Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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  >  Humanity and Friendship  >  D-08


Letters to Ensui, Basho’s BFF

9 Basho Letters to his childhood and lifelong friend

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

Ensui was the poetry name of Basho's childhood friend and adult follower Soshira.  He was the oldest son in a family that owned a sake shop in their home town of Iga; the name of the shop was "The God Within."  In 1689 Soshira retired from the business and shaved his head to take the Buddhist name Isen. Basho calls him by any of the three names, however to reduce reader confusion, we always call him Ensui. Here is one of his haiku:


Spring rain
emerging from the mountain‘s
gate of clouds

 

He was four years older than Basho, and I suspect that Ensui was in some way Basho‘s mentor. Basho‘s older brother Hanzaemon was only about 18 when their father died and he became head of the household, too busy to hang out with the 12-year-old later known as Basho. Ensui became sort of a ‘big brother’ at this time – maybe. Or maybe not.  In any case Basho and Ensui must have had fun together in those days. I say this because in his letters to Ensui, Basho is so much fun, so quirky and himself. To know Basho, the warm affectionate Basho, travel through his Letters to Ensui.

 

Basho and his follower Tokoku left Iga on April 19, traveled south to Yoshino, west to Mount Koya, and north to Nara which is only 18 miles from Iga. Ensui and others from Iga walked to Nara to spend time with the travelers before they parted on May 10th to continue their journey west.

 

Letter 29 to Ensui, May 24, 1688

(Basho in Kyoto, Ensui in Iga)

 

This time meeting you again in Nara, my great hope,
the pleasure of Life cannot be put into words,
the anguish of parting never fully written.
Our reliable servant, Roku, you loaned us,
our heavy baggage on his shoulders,
as we went one league, you went one league;
when we passed three leagues, you also three,
this I now recall.

 

Basho does something he will do again and again in letters to Ensui: he mentally links his activities with those of his old friend, transcending the barriers of space between them. Every step I take is one with every step you take, although we walk in different places and directions. We never really part: our spirits remain together.


Still in the shadowy twilight, we arrive at our lonely lodging.
Just about now, you have reached home,
your wife, children, and servants come out to welcome you,
you enter the bathtub of clean water, and massage your swollen shins

 

Basho feels he can share Ensui’s experiences across the barriers of space because their separate hearts have bonded since childhood.

 

Basho’s letters to Ensui contain much poetry, and in this passage he uses certain elements we find often in his linked verse:

1) that special feeling of twilight, evening or morning

2) mention of personal relations (wife, children, servants),

3) welcoming the traveler home

4) physical sensory experience (entering clear hot water)

5) specific activities and body parts (massaging swollen shins).

 

Each of these five elements, as well as a similar spirit, appear in the final paragraph of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Sam has parted from Frodo, as Ensui has parted from Basho, and returns to his home.


Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill,
as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light,
and fire within, and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected,
and Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor on his lap.
He drew a deep breath, ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.

 

Basho would have appreciated Tolkien's art.

 

to speak of the ground-breaking ceremony at Todaiji
will be your souvenirs from this journey.

 

While they were in Nara, Ensui and Somu went with Basho and Tokoku to attend the ceremony for a new hall at the world-famous temple Todaiji. Most people want something tangible for a souvenir, an object or a photograph to complement their memories, however for Basho memories are tangible.


In 1672 the father of a village woman, Ima, was sick. Told that if he ate unagi, eel, he would recover, Ima tried every means to get some, but none could be found  in her tiny inland village. Late one night startled awake by the sound of water in a jug, she found eel flopping about. Her father ate these and got well. Ima was officially honored by the Shogun as a ‘filial daughter.’ She is now 64.


On May 11th we went to the thatched hut of Ima in Takenouchi.
The water jug in which the eel appeared is still there.
She served us tea and sake on straw mats.
This guy Mangiku wanted to sell his winter robe
then presented the money to Ima as we left.
What is interesting and funny is indeed transient play,
To see that hidden within Ima made me count my sins.
Mangiku wept for a while and could not settle down.

