Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


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


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  Basho Himself  >  E-10


Dying with a Smile



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

In his letters, we learn how Basho lived. Here we learn how he died: his final letter to his older brother, three sections from his will, two bits of speech in his last days, an account of the night before he died, the circumstances of his final afternoon, and his last words spoken a moment before he passed. To know the final thoughts of this great genius is a privilege.

 

On November 26th, Shiko helped Basho sit up, and he was able to write this letter in his own hand to his brother Hanzaemon who sat beside him at home in Iga four decades ago.

 

Before you I take leave
with regrets I make you bear.
Somehow relying on Mataemon,
as your final years approach
may you spend them with quiet heart
until they reach their fulfilment.
Arriving here no more can I say.

 

Basho, after he is gone, will feel no sorrow; Hanzaemon, the brother who lives longer, will bear the regrets. Mataemon is Oyoshi’s oldest son, so the future of the household lies with him.

 

Please take care of Ichibei,
the samurai Jiemon, and old Ensui to start
with all thy heart this I request.
And along with these, also Doho and Hanzan.

 

Ichibei is a thread wholesaler and Jiemon a samurai serving in the castle, both friends from long ago. I believe Ensui, four years older than Basho, had a great influence on the younger man growing up,

In one letter to Ensui, Basho told of a cherry blessom picnic in Iga: ,

 

Doho cracking jokes, here my yearning begins.

 

And when Basho returned to his hometown in 1694:

 

Doho, Ensui, and Hanzan delighted to talk
with me for days and nights.

 

In a letter to Doho and Ensui, Basho requested,

 

Take care of yourselves and Hanzan as well.

 

On these two pages is the entire letter Basho wrote. He says nothing at all about himself or his legacy, nothing about his successes or failures. His only concern is caring for people. First Basho cares for his brother, then he cares for old friends in his hometown.

 

(So, scholar Steve Odin, tell me more how “Basho takes detachment from human emotion to the point of complete dehumanization not only in his poetry and literary theory but also in his life.”)

 

The final words before Basho’s signature stand out:

 

Grandma and Oyoshi, their power shall decline.

 

“Grandma” is their name for Hanzaemon’s wife; she has no children or grandchildren, so they have adopted the youngest sister Oyoshi and her husband to inherit the household; unlike most women who marry, Oyoshi remained in the home where she grew up. Born when Basho was six or seven, her name appears in four Basho letters. I suspect that Oyoshi was the newborn, girl, teenager, and woman Basho observed to gain his understanding of female life and consciousness.

 

Basho in his final written words about his sister-in-law and youngest sister speaks not about their beauty or ladylikeness. No, he speaks only of their strength, ‘breaking their bones’ tending fires to boil rice, making plant fibers into clothing, caring for babies, husbands, and parents, until that “power declines.”

 

The letter is finished, but then Basho remembered one more person to care for, one more postscript:

 

p.s. Shinzo in particular went the limit for me,  I am thankful.


Shinzo was a shopkeeper in Iga; it sounds like he extended credit to Basho a number of times.


Basho’s Will, dictated to Shiko – who has travelled with him since leaving Iga and become his confidant -- begins by bestowing Basho’s few possessions, but then becomes a letter to his neighbors in Fukagawa. It continues the themes of the above letter to Hanzaemon, caring for people and thanking people for their care.


This I say to Ihei: this year you went the limit
in many ways to help Jutei.
I know thanks should be said in person,
but these certainly cannot be.
The two persons remaining
have lost their direction and must be upset.
Please consult with Old Kosai and others
to make a proper decision for them.

 

Basho thanks Ihei for helping Jutei die in peace. The “two persons remaining” are Jutei’s daughters, Masa and Ofu, now orphans. Parents provide a child’s “direction.” On his death bed Basho cares about how his grandnieces will manage.

 

Ten years before, a follower presented Basho with a wooden statue of Buddha rising into Nirvana. The Will continues:

Shiko this time bustled back and forth for me,
his kindness inexhaustible, so I ask this favor:
In my hut the statue of Buddha, bestow on him.

