her one day to say good-bye to her sons –

the biggest mistake he ever made.

 

Medea says to her little boys:
I raised you and all for nothing.
The work I did for you, the cruel hardships,
pains of childbirth, all for nothing.
Once, in my foolishness, I had many hopes in you— it's true—that you'd look after me in my old age, that you'd prepare my corpse with your own hands, in the proper way, as all people wish. But now my tender dreams have been destroyed. For I'll live my life without you both in sorrow. And those loving eyes of yours will never see your mother any more. Your life is changing. Oh, my children,
why are you looking at me in that way?
Why smile at me—that last smile of yours?

 

Such beautiful words about the beauty of a child’s smile, yet immersed within a scene of death. Medea sends the two boys with presents for Jason’s new wife, presents smeared with poison; she touches them, and dies in agony, as does her father when he tries to help his daughter. Medea then takes up a sword to kill her own sons:

CHILD: Help me . . . help . . What do I do?
How can I escape my mother's hands?
SECOND CHILD: I don't know, dear brother. It's over for us

 

Lovely, adorable children killed by their own mother, no image could be more heavy than that.

Basho’s vision of two brothers may be a bit more palatable.

 

Steadily growing taller
older and younger brothers

 

In another linked verse, Basho portrays two brothers together practicing bamboo flute:

 

Good practice together

at older brother's knee

 

 

In the Trojan Women (415 BCE)

While Telemachus was growing up without his father, that father’s trick with the wooden horse destroyed the city of a little Trojan boy named Astyanax, son of Hector and Andromache. After Hector is killed, Odysseus decides the little boy must die, so he will not grow up to seek revenge. The playwright Euripedes shows us no scenes of Astyanax living his ordinary life. Instead he portrays Andromache saying goodbye to her son:

 

Go, die, my best beloved, my cherished one,
In fierce men’s hands, leaving me here alone.
Thy father was too valiant that is why they slay thee!

 

After a Greek soldier throws Astynax off a cliff, the Greeks bring the dead body to his grandmother Hecuba to bury; she laments


False words you spoke to me when you would jump
into my bed, call me sweet names and tell me,
Grandmother, when you are dead,
I'll cut off a lock of hair and lead my soldiers
all to ride past your tomb.
Not you, but I, old, homeless, childless,
Now lay you in your grave, so young, so miserably dead

 

The scene of Astynax jumping into his grandmother’s bed has some of that cuteness of children that charms adults – but Euripedes uses that cuteness to highlight the awful tragedy. Compare Basho's follower Chigetsu’s verse of her grandchildren jumping into her bed, without the tragedy.

 

By grandchildren
pulled up from the futons,
end of the year

 

In the Canterbury Tales (c. 1343 – 1400),

In one of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Duke Walter has married a poor village woman Griselde. To “test her loyalty,” he takes away both of her children in infancy, saying they will be killed. Actually, he has his sister raise them with no one, especially the children, knowing their father. Walter wanted to see if Griselde was so faithful she could endure these losses without losing her love of him. (Yes, I know what you are thinking – however you or I did not write this story.) Griselde passes the test, surrendering to every insult – though she does say

 

Even though my daughter and my son are slain At your command,
and that,  I think, is plain. I have had no part in my children twain.
But sickness first, and after, woe and pain.
"You are our master; do with your own thing

 

(“Your own thing!? She actually said that!) The ‘test’ reaches fulfillment when the daughter is 12 and the son eight. Walter tells Griselde he will divorce her and send her back to her village in grief. He says he is marrying a young girl, and arranges for his daughter to think she will be the duke’s bride. (This guy is a bundle of laughs.) He sends for the two children.

 

So toward her marriage went this fresh young maid
Clad richly and bedecked with jewels clear;
Her brother with her, boyishly arrayed,

 

When they arrive, Walter finally announces the end of his ten year practical joke. The only wife he wants is Griselde. She is reunited with her children, the daughter wed to a nice young man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  We compare Basho's vision of a daughter marrying, or dreaming of marrying, the son on the wealthiest family in her village

 

Our first princess
in headman's household
shall be nurtured

 

 

In Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “Shakespeare's fondness for children is everywhere shown;—in Prince Arthur in King John; in the sweet scene in the Winter's Tale between Hermione and her son; nay, even in honest Evans's examination of Mrs. Page's schoolboy”. There are several more examples than that, however “everywhere” is an overstatement. Entire plays – Hamlet, Othello, As You Like It, etc. -- have no child anywhere (by “child” I mean one till age 12.) Coleridge only mentions the boys in Shakespeare – but certainly the gold medal for portraits of children in literature goes to baby Juliet in her nurse’s longwinded account.