 

On the first day of the Fourth Moon (in 1688, April 30th) people store away their winter clothing, but Mangiku on the road when this day came, had to carry around a robe he never wore. He managed to sell it to someone and gave the money to the old woman. Ima did not DO anything to make the eel materialize in her jug, however something ‘hidden within’ her enabled her prayer to get through to the kamisama so they responded. Sixteen years later Basho and Mangiku could see that devotion still hidden within her.

 

Next we went to Taima Temple, a splendid place,
however after seeing Ima, the temple was just so so,
and when it started to rain I was happy to see it quickly in passing. . .

 

Taima Temple  is a large and famous temple , but Basho says that a woman can be more splendid

than any temple.


We rented a palanquin to Taishi in Osaka.
On May 18th we rode a boat to Amagasaki, and spent the night in Hyojo.

 

Taishi to the south of Osaka and Amagasaki to the west are 32 miles apart, both on the main island, Honshu, We see that in Basho’s time, as well as in ours, the Japanese used ferryboats to get around their island nation.


With his letter Basho included this note from “Mangiku” and also the cartoon DIAGRAM OF A SNORE (F-7)

 

Since we left Iga on April 19th:
     34 days in which we traveled 318 miles;
                Within these, by boat, 32 miles; 
                             by palanquin 98 miles;
                                    walking 188 miles
                         Days we met rain: 14
                         Number of waterfalls 7 (listed)         
                                      Old graves 13 (listed)
                               Mountain passes 6 (listed)   
                                     Hills 7             (listed)       
                             Mountain peaks 6 (listed)
Besides these, the number of bridges, rivers, nameless mountains,
spill all over my notes.

                                                                                                  Mangiku,  Basho

 

Tokoku’s charming note well conveys the mountainous, well-watered terrain of Japan.

He seems obsessed with counting and recording things – which probably helped him in his business dealings. With his business gone, he goes on cataloguing everything -- until at the end he gives up.

 

                                       Letter 39 to Ensui, early March, 1689

                                       (two months before Basho left on his journey to the Deep North)

 

Since last autumn, thoughts have filled my heart
and I have not written to you.
Sometimes I hear from my brother about the presents you have given.
Ever and again I long to be with you.
Last autumn on the Kiso road accompanied by a crazy man named Etsujin, our lives in danger at the Hanging Bridge, the mountain where the son “could not be consoled” as he abandoned his old mother,
the sounds of pounding cloth, rice field clappers,
voices chasing away deer, all were deeply moving,
yet still only thoughts of you emerged in my heart.

 

“Crazy Man” is a term of affection. We crossed the hanging bridge with Basho, Etsujin, and companions (in D-6 LAUGHING WITH BASHO). In the legend of Mount Obasute (“Throw-away Old Woman,” a man following village custom took his old mother to the mountain, but when he returned and saw the moon, he “could not be consoled” and went back to bring her home. Women pounding washed cloth on a block to soften, and shaking clappers, wooden blocks tied together, over rice fields to scare hungry sparrows, are an autumn chores of women. The farmers shout to scare off deer from raiding the crops before harvest. This passage from Basho’s letter is a fine example of how he blends sensation, memory, and affection in his personal writing.


As the New Year began, the feeling of a journey did not cease

 

New Year's Day
sun on every field
is beloved

 

Rice fields (ta)  now at New Years, in early February, are barren expanse of mud and frost with row after row of rice stubble. The Sun (Goddess) is weak and cold, yet contains the promise of better things to come – and so Basho loves her.  Nothing in this verse ties it to Basho’s place or time, nothing requires literary scholarship to understand; any person in the Northern Temperate zone can see and feel the same on a New Year’s Day.


When we reach the 3rd Moon, tired of waiting,
I shall wander about the northern provinces:
to see blossoms at Shiogama, hazy moon over Matushima,
mist rising from Asuka swamp, and some time
from autumn or winter come down to Gifu or Nagoya,
so if life becomes not the dew drop, I shall see you again.

