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  >  Animals in Basho  >  F-17


Other Mammals

20 Basho poems about ox, fox, bat, rodent,wild boar, rabbit, monkey.

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

 Just as Basho was an anthropologist observing humanity, he also studied the nature and activity of our mammalian cousins, and we can learn much about humanity from his sketches of animals.       

(also see the DEER ALIVE in article F-14, CATS AND DOGS in article F-15, HORSES  in F-16 and the whale in LIFE UNDERWATER F-19). 


Spring, in Japanese tradition, begins in early February when it is still is very cold and most trees barren, a month before any other tree blossoms, reddish buds swell on leafless plum branches and open to neat white petal clusters with a clear refreshing fragrance. At the same cold time, the bush warbler, or Japanese nightingale, sings her lovely “first song” Basho has some fun with the traditions; as he so often does, he focuses on the female, the ox cow.

 

To this plum tree
even a cow would sing
her first song

 

Moooo.

 

A plum tree in the village:

 

Boys! Leave some
plum branches unbroken
to prod your ox

 

The ox, who has stayed alive all winter on hay, wanders about the farm searching for new green growth so he can put some muscle on those bones and pull the plow through the mud before rice planting. While their sisters inside the house spin yarn and weave fabric, the little boys do what boys in villages worldwide do: watch after animals (as in Kunta Kinte’s village in Roots). The little rascals—with complete and utter disregard for the thousand years of elegant Chinese and Japanese poems on plum blossoms—have broken off the slender, young branches, covered with buds and blossoms, to swat the ox’s butt to make him go where they want. Weird kids. Basho is concerned that they will take ALL the branches for this purpose so we can view no blossoms this year. Weird Basho. There must be hundreds of branches on each tree.


Rarely emerging
beyond mountain shadow
 an ox pisses

Lacquered sheaths dewy
boys’ swords hang low

 

A bunch of young boys, who rarely leave their village in the shadow of a mountain, are off on a quest one morning, ready for adventure: this is when they see the ox peeing. An adult samurai carries his sword in an elegantly lacquered sheath which hangs from his waist. These are little boys with short legs and stick-of-wood swords, so the “lacquer” on the bottom of the “sheath” brushes against the dewy grass. Notice the similarity between stream of piss from ox to wet ground and line of sword from boy to wet ground.

 

Pulling leeches from ox
on a rest from plowing

Dyed black
male temple servant’s
heart heavy

 

The farmer takes a break from guiding the ox-drawn plow through thick mud to pull blood-sucking leeches from the animal’s body. Everything in this stanza is dirty, dark, backward, and infested. Basho switches to the perfectly clean environment of a Buddhist temple. This man was given to the temple as a child, but did not have what it takes to become a monk, so he stayed on as a servant. He wears black robes, follows all the rules of a monk, works as hard as any slave, and is at the bottom of the pecking order. When he takes a rest from work, his thoughts are dark, heavy, and grumbling – like leeches draining his energy.


On his Chinese-
style hood scatter
cherry blossoms

Drunk from ox falling
in the spring breeze

 

“Chinese-style” suggests elegance. The blossoms scattering on his head suggest his wild, unrestrained consciousness; he must be an eccentric poet-sage, so Basho puts him on an ox which suggests the greatest sage of them all, Lao Tzu, famous for riding an ox -- however Basho mixes things up further by having the elegant but crazy sage so drunk he falls from the animal’s back. I like the way the cherry petals fall onto his hood and stop there; then, as he falls, they complete their journey to the ground.

 

The ice bitter
a sewer rat quenches
his thirst

 

The City of Edo supplied water through bamboo pipes to all residents, however Basho’s hut was outside city limits, so he had to buy water and store it in his hut. His haiku suggests a passage in the ancient Taoist of parables, the Chuang Tzu: A sewer rat drinks from the river, just enough to quench his thirstThe ancient passage means that we should learn to be satisfied with what we have. Basho’s verse, although it comes from Chuang Tzu, has a different meaning. The word “bitter” and the cold of “ice” steep the verse in misery. The haiku was written in 1681, when he was studying Chuang Tzu with the Zen priest Butcho, and it expresses the lonely desolate feeling of Chinese recluse poetry.


