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-14


Letters to Kyorai

Basho's beloved and trusted friend

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

Through Basho's letters to his beloved friend we travel through Basho's mind.  Kyorai was born in 1651, the second son of Mukai Genshou, a doctor of Chinese medicine in Nagasaki where he also studied Western medicine and translated to Japanese. (His page in the German Wikipedia is far longer than in the Japanese Wikipedia.) When Kyorai was seven, his family moved to Kyoto; it is said, he walked part of the way with his father – a bit of personal history which may have endeared Basho to him. Genshou become physician to the Imperial Palace, and when he died in 1677, his oldest son took over that role. Kyorai’s birthplace in Nagasaki is marked, and his cottage in Saga, the House of Fallen Persimmons, is well-known, but his family’s residence seems to have left no traces.


Like most second sons in Japan’s household system – such as Basho – Kyorai had no role to fill in his household, so he had to reach out to find things to do. In his teens he returned to Kyushu to practice martial arts, but grew tired of that, so in 1675 he came back to Kyoto. In 1684, Kyorai learned about Basho from Kikaku who was staying in Kyoto, and he joined the Basho school of poetry

 

In the spring of 1686, Basho in Edo conceived what became the most famous of all haiku:

 

Old Pond -
frog jumps in
water sound

 

This verse was an expression of Basho's poetic ideal which at this time he called "Newness" - because  all the poems of the past portrayed the croaking of frogs, and Basho enters new ground by focusing on the frog jumping.  This haiku 

made such a splash in the world of Basho’s followers that they got together to have a contest of poems on frogs. Kyorai – yet to meet Basho -- submitted a verse to the contest.  Basho replied as follows:

 

                                Letter 14 to Kyorai, May 2, 1686

 

Isshou is going up to Kyoto to visit his old mother,
so I entrust this letter to him.
Are you living without misfortune? I wish to know.
Over here, Bunsoku, Kikaku, and this Wild Basho,
are in good health and fortune.

 

Isshou came from Kyoto and moved to Edo where he met Basho. Bunsoku was the Basho follower in Edo who arranged for Kyorai to meet Kikaku. “Wild Basho” is a name Basho chose for himself.

 

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 then I suspect Bunsoku
has already written 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.
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.
As for the verse you recently made about a frog,

 

 

Rice field ridge
where one frog for a while
stops croaking

 

I thought we had said all there is to say about frogs,
but you searched deeply for a new and unusual approach,
which surprised many readers.

 

In conventional haiku many frogs croak, but Kyorai separates one frog from the rest to “stop croaking” in contrast to the multitude who go on and on. OLD POND portrays one tiny bit of activity and sound in the midst of the ancient silence of the pond. Kyorai portrays one moment of silence in the midst of countless croaks.  Basho appreciated Kyorai's verse because it followed his verse of newness with another poem of new unfamiliar focus. 

 

This autumn or winter, or maybe late summer, I will come up to Kyoto,
and in your cottage in Saga, I promise we can enjoy intimate conversation
to our heart’s content, but it will be best if you do not tell anyone about
me being there.

 

This journey never occurred. In Spring of 1687 Kyorai came to Edo to meet Basho. In winter Basho traveled to the Kansai, and in summer of 1688 visited Kyorai before he returned to Edo. He traveled to the Deep North from Spring to Autumn of 1689, and again visited Kyorai in winter of that year. Kyorai became the leader of the Basho school poets in the Kyoto area, and so letters to Kyorai often mention him serving as proxy for Basho in the Kyoto area. Basho stayed in Kyorai’s House of Fallen Persimmons for two weeks in 1691, then returned to Edo along with his cousin Torin; since Basho had sold his hut in Edo before he left there in 1689, the two stayed in a rental house in a busy section of the city.

 

The following is the longest of Basho’s extant letters; the original scroll is a full 3.46 meters (11 feet 4 inches) long. I offer you the entire letter; although the people mentioned are unknown to us and have been dead for 300 years, we can stillappreciate their humanity through Basho’s words. Basho letter scholar Kon Eizo says, “The length of the letter suggests the depth of feeling of love, belief , and trust Basho felt for Kyorai.”

 

                  Letter to Kyorai, June 20, 1692

 

Recently two letters arrived from you. Lord Naiki came
to Edo and delivered one letter to Kikaku’s,
but since he did not know where I am staying, we did not meet.
So I can spend my time here slowly,
I have no intention of seeing people.
Have you had any misfortunes or anything unusual in your brother’s family?
There have been no changes in my situation.
For a while you have heard nothing from me.
While in heart I think to write a letter every day,
distracted by people who come by, I keep on putting it off.
I long to be with you, as in the poem by Teika
which expresses my true feeling:
“The person not here is the one I love”

In your first letter, you discussed the situation
with Fumikuni.