 

Basho did in fact follow this itinerary, north to Iwate, west and south along the North Coast Road to Kanazawa, on  to Fukui and Tsuruga, to end the journey in Gifu. From Gifu Basho traveled south to Nagoya and Iga to be with Ensui.  “If life becomes not the dew drop” means “if I do not die.”


While I can stand, as long as I can go to thee,
the pleasant thoughts we shall share.
Parting from you in Nara as we did long ago,
the ephemerality of one night in one inn,
tears shed are hard to forget.
What we discussed has not left my mind.

 

Until the day of foam vanishing on the water, in life the heart hurries,
so from my journey last year, I have cast away fish and fish flavor
from my mouth.

 

Apparently in Nara, Basho and Ensui spoke about the Buddha’s prohibition against the eating of animal flesh. According to the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha in his final scripture insisted that Buddhists refrain from eating ALL meat including fish:

“One who eats meat kills the seed of Great Compassion”.

 

Japan accepted Mahayana Buddhism, but not the prohibition against fish. In the 9th century the Emperor Saga forbade meat consumption except fish and birds, and through the centuries the Japanese (in general) followed this rule rather than the Buddha’s. Along with actual fish, the Japanese got more protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids from octopuses, sea slugs, fish eggs, seaweed, and other slimy creatures that Western readers may not consider food -- though I have seen modern Japanese kids eat them with relish – and the same kids enjoy hamburgers. “Foam vanishing on the water” can be Basho’s future death, yet also the scene Basho saw last April in Gifu, the famous cormorant fishing on the Nagara River. The birds dive to catch fish, but an iron ring around the gullet stops the fish from going down and men steal it from the hungry bird’s mouth. (Talk about exploitation!). Basho wrote this haiku:


Interesting,
but by and by sad
cormorant fishing

 

We imagine Basho growing up eating fish and sea creatures, often at celebrations. Certainly Basho and Ensui enjoyed these foods together as children and young men. What happened in Basho’s 45th year to cause him to renounce fish? First, in Nara, he and Ensui spoke about the Buddha’s prohibition of meat. Second, in Gifu, he saw life “vanish on the water.”


Throughout the ages countless Asians have been vegetarian because religion/family/society demanded. Mohandas Gandhi speaks of arriving in London after growing up Hindu to discover the writings of an English vegetarian: “From the date of reading this book, I may claim to have become a vegetarian by choice.” Basho, like Gandhi, makes a conscious choice to “cast away” fish from his diet, not only fish in fish form, but also (we assume) in the flavor of katsuo bushi, bonito flakes added to miso soup, and the flavor added to tsumami, snacks such as crackers. One of the most popular in Japan today is takoyaki, literally “fried octopus” but actually fried batter with bits of octopus for flavor. Most Japanese would not consider this “meat eating,” but Basho says “no” to fish flavor as well. So, vegans, Basho for the final five years of his life was one.


              Letter 41 to Ensui and Somu, April 5, 1689

 

Your letter came together with one from my brother.
To read the letter gives me the feeling of being with you,
so last year’s rain at Ichinomiya, I cannot forget.

 

Ichinomiya is a shrine in Iga.

 

My belly which eats no fish rustles gently.

 

Basho says a vegan belly “rustles” gently like tea leaves in the spring breeze; Tanaka translates to sappari shita, “refreshing” which is certainly correct, however I prefer to allow you to get that from what Basho actually wrote.


As horsetails and asters open their buds,
in this world of not knowing when life will end,
no connection between going and returning,
even in Edo people are unsatisfied by things, so as I know
the pain in the heels of the Priest Noin and Saint Saigyo,
obsessed by haste to see the Moon at Matsushima still hazy,
the cherry blossoms at Shiogama before they fall.

