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  >  Space and Time  >  G-10


Transcending Space, Time, and Life

10 Basho haiku, 3 Renku, one tanka

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

"Days and months are guests passing through Eternity,
 the years that go by also are travelers."

 

So Basho seeks to transcend the barriers of Time - and those of space and life.        

 

This haiku illustrates:


On the scales
Kyoto and Edo balance
one thousand springs

 

Basho transcends space by imagining a vast scale with Kyoto on one arm, Edo (300 miles away) on the other arm, and they balance; that balance transcends time by lasting for 1000 years. This is not much of a haiku, but  does illustrate Basho’s lifelong search to transcend ordinary dimensions.

 

Basho’s preface to his famous journal A Narrow Path in the Heartlands begins with these words:


The days and months are guests passing through Eternity,
the years that go by also are travelers,

 

In ordinary thinking, we travel through time – but Basho says the units of time are “guests” or “travelers” who visit us, stay for a while, and pass away leaving only memories. He uses poetry to connect with the days and months and years and centuries which have left us, but still exist in Eternity. The rest of the journal provides examples of this.


At a village where, centuries before, women rubbed dye on silk fabric over a large rock with an intricate checkered surface to produce mottled patterns that became famous throughout the land:


Hands remove
rice seedlings, long ago
rubbing dye

 

Traditionally rice was planted by the young women of the village in hope that their fertility would magically transfer to the fields. The female hands gently separating the countless tiny roots of the seedling from the dirt of the nursery bed, careful not to damage them, then planting them in the paddy mud, are the same hands which centuries ago rubbed dye onto cloth: the same hands – the same DNA, the same precision and delicacy – inherited from mother to daughter in this village in the heartlands. Basho does not know what DNA is, but he knows that whatever it is, it transcends the barriers of time.

 

In the Deep North, Basho went to the hilltop in Hiraizumi (Iwate-ken) where 500 years before  was a great battle


Summer grasses –
great warriors, the traces
of their dreams

 

Since that epic tragedy came to pass, the grass on the hill has grown green and thick, then withered in the frost, 500 cycles. All that remains of the High Fortress are some stones scattered in the grass. These stones are physical remains of the battle. Basho sees not only what is physically there, but also what is hidden in Time, the ‘traces of their dreams’ lingering among the grass, transcending the barriers of 500 years.


Basho repeatedly in haiku and renku, focuses on ato “traces,”for what lingers, in reality or in spirit, from long ago. After two weeks of staying in his follower Kyorai’s cottage in Saga west of Kyoto, Basho wrote a farewell haiku to the cottage:


Long summer rains—
poetry cards peeled off,
traces on the wall

 

While it rains for hours, walking around the cottage just before he leaves it, Basho notices on the wall some rectangular spaces less discolored than the rest of the wall, showing that a former resident pasted his favorite poetry cards here; in these “traces” remaining from a consciousness here long ago, Basho imagines the lovely fair-weather scenes in the poems no longer present. “Traces” in Basho philosophy are connections, links, we have to a time long ago

 

Where is the storm?
curtain room shivers

A woman’s spirit
seems to have returned –
awesome her traces

 

Although there is no wind or rain, the low pressue zone around a storm sends a shiver through the curtains hung around a space to keep it a bit warmer in the winter. Basho makes this quiver in the fabric the spirit or ghost of a woman who came here and has now returned to the land of the dead, leaving awesome “traces” of her being. So this is transcending the boundaries between life and death.

 

 Basho wrote the following to his follower Etsujin who had been with him the previous winter, but now this winter they are apart.


The snow we two
watched – has it fallen
this year again?

 

Together last winter we watched snow fall. Now, as snow falls again, we are far apart. Have the snowflakes we saw a year ago fallen again this time around? Our friendship is sustained across the barriers of distance by something much greater, the eternal passage and return of the seasons.

 

The most famous teenager in Japanese History/Literature, Taira Atsumori, was born in 1164. Recognized from youth for his talent on the flute, he was given a family heirloom, his grandfather’s flute known as “Green Leaves.” Atsomori’s clan ruled Japan for some years, but in 1182 were driven from Kyoto to an enclave beside the waves at Suma (western Kobe). The night before the enemy attacked, they had a party to enjoy themselves while they could. Atsumori played his flute, touching the hearts of all who heard. In

the morning the attackers overwhelmed them. The Taira fled to cabin boats they had waiting on the beach. In the chaos and confusion, teenage Atsumori forgot his flute. He went back to get it and returned to the shore where he was cut down by an enemy warrior. Basho 500 years later, is at Suma Temple near where the battle occurred, and where the actual flute of Atsumori is kept.