Baby sparrows
cheep together with
nest of mice

 

The nest of sparrows is built outside the wall under the eaves, and the nest of mice are inside that wall, so the two kinds of babies are very close and can cheep to each other. Adult mice and sparrows are too ‘grown up’ to learn each other’s language, but maybe through their young, the two species can communicate.

 

Basho writes about three men on a journey to Kashima: his friend Sora, the Zen monk Soha, and himself.


Now one of these is not a monk,
although also not of the ordinary world.
Between a bird and a mouse is called a “bat”
and should fly to an island where no birds sing,

 

Basho separated from society to wander about in monk’s robes, but he did not go so far as to become a monk. Somewhere in between, he is like a rodent with membranes stretched like sails between fingers and body, no match for the muscular wings of birds. Bats hibernate in caves until warm weather wakes them:

 

Come out, bat,
in floating world of blossoms
you be a bird

 

Basho gave this verse to a monk leaving on a journey, telling him to “lighten up” -- all Buddhism and no play makes a dull monk. Come out of that cave and fly about. Get high on Springtime, man.

 

The moon clear –
attendant to a child
scared by a fox

 

The road is dark and in the cold moonlight even familiar things become fearsome shadows. Foxes in Japanese folklore bewitch people and make them do evil. The years have taught Basho that the fox’s howl is only the cry of another being lonely in the night – but how can a child know this? When things get scary, every child needs someone bigger who can be trusted.

 

 

Even wild boars
blown along by the
blasting wind

 

Wild boars is a heavy, clumsy beast with sharp tusks he uses to tear about leaves to get at the edible roots underneath. Tough and relentless he is, but here loses out to an autumn typhoon. We see the male, out in the open, fighting against the forces of nature. In a 1690 letter to two followers,Basho offers this haiku as an example of his new style of Lightness which he declared this springsaid,


A verse such as this rips off the old husk
but on a one-lane road it is difficult for a new style to emerge;
people see only the words
which are brusque and give rise to a clamor:
they “smell like sake” or “stink like tofu”
is the connection people make.

 

People have one-track minds with no lane for a new style to grow. They do not appreciate a verse because, instead of seeing and hearing the words for what they mean in this particular context, they respond to them within some old context. The reader may think the verse is “brusque” because the animal is such a wild, ferocious beast – however the verse is not really about wild boars. It rather expresses the human experience of being in a furious autumn typhoon: as the savage winds blast my body, as if to blow me away or rip my clothes to shreds, I fantasize a wild boar in the same experience. This imaginary wild boar brings me a chuckle as I struggle against the wind – and so EVEN WILD BOARS is a verse of Lightness. The alliteration of “b” and “w” sounds adds to that light feeling. .

 

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.

 

Taro patch torn up,
the wild boar returns

Child of poverty
learns to wait for love
in the autumn wind

 

The tuber taro grows underneath patches of enormous flappy leaves shaped like elephant-ears. The boar really wants the underground starchy corms – however the leaves get in the way. The mess of ragged and torn elephant-ear leaves suggests, to Basho, the turmoil in the heart of one who waits in vain for love.

Basho gets us the opportunity to stretch our minds: to build a bridge of thoughts across the gap between wild boar in taro patch and a youth waiting for a lover who does not come. It’s a long way to stretch, but if we are flexible, we can do it.

 

It’s perfectly okay to ignore the wild boar stanza and focus only on Basho’s stanza. These three short lines -- with or without the wild boar one -- goes out to all impoverished youths who learn to wait for love in a thin jacket that does not stop the chill wind from passing through. Basho is your poet. He speaks for you.

 

The wild boar is a fierce brute with a heavy stout body and sharp tusks he uses to tear up taro patches and so forth – but Basho also feminizes the testosterone-charged image of wild boar.

