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  >  Letters Year by Year  >  G-17


Letters of Summer 1693 to Spring 1694

Seven Basho Letters

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

The death of his nephew left “traces” - or “scars” - on Basho's spirit. He mourned till late summer when he shut his door to all visitors and refused to go out for a month – though Jirobei stayed with him part-time and did light cooking for his granduncle. Then in autumn, his old friend Ranran died, the grief piling up in layers. With winter, however, Basho recovered his Lightness, and the verses of this winter are models for the Lightness style. And then came spring, Basho’s final chance to enjoy this season in Fukagawa on the banks of the Sumida River.

 

                                            Letter 169 to Keiko, June 2, 1693

 

This spring my nephew known as Toin,
after enduring hardship beyond thirty years,
died of illness. While he was sick my soul suffered
and after he died the heartbreak would not stop.
In the depression of my spirit, though cherry blossoms were in full bloom, I passed spring in a dream so no verse could I write.
To console my depression
I gave into the recommendation of Sampu and Sora
to write a poem on ‘hototogisu at water’s edge’

 

Sampu and Sora, the two followers in Edo who truly saw into Basho’s heart, realized that their master needed the challenge of writing a haiku to a theme they set, to get over his depression.

 

And then by chance the poem came from reality:

 

Ho toto gi su
the call spreading sideways
over the water

 

The words from Sotoba’s poem, ‘Light on water touches heaven
white mist sideways upon bay’ may be seen in my use of ‘sideways.’

 

The haiku is a sort of spiritual riddle; find the similarities among

 

1) the white mist spreading sideways over the water,

2) the sound hototogisu spreading out over the water

3) the spirit of Toin spreading out into infinity.

 

The call of the “time-bird” comes from deep inside the forest where it cannot be seen or located — like a voice from the dead. The white mist spreads apart, drifting lazily. If the mist is spreading sideways it must be cold mist (since warm mist would rise). Cold, like death. How does sound spread over water differently from the way it spreads over land? Over water sound seems to drift, as if coming from far, far away.

 

Basho’s friend and follower Ranran went on a journey, but died on the way home. Ranran’s younger brother Ranchiku notified Basho in a letter. In his essay, Grieving for Ranran, Basho says

 

He went before his 70 year old mother
leaving memories with his seven year old son

 

                        Letter 174 to Ranchiku, September 28

 

I was shocked to hear the news you sent me.
Still I know not whether it is dream or reality.
Since that day so many regrets, such grief unspoken.
I wish to visit you to learn the details,
in a few days, and we can go to his grave.
Nursing your old mother must be your one and only.

 

Ranran died on September 27th under a waning crescent moon; Basho and Ranchiku visited his grave seven days later, the new moon a waxing crescent.

 

Hast thou watched?
these seven nights, over thy grave,
crescent moon

 

Ranran, are you watching the moon with me?

 

Kyokusui again in Edo, one winter day Basho visited him:

 

Letter 177 to Kyokusui, December 4

 

My delight at being with you last time
cannot be put into words. I recall the poems we wrote at your lodgings:


          Banked fire                            
          on the wall, the guest’s       
           shadow figure                    

 

Sunlight leaking
through cracks in garden wall
 the daffodils

 

It is as if a thousand years have passed.

 

Both poems convey a deep feeling of winter, though Basho’s is dark night and Kyokusui’s is sunny day.       In faint glow from the sunken hearth where the burning coals have been covered by ashes so they will last till morning, who’s the guest? The most amazing of phenomena in mid-winter when all else is withered and frozen, are gorgeous white daffodils with bright yellow petals blooming among the withered grass with a strong sweet fragrance. Kyokusui compares these tiny flowers amidst the deep and oppressive cold to the few rays of sunshine that find their way through cracks in the plastered wall.


This summer the hot was so oppressive,
from early autumn I closed my gate
and declined all relations and messages,
although Jirobei enjoyed doing light cooking for me.
All summer I never held a brush or turned to a book,
and abandoned my practice of ink-drawing,
merely sleeping till the day ended
Recently, as usual, the cold arrived,
so I could scatter about some words to throw away:

 

The next two haiku, both by Basho, appear in the letter

On the saddle 
sits their little monk 
daikon gathering 

 

ON THE SADDLE shows us an ordinary family on a pleasant way in early winter going to gather daikon radishes from the field.Their youngest son – an ordinary child with head shaved close – too small to gather the enormous roots, has been placed on the horse so he will not get in the way. The bald round head stands out high on the horse above the field.

 

The pathos of
geese hanging from pole
this festive day

THE PATHOS OF portrays the early winter Ebisu Festival in the City; the contrast is between dead geese hanging limply from the seller’s pole while hordes of happy people walk about, talking and laughing. Both of these poems illustrate Lightness, for they are ordinary scenes actually occurring in the lives of ordinary people, without tragedy or any negative connotation.


I got a letter from Shado and this time replied in detail.
I told him that his not going to greet you was rude.                                        
I was surprised by Masahide’s verse about quail.
In the difficulty I had this summer,
I gave no guidance, no service, to anyone.
Were his fingers stuck in something so he could not write?
Must I only write to him without him to me?
On the basis of his character, I judge his behavior.                                          
I wish to hear that Takesuke is becoming a big boy,
and Osome is without misfortune.

