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  >  Space and Time  >  G-02


New Years

10 Basho haiku, 3 renku, 3 letters, one haibun

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

New Year's Day/ 
sunlight on every field/
is beloved. 

 

Rice fields now barren expanses of mud and frost with row after row of cut-off stubble; Sun (Goddess) weak and cold yet She shines with the promise of better things to come – so we love Her. 


Japanese of old celebrated the New Year on the first day of the first Moon in the lunar calendar; this varied from late January to mid-February by the Gregorian calendar. Spring, according to the Oriental reckoning, begins in February when it is still very cold, but the first signs of Spring can be seen in a few wild greens.

Basho’s first recorded haiku, written in 1662 when he was 18, focuses attention on the passage of old year into New Year.

 

Has spring come?
or the old year gone?
second last day

 

“Second last day” is the day before the last day of the lunar year, in 1662, February 17 and the first day of Spring by the solar calendar. It is not necessary to understand all the details of the two calendars; the point of the verse is that questioning we experience at the end of one year and beginning of another: is this an end? or a beginning? The questioning comes from a famous tanka in the Tales of Ise:

 

Did you come
or did I go? we can
not remember:
Dream or reality?
asleep or awake?

 

At the end of autumn in 1680, Basho experienced some profound realization of human loneliness –an existential crisis – which led to him leaving society to become a wandering poet. He marked this transforming moment in his life with a haiku

 

Withered branch
where a crow has settled
autumn nightfall

 

The branch lifeless, the crow black and forbidding, the nightfall cold and dreary, accumulate to form deep sabi, which the Japan Encyclopedia defines as “a medieval aesthetic combing elements of old age, loneliness, resignation, and tranquility.” Basho devoted the winter of 1680 and much of 1681 and ’82 to sabi,

and he began the year 1683 -- on January 28 -- with this haiku

 

New Year’s Day -
remembering a lonely
autumn nightfall

 

On New Years, 1683, Basho went back in time to that momentous autumn nightfall when his life changed direction. He seems to have reconsidered the hold of sabi on his mind, for this year he begins to lighten up. As in all New Years poems, the question is “Do we look forward or look back?”

 

In a Shinto ritual, ice from winter is preserved in an ice house to last until midsummer, and that spirit of perseverance offered to the kamisama. As the Japanese frequently extort each other, gambatte, “persevere, hang in there, maintain your strength.”

 

So it will not melt
this ice we dedicate

New Year’s dawn
the morning sun a faint
glimmering

 

Issho switches from mid-summer to freezing cold New Year’s daybreak; just before we see the first bit of Sun-circle, there is a glimmer on the horizon. The stanza-pair is a poetic representation of the yin-yang symbol. Yin is dark and cold; Yang light and hot. The bit of ice in the midsummer heat is the spot of Yin in the field of Yang; the sun rising in midwinter is the bit of bright heat in the cold dark field. The two fields with opposing spots together form the cycle of the year, of reality, of consciousness.

For New Year in 1689 Basho focuses on sunlight:

 

 

On New Year’s Eve, reluctant for the year to pass,
I drank deep into the night, then overslept

 

On second day
I shall not blunder,
glory of spring

 

He was “supposed” to get up early to see the first sunrise, but… The bed was so warm and the dawn so cold. He promises himself he will do better tomorrow. What do you think? Will he “blunder” tomorrow too? There’s enough “glory of spring” at noon.

 

In a letter to two followers in 1690, Basho writes:

 

Look at the haiku I wrote for New Years

 

Who is that man
covered by a straw mat
glory of spring

 

It is not much of a poem.

 

Not very impressive from a literary standpoint, not very fashionable . this “sketch” of a beggar asleep outdoors under a straw mat in the freezing cold New Year’s weather. If not for fortune, I could be him. This man, who most people ignore or wish to ignore, has an identity, a humanity, in which Basho sees the glory of spring.

 

According to the talents you have, make the poem work from your heart,
whether it be linked verse or haiku,
neither heavy nor merely spinning about

 

WHO IS THAT MAN? goes straight to its human and sociological meaning; it does not “spin about” aimlessly yet is not “heavy”; it does not shove that meaning at the reader’s face.

