Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story: Basho
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Renku, Haiku, and Tanka
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time for Basho
• Basho Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 370 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 women,
children, and teenagers

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 his
"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 Prose


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  >  Humanity and Friendship  >  D-07


Six Close Friends

Basho poems and prose about Tokoku, Kyorai, Shiko, Kyokusui, Ranran, and Etsujin.

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

“Contrary to his popular image, Basho was not a social recluse. Instead he constantly cultivated a community of disciples and poets with whom he engaged in poetic dialogue.” 

 

Professor Shirane’s words should be posted wherever scholars and students of Japanese Literature could see them every day, to remind them of reality. The list of Basho’s friends goes on and on; certainly no author in world literature wrote so much, about so many friendships. He is famous for being a lonely traveler, but actually he traveled, usually with a companion, to be with friends living in different places. He said


We can live without poetry, however, without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling and passing not through human feeling,
a person cannot be fulfilled. Moreover, without good friends,
this would be difficult.

 

Tokoku, a wealthy rice dealer in Nagoya, got caught in some shady deal speculating on rice futures. His wealth was confiscated and he was sent into exile in a village at the end of a peninsula, a place so isolated only hawks come here. In 1687 Basho and Etsujin went to visit him, and Basho wrote:

 

We visit Tokoku living in hardship at Cape Irago
where at times are heard the cries of hawks.

 

More than a dream
the reality of a hawk
we can rely on

 

Hawks fly high up, with no flapping of wings, floating for hours on the updrafts. There is nothing to catch up there. They are flying for the joy of it. Basho gives Tokoku an image to focus on -- the soaring flight of hawks -- to inspire his friend. The verse had a clear distinct purpose – to reassure Tokoku, to give him hope and help him pull together his shattered life. Japanese has words for “hope” – nozomi and kibou –however Hope does not “spring eternal” in the Japanese breast. They are more concerned with ephemerality, things passing away, how sad it is. Basho however is no ordinary Japanese – his genius transcends his culture’s negativity to discover something altogether new in Japanese literature: Lightness, the spirit soaring instead of trudging through existential weariness. When you watch a hawk soar, recall this verse and use it to lift your spirit – as I do mine.

 

Tokoku died in 1690 at age 30. The next year Basho wrote:

 

In dreams Tokoku appeared and my weeping awoke me.
Time shared with the spirit becomes a dream.
When yang is exhausted, we dream of fire;
when yin declines, we dream of water.
My dreams are not those of saints or gentlemen.
All day long the illusions scatter about,
and in the night shadows, dreams are just the same.

Truly to see Tokoku in a dream can be called a dream of remembrance. He followed me to my old village
where my aspirations began, and at night
we lay down and got up on the same floor.
He helped me in the toil of a pilgrimage,
for a hundred days he followed me like my shadow.
At times we had fun, at times we were sad.
His intentions dyed the lining of my heart.

 

The words are so very simple, at first they seem not to mean much, however, we can allow their simplicity to take on deep personal and social meaning. “Dyeing the (kimono) lining” is women soaking fabric in dye to color it before sewing together the two layers of a kimono; the image adds romantic beauty to the prose. Basho applies this active female image to the innermost places in his heart. Recalling the fun and sadness we shared, friendship soaks deep inside my heart with the color of my friend’s heart.

 

At the time of the following letter, 1686, Kyorai had yet to meet Basho; he only heard about him from Kikaku who met him when he stayed in Kyoto.  Kyorai had sent letters to Basho who replied:

 

Now and then your letters have arrived,
then yesterday another came as a gift.
I have the deepest appreciation for your polite concern.
Time after time, I think to send you a letter,
and such is my intention, but I suspect that Bunsoku
already wrote to you in detail the situation here,
and there is no need for me to improve on this,
so thinking this and that, I put off writing to you,
I am sorry, you must think my sincerity lacking.
Sometimes I visit your excellent verses,
and though separated by a thousand leagues,
as my heart passes through them,
your heart and mine become completely one,
with no room between for a strand of hair.
Only recently have I come to hear with clarity
the heart in your verses. My followers here in Edo,
especially Bunrin and Rika, greatly enjoy them.

 

Kyorai had a cottage in Saga west of Kyoto called the place “House of Fallen Persimmons.”