 

Wow! The hut is in Edo where Kikaku is king of the poetry world. without a clear direct statement that the statue goes to Shiko, Kikaku will take it for his own. In the years after Basho’s death,

these two continued to bicker over who was Basho’s true successor.

 

This I say to Sampu: for so long your kindness,
even after death, I shall not forget.
As I now end at an unforeseen place
there can be no words of parting
nor any thoughts between us.
Keep on making an effort with your poems
so you enjoy them as you grow old.

 

杉風へ申し候。
久々厚志、死後迄忘れがたく存じ候。
不慮なる所にて相果て御暇乞ひ致さざる段、
互ひに存念, 是非なき事に存じ候。
弥俳諧御勉め候いて、老後の御楽しみ成さるべく候

 

Sampu e mōshi sōrō.
Hisabisa kōshi, shigo made wasuregaku zonji sōrō.
Furyo naru tokoro nite ai hate o-itomagoi itasazaru dan, tagai ni zonnen, zehi naki koto ni zonji sōrō. Iyoiyo haikai o-tsutome sōrōite
rōgo no o-tanoshimi ni nasaru beku sōrō.

 

Basho expresses his profound gratitude to Sampu, the one person who has consistently supported him, both financially and spiritually, for the past 20 years. He would have been glad to know that his friend lived until his 85th year in 1732. I am sure that throughout those 28 years, whenever Sampu “made an effort” with poetry or “enjoyed” a poem, he remembered Basho’s final words to him. Even after death Basho continues to enrich Sampu’s life.

 

According to Shiko, as day broke on November 27, Basho turned toward Bokusetsu, his doctor, and said,


“As I recall my life and dying,
the mornings and evenings pressing on,
from the start a cloud towering on the water,
I do not want to end up quibbling over
this medicine or that medicine. I shall not
look back on this disease to like or dislike.
(Points to Bokusetsu) This sage’s medicine
shall until the end wet my lips.

 

                          (Quoted by Rotsu, undated)

 

“So the corpse shall be sent to Kiso’s graveside.
There at the crossroads of East and West
where ripples are clear against the shore
and vows of a lifetime are deep,
when beloved friends come to visit
they shall not be put to inconvenience.

 

The 12th century warrior Kiso Yoshinaka is buried on the grounds of Gichuji Temple in Zeze beside Lake Biwa. Ordinarily Basho would have been buried in Iga with his family, however here he makes a special request for burial at Gichuji. Iga is far from the main road between Edo and Kyoto, while Zeze is right alongside that major road – and so at the end Basho thinks of his friends’ and followers’ convenience.

 

The night of November 27th, ten followers are gathered in Osaka to share Basho’s final moments:

Jirobei, Shiko and Izen who accompanied him from Iga to Osaka;

Donshu, an Osaka youth;

From Zeze, the samurai Otokuni, doctor Bokusetsu tea merchant Masahide,

and Joso from Nagoya, but now living in Otsu;

Kikaku, Basho’s senior follower and leader of the Edo circle;

and our friend Kyorai, who tells the following:

 

My former Master on his sickbed in Osaka asked
each follower to write a poem for his night’s vigil.
From today the verses shall be after my death;
to this I cannot add one word of advice.

 

Many were written, but only for Joso’s verse:

Crouching
below tea kettle
oh the cold!

 

did Basho say in praise
Joso has done it !
才 草 出 来 た り !
Jōsō dekitari

 

Basho is saying “Joso GETS what I have taught. This poem is IT, the fulfilment of my path and my teachings.”

 

I like the fact that Kyorai tells the story, even though his own verse was not chosen. Kikaku, on the other hand, in his account of Basho’s death, records the seven verses – none by Jirobei, Donshu, or Kikaku -- but says nothing about Joso’s verse being chosen or praised. Also, it is interesting that in neither Shiko’s nor Kyorai’s accounts is there any mention of Kikaku. Kikaku comes from the Big City, Edo, and is ten or more years senior to any of these young Kansai punks with their guttural Kansai dialect. Kikaku may be senior to any of them, however there are seven of them and only one Kikaku and he is in their territory. Kikaku would not lower himself to enter into a competition with such riff raff – whatever would he do if Basho did not choose his verse? And Mr Big Shot certainly will not record Basho’s praise for this Joso person.