 

 Bush warbler
poops on the rice cake
verandah’s edge

 

Mochi rice cakes are eaten throughout the New Year’s season which in Japan lasts up to three weeks. As the days pass, with no refrigerators or plastic wrap, the leftovers get moldy – however dried in the sunshine, the mold can be wiped off and the mochi eaten – but not if it had bird poop on it. Usually we hear the lovely song of the bush warbler, but Basho notices something else about the bird. Kon says this verse is a “crystallization” of Lightness; it gives a definite form to Basho’s ideal: nothing poetic or philosophic, romantic or tragic, simply life as is, with a touch of humor, to be interesting. Small children will like any verse with pee or poop in it, so this should be a favorite.

 

New Year’s Day:

 

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

 

Haiku scholar Kon Eizo says, “At a New Year’s performance, a monkey’s mask worn by a monkey changes nothing – so we repeat the same foolishness each year.”

 

Spring arrives late in
sacred Nachi Mountains,

New Year’s Arrow:
all the young sons try
to shoot the best

 

The Nachi mountains near Kumano in Wakayama-ken are famous for severe winters and also for warrior disciplines such as archery in weather so cold one can barely feel fingertips on the bowstring. Archery exhibitions and competitions are a New Year’s ritual, and for boys coming of age, a manhood ritual. Sort of like ‘who can pee the furthest?’

 

In the link, we may search for the nature of male puberty. Sexuality is conceived as a type of “heat” which children lack, so they are winter. New Years (in February) is like puberty, when some parts of the body first feel that heat while other parts are still cold and non-sexual. We look forward to Spring, the season of romance and sex, when that heat becomes pleasant -- but beware of things getting too hot in summer.

 

The samurai Ranran was one of the first in Edo to follow Basho, and continued supporting him for 19 years. He died in 1693 in his forties. The following is from Basho’s essay Grief for Matsukura Ranran:


I remember a New Years past, Ranran holding hands
with a small boy came to my door of weeds and said
it would be good if I gave the lad a name.
This child was as handsome as a glimpse of the sage Ojuu at age four.      So I picked out the character for ‘juu’ and named him Ranjuu.                  The flush of Ranran’s joy, even now, has not left my eyes.

 

A samurai dad walks holding hands with his little son. (Say what?!) Maybe some samurai were not so strict and ‘manly’ as we imagine today. Basho replaced Ranran’s son’s infant name with one more suitable for an active and intelligent young boy. The little boy in his New Years finery was so handsome that Basho thought of the 3rd century Chinese sage Ojuu famous for his beauty as a small child, and “picked out” the character juu from Ojuu, and combined it with the first ‘Ran’ in Ranran, forming a name half from the father and half from a Chinese sage known as a handsome and brilliant child. When Ranran heard the name Basho chose for his son and saw the characters he selected, his face lit in joy.


Japanese for 20 centuries at New Years have played hanetsuku, non-competitive badminton in which the purpose is to volley as long as possible. The following haiku was written in 1702 by a seven- year-old girl, Haru, from Osaka, the great mercantile capital of Japan, where everyone is a merchant. Her daddy is busy all year long. Rarely does he spend any time with her. She loves New Year’s because he takes three whole days off from work, and will play lots of badminton with her. Near the end of the year, when he comes in to say goodnight to her, Haru asks in her most charming voice:

 

How many times
must I sleep? Daddy…?
till badminton!

 

We feel her love for Daddy, her patient though eager waiting for him to spend time with her at New Years. Haru-chan teaches us that seven-year-old girls 300 years ago thought and felt this way. Where else is there such a record of a small child’s consciousness from so long ago?

 

At New Years
we take along our
little buggers

Though meaning we hide
they stand and listen

 

 On New Year’s Day we get dressed up to visit shrines and friends and people important in our lives – so we adults have a lot to talk about. We brought the kids along with us, but really they did not want to go. (Ciisaki yatsura: yatsura is the plural form of yatsu, a slang word meaning, for an adult, “guy” or “jerk” or even “asshole,” although chiisaki, ‘tiny,” makes them small and cute.