In the shade
of green leaves to hear
the unblown flute

 

In summer the multitude of green leaves blocks out the sunlight, so there is a shade, a sort of darkness, under the trees – and also ‘shade’ suggests the presence of a ghost. In this place where Atsumori played his flute five centuries ago, Basho feels the vibrations (the ghost) from that performance still lingering in the

earth and stones. He seeks to ‘see’ what is no longer present, and to ‘hear’ the sound of long ago, remaining in “traces.”

 

So far in this article we have seen the “traces” of men transcend the barriers of time. In each of the haiku and renku for the rest of the article, Basho teaches us “how?” women transcend space and time to become universal and eternal .


By moonlight
my poor mother at work
beside the window 

She would hide fingers
stained with indigo

 

Iugen presents an image of mother, long ago and far away, doing the night work of women throughout the ages, after her family has gone to sleep, sewing or mending their clothing in that light from above

through the open window. (Even though you do not do this work, and your mother did not do it, your female ancestors did.) From this timeless iconic maternal image, Basho zooms in on her fingers stained from years of work dying cloth with indigo. He imagines her feeling the need to cover them with fabric to hide that strange inhuman color in the moonlight. The blue tint draws the eyes in our minds to her fingers – where we see her years of endurance and fortitude.


Renku scholar Miyawaki Masahiko says,

 

“In the behavior of mother hiding her fingers, the child separated far from her realizes her personality.       The moonlight conveys the feelings in the child’s heart along with memories of mother working in desperation to raise us in spite of poverty.”

 

The link – the thoughts that take us – from Iugen’s stanza to this astonishingly trivial but intimate human

detail shows the vast range of Basho’s genius. Only Basho could conceive of a link such as this, a link so personal and bodily yet so full of heart.

 

The temple in Hase is a place of pilgrimage for women who come to worship and pray to the 30 foot tall statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, carved from a single log of camphor, the largest wooden

image in Japan. Finally, by the end of April, enough warmth has accumulated so even the nights are warm and tranquil. It is a time for the heart to find solace and renew hope.


At the Kannon Temple in Hase:

 

Night in spring --
one hidden in mystery
temple corner

 

Taking off our shoes at the entrance, we step quietly onto the finely polished hardwood floor. Before us rises Kannon, five times our height, the compassion in her face and figure radiating to every corner of the temple. Over there, in a corner, someone barely seen in the faint lantern light sits in communion with the Goddess.

Who is she? Why has she come here alone at night? What is she praying for?


Kon says “in the one now hidden before my eyes, the images (of all the women who came to Hase-dera in the past) pile up one on top of another to attract my heart. By making a poem about the hidden woman, Basho eulogizes her; as conduit between spring and Kannon, she herself becomes eternal. This woman and her prayers to Kannon convey a tender mystery known in temples and churches throughout the world -- this world where men make decisions but men are inconstant, and all women can do about it is pray to a

goddess for compassion. The poem creates a link between women suffering in the 17th Century and women trapped in the same patriarchal system today.

 

Fabric woven from handspun yarn had a rough texture, and when washed, became all the more coarse. Before the clothing – especially underwear – was worn, the damp fabric had to be pounded with a mallet to soften and smooth out wrinkles. Until the early years of the 20th century, the sound of pounding cloth could be heard in all Japanese villages, especially in autumn as winter clothing came out of storage. As they worked, the women thought about the happiness or misery of their lives, recalled their dead parents, or longed for the return of their husbands from wherever husbands go. The sound of mallet on cloth over block came to represent woman’s unexpressed sentiment.

 

Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet

 

Basho also wants something more stable in the night sky for these sounds from a woman on Earth. What could be more stable than the Big Dipper, always and forever pointing to the North Star, a fitting symbol for the constancy of women? To produce a sound so clear it reaches the Seven Stars light years away, the heart of the woman doing her work, hour after hour, year after year, must be exceedingly clear.“Pounding cloth” can be more than merely what our foremothers did generations ago: it can be a symbol for ALL work women do to maintain cloth in wearable conditioin. In TONE SO CLEAR, Basho offers women at work on cloth an avenue to a greater Power in the sky.