 

Juliet’s Nurse speaks of her suckling now 14 years old – and that is just what she does:

she speaks and she speaks and she speaks:

 

Susan and she—God rest all Christian souls!—
Were of an age. Well, Susan is with God.
She was too good for me. . .

 

Susan was the Nurse’s own baby who she breastfed along with Juliet.

The nurse tells of Juliet’s weaning at age three.

 

For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,…
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!
And since that time it is eleven years,
For then she could stand alone. Nay, by the rood,
She could have run and waddled all about,

 

For even the day before, she broke her brow.
And then my husband—God be with his soul!
He 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 holy dame,
The pretty wretch left crying and said “ay.”
To see now, how a jest shall come about!
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years,
I never should forget it. “Wilt thou not, Jule?” quoth he.
And, pretty fool, it stinted and said “ay.”

 

Shakespeare (in 1595) observes that an infant may not need to cry -- For if distracted, will stop and even become happy. Basho says the same in a letter to Kyokusui about his infant son Takesuke:


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.

 

When the infant is in a bad way, adults act cheerfully to lift the child’s spirit up. 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.

 

One of the funniest scenes in Shakespeare is in Merry Wives of Windsor where young William endures his teacher Evans.

 

Evans: What is lapis, William?
William: A stone.
Evans: And what is a stone, William?
William: A pebble.
Evans: No, it is lapis: I pray you remember in your prain.
William:  Lapis.
Evans. That is a good William.

 

To the second question, the teacher expected the boy to say “lapis”  a mirror image of the first question/answer – however William went off in an entirely different direction. The teacher assumes that the student is stupid, when actually the student’s answer is just as suitable as the teacher’s, though the teacher doesn’t get that -- but the boy gives into the teacher’s way, and is praised.

 

Evans:     What is he, William, that does lend articles?
William:    Articles are borrowed of the pronoun,
              and be thus declined, singulariter, nominativo, hic, haec, hoc.
Evans:    Nominativo, hig, hag, hog,   pray you mark: Genitivo, hujus.
              Well, what is your accusative case?
William:   Accusativo, hinc.
Evans      I pray you, have your remembrance, child
               accusative, hung, hang, hog.

 

What if we taught Shakespeare’s lively and fun scenes to teens, instead of subjecting them to the madness, murders and politics?

 

We compare the view of boyhood education in Shakespeare with that in Basho.

 

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

Foolishness has stopped,
youngster in the bedroom

 

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

 

From the 17th century Japanese commoner children went to private schools known as terakoya. Girls studied homemaking skills, arts, and music, and could read and write in the phonetic kana alphabets. Boys learned to read and write the thousands of Chinese characters used in formal Japanese. Once the basics of writing were mastered, the boys practiced with copybooks such as Tenkin Orai, a series of letters appropriate to each month, giving students a wide range of content to copy, so they would learn all those characters and how to use them effectively.

 

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

 

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

 

Both Basho’s father and his brother Hanzaemon supplemented their farm income by giving calligraphy lessons. Nowadays we are surrounded by progressive educational ideas on every side, but Basho anticipates them by centuries.

 

In MacBeth

MacBeth was afraid the sons of McDuff or Banquo would grow up to take the kingship away from Macbeth’s son. You didn’t know the Macbeths had a kid, did you? He never appears in the play, though his mother does say:

 

I have given suck and know how tender
’tis to love the babe that milks me’

 

Lady MacBeth’s words sound loving and life-giving, until you see the rest of this passage; she goes on to tell her husband:

 

I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done this.

 

Another example of Shakespeare using child imagery to express death is the scene in Anthony and Cleopatra as the Queen imagines as her baby the poisonous snake she has put on her breast:

 

Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
That sucks the nurse asleep?

 

Basho rather uses breastfeeding imagery to promote life

 

Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not stained
Breast-feeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?