 

As we walk about and talk to relatives, friends, and people important to us, a lot of what we say is not appropriate for children to know, so we hide our meaning in a maze of adult words with references to people and things they know not; the Complete Basho Renku  Interpretive Anthology says “we speak rapidly and respond with “un huh” – but how much do these highly attentive language sponges pick up? Adults think that language comprehension requires knowledge of each word’s individual meaning, but children get the meaning from context. The link between the two stanzas leads us into the nature of language, concentration, and intelligence.

 

From the 17th century Japanese commoner children went to private schools known as terakoya. Girls studied homemaking skills, arts, and music, and could read and write in the phonetic kana alphabets. Boys learned to read and write the thousands of Chinese characters used in formal Japanese. They practiced with copybooks such as Tenkin Orai, a series of letters appropriate to each month, giving students a wide range of content to copy, so they would learn how to understand and use all those characters effectively.

 

Your copy books -
from whose satchel shall
the year spring?

 

On the first day of school after New Year’s break, also the start of Spring, a teacher tells the students to take out Teikin Orai and practice writing New Year’s greetings (similar to the one billion nenga-jo 120 million Japanese send out at the end of the year to arrive on New Year’s morning). It would be clearer for the teacher to ask “from whose satchel shall the best penmanship spring?” (“spring” being a verb, as water springs from the rocks ) or even clearer, “who can do the best writing?” But this teacher’s question is more interesting to the children, and they play along with the game, and shout “Me! Me! From my satchel the year shall spring!” So they all work hard, as if playing a game, to get better. Instead of simply telling the students what to do, this teacher adds interest to the learning process. Both Basho’s father and his older brother taught calligraphy to neighborhood children to supplement their farm income; with this haiku Basho shows his knowledge of how a thoughtful teacher can motivate children to learn.

 

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

 

New Year’s Day
‘still an edge emerging’
plum blossom

 

“An edge emerging” is the first bit of white petal seen as a flower bud starts to open, but also is a phrase in the Tale of Genji describing Genji’s daughter, the Akashi Princess:

 

The Princess, still an edge emerging, is so pure,
we can only guess how her life will go

 

The Akashi Princess grows up to become Empress; Ensui applied this image, both natural and literary, to his infant granddaughter emerging from the womb, and also to the New Year emerging from winter. Ensui apparently has high hopes for his granddaughter.

 

For the next New Year, 1694, Basho sent a letter to his oldest friend:

 

In the spring of last year the scent of plum blossoms
I heard of ‘still an edge emerging,’ this year
gradually shall become fragrant and colorful,
so I guess how much you love her.

 

The whole tree will become gorgeous, as the infant who can now stand by herself goes out into the world. Basho links his heart with Ensui’s, feeling Ensui’s love for his granddaughter in his own chest.

 

Having taken one step past half a century pickled radish
shall penetrate my teeth, and I may learn to appreciate
the mochi in New Year’s vegetable soup, though I have
come to wonder if the remnant of years is approaching.

 

The sharp flavor in daikon pickles penetrates his teeth because they are old and need much dental work. Mochi itself has no distinct flavor to arouse young people; they like it mixed with other flavors. Only old patient taste buds enjoy it for its subtle flavor

 

For New Year’s 1694, Basho in Edo writes to his samurai friend Kyokusui in Zeze beside Lake Biwa: he mentions the previous New Years when Kyokusui was in Edo and came to visit Basho:

 

Thank you for your New Year’s letter.
I treasure the knowledge that your wife and children welcome the New Year without misfortune.
Last year when you were in this province,
we encountered the new spring together.
Enjoying the ‘first laugh’ was a novel experience.
This year alone I long to be with you.

 

Japanese custom cherishes various firsts-of-the-New-Year: the first dream, first sunrise, first hawk sighting: the “first laugh” is not one of these, but Basho and Kyokusui invent a new custom. We may follow them in cherishing and remembering our year’s first laugh.

 

That was a meager vegetable-mochi soup I served you.
This year at your house the uba fed you so much
you got sick of it.

 

Zoni is traditionally eaten throughout the 20 days of the New Year season. Thus by the end of the First Moon, when this letter was written, one might be tired of zoni. We see that the uba—old woman servant who probably was Kyokosui’s wet nurse—likes to overfeed her baby. Basho is playfully kidding his friend.

 

 

Basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Daybreak to Sunrise (G-01) (G-03) Mount Fuji >>


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