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-19


Letters in the rest of summer, 1694

To Sampu, Ihei, Kyokusui, and Shiko

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

The first two letters are both dated the same day as the astonishingly long letter to Sora in G-18.  Basho must have gotten much energy from being in Zeze on the shore of Lake Biwa. Much of the letter to Sampu repeats the letter to Sora; I have left out those sections to concentrate on the material unique to this letter.


Letter 197 to Sampu, July 13, 1694

 

This letter is delivered courtesy of the Lord of Zeze.

 

Basho’s followers accompanying the Lord of Zeze to Edo to “attend” on the Shogun  agreed to take Basho’s letter with them.

 

Has anything changed with you? I want to know.

 

According to Sam Hamill, Basho’s “chills, fever, and headaches persisted" (throughout the month from Edo to Iga) - although Japanese sources say nothing of this.  Let’s see what Basho says about this:


As for me, on the road as far as Shimada,
I had some hindrance but gradually became robust.

 

We know he left Shinagawa in the south of Edo mid-afternoon the 3rd, and he did arrive in Shimada before dark on the 7th. That’s 110 miles in 3 1/2 days of travel. Basho said he had some “hindrance” from his chronic bowel disease, but not enough to prevent him from doing 30 miles a day.


For the sake of my health, we walk 5 to 7 miles a day,
sometimes, according to the day, 12;
and when horses are convenient we ride horses,
so by doing this and that, we arrived in Iga.
Rainy weather, mostly drizzle, so not really hot.

 

Riding a horse or palanquin are easier than walking, but if Basho had any actual sickness in his bowels, they would get most uncomfortable on a horse or in a palanquin. They left Edo after noon on June 3rd and arrived in Iga June 20th. The basic distance is about 240 miles, however their side trip to Ise and Hisai added 60 miles. Also, they stopped for three days at Shimada and two days and three nights at Nagoya -- so 300 miles in 12 days on the road, 25 miles a day. Not exactly an invalid!

 

On the 7th when we arrived in Shimada,
I planned to stay only one night,
but that night the rain and wind caused a flood
and all crossings were cancelled for three days.
On the 11th we got going, the water still high,
high enough to cover my horse’s butt-strap,
however the people we stayed with are good friends
who have knowledge of horses crossing rivers
and I crossed one-handed, so well they treated me.

 

His hosts know how to rig a horse so the saddle will not slip off the wet back. In addition to the usual chest and girth straps there is one extra, under the tail (which I am told does not interfere with defecation. I should hope not.)


My exhaustion has not stopped but without proceeding to
my chronic illness, though as it gets hotter and hotter,
how will it turn out? Since before, the doctor who gives
me medicine has not changed, and he says need to worry.

 

So we have the opinion of a doctor who actually treated Basho for a while, and he said Basho “need not worry.” We have Basho’s own statement that his chronic illness did not arise all the way from Edo

to Zeze – though he did get more exhausted than he did on previous journeys. (I know just how he feels) Certainly an acutely sick man could never have made this journey.

 

Hamill says, “Basho was pleased to be celebrated in his hometown, but was far too weak to participate in any festivities.” Basho, however, in the Letter to Sora said,

 

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


and in this letter says the same. Basho had a great time socializing with his old buddies in Iga, and he obviously had enough energy to write long, long letters – though scholars who have not read these

letters say Basho was near-death on this journey. Who are we to believe?


The poets in Nagoya, Iga, and Zeze
still rest their butts in a comfortable place.
They know not the elegance of your poetry in Edo.

 

His followers everywhere hang onto old comfortable patterns of poetry, refusing to jump into Basho’s new world of Lightness -- although Basho praises Sampu for supporting that fresh new ideal.


The ones with the same name, this time with extraordinary power
were joyful and I too felt great joy.

 

Basho speaks of his family in Iga with the same name, Matsuo. He uses the word “joy” (yorokobi) twice in two sentences.

 

Sampu owns a business, so like a modern shacho (company director), has a very high rank in Japanese society. He financed the building of this house where Jutei is sick with the tuberculosis she caught from Toin who died of it. Her daughters, Masa and Ofu, believed to be 13 and 11, are in charge of the house. Two neighbors, Ihei and Basho’s cousin Torin, are keeping an eye on things. 

 

I know sometimes you go visit them at Fukagawa
though with Jutei being sick your tea is not properly served.
Since you are so busy you need not trouble yourself about them,
however, please make sure they follow Ihei and Torin’s
instructions to protect the house in my absence,
and are especially careful with fire.

 

 

We can learn so, so much about Japanese society and customs from the anthropologist Basho:


1) the importance of serving tea “properly,” with hospitality, to a guest, especially a VIP guest;

Jutei through decades of practice has mastered the ritual but is too sick to perform it, while young teenage girls, no matter how hard they try, cannot serve tea “properly.” Basho apologizes to Sampu for making

him endure their clumsy efforts in Basho’s house.