In the rainy season of 1691, Basho stayed here for two weeks, and wrote this haibun:

 

At the House of Fallen Persimmons
The one in Kyoto named Kyorai has a cottage
in lower Saga within a bamboo grove,
at the base of Mount Arashi,
close to the flowing Katsura River.
It is a convenient place for leisure,
a place where the heart can clear.
This Kyorai is a really lazy guy
and the grass stands high before the window,
while persimmon trees stick out over the roof.
Summer rains leaking everywhere,
tatami mats and paper doors smell of mold,
and finding a place to lie down is not so easy.
Nevertheless indeed this shadiness
has been the hospitality of my host.

 

Japanese staying in someone’s house spend hours of time and energy worrying about the damage they may do to floor or walls or furniture, however Kyorai’s place is such a godforsaken mess --“this shadiness” -- that Basho can relax here without a worry in his heart, for which he thanks Kyorai in this haibun.

 

Basho writes to Kyorai in summer of 1692:

 

Your letters convey the feeling of conversation,
your kindness,a small token of your appreciation --
for me, no less than the pleasure of growing old.

 

Shiko joined the Basho school in 1692 and struggled to catch up with older followers such as Kikaku, the leader of the Basho circle in the Shogun’s Capital City. The letter to Kyorai continues:

 

Shiko went to the northern provinces
early in March, and has not yet returned.
That guy Shiko is good for nothing.
Starting with Kikaku, all my followers hate him,
and that is all there is to it.
When he drinks he makes a fool of himself
and dances to the Tune for Throwing Things.
At my hut he cannot contain himself.

 

The “Tune for Throwing Things” was first sung in the late 1650s in the pleasure quarters of Kyoto;

by the 1680s it was popular throughout the pleasure quarters of Japan.

 

I am sure that when he returns
he will go to Kyoto and visit you,
so you should make up your mind what to do,
which is why I am telling you this secret tale.

 

Basho circle gossip. Shiko seems to have gone through a personality change on his pilgrimage and in 1694 became Basho’s closest friend and confidant.

 

Because 12 lunar months are shorter than one solar year, an extra “intercalary Moon” is added to once every two or three years. On the 23rd day of the Intercalary 5th Moon -- July 15, 1694 – during his stay at Kyorai’s cottage, Basho sent Shiko a letter:

 

The two things you sent with your best wishes
will be most valuable, especially on a journey.

 

One of the presents Shiko sent was a kiseru, a long thin pipe with bamboo shaft and metal mouthpiece and bowl. The bowl is tiny, only enough for two or three inhales. Wikipedia says “Kiseru were used for smoking a fine, shredded tobacco, as well as cannabis.”

 

Today Kyorai was cleaning the pipe for me,
and this being the first time he did this,
I am making “pipe cleaning” a seasonal
reference to the Intercalary 5th Moon.

 

When something momentous occurs in a season, that event can become a seasonal reference. Basho makes the absurd suggestion that ‘pipe cleaning’ become a reference to the Intercalary 5th Moon because the illustrious non-smoker Kyorai cleaned a kiseru for the very first time during this Intercalary 5th Moon. So, when the next Intercalary 5th Moon comes in twenty or thirty years, it will be remembered as the season of Kyorai cleaning the kiseru. How ridiculous! but then that’s par for the course in this letter.


You sent your other present in the wrong season,
so from now on, it too will refer to this season.
Always remember what you have learned here.
This evening why don’t you come visit me?

 

If Basho was smoking cannabis there in Kyorai’s hippie cottage, that helps to explain his bizarre sense of humor.

 

Basho had left Zeze and was traveling back to Edo; from an inn in Okazaki, east of Nagoya, he wrote to his samurai friend Kyokusui in Zeze:

.

Your letters delivered by Shiko to Atsuta were taken in                      and brought to my lodgings near Okazaki Station.
Wind blowing through rips in the window paper
moonlight shining through cracks in the door,
before a dirty lantern smelling of fish oil,
I quickly opened your letters and tears soaked the pages.
In Shado’s letter he speaks of his gratitude
for three years of my hospitality, but truly
those three years my heart spent in Zeze,
whose kindness enabled that hospitality?
Although this year and next I play in Edo,
to Zeze my heart points; with humility
I know not how, it is like my hometown.