 

The great city of Edo (now Tokyo) is famous for consumerism. Noin and Saigyo were famous traveling poets. By the time Basho will leave on this journey, the hazy moon and cherry blossoms of spring in Edo will be past, however in the Deep North he hopes to see these phenomena once more this year.


My travel goods

 

Notebook for tanka (when I am hungry  I can trade  for 5 coins or 10)
brush and ink set,  rain gear,  bowl staff (two items of a beggar) 
 cypress hat       haori jacket


“Five coins” is about 100 yen or one dollar today. Would you buy a tanka from Basho for a buck?               Is Is there no market for haiku? Maybe he could get a quarter for one, or five for a dollar.

 

                                 Letter 109 to Ensui, June 6, 1691

 

I did some sightseeing and returned home, and that was when
I realized my gratitude for your wife’s courtesy when I visited your home.
I am grateful for the poems I wrote on the journey
for the misery of my flea bites, for the entire tale…

 

Sora by chance was here in Kyoto and missed meeting you in Edo:
his pilgrimage was the fulfillment of his long cherished hope,
and quite a feat.

 

As for me, there has been no change.
Recently I stayed in Kyorai’s cottage in Saga,
being at peace and eating bamboo shoots.
We rode a boat on the Katsura Rver and lay people treated us to fish.
Morning and evening, I watched Mount Arashi
and wondered “how is Mount Fuji?”

 

Saga is famous for the House of Fallen Persimmons, the groves of towering bamboos, for the river bank and pleasure boats, and for Mount Arashi rising from the opposite bank. With his eyes on the summit of Mount Arashi across the river, Basho sends his spirit to the vastly greater mountain 400 miles away. All these sights are part of the modern tourist extravaganza which is Saga (15 minutes west from Kyoto Station on the JR Sagano line).

 

Letter 136, May 8, 1692

                                                           (replying to a letter from Ensui)


So you are without misfortune and how is your whole family?
The pain you describe must be unsettling.
Though my disease is said to be “chronic,”
the New Year has passed to Third Moon’s end.

Blossoms in futility fall and are no more,
but viewing them in this government place
where the rich and famous are noisy and insulting
has no appeal to my heart, so I am firm
about not going out to those blossoms.

 

Because Basho and Ensui have known eachother for about forty years, they communicate deeply personal thoughts. The “government place” is Edo, the Shogun‘s capital, and where there is government there is bound to be wealthy, powerful, and obnoxious men. Basho rejects that testosterone charged scene in the Capital to return to Iga and flow down the stream of his hometown memories. The following nine-line word painting is the finest passage of stream-ofconsciousness I have found in Basho’s letters: the sequence resembles four stanzas of linked verse. 


Within the wireweed a wild cherry tree
on a ridge beside vegetable fields;
a thin hemp rope for laundry attached,
thatch at the eaves starting to collapse;
Scallions in vinegar-miso dressing,
boiled horsetails dipped in soy sauce,
these are what I most remember;
Kyoya’s serious face searching for a verse,
Doho cracking jokes, here my yearning begins.

 

First he takes us through a gate in a fence covered with wireweed (the climber that locked the mountain hick‘s jaw shut (D-6 LAUGHING ALONG) on their way to an old favorite cherry tree in full bloom. Next he offers memories of the picnic – which Ensui certainly will recall since he was there that day too. Thus Basho links his mind with Ensui’s through memories they share. 

 

Near the picnic spot, attached to an old dilapidated house, a thin yet strong rope of hemp fibers holds nothing. The thatch at the center of the roof congeals into a solid water-proof mass, but around the edges can collapse. Rich, famous, and self-important people never come to places like this, nor do they enjoy country-style vegetable dishes. Scallions are green onions with long stem and almost bulbless root. Horsetails, tsukushi, are a spring plant with a top that looks like a round brush. And yes, taste does leave strong memories.


