Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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  >  Basho Himself  >  E-07


Basho Prose



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

If Basho poems are snapshots of reality, then his prose is the video. The images flow along, like water, always pressing forward, light and active, full of specific verbs giving life to the sentence. Consider the phrase “when Elizabeth was Queen” -- the inactive “was” has no life, and the phrase falls flat. Change to “when Elizabeth reigned” and feel the glory and dignity from that lively verb. The active verbs in Basho prose carry a similar power.


Basho begins an haibun, or short poetic essay, in 1690 with this pair of statements with the active verbs “nurture” and “calm”:

 

The mountain in silence nurture the spirit
The water with movements calms the emotions

 

Basho prose about the journey to the Deep North appears in article A-14, and prose about children in article C-12; the present article. contains material not in the either of these articles

 

In his first recorded haibun, written in 1672, Basho dedicates his future poetry to the divine spirits in a shrine in Iga.


Tanka poetry has long been said
to soothe the hearts of the kamisama.
So these shorter poems may do the same,
I gaze upward, asking for Light to be shed
on the place of my heart’s intention.
From here, in my hometown Iga, to the Deity
of Literature residing in this Tenjin Shrine,
I put my hands together in prayer.

 

Tanka poetry in 31 sound-units has for a thousand years been recognized as soothing to the divine spirits. Poetry in 17 sound-units was at this time considered a mere game for amusement, without spiritual value. Basho prays for divine aid so that his own briefer poetry will “soothe the kamisama.” Basho, age 28, already sees what the future will consider his great contribution to world literature: the introduction of spirit into “these shorter poems.” We wonder a passage so personal and expressive of Basho’s thought has

not (as far as I can tell) been translated.

 

Intently I imagine the scene
at the Kanda Suda Produce Market:
fresh greens from outside a thousand villages
carried here strapped to kirin,
phoenix eggs wrapped in rice bran,
zingiber from within the snow,
early-spring watermelons,
the deep green of Korean ginseng leaves…
peppers from China becoming red …

 

The kirin, a legendary beast of ancient China, is not likely to be transporting vegetables in Japan. The phoenix, also legendary, burns to death and rises from the ashes, so really doesn’t need eggs, but if

(IF!) she had them, and if there was a market for them, they would certainly need to be carefully wrapped in soft spongy rice bran to remain unbroken on the back of a kirin. Zingiber is a kind of ginger grown in the tropics, and watermelons do not ripen till mid-summer. Ginseng ROOTS are a herb and delicacy favored by some, but who would buy the leaves? The Chinese love to paint things red (Witness their restaurants); Basho imagines that because these are Chinese peppers (to-garashi), this makes them turn red in autumn.


… all gathered here in Edo where wind
does not rattle branches of maize
nor does rain move ginger in the ground.                                                      So we get time for this poetic theme: Vegetables.

 

Basho refers to a Noh chant:

Country well-governed /wind does not rattle branches / so goes the reign


Do you see? He is indirectly (very indirectly!) praising the Tokugawa Shogunate for maintaining peace throughout Japan. The kamisama must be pleased because they have brought no severe typhoons            (“wind does not rattle branches”) or floods (“rain does not move ginger in ground”) allowing Japanese       (such as Sampu’s family) to build trade networks which bring produce from faraway provinces (and even from the Twilight Zone). Tokibi is maize, American corn, which as a grain doesn’t have branches.

 

Absurd as it is, the passage is praise for the prosperity brought by the Pax Tokugawa. Trade is flourishing. Markets are full of food and mothers can buy for their children. So much prosperity that Sampu can afford to leave his business to his subordinates while he spends his time on so mundane a poetic theme as ‘Vegetables.’ How the friendly merchant must have enjoyed Basho’s parody of food marketing and trade.

 

Until the end of his journey to the Deep North in 1689, Basho was devoted to searching for “traces” of the past, a remnant of what is gone still here in spirit, however from 1690 he receded from that search to focus more and more on the here and now – as in this passage from 1690 when he stayed in the Hut of Unreal Dwelling in the mountains above Zeze


…in the day my heart is moved by those
who on occasion come to visit me,
the old one who takes care of the shrine,
the men from the village
telling me of a wild boar tearing up the rice stalks,
of rabbits getting into the bean patches,
farmers’ talk I have not heard before.

 

A prose statement by Basho in 1693 clearly expresses his rejection of this traditional poetic search for “traces” that that we cling to and regret as they fade away, the pathos of things now gone:


Seek not the traces of the Ancients;
Seek rather the places they sought

 

“Places” means not only geographical places, but rather situations and places in thought. Basho advises us to look beyond the material stuff the ancients left behind, to instead search for the moments of now..