 

Kyokusui’s younger brother Dosui -- who we meet in Letter 60 -- like Basho and most second sons in the Japanese household system, has no role to fulfill, so he has free time to practice disciplines or study. Also in Letter 60 Basho speaks of the attraction Dosui and Basho share for the sage Chuang-tzu, co-founder with Lao Tzu of Taoism.

 

Letter 178 to Dosui, December 4, 1693

 

How are your studies of Chuang-Tzu progressing?
If you allow small interruptions, as in the fable
of the magical horse surprised by the fly on its tail,
you may miss the Land of Unlimited Possibilities.

 

Chuang-tzu told of a magical horse who could run a thousand leagues in one day, and a fly who certainly could not, however because the horse took a break and rested, the fly caught up (like the Tortoise and the Hare) -- the moral of the story being that no matter how advanced you are, a common person on your tail can equal your progress and even jump ahead of you when you are not looking. The ancient sage also told of a magical country where nothing is prevented and freedom unlimited, but apparently you have to be most diligent to get there.

 

In the spring of 1694, after spending a half year in a rental house in Edo and two years in the new hut his followers built for him, Basho again wished to be on the road. He wanted to visit his brother Hanzaemon and sister Oyoshi, and to hang out with old friends in his hometown, and in Kyoto and Zeze, to mediate the disputes occurring among his followers in Nagoya and Osaka. Also, Jutei is sick with the tuberculosis she picked up from her husband who died of it. She has no income yet three children dependent on her: They need a place where they can live for free. Basho lives alone in his three room “hut” although Jirobei stays with him part-time and does light cooking. Basho would have let all five of them move in, but the place was not really big enough for an old man, sick widow, two young teenage girls and an about 15 year-old boy who just lost his father. We imagine that the boy and his hormones were a bit difficult to live with at this time in a young girl’s life. Because Basho was a man who cared about the welfare of children, even girl children, he found the perfect solution: to take Jirobei with him and let the females have the place to themselves.

 

Letter 182 to Ensui, February 14

 

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.

 

By the Japanese count, Basho is 51, entering his second half century. 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

 

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

 

Last Spring Ensui told Basho of the birth of his granddaughter who was “plum blossoms still emerging from the bud,” and Basho replied within the same metaphor. Now, a year later, he wishes that this year the whole tree will become fragrant and colorful, as Ensui’s granddaughter who can now stand by herself goes out nto the world ever more “fragrant and colorful.” Again Basho transcends the distance between them, feeling Ensui’s love for his granddaughter in his own heart.


For New Years of 1693 Kyokusi was in Edo and visited Basho who managed to cook some zoni, vegetable soup with mochi dumplings, a traditional New Year’s dish. For New Years of 1694 Kyokusui is home with his family.


                                                Letter 184 to Kyokusui February 23

 

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 yearn for 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 served throughout the New Year season which lasts 20 days. Thus by the end of the First Moon, when this letter was written, one might be tired of zoni. We see that the uba—who probably was Kyokosui’s wet nurse—likes to overfeed her baby. Basho is kidding his friend. This is the ‘real’ Basho: a man teasing his friend with affectionate banter.


p.s.     Takesuke becoming a big boy,
           his little sister I have yet to meet,
           I long to see them all.
           And Osome, is she without misfortune?

 

When Basho last saw the family, there was only the older sister Osome and five-year old Takesuke. But now another girl has been born and Basho longs to see them all and know how they are growing. He does, however, sound concerned about Osome’s health.

 

On the same day of his letter to Kyokusui, Basho also wrote to his younger brother Dosui. This is the only Basho letter which mentions the Zen Priest Butcho who was Basho’s neighbor for about 18 months, from winter of 1680 to the summer of 1682 and then apparently guided Basho in his studies of Zen and the philosophy of Chuang Tzu.

 

Letter 185 to Dosui, February 23

 

The letter you sent early this spring to Butcho,
he brought to my hut so I could receive it too.
Carefully reading into every nook and cranny. . .
I was surprised by the energy you had
while fighting against illness on your sickbed,
to open your eyes wide to enlightenment. 
                                                      
The Priest, with January not so cold,
though he was ill, with an attendant,
one evening came to my hut.
We started talking about Buddhism,
but stopped, and talked about poetry till midnight.


So poetry, not Buddhism was their common interest.

I appreciate your discipline and progress,
though the small path divides into smaller twigs,
there is no end to sin in the world,
and self-realization is obscured…
Without discipline day by day, month by month,
year after year, one cannot reach the place
where Things and Self are One Knowledge.
I get a deep impression of your earnest reliance
on close attention to Buddhist discipline

 

 

How succinctly Basho conveys the nature of self-discipline leading to self-realization. He praises Dosui for his Zen discipline and encourages him to continue -- while implying that he himself would never do anything like that. At no point in his life does Basho show any self-discipline. Basho wanders about like a butterfly, like Chuang Tzu.

 

The Priest talks himself hoarse preaching to the general fools


Is Basho saying that Zen priests talk too much?

Sometimes we spoke about you,                                                                   our replies to your letter piling up unsent.

 

In other words, why have you not replied to the letters Butcho and I have sent you?

 

 

                   Basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Letters of Spring of 1693 (G-16) (G-18) Two Letters to Sora: >>


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