The camera then moves to the humanity eating these foods in this rustic place: two old friends at the party, one struggling to think of a serious poem, the other having lots of fun. Kyoya is a merchant in Iga. Hattori

Doho, the leader of the Basho circle in Iga, is an Instructor in the martial art of the Spear (so you don’t want to mess with him), and the head of a family related to the master ninja Hattori Hanzo – but he too seems like a fun guy. Through a flow of images -- natural surroundings, specific details about the place, favorite foods, and old friends -- Basho encapsulates his and Ensui’s experience of their hometown.


                       Letter 148 to Ensui, January 8, 1692

                                                    One month before the New Year:

 

The season has come to yearn for
Ichibei’s red-miso grated-yam paste,
as well as enjoy Kyoya’s bran miso.

 

Miso is eaten in hot soup, so warms the body in winter; seasonal awareness is vital to both Basho haiku and letters. Ichibei and Kyoya are merchants in Iga. This yam paste with red miso, made by the women of Ichibei’s house, is eaten on top of rice, and is especially popular in Iga. Letter 136 to Ensui contains a sketch of Kyoya, at a picnic; this is the miso he produces and sells. Though gustatory memories they share from growing up together in Iga, Basho links his consciousness with that of Ensui.


In the Tale of Genji  Murasaki Shikibu describes Genjis infant daughter, the Akashi Princess:

 

The Princess, still the tip of bud green, is so pure,
 we can only guess how her life will go
 

A flower bud is a hard brown shell from which green life emerges at the tip, then grows to form a flower.

Thus Murasaki Shikibu combines the images of "tip of bud green" and the infant princess, for both will blossom into full life and beauty.  


                            Letter 161 To Ensui, April 9, 1693

 

Beginning 1693, Basho received a New Years’ letter from his childhood and lifelong friend Ensui with a haiku telling of the birth of his first grandchild, a girl.

                           

New Year‘s Day –
only tip of bud green
plum blossom
                                         

On New Year’s Day (by the Oriental calendar early February) the dark brown buds on plum tree branches show green at their tips; as the First Lunar Moon progresses, these will become gorgeous white plum blossoms with a sweet fragrance.  Thus Ensui combines in his mind three images: the New Year and new spring emerging from winter, the green life of plum blossoms emerging from their buds, and his granddaughter emerging from the womb. The Akashi Princess grows up to become Empress; Ensui apparently has high hopes for his granddaughter.

 

Basho replied to Ensui on April 9 of that year, 1693:


The plum blossom ‘’only tip of bud green”
shall be especially treasured.
I am happy you have a grandchild,
my joy as great as yours.
 

The baby’s immaturity just shows that the best is yet to come.  Basho experiences Ensui’s joy in his own chest.  We cannot read this letter without feeling the warmth in Basho’s heart. He expresses so clearly.        

 

We know your wife shall be thoroughly consoled…

 

Basho acknowledges that Ensui‘s wife did the work and suffered the hardship of raising the child who is now a parent, so now she will be consoled by seeing her granddaughter.


. . . In some way or another
my memories of our old village are of foods,
however I have not the heart of Fa-hsien,
rather I am greedy by nature, I guess.

 

The Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien was some traveller. Starting in 399 at age 65, he WALKED  from central China across the desert, over the Himalayas, and through India where for ten years he collected Buddhist texts and icons, then carried them to China by ship (a wise choice). Once in India, Fa-hsien was sick and had a longing for hometown Chinese food. Basho also has an attachment to the foods of his birthplace, but not because he is a saint like Fa-hsien; rather he is “greedy by nature, I guess.”


Now I want to throw away everything and my
only wish is to go there soon and sit with thee.

 

p.s.

Nowadays before my gate they catch whitebait

 

Whitebait: herring-like fish, finger-length, slender, semi-transparent; early spring as they swim up river from the bay , caught in nets; eaten fried or in soup, but also alive and still “dancing.”


White bait –
black eyes open to
Dharma‘s net

 

(This haiku is not in the letter, and was written years before.) The Dharma is the Law of Buddhism that all must die and pass away. The startlingly black eyes of the silvery fish open to the Truth as the net takes

them. Basho however is vegan, so no whitebait die for his protein.