2) Neighbors in 17th Century Japan cared for a family in need

3) the concern about fire in a land of wooden houses

4) Basho tells Sampu not to go to any trouble then tells him to go to the trouble.

 

The letter to Sampu ends with Basho’s opening stanza to a sequence composed at Kakei’s house in Nagoya; I have added Kakei’s following stanza - although Basho haiku may be more inspiring by itself.


On Life’s Journey
plowing a small field
going and returning

Water rail’s path
across a roof slat

 

Basho’s magnificent opening encapsulates human life in the farmer’s path through the thick mud -- a prayer for peace, for ambitious men to forego the search for glory and instead “plow a small field” so we can all go and return in peace. Kakei follows with a charming little scene: some kind person has placed a wooden

slat across the irrigation ditch, so the bird need not fly across, but can “go and return” on foot. In the letter to Sora written today, Basho says the poetry of the seniors in Nagoya "dangles" - and here we see what he means. 

 

Letter 199 to Ihei, July 13


On July 8th we went to Kamo and stayed one night
at Heibei’s house. I met your mother and Genza 
and your older sister.

 

Ihei’s older brother Heibei stayed in Kamo as head of the household while Ihei went to the Big City – same as Basho and his big brother. Genza is married to Ihei’s sister.


Basho twice uses that expression for ‘mother’ that always surprises Westerners: “your Honorable Bag”      (o-fukuro-sama) or, for one’s own mother, ore no o-fukuro, ‘my Bag’, which modern Japanese men in informal situations do say. The term certainly is accurate; a womb is a bag – and a woman feeds her baby from her “fun bags.”


Your Honorable Bag is without misfortune,
however as she has grown older
than she was four years ago
her hearing has gotten worse.
With your sister, the two of them,
pleading only for ‘dear Ihei’, imploring again
and again how good it would be to see you,
I had some difficulty.

 

Basho’s sketch of Ihei’s mother and sister is one of his small comic masterpieces, however the comedy is without disrespect. My friend Chiyuki observes that the letter in Japanese is not so amusing until the final line makes it hilarious (and sad as well.) The two details about the old woman– that she is losing her hearing and that she talks a lot – fit together. Of course they want to see Ihei again; what’s the point of saying so again, and again? As we grow old we start to lose it.

 

An “intercalary Moon” is added to one of the regular Moons once every  three years. On the 23rd day of the Intercalary 5th Moon, during his stay at Kyorai’s cottage, Basho sent Shiko a letter:


Letter 200 to Shiko, July 15, 1694

 

The two things you sent with your best wishes
will be most valuable, especially on a journey.

 

One of the presents Shiko sent was a kiseru, a long thin pipe with bamboo shaft and metal mouthpiece and bowl. The bowl is tiny, only big enough for two or three inhales. Kiseru were used for smoking a fine, shredded tobacco, as well as cannabis (which was perfectly legal until after World War II when Occupation

authorities demanded following American foolishness).


Today Kyorai was cleaning the pipe for me, and this being
the first time he did this, I am making “pipe cleaning” a
seasonal reference to the Intercalary 5th Moon.

 

Basho suggests that ‘pipe cleaning’ become a reference to the Intercalary 5th Moon because the illustrious non-smoker Kyorai cleaned a kiseru for the very first time during this Intercalary 5th Moon. So, when the next Intercalary 5th Moon comes in thirty-six years, it will be remembered as the season of Kyorai cleaning the kiseru. How ridiculous! but then that’s par for the course in this letter.

 

You sent your other present in the wrong season,
so from now on, it too will refer to this season.
Always remember what you have learned here.
This evening why don’t you come visit me?
p.s. In fact, by chance, at this time last year
in Bufu, I forgot my gaiters,
so now shall “gaiters” set the season?

 

“Bufu” is just the characters for Musashi Province where Edo is, but “Bufu” sure sounds funnier. Westerners think of gaiters for holding trouser legs in place, but under his robes Basho’s legs are naked. Gaiters (kyahan) made out of straw or cloth, are worn to protect the lower legs while travelling; their support of the leg is said to make walking easier. If Basho was smoking cannabis there in Kyorai’s hippie cottage that helps to explain his bizarre sense of humor.


Letter 201 to Kyokusui, July 21

 

Takesuke is now about five.
These days the heat has been so oppressive.
Is Takesuke playing in good health?

 

Basho cares about Takesuke’s play. In Nagoya on this journey spoke words which I consider among the most inportant of his quotations:

 

Only this, apply your heart to what children do

 

10

                                          Letter 203 to Ihei, dated July 24:

 

These days impoverished followers of mine
from Kyoto and Osaka gather about
and we eat up all the food in the house
and spend our time with great laughter.

