Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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-20


Basho's Final Letters:

Autumn and early winter, 1694

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

This autumn while Jirobei, with Shiko annd Izen, went to Edo and back,   Basho moved on to Iga where they rejoined with him to travel on to Nara and Osaka where Basho met his end.


Letter 210 to Sora, August 30,

 

Please tell them to cling to the new style of Lightness
and make every effort not to lose out.

 

随分新意のかるみにすがり、おとりなき様に務められ候様御伝え何レべく候。
Zuibun shin-i no karumi ni sugari, otori naki youni
tsutomerare youni tsutae kudasaru beku sourou.

 

 

For the harvest moon on October 3, Basho held a party in the new hut his Iga followers built for him behind the Matsuo house. Chigetsu sent her servant Chozo with some goodies to share. Chozo carried Basho’s letter back to her.

Letter 212 to Chigetsu, October 3, 1694

 

Chozo brought your presents, the barrel of Southerners’ wine                 and the twenty pieces of wheat gluten, for which we are grateful.           When my guests are here to view the moon.                                                 I shall know how happy each one is.

 

Namben-sake, ‘Southerner’s wine,’ was originally Dutch but became a famous product of Kyoto. Fu (gluten) is the high-protein part of wheat flour extracted by kneading in salt water so the low-protein starch washes away, drying, and baking in bite-sized pieces.

 

Chozo seemed exhausted so I said he could stay over,                                 but he insisted that he had to return, so I let him go.                                 He should be commended, searching for an unknown road.

 

Chozo brought the barrel of wine (equal to two large modern sake bottles), the gluten, and a load of senbei (crackers) and mochi (rice cakes) attached to a carrying pole, over the range of mountains between Zeze and Iga. Going back without all that stuff will not be so exhausting. Kon comments: “It would be good to notice the gentleness in Basho’s ordinary heart seen in his consideration for the servant Chozo as well as for Rokubei (Chigetsu’s servant who brought presents to Basho three years ago in Letter 101). Repeat: “the gentleness in Basho’s ordinary heart”

 

If Tosuke and Benshiro are without misfortune,
this brings me joy.
Give my special thanks to Misses Oseki and Oichi.
My brother Hanzaemon said with joy “This much!”
He sends his appreciation upon my words.

 

Tosuke and Benshiro must be the children of Chigetsu’s household (and most men would not mention them at all). When Basho was in Zeze and stayed at Chigetsu’s house, her servants Oseki and Oichi cooked and cleaned for Basho, and Basho knows they helped prepare and package these presents. Basho spreads his family’s gratitude throughout Chigetsu’s household. Hanzaemon was stunned to see how much there was.

 

p.s.     For the one bamboo pole of snacks,
           we again want to make you know our thanks
           so we will eat them together.

 

Letter 214 to Sampu, October 28, 1694)

 

From summer till early autumn your letters have been delayed
by going to the wrong place, but eventually arrived without error.           For a long time while I was in Iga, I sent you no letters.                              I suppose I made you worry. Has your business prospered as usual without misfortune? Have there been any changes in your family?               I want to be informed.
So your third daughter is getting married in a few days.
I’m sure your household is in a bustle, but nature will take its course
and I await to hear good news from you.

The "good news" that Sampu will see another grandchild.

As for me, I passed the long summer without misfortune.
In time came autumn, the season of after-midnight cold
I am careful to pass from autumn to winter without illness,
so you need not worry about me at all.
In that time, I think I will visit the Ise Shrine,
but first I have to face Osaka and leave from it.

 

In reality death comes just one month later, as autumn becomes winter. Basho will only leave Osaka as a corpse.

 

Letter 217 to Hanzaemon, November 10th;

 

Once we arrived in Osaka, starting on the 28th,
I had fits of shivering along with chills, fever, and headaches
each evening from four o’clock to eight.
I thought I had malaria and was taking medicine
but suddenly on November 7 the symptoms went away.