 

Never snowed on
this pine tree, for itself,
has grown fat

Pressing down bush clover
wild boar makes her bed

 

A pine in the semi-tropics needs no “fat” to keep warm, but has grown fat anyway. The wild boar wife also is “fat” which here means healthy and full of nourishment for her infant boars. Instead of going out to ravage fields or fight typhoons, she presses down the delicate bush clover where she can lie in relative safety and fulfil her evolutionary destiny to nourish and hide her infants till they can care of themselves. We never hear much about her – which is just fine for her and baby hidden among bush clover

 

The altogether ungentle wild boar produces a baby so small and round that it has a cute name of its own, urabou, separate from the adult inoshishi. The mother gathers dirt, grass and twigs to build a mound where she sleeps with and nurses her baby.

 

Pines and oaks,
are battered, the storm
makes a sound

Child shot by an arrow
bed of the wild boar

 

The arrow penetrates the flesh and the baby screams in agony while the mother screams, like a storm battering the trees, in grief and rage at her inability to help her child. Basho crams so much life and activity in a stanza.

 

Rabbits living in Japan are a sub-species of the northern European snow-rabbit, so have evolved the enormous snowshoe-like feet and powerful legs they need to run fast and leap through the air on snow.  They are ‘field rabbits’, not burrow-rabbits; adults live singly and do not dig underground for shelter.       During the day they rest in the bushes, and at night they search around for grass. The babies are born able to see and move about (whereas newborn burrow-rabbits are blind and helpless). Unlike squirrels who use their paws to bring food to the mouth, rabbits move the mouth to the food. Whiskers on the side of the face enable the rabbit to feel more than the mouth can reach.

 

The next haiku has a headnote:

In the hills of Iga, at play with children:

The poet is in his hometown with those 40 years younger. these are the hills where Basho played as a child.


First snowfall,
from fur of rabbits
make whiskers!

 

Joyful in the year’s first snow, the kids go bounding about like rabbits, so Uncle Basho suggests they find some real rabbits somewhere, pull off some fur, and stick it on their faces between nose and mouth, to complete the picture.

 

Basho’s disciple Kyorai pointed out that we should not be surprised when we notice that the verse “makes no sense” -- it is not supposed to be logical or make sense. It’s a joke shouted by one child to another as they run about in the snow. Adults may not find the joke funny, but if it amuses children, it has achieved its purpose.

 

Japanese monkeys, the only ones in the world whose native habitat is so far north, live in packs of about ten in mountain forests. In autumn they eat all the fruits, berries, seeds, leaves, insects, and crabs they can find, so they grow fat with the thick fur needed to survive winter in a mountain forest.

 

First winter shower,
the monkey too would like
a small rain coat

 

When it starts to rain, Basho hurriedly puts on his mino, a cape woven of straw and waterproofed with persimmon juice. He then sees a monkey shivering beside the road and simply presents his immediate child-like compassionate thought -- compassion expressed in that word “too”. Basho always thinks the simple way. This is what he teaches us – to go back to the beginnings of thought, the thoughts in childhood that begin the development of Compassion.


To the ancient poets who sang of the pathetic cries of monkeys

 

You hear the monkey,
what about this abandoned child
in the autumn wind?

 

 

New Year’s Day:

 

Year after year
worn by a monkey
a monkey’s mask

 

At a New Year’s show, a monkey’s mask worn by a monkey changes nothing – so we repeat the same foolishness every year. Basho wrote quite a few verses about women pounding cloth to soften and smooth it after washing; always the sound of pounding cloth is an expression of the constant and eternal labor of women. Here is a man doing this work:


Monkey showman
pounding the cloth of
monkey’s jacket

 

He pounds the cloth of his monkey’s fancy jacket to make it shine and appeal to an audience. The achievements of men seem so paltry and meagre compared to the work of women.

 

Monkey showman’s
life spent with monkey
moon in autumn

 

He makes a meager living giving performances for tips from passersby. He is all alone except for his monkey; when travelling, he carries the monkey on his back. Such is his destiny under the moon. The season being autumn, he looks forward to six months of cold – although at New Year’s he will pull in the most tips in the year; maybe he will even be able to afford something for his and the monkey's comfort.

 

                        basho4humanity@gmail.com 

 






<< Horses on the Go (F-16 ) (F-18) So Many Birds >>


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