 

The samurai Fumikuni served in the police force for the Sento Imperial Palace where the retired Emporor lives, but became so enamored with writing poetry and hanging out with poets of the Basho circle that he was charged him with negligence of duty. Fumikuni suffered anxiety over this.

 

Such problems are common among samurai who are employed.              Naturally because he is a samurai, he is supposed to resolve it                  without anxiety, but since your second letter says nothing about this,           I guess it was somehow handled.
                                                                                                                             Last year Fumkmuni and those he invited published
“Three Things for New Years.” Fumikiri became over-enthusiastic                 and was hated by the gossips. So it goes in this world. In any case,
Fumikuni should not be unfamiliar with this sort of thing,
so as much as possible have him avoid association
with other poets、He should pay no attention
to criticism from those around him,
and enduring with sincerity, follow the discipline of poetry.
I stayed at his house for a long time, and brought him much difficulty.

 

Fumikiri's His co-workers were especially critical of him for allowing Basho to stay in his home.


When this matter has been settled, be sure he does not compete with others.   It would be better for him to suppress himself. To lose in competition with others and thereby lose oneself does no one any good. However everyday people do this.
Please send me news of recent developments. As for Dansui,                when he comes to your house, you should entertain him properly.            He certainly seems to be a vulgar person of little talent.

When Kaga Kuko came up to Kyoto, he wanted to meet you quickly.            I received from you the renku sequence you wrote with him. Nothing        is wrong with it. Given the skill of Kuko, this is good enough.                       I like your stanza about the pheasant clucking.

When Shado came to Kyoto, at Koshun’s house, you completed a sequence   of linked verse which I have looked over. That guy Shado is very skillful.     Please tell me as much as you know about him. 
                 

Shado, a doctor in Otsu, is follower of Basho.

 

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.

As for the condition of poetry here in Edo:                                                        among the samurai mansions in Yashiki-cho,                                                   in the tenement houses on back roads,                                                             at the back doors of houses on main roads, in the guardsman’s huts,           and toward the Kannon temple, poetry-gambling is all the rage.

 

Poetry -- extra unneccessary words that leave an image or feeling -- appears in Basho letters. In “poetry gambling” poets competed against each other to win points, and poets made their living as contest judges.


Although they find joy in this practice
it merely sinks into shame and depravity.
With no thought of Newness or Lightness,
their poems strike against our ears,
artificially prepared as in a notebook
with crucified corpses and severed heads
scattered round and round the words,
old-fashioned and heavy-handed,
I cannot stand to hear one bit of them.

 

Basho simply tells it the way it is in ordinary life, searching for poetry in everyday sensations and feeling, lightly and gently: as he later described: As looking into a shallow stream over sand

 

In these circumstances, I must keep my thoughts folded up in my chest.
If I made a public proclamation of my aims for poetry, those who follow me would gather to listen, but it would be bad for everyone and no benefit to the world, so I close my eyes to the fad of poetry gambling.

 

If Basho said aloud what he thought about poetry competitions, arguments would break out among yea and naysayers. It is better to keep silent and not make things worse.

 

Haruo Shirane in Traces of Dreams, says,

 “Upon his return to Edo, Basho avoided Kikaku’s urban group, which he found involved with tentori, point-garnering haikai, and worked exclusively with Sampu’s group who remained “amateurs” and rejected the commercialization of tentori haikai.”

 

Makoto Ueda, in “Basho and his Interpreters,” agrees that

 “It made (Basho) especially sad to see some of his former students, such as Kikaku and Ransetsu, joining the popular trend and working as contest judges,”

 

Basho himself, however, says something completely different:

 

Among my followers, Kikaku has not lost the true intention of poetry.           He hates the popular poetry, and this year has made no useless haiku or renku. He has exhausted himself in kindness to me. Lately he has acquired years  and judgment of many things; he is a joy to me. Ransetsu also is a sincere and obedient man, and unchanging from before, gives his all to support me.

 

Scholars need to read Basho's letters before they make judgements about him and his close friends.

 

The place I am staying is as I have told you. It is called Tachibana-cho,       one corner of Hama-cho, a new area confiscated from the Lord of Echizen;  on the outskirts of Edo, not far from the center.
An empty house where someone lived before,
so accommodations are set up for long-lasting comfort in living.
December and January being a season when walls
could not be plastered, as the New Year began
I thought of moving to a small hut somewhere,
but until then had to stay in this temporary residence.

People do not know what to think about me living
near the center of Edo; such a place within the eyes
of the poetry world is strange and somewhat vulgar.
But, indeed, until now I had to stay here as is.
Fortunately it is a good place for Torin to find new followers,
so we have stayed for a long time in this noisy place.