In Joso’s verse we find the entire scene there with Basho the night before he died. November is ending and the hearth the only source of warmth in the house. The floor is the only place to sit; there is no furniture except Basho’s futon and sitting cushions.The kettle hangs from the ceiling over a sunken hearth in the center of the room -- so people can sit or lie around it on all four sides. Basho is lying on a futon close to the hearth and the followers sit as close to the hearth and the Master as they can. They are “below the kettle” in that they are at a lower level than the kettle is -- not that it they are directly below it. The followers are crouching (uzukumaru; an active lively verb) because they are cold, but more because they have to sit here hour after hour without being able to do anything for Basho. There really is nothing anyone can do. So ‘crouching’ means to “sit in a huddled way,” trying to preserve warmth, but also “being here feeling useless”.

 

At the time of making a verse
the sentiment may be there
but to gather what is interesting,
to find the proper scene,
we may not have the leisure.
In Joso’s verse there was the realization.

 

Kyorai explains why this verse is so great: Joso was able to “gather what is interesting” from the infinite aspects of reality. He was able “to find the proper scene” -- like a photographer choosing the scene to put on film – looking up at the teakettle while sitting on the floor.

 

The ‘cold’ in this verse can be

1) the tea in the kettle getting cold

2) early winter getting cold

3) the followers getting cold

4) Basho getting cold

5) the coldness of death

 

Maybe this is why Basho wants this verse in particular for his “night’s vigil.” When the pain in his bowels keeps him awake tonight he can spend the long hours exploring all the various interpretations possible from these six words.

 

                         From the Diary of Kagami Shiko, November 28, 1694

 

So far the old man had without fail eaten
every dawn and dusk but yesterday,
from morning to evening he took no food.
Realizing that today would be Bashō’s final moments, the followers stay in the next room saying not a word, while attending to the left and right of his sickbed
are only Donshu and Jirobei.
Concerned that these two children
might have trouble hearing Basho,
Shiko watches from behind.”

 

Ten followers are here, but Basho only allows the two teenagers to attend him: Notice how Shiko patronizes them.

 

Basho opens his eyes around noon and looks
around the room. Understanding what he wants,
they give him some rice gruel and help him sit up
and he moistens his lips with it.
The day is warm as if the sky of a small spring
were returning and Basho is annoyed by flies
gathering around the white shoji panels,
so they go to catch them with bird-mochi
stuck to bamboo poles.

 

It is one of those warmish days in early winter when already spring seems coming back to us. All other insects have died from the night cold, but flies are somehow tougher.

 

Tori-mochi is the sap from the mochi tree, a type of ilex or holly stuck around the end of a bamboo pole to make a fly (or bird) catcher. Instead of waiting for the fly to come to the sticky, you swing the sticky at the fly. To flick the fly before it flies away requires stillness-in-motion, a talent Basho learned growing up in Iga, famous throughout Japan as a training center for ninja.

 

Basho is amused to note that some are skillful
and others not and he says with a smile:

 

“These flies sure enjoy having an unexpected sick person.”

 

                此 蠅 の おもハぬ 病人 を やどして よろこぶ らめ。
    Kono hae no omowanu byonin o yadoshite yorokobu rame. 


to melt his attendants’ hearts with happiness.

 

Basho maintains Lightness to the very end. The flies “sure” (-rame) “enjoy” (yorokobu) “having” (yadosu) him the way you “have” or “keep” a pet. Basho is the flies’ pet, and they enjoy flying around in the smell of his infection and diarrhea. Even in his final words Basho uses lively specific verbs to create humor. His comment is so light and playful, and he is smiling, that his attendants assume he is not about to give up the ghost at this particular moment, so they continue swinging bamboo swords at flies.


“After, he says nothing more and passes away,
leaving each of us bewildered,
thinking it not yet his final parting”

 

And that’s when he slips away, the ninja from Iga.

 

           basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Five Final Haiku (E-09) (E-11) Basho on How to Write Haiku >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


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


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com