 

Such intermittent fevers, called ague, are usually malarial. Here may be one origin of the Western myth that from June Basho was sick with “chills, fever and migraines.” Hamill translates the symptoms accurately (his page 173-4), but has the date five months off. I assume he did not do this consciously or deliberately. The information he received must have been somehow scrambled so that symptoms Basho described in a letter in November were attributed to Basho in June.

p.s. I humbly request your care for Grandma and Oyoshi

 

“Grandma” is Hanzaemon’s second wife, called this because she is the oldest woman in the house; he has no children or grandchildren, and so Hanzaemon has adopted Oyoshi to be his “daughter” and along with her husband inherit the household. Basho always “remembers the ladies.”

 

(Letter 218 to Ensui and Doho, dated November 10)

 

Thank you for the letter from the two of you
and it is good to hear you are both doing well.
I was in a rush to get here, then once I arrived,
I had shivers every night, but recovered, as usual.
It is a waste of time to remain here
so soon I will break my signboard.
To go on being robust I must have seclusion
but when things are noisy and annoying, I get sick.

The verses both of you sent have deep feeling.
When I was in town I could not see the new style
in your poetry and so felt uncertain,
but these verses, well now, they astonish me.
To see Lightness generally appearing brings me
great joy which does not diminish.
p.s. Take care of yourselves, and Hanzan as well.

 

In the letter to Sampu on page 212, Basho said

 

“In Nagoya, Iga and Zeze, the poets still rest their butts
in a comfortable place.”

 

Doho and Ensui were included in this criticism. Here Basho tells his two old friends, “when I was in town, you still had not ‘gotten’ Lightness, but the verses you sent show me that now you have.” Basho’s great wish is for “Lightness” to appear on this Earth. We can try to fulfill his wish.

 

Letter 219 to Masahide, November 12

 

What I do differs from what I intend,
so as we give in to autumn’s remainder
by and by the season approaches for a paper coat,
though even without the paper coat, it seems to drizzle.
Here is what I get from the poet’s controversy:
Both the followers of Shido and Shado cooperated
at the meeting to bring the two parties together.
Beyond this I will have no more to do with the issue.

 

One reason Basho went to Osaka was to settle a territorial dispute between Shado and Shido (Tweedledum and Tweedledee) but he heard enough of their nonsense.

 

                Letter 220 To Kyokusui, November 12

 

The journey to Osaka was not interesting
but rather a useless journey I regret…
I could not walk two leagues without stopping,
so pathetic an old man I have become...

 

So, being able to walk five miles without stopping was Basho’s standard for normal health.

In the letter appears this haiku

 

This path
where nobody goes
autumn nightfall

 

p.s.    Moreover your children are without misfortune
          it is my pleasure to dedicate

 

We join Basho in his dedication to the “no-misfortune” of children.

 

Letter 221 to Hanzaemon on November 26th,

 

Shiko helped Basho sit up, and he was able to write this letter in his own hand to his brother Hanzaemon who led the way in a family of six siblings in Iga four decades ago.

 

Before you I take leave
with regrets I make you bear.
Somehow relying on Mataemon,
as your final years approach
may you spend them with quiet heart
until they reach their fulfilment.
Arriving here no more can I say.

 

Basho, after he is gone, will feel no sorrow; Hanzaemon, the brother who lives longer, will bear the regrets. Mataemon is Oyoshi’s oldest son, so the future of the household lies with him.

 

Please take care of Ichibei,the samurai Jiemon,
and old Ensui to start with all thy heart this I request.
And along with these, also Doho and Hanzan.

 

The above two excerpts and the one below are the entire letter Basho wrote. He says nothing at all about himself or his legacy, nothing about his successes or failures. His only concern is caring for people. First Basho cares for his brother, then he cares for old friends in his hometown. Then,  the last words before his signature stand out:


Grandma and Oyoshi, their power shall decline.