 

As the hot season came upon us, we were gloomy,
and suspecting I might stroll away somewhere else,
Sampu and Jokushi, along with other Fukagawa people
and with Kifu and Rika taking an interest,
in May they started building a grass hut for me,
and yesterday completed it. In a few days I will move in.

 

That will leave Torin in the house which I rented.
Nothing can be done about this, but he has fallen
into the muddy swamp. It is pitiful to see him end up
in the popular craze of poetry gambling.
He is a person I have gone to much trouble for,
and Kikaku and all my followers without exception have cared for him.
So long as he remains here where I was,
he can accumulate practice in poetry.
While seen from my eyes he is pathetic,
he himself is joyfully fulfilling his hopes.
They announced their anthology will come out this summer or autumn.
He is one I have known since childhood, and not foolish, but a long time had passed since we parted, and I wondered what sort of character he had become. In fact he is a superb guy who helps me with my medical treatment and never refuses to make breakfast or dinner. For that reason Kikaku is friendly, and naturally Sampu and Ransetsu praise his character. So while I have left him,  I have no worries.

 

Shiko went to the Deep Northern early in March, and has not returned.         That guy is good for nothing. Starting with Kikaku, all my followers hate him, and that’s 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 nation-wide.

 

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. Also communicate this matter in secret to Fumikuni, but do not let anyone else know.

 

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

 

Please write to me quickly what happened with Fumikuni. And show this letter to him. Also tell Yado-san that Sanno-san invited me to meet with him, but as usual problems arose, and we have yet to get together.

 

p.s. At year’s end, I thought of going to Kyoto. but now that Sampu has built a house for me, this year in Edo to enjoy the moon and snow.

 

                       Letter 143 to Kyorai, October 17, 1692

 

Shado, in his usual good health, is staying in my grass hut
and without reservation eats rice from my gourd. . .
He says “Kyorai’s way of making a verse is progress,”
Also, he enjoys seeing your verses in reality.

 

Shado observes that Kyorai, among the various disciples, writes for the future; Kyorai goes beyond the limitations of the present to cultivate the future. Shado finds that the images in Kyorai’s verses appear to him just as well, so his mind connects with Kyorai’s across the barriers of space and time.

 

Fumikuni seems to be in complete agreement with my new style of poetry.

 

The “new style” of karumi, Lightness, which Basho proposed from 1690 and discussed in many letters.

 

Whether it was you who threaded the needle or moved the clock,
I am uncertain. I expect him by his own power to open his eyes.
If you encourage him as much as possible, his progress will be substantial.

 

In the summer of 1694, Basho along with his about-15 year old grandnephew Jirobei left Edo on a journey west.   They arrived in Kyorai’s cottage in Saga on July , where Basho told Kyorai what he said  to his followers in Nagoya who doubted the value of Basho’s new poetic ideal of Lightness:

 

Only this, apply your heart to what children do

 

In Saga, beside the Katsura River, Basho wrote

 

Katsura River
no dust in the ripples
summer moon

 

From Saga Basho moved onto Zeze and Iga for the Bon Festival. In Iga Basho wrote to Kyoto on September 27:

 

I have been in a number of poetry gatherings, but have been unable to transfer the style of Lightness; the local poets’ halfhearted efforts have produced only mediocre verses; I am perplexed.

 

Basho, accompanied by Jirobei, Shiko, Izen, and Oyoshi’s son Mataemon, left Iga, traveled to Nara, and then Osaka them traveled to Nara, then Osaka where Basho spent much time and energy settling a territorial dispute between the followers of Shado and of Shido (Tweedledum and Tweedledee)

 

He sent another letter to Kyorai

 

I left Iga on October 27th and arrived in Osaka on the 28th. I have decided  to temporarily stay in Shado’s house. From last night until today, local poets have gathered here. I hope they behave obediently so there will be no upsets.  If you can come here and stay over one night this would fulfill my joyful hope.

 

On November 16th, Basho came down with his final bowel disease. Kyorai came to Osaka to join the followers gathered to be with Basho dying. Both he and Shiko recorded in their diaries Basho’s final poem – which he called a revision of the verse KATSURA RIVER, although it actually is an altogether different poem:


Clear Cascade
into the ripples fall
green pine needles

 

Both Kyorai and Shiko, who were there with Basho, say this ode to green life and flowing water – not the famous poem about dreams wandering about a withered field – was Basho’s final poem: a rejuvenation of his spirit, but only for an instant, as the green needles fall into the water and rush away. The flow never returns and what is gone forever.

 

                          basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Madame Sonome (D-13) (D-15) The Life and Death of Chine >>


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