 

Basho speaks of the Hut of Unreal Dwelling in the hills above Zeze owned by Kyokusui who allowed him to stay there for four months.

 

Only on that mountain can one get
some distance from the common world.
Occasionally I remember how difficult it was
to forget sleeping and waking in that hut.
Once more while I live I wish to see daybreak
in light snow on that mountain.

 

There are those who effort with intention, while soothing                        their emotions, without necessarily criticizing others,                                 they are a vessel containing the true path.
They search for the faraway bones of Teika,
trace with fingers the muscles of Saigyo,
rinse out the intestines of Po Chu’i
and enter the one square inch of Tu Fu’s heart.
In all the cities and provinces,
such poets cannot be counted on ten fingers.
So you may become one of these ten.
restrain yourself with moderation and dedicate to your discipline.

 

Ranran, a samurai serving as an official in the shogunal government, was one of the first people in Edo to befriend and follow Basho when he came here in 1672.

 

Ranran and I were close for ten years and nine more.
Only three years ago he retired from his official post,
seeking the traces of ancient wise men living in caves,
but old mother on his back and infant binding his legs,
still he drifted about on the waves of the world.

 

Basho describes a journey his friend went on in 1693:

 

Starting on the road home he felt distress
until at last breath stopped.
He went before his 70 year old mother,
leaving memories with his seven year old son.

 

I remember a New Year’s Past Ranran holding a small boy’s hand
came to my door of weeds and said it would be good
if I gave the lad a name.
This child was as handsome as a glimpse of the sage Oju at age four. So I picked out the character for ‘ju’ and named him Ranju.
The flush of Ranran’s joy, even now, has not left my eyes.

 

The little boy in his New Years finery was so handsome that Basho, remembering that Ranran liked ancient sages, thought of Oju, one of the “Seven Wise Men in a Bamboo Forest” back in the Third Century, famous for his beauty and wisdom as a child. Basho replaced Ranran’s son’s infant name with one more suitable for an active and intelligent young lad. He “picked out” (tsumu) the character ju from Oju, and combined it with the first ‘Ran’ in Ranran, forming a name half from the father and half from a Chinese sage known as a handsome and brilliant child. Ranran thought for a moment about the name Basho chose, and when he understood, his face flushed in joy. Basho expresses his appreciation for his friend’s tender feminine side, an appreciation that comes from his own tender femininity.v Ranran died on September 27th under a waning crescent moon; Basho visited his grave seven days later, the new moon a waxing crescent.

 

Hast thou watched
these seven nights? Over thy grave
new crescent moon.

 

“Hast thou” is simply “have you” in archaic English suitable for speaking to the dead. Ranran, these seven nights since you died, have you watched the moon disappear then resurrect as this new moon? Are you watching with me now?

 

Basho writes of his friend Etsujin


To be sure of having millet to eat and brushwood for his fire,
Etsujin hides out in the marketplace,
He works two days and enjoys himself for two,
works three days and has a good time for three.
By nature he likes sake and when he’s drunk,
he sings of the Heike. This is my friend.

 

Etsujin survives on cheap tasteless millet, and burns brushwood for warmth instead of going to the trouble of getting proper firewood. A Chinese proverb says “the true sage hides in the morning market.” Basho praises Etsujin for not devoting himself to business, for ‘hiding out’ in the business world, but being a sage at heart. The numbers – two and two, three and three – like a musical chord, leave us with a feeling for who this guy Etsujin is. The lively image of Etsujin drunk and singing the tragic ballads of the fall of the Heike clan is capped by the brief but powerful “this is my friend,” and this haiku:

 

The snow we two
watched – has it fallen
this year again?

 

Together last winter we watched snow fall. Now, as snow falls again, we are far apart. Have the snowflakes we saw a year ago fallen again this time around? Our friendship is sustained across the barriers of distance by something much greater, the eternal passage and return of the seasons.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Laughing Along (D-06) (D-08) Letters to Ensui, Basho’s BFF >>


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: Basho
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Renku, Haiku, and Tanka
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time for Basho
• Basho Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 370 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 women,
children, and teenagers

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 his
"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 Prose


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