 

ばばさま、およし力落シ何申候
Baba-sama, Oyoshi chikara otoshi mōsu beku sōrō

 

“Grandma” is their name for Hanzaemon’s second wife; they have no children, so they have adopted the youngest sister Oyoshi and her husband to inherit the household – so unlike her three older sisters who married into their husbands’ families, Oyoshi lived her whole life in her native home where Basho could see her whenever he went there. In his final written words about his sister-in-law and youngest sister Basho speaks not about their beauty or ladylikeness. No, he speaks only of their strength, ‘breaking their bones’ tending fires to boil rice, making plant fibers into clothing, caring for babies, husbands, and parents, until that “power declines.”

 

The letter is finished, but then Basho remembers one more person to care for, one more postscript:

 

p.s. Shinzo in particular went the limit for me, I am thankful.


Shinzo, a shopkeeper in Iga, must have extended credit to Basho a number of times.

 

On November 26th Basho dictated to Shiko his Will, which is counted as Basho’s final letter:

 

“The New Style of Renku” – Sampu shall receive this.
“One Hundred Poets/One Hundred Poems”
and “Kokinshu, Edited,” both of these go to Shiko.

I say to Torin: we shall never meet again,
and your power shall decline.
Rely upon Sampu, Shisan, and Hasshoshi for everything,
to somehow live day by day.

 

This I say to Ihei:
this year you went the limit in many ways to help Jutei.
I know thanks should be said in person,
but these certainly cannot be.
The two persons remaining have lost their direction
and must be upset. Please consult with Old Kosai and others
to make a proper decision for them.

 

Basho thanks Ihei for helping Jutei die in peace. The “two persons remaining” are Jutei’s daughters, Masa and Ofu, now orphans. On his death bed Basho cares about how his grandnieces will manage.

 

Ten years ago, in the summer of 1684, a follower gave Basho a wooden statue of the Buddha which he displayed in his hut of weeds. At that time Basho wrote:

 

Hail! Buddha!
on this pedestal of weeds
you can cool off

 

In his Will Basho says,

 

Shiko this time bustled back and forth for me,
his kindness inexhaustible, so I ask this favor:
In my hut the statue of Buddha, bestow on him.

 

Wow! The hut is in Edo where Kikaku is king of the poetry world. without a clear direct statement that the statue goes to Shiko, Kikaku will take it for his own. In the years after Basho’s death, these two continued to bicker over who was Basho’s true successor. Kikaku in Edo maintained an “urban style” which Basho would have found “old” and “heavy” while Shiko traveled about, advancing a “rustic style” which the urban poets thought was “vulgar.”

 

This I say to Sampu: for so long your kindness,
even after death, shall not be forgetton.
As I now end at an unforeseen place
there can be no words of parting
nor any thoughts between us.

Keep on making an effort with your poems
so you enjoy them as you grow old.

 

Basho expresses his profound gratitude to Sampu, the one person who has consistently supported him, both financially and spiritually, for the past 20 years. He would have been glad to know that his friend lived until his 85th year in 1732. I am sure that throughout those 28 years, whenever Sampu thought about poetry, he recalled Basho’s final words to him.

 

Basho then he repeats the same message, in almost the same words, to Jokushi – we remember

in Letter 27 to Sampu how concerned Basho was about this samurai and wife and children --

but ends with a sweet bit of praise for Jokushi’s wife:

 

Enjoy till the end your wife’s unchanging kindness.

 

What a beautiful thing to say to an old friend.

 

To my followers, Kikaku on his way here,
from Ransetsu the first to all the others,
may you receive this heart.

 

When Kikaku learned that Basho was dying, he came to Osaka as quickly as he could, but does not arrive until tomorrow, the 27th. Ransetsu way back in 1673 was the first to join Basho’s circle in Edo when he first came to the Big City from his provincial hometown, the first in Edo to show Basho that he had confidence in him, so Basho asks that Ransetsu convey to all the others his final message:

May you receive this heart.

 

When Ransetsu learned of Basho’s death, he and Torin traveled to his grave at Gichuji Temple in Zeze.

In the snow Ransetsu wrote

 

Here underneath
our Master sleeping:
snow-Buddha

 

 basho4Humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Letters in the rest of summer, 1694 (G-19) (H-01) Wrapping Rice Cake (Haiku) >>


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...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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