 

. . . and the children gather shijimi clams.
At my hut I am devoted to eating only tofu.

 

Shijimi are small clams, the shell only an inch long, so the tiny hands of children are efficient at gathering them from the tidal flats. Shoko says they "taste good and smell good." Soybeans and tofu contain isoflavones, chemicals which “convey the benefits (bone density, heart protection, reducing hot flashes)     to post-menopausal women without increasing the risk of breast cancer -- so might be a good choice for women around menopause – and probably contribute to the longevity of Japanese women. Men also benefit from the estrogen in tofu (unless one is allergic to it) which may explain Basho‘s (and my) devotion to it. You may note that, in each letter to Ensui, Basho at some point talks about food.


               Letter 182, early spring of 1694,

                                   nine months before Basho’s death:

 

Having taken one step past half a century
pickled radish shall penetrate my teeth
and I may learn to appreciate the mochi
in New Year’s vegetable soup

 

By the Japanese count, Basho is 51, entering his second half century. The sharp flavor in daikon pickles penetrates his teeth because they are old and need much dental work. Mochi itself has no flavor to arouse young people; they like it mixed with other flavors. Only old patient taste buds enjoy it for its subtle taste.

 

…though I have come to wonder
if the remnant of years is approaching.

 

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

 

Last spring Ensui told Basho of the birth of his granddaughter who was “plum blossoms still emerging from the bud,” and Basho replied within the same metaphor. Now, a year later, he wishes that this year the

whole tree will become fragrant and colorful, as Ensui’sgranddaughter who can now stand by herself goes out into the world, with the same qualities. Again Basho transcends the distance between them, feeling Ensui’s love for his granddaughter in his own heart. He clearly, more clearly than any other male writer, affirms the worth of the infant female.


The following haiku is NOT in the letter to Ensui, though was written this spring, probably after Basho mailed the letter, but was still thinking about his childhood 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 because last spring and again this spring Basho’s heart dwelled on Ensui’s granddaughter, and because the major symbol for the entire nation

is the Rising Sun, and in Japan the Sun is a Goddess, we can see Basho in this haiku going beyond

Murasaki Shikibu and beyond Ensui to encompass five images in a vast panorama:Spring emerging

from hard cold winter, plum blossom emerging from brown bud to become fragrant and colorful, 

Ensui's granddaughter emerging from the womb to blossom as a girl, the sun peeking out

from the horizon, and the Sun Goddess emerging from the Rock Cave to shine on all of creation. 

 

                  Letter 218 to Ensui and Doho, November 10)

 

Thank you for the letter from the two of you
and it is good to hear you are both doing well.
I was in a rush to get here, then once I arrived,
I had shivers every night, but recovered, as usual.

 

In Letter 217 to his older brother Basho further describes the symptoms he suffered from October 28th to November 7th. Such intermittent fevers, called ague, are usually malarial.


It is a waste of time to remain here
so soon I will break my signboard.
To go on being robust I must have seclusion
but when things are noisy and annoying, I get sick.

The verses both of you sent have deep feeling.
When I was in town I could not see the new style
in your poetry and so felt uncertain,
but these verses, well now, they astonish me.

 

To see Lightness generally appearing brings me
great joy which does not diminish.
                                                                                   Basho

 

In the letter to Sampu on page 212, Basho said “In Nagoya, Iga and Zeze, the poets still rest their butts

in a comfortable place.” Doho and Ensui were included in this criticism. Here Basho tells his two old friends, “when I was in town, you still had not ‘gotten’ Lightness, but the verses you sent show me that now you have.” Basho’s great wish is for “Lightness” to appear on this Earth. We can try to fulfill his wish.

                                                                    

p.s.    Take care of yourselves, and Hanzan as well.

 

Eighteen days later Basho died. 

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Six Close Friends (D-07) (D-09) Sampu, patron and close friend >>


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...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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