 

Also in MacBeth is a scene of young Fleance with his father:

 

Banquo How goes the night, boy?
Fleance The moon is down;
I have not heard the clock.
Banquo And she goes down at twelve.
Fleance I take't, 'tis later, sir

 

“The moon is down” suggests that something hidden will happen in the darkness -- in this scene the good king Duncan is murdered. Later when Macbeth plans to kill Banquo, he asks “Goes Fleance with you?”, because he wants to kill the boy too. Though Fleance himself is not killed, death occurs everywhere about him.

 

Lady McDuff and her son have a “sweet scene”

(in which she is mistaken; her husband is alive and will later kill Macbeth.)

 

Lady MacDuff     Sirrah, your father’s dead
                        And what will you do now? How will you live?
Son                   As birds do, mother
Lady MacDuff     What, with worms and flies?
Son                   With what I get, I mean, and so do they…
Lady McDuff       Yes, he is dead;
                         how wilt thou do for a father?
Son                    Nay, how will you do for a husband?

 

This kid has a clear head; he goes right to the heart of the issue. But all in vain, for moments later, assassins hired by Macbeth burst in and kill both the Lady and her son. Coleridge says, “The conversation between Lady Macduff and her child -- heightens the pathos, and is preparatory for the deep tragedy of their assassination. When the murderers enter soon thereafter and kills the boy before our eyes, we can guess that the bottom line of Macbeth’s degeneration is reached.”  Nothing like this occurs in Basho. 

 

In Richard III,

The title character, at present Duke of Gloucester, kills everyone who might stand the way of his becoming king. He has his brother Clarence killed in the Tower of London, then as Royal Protector of their nephews, the 12 year old Duke of Wales and three year younger Duke of York, sends them to the same tower where they will be “safe” and where he will have them murdered. (Nice guy!)

 

York.              What! will you go unto the Tower, my lord?
Wales.            My Lord Protector needs will have it so.
York.               I shall not sleep in quiet at the Tower.
Gloucestor      Why, what would you fear?
York               Marry, my uncle Clarence' angry ghost:
                      My grandam told me he was murder'd there.
Wales             I fear no uncles dead.
Gloucestor.     Nor none that live, I hope.
Wales.            An if they live, I hope, I need not fear.
                     But come, my lord; and, with a heavy heart,
                     Thinking on them, go I unto the Tower.

 

Shakespeare portrays the speech of two children coming to the realization that this amiable man chatting with them will soon in secret kill them – and there is absolutely no way to escape from this fate; two young boys look at their coming death. Shakespeare moved generations of playgoers to tears with this tragedy of the Princes in the Tower -- Basho rather gives children hope for a peaceful childhood and maturity

 

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

 

 

In The Winter’s Tale

Hermione, Queen of King Leonitas, has one son and another baby in the womb. Here the king’s friend Polixenes speaks about his own small son:

 

He's all my exercise, my mirth, my matter,
Now my sworn friend and then mine enemy,
My parasite, my soldier, statesman, all:
He makes a July's day short as December,
And with his varying childness cures in me
Thoughts that would thick my blood.

 

Polixenes says my child makes me get up and move about in play instead of being a couch-potato; my child makes me laugh, brings me peace and conflict, depends upon me, is the most brave, the most diplomatic and cooperative, the child fixes up my mind and emotions. That’s some praise! Basho says the same thing in fewer words:

 

“Only this, apply your heart to what children do”

 

Here the Queen shares some quality time with her son:

 

Hermione      … pray you, sit by us, and tell's a tale.
Mamillus          Merry or sad shall't be?
Hermione         As merry as you will.
Mamillus          Sad tale's best for winter: I have one.
                      Of sprites and goblins.
Hermione        Let's have that, good sir. Come on,
                      sit down: come on, and do your best
                      To fright me with your sprites;
                      you're powerful at it.

 

Through dialogue, Shakespeare portrays the character of the speaker; from her words we appreciate Hermione’s gentleness, caring, and love of fun. Leonitas however has come to the entirely groundless impression that she slept with Polixenes and her baby comes from him. Suddenly the King bursts in on this pleasant scene, charging her with adultery, and throwing her in prison. The son pines away to death from the shock of losing his mother. Hermione has her baby, a girl, and the King of Misogyny goes batty:

 

This brat is none of mine; It is the issue of Polixenes:
Hence with it, and together with the dam
Commit them to the fire!