By moonlight washing hair
with rice bran lather

Lighting lantern
and providing a mallet
to each child

 

Mother works from sun up to sun down; finally she takes a break in the evening, to wash her long black locks. Beside the well, she rubs a cotton bag of wet rice bran powder between her hands; the saponin or soap-like foam that emerges through the permeable fabric has been used for shampoo, as well as face and body wash, since ancient times. Rice bran is rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals which moisturize and strengthen hair, protect it from ultraviolet rays, and prevent hair loss.


A mallet was used for pounding cloth after washing to soften and smooth it. This can be an individual mother giving her daughters work to do in the evening, or can be iconic, a symbol for all mothers passing on the torch to their daughters, first the older, then the younger, for as many girls as there are in the household. She gives them Light – a bit of the Sun emerging from a lantern – and Work, the long tradition of females working day and night without complaint, simply working, generation after generation – only taking time off to care for their hair. Basho empowers modern women with “lighting lantern” which is Education, and “providing a mallet” which gives power to her slender hand and arm.


Here is a Basho haiku in which I translate by replacing the Japanese theatrical background with Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Women:


Harvest moon
facing the lake, seven
Ages of Woman

 

Each position of the Moon is one act in the play of a woman’s life. Watching the enormous round globe move throughout the long night, the seven stages -- infancy, school girl, lover, mother, elder, crone, and second infancy -- unfold before our eyes.


Threshing rice
the uba's good fortune,
chrysanthemums

 

Basho gave this as a greeting verse to a prosperous farmer whose home he visited. Throughout Japanese culture, chrysanthemums are a symbol of longevity and hardiness, standing tall on perfectly straight stalks, the multitude of petals in a large showy ball, their color and fragrance untouched by the cold and frost of autumn ending. After rice is harvested and dried, the grains must be threshed from the stalks by shaking the stalks, or pulling them through a comb-like device with metal teeth. In all farming societies, after-harvest is a time for celebration.

 

In between these two vivid seasonal references is the uba. She is the center of the verse. Probably she was the wet nurse of the householder who stayed on with the family to perform the roles of women: babysitting the children, helping in the kitchen and on the farm, assisting the woman of the household in child birth. Basho praises the woman for maintaining her vigor into old age. The image of chrysanthemums – the Japanese Imperial Crest –ensures that we take the verse as praise. Kon-sensei, as usual, goes right to the heart of the verse in one short, simple transcending sentence:


“Implied in the word uba is the prosperity of the whole family.”


Every morning, in all kinds of weather, she gets up and works all day with that chrysanthemum-like vigor. Without her labor, they could not be so prosperous. We must keep in mind that this is a “greeting verse” delivering a positive and supportive message from Basho to the host family. Once again, Basho makes a breastfeeding woman an Icon, a symbol that transcends time.

 

Asked in 1690 to name a newborn girl, Basho chose Kasane, ordinarily not a personal name, but rather a verb with meaning in space “to pile up, in layers”, and also in time “to occur again and again, in succession” – thus the word itself transcends space and time. He wrote this tanka to his goddaughter:


Blessings unto Kasane:

 

Spring passes by
again and again in layers
of blossom kimono
may you see wrinkles
come with old age

 

The double and triple meanings – layers of kimono, of years, of generations; wrinkles in the kimono and in her face -- overlap to form a web of blessing and hope for Kasane and all female children. Kasane, now your time begins, stretching to infinity before unfocused eyes. Soon you’ll be laughing and playing in the sunshine – that is, if no wars come and natural disasters, fatal illness, and financial ruin stay away too. One spring in youth, you shall be given your first blossom-kimono. The springs shall come and go with clouds of pink blossoms filling the treetops to fall in a shower of petals as you blossom into a young lady. I pray the day comes for you to pass this youthful kimono onto your daughter, the next “layer” of yourself, while you wear one more moderate in color and pattern – and this too passes onto her, and you to the dark sedate kimono of an older woman. Kasane, may our nation remain at Peace and the happiness in your family pile up layer upon layer until wrinkles in the fabric no longer smooth out and you see wrinkles of old age cross your face. Do not despair, my child, for you live again as spring passes by and your granddaughters laugh and chatter in their blossom kimono.

 

Basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Zeze: Resting Place for his Spirit (G-09) (G-11) Basho Letters of 1681 – 87 >>


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