 

Basho sounds like a fun guy who enjoys eating and laughing alpong with young people. Makota Ueda translates this passage,


“Penniless students of mine in Kyoto and Osaka rush here one after another these days:

they eat all the food available and spend their time in loud laughter” In Ueda’s words, Basho is not a part of the eating, drinking and laughing; he sounds like a fussy old man annoyed with his followers. The Japanese (as usual) is vague; it can be taken either way - Basho eating and laughing with them, or Basho annoyed at their eating and laughter – but Shoko can see no signals in the original favoring Ueda’s way. Ueda’s translation is heavy, coming from the scholar’s “no-fun” image of Basho. Our translation is light and leads to “dear Uncle Basho.”

 

In this season Rihei has no work in his craft

so you should take care he at least does not get
annoyed. And would you do the same for Jutei?

 

And Ofu, with summer coming on,
is she without misfortune? Please write
and tell me the details of her condition.
Also watch Old Soha and Shobei-san carefully.
Probably Old Kosai visits them constantly
so I will write him a letter and get his opinion

 

So much of Basho’s letters consist of messages of caring for people. Basho has been an “uncle” to these people since he moved to Fukagawa 13 years ago, and he continues to be involved with them while travelling. He is especially concerned about Jutei (not knowing that she died yesterday, July 23). Kon believes that the younger of Jutei’s daughters is 11 at this time. Basho only mentions Ofu in his letter,        not Masa, so it appears the younger girl suffers from some health problem her sister is free of. The Japanese summer is mushi atsui, day after day of sultry, muggy heat which makes all health problems worse. (Just imagine there is no air conditioning anywhere.) Basho is worried about his prepubescent grandniece’s delicate health. Neighbors caring for each other. Anthropologists, take note!


Jutei died on July 23, and it takes 5 or 6 days for a letter to travel from Edo to Kyoto, so on July 29th Basho receives a letter from Ihei telling of Jutei’s death, and replies the same day.

 

                         Letter 204 to Ihei, July 29,

 

Jutei was a person without happiness
and Masa and Ofu the same unhappiness;
to express my thoughts is difficult.

 

The mystery of who Jutei was is discussed in article B-18 

 

I must send a separate letter to old Kosai,
however both of you read this quick letter
For all the effort you went to,
the various kindnesses you performed,
which you told me about in your letters,
I am most grateful.
Because I had a hunch this might happen
I asked you to take care of her
in case of a mysterious turn of fate.
Everything, yes everything,
is in the world of dream and illusion.
In one word, it has no logic.
Anyway, manage things as best you can.
I suppose Rihei is upset; tell him to calm down
and not lose his composure.

 

 

In the following  letter Basho support Sampu in his difficult job of maintaining Basho’s new Ideal of Lightness against the appeal of a heavier, artificial style


                                            Letter 208 to Sampu, August l 14

 

The letter you mailed on July 24th reached me
and the August 12th one wandered here from Kyoto.
So you are without misfortune:
congratulations to you need not be oblique.
I safely passed the breath-taking hot season.
I agree I should not let my disposition get rumpled,
but where I go and return,
being with many people confuses and annoys me.
On July 25th my followers in Iga began building
a cottage for me on the Matsuo estate,
saying they want me there for O-Bon.
Jirobei is now on his way to Edo, two fellows,
Shiko and Izen, accompanying him, so there should be
no problems and you need not worry about him.

 

When Basho learned of Jutei’s death, he wanted to send the 15-year old back to Edo to manage his mother’s affairs and see his sisters, but no one was available to escort the youth 300 miles to Edo.

 

So the Masters there are complaining and giving you trouble,
but pay them no mind. They’re the ones who need to catch up,
unless they wish to scrape the bottom of their rice tubs.
You need not give them one coin of attention.

The rumor around here is that Sampu is just an honest person
but among my followers merely an ornament,
while Shison has no reputation at all, but this time                                    the two of you did so well that everyone is surprised.

 

Sampu’s haters admit he is honest but think him no real poet, just a rich and generous “ornament” for Basho -- however Basho gave Sampu and Shisan (not somebody from Kikaku’s group) the job of assembling and publishing an anthology – and many followers thought these two were not up to the job. Basho clearly tells

Sampu that his position as leader of the pro-Lightness forces is secure.


Above all I encourage you to concentrate                                                     on Lightness and Interest
and tell everyone else the same.

 

Basho says “concentrate” on Lightness. Lightness is more than just being flighty.

It requires concentration.  "Interest" is what is interesting not to scholars but to everyday people.

 

                       basho4humanity@gmail.com 

 






<< Two Letters to Sora: (G-18) (G-20) Basho's Final Letters: >>


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