 

Paulina, Hermione’s friend and one of the strongest and most observant women in Shakespeare, sees in the baby’s face the truth, that she is the daughter of Leonitas. She has enough power inside her to confront the King:

 

It is yours… although the print be little,
the whole matter and copy of the father,
eye, nose, lip, the trick of frown, her forehead,
nay, the valley, the pretty dimples of her chin and cheek, her smiles…

 

Yujiri and Paulina describe 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.  So does Basho:

 

That my face
resembles my mother’s
fascinates

 

Basho, however, sees the descent through the female line.

 

Leonitas will not listen to reason. Paulina gives him such a fight that finally he accepts the child being abandoned instead of burned. He sends Paulina’s husband Antigones to abandon the child:


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.

 

As he does so, Antigones, says to her

 

Weep I cannot, but my heart bleeds and most
accursed am I to be bound by oath to this horror.
Farewell, poor babe, the storm gets worse!
A tragic lullaby. I never saw a day so dark

 

The misfortune, however, is in store for Antigones – he gets eaten by a bear – whereas Perdita is found by kind shepherds, raised in beauty, and eventually falls in love with Polixenes’s son.

 

Basho, on the other hand, portrays compasson for abandoned children.

 

The aged nun has
a story to tell us: 

Filled with pity,
message to rescue
abandoned child

 

 

In King John

In this historical play, the innonence of young prince Arthur is set against the cruelty and heartlessness of his uncle King John. The king sends his liege-lord Hubert to kill Arthur, but Hubert cannot bear to do so, so instead decides to burn his eyes out:

 

Arthur: Must you with hot irons burn out both mine eyes?
Hubert: Young boy, I must.
Arthur And will you?
Hubert And I will.

 

Arthur and Hubert go on and on, debating whether Hubert will do the deed or not; the whole long scene devoted to, To kill or not to kill, that is question. Finally Hubert accepts that he cannot -- but in the confusion of a very complicated plot, Arthur trying to escape from this insanity, falls from the battlements with this exclamation


The wall is high, and yet will I leap down:
Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not!
[Leaps down]
O me! my uncle's spirit is in these stones:
Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!

 

Nothing at all like this craziness occurs in Basho - however the simple one-syllable beauty of Arthur’s mother’s lament for her son

 

Grief fills the room up of my absent child
lies in his bed, walks up and down with me

 

 compares to the simple physical words in Basho’s profound observations of children in ordinary life.

 

We have traveled through 2000 years of Western Literature and enjoyed a few moments with children, however most of them have been awful. Homer portrayed Telemachus in active and satisfying life, even giving us the adolescent’s speech, but Euripedes and Sophocles sent children to their death without ever showing us their ordinary life. The children in the Canterbury Tale live happily, however the point of the story is that their mother thinks them dead. Shakespeare sets us up with the “sweet scenes” of MacDuff’s son with his mother, and Mamillus with his, then POW! all die. The conversation between York and Wales is poignant because we know soon they will be murdered. Arthur speaks poetry in mid-air as he falls to his death. Shakespeare wields the death of a child like a weapon striking at our emotions. Sensationalism is one way to move an audience.

 

Compared to that long rambling account of baby Juliet are dozens of portraits of living, playing infants by Basho. Compared to that one ridiculous passage of William with his teacher, Basho shows us dozens of young children doing what children do. Shakespeare’s Juliet and Rosalind are rare gem in Western Literature, portrayals of a teenage girl as bright and courageous and bold, while Basho provides a dozen sketches of young and alive teenage girls. In A Winter’s Tale the King’s violation of children is balanced by the devotion of Polixenes to his son, whose “childness cures in me thoughts that would thicken my blood.”

 

Basho also recognizes the Hope children give to adults who suffer:

 

With her needle
in autumn she manages 
to make end meet

Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven

 

Shakespeare sometimes touches us lightly but more often shocks our primal emotions, while Basho sometimes goes for the heavy, but mostly touches us lightly but deeply inside.

 

 basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Kids in Japanese Literature before Basho (C-18) (C-20) Icons of the Child >>


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