In the final year of his life, Basho says “No more” old temples and shrines, but rather the hopes and aspirations and those who built them. Basho – except when he is down – searches not for

the old and fading, but for Newness, looking forward with hope.

 

This nine-line word painting from a letter to his childhood friend Ensui is the finest stream-of-consciousness I have found in Basho’s letters; he describes a blossom-viewing picnic long ago in Iga:


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.

 

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. 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 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.

 

Basho wrote the following in 1692 to describe the new hut his Edo followers built for him.


Honorable it is to have nothing in heart
while having no talent, no knowledge surpasses all.
The one without a home, even a hut of weeds,
is next to be praised.
The nerves of steel for such an independent life
can hardly be carried on the wings of a warbler or dove.

 

One year, with no foresight at all,
as if blown there by a whirlwind I ripped my cypress hat
at the boundaries of Dewa in the Far North.
Three autumns then passed and to the east of Edo
where the river has three forks, in the sadness of autumn
I shed tears of another day over yellow chrysanthemums.
As before, the pillars have been shaved
through the kindness of Sampu and Kifu;
the inside furnished in quiet desolation
at the whims of Sora and Tasui.

The hut faces from the north to defend against winter,
to the south so I may enjoy the summer cool.
Gazing over the pond with bamboo railings
for those who love the moon, from the evening’s crescent
I hate the rain and suffer at the clouds.
Containers are sent to me in thoughtfulness ,
rice overflows my gourd, wine fills my bottle.

Surrounded by bamboos and trees,
mine is a home hidden deep.
And now to enhance the beauty of the harvest moon
FIVE banana plants have been brought here

 

The basho or banana plant produces fuit in tropical places, however in Japan it gets enough sun to produce enourmous flappy leaves, but no edible fruit. Eleven years before this, a follower planted a basho in the

garden of his first hut, and gradually he took on the name of the plant for his pen-name. The man Basho produced an enormous quantity of  poems (leaves) but no children (fruit).


Their leaves over seven feet tall
large enough to cover a harp or be sewn into a lute case.
The wind flutters the tail feathers of a phoenix
the rain pierces the ears of a green dragon.
Though the new leaves emerge day-by-day
like the knowledge of Heng Ch’u,
then uncurl as if waiting for the brush of Shao-nien,
Rather than adopt the ways of those two sages
I merely rest in the shade of the leaves
and love how easily they are torn by the wind and rain.

 

Basho leaves
To droop around the posts
Moon over my hut

 

Basho mourned for the death of his nephew Toin till the end of summer 1693 when he shut his door to all visitors and refused to go out for a whole month – though Jirobei stayed with him part-time and did light cooking for his granduncle. The following essay was his “Explanation for Why the Gate is Closed”:


Sexual passion was despised by Confucius, and
Buddha placed abstinence from sexual misconduct
as first among his Five Precepts,
however such feelings are difficult to discard
for they involve much emotion.
Beneath plum blossoms on the dark mountain
unknown to people, unexpectedly
we may be stained by the fragrance.
On a hill of deep longing,
with no one to guard the gate,
somehow indiscretions occur.
Many have wet their sleeves on a pillow of waves
with a mermaid, selling home and ruining life
however to torment the soul for rice or money
or for the aged self to crave the future
is to misjudge the pathos of existence,
a far greater sin, so let us forgive the sins of lovers.

 

Basho may here be speaking to Jirobei, suggesting that he forgive

the “indiscretions” of his parents

 

A life of seventy years is said to be uncommon,
the self-flowering for a few years beyond twenty,
then old age comes like the dream of one night.
Growing old at 50 or 60, crumbling into wretchedness,
going to sleep in evening and waking up early morning,
then using that time awake figuring what to covet.
The foolish do the most thinking.
Those ‘presumptuous in their evil passions’ who excel
merely excel at their ideas of right and wrong.
In this way we manage to make a living until with
heart angry at this greed-ridden world of demons,
we drown in a watery ditch, unable to survive.
To, as did Chuang-tzu, simply tear up involvements,
and by forgetting both youth and old age, find leisure,
this I say is the pleasure of growing old.
People come here for useless chatter. I go out
only to suffer at interfering with others’ business.
Sun Ching shut the door, Tu Wu-lang barred the gate.
Friendlessness shall be my friend, poverty my wealth.
A stubborn man at fifty years, for myself I write
and for myself I prohibit.

 

Morning glories
on the gate, as day comes
the chain closes

 

He goes out at dawn, when nobody is about, to enjoy the flowers.

As the sun rises and people come out, he locks the chain and goes

inside for the day while the flowers wilt. Here ends the essay.

With the next verse, Basho returned to the world.

 

 

                   basho4humanity @gmail.com

 






<< Who was Basho? (E-06) (E-08) Basho Spoken Word >>


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...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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