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  >  Animals in Basho  >  F-16


Horses on the Go

10 Basho haiku, 3 renku, 5 haibun, 4 letters about horses

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

 Basho in poetry often uses the horse to make an ordinary human subject more interesting. This is Basho’s art: to make his words stand out with interest.    


On the saddle
sits their ‘little monk’ —
daikon-gathering

 

Early winter is called ko-haru, “small spring”, for the days are often sunny and pleasant so winter already seems past. One such day, an entire farm family has come out to gather this year’s daikon (giant white radish) crop. The youngest son - not an actual apprentice monk but rather an ordinary kid whose head has been shaved close - too small to help pull the thick heavy radishes from the ground, has been set on the horse tied to a tree where he will not get in the way. Because ‘daikon gathering’ in Japanese tradition suggests a happy family excursion, I have added in the word “their” – we feel not this is not just any little boy, but “their little monk”— the youngest son loved by the whole family. We must not only appreciate the child; we must also appreciate his family and the love they feel for him.


Basho told his follower Doho,

“To have the little boy stand out 
in relation to the daikon-gathering
was the making of this verse”

 

The placement of the little boy on the horse high above the horizontal field of white radishes, watching his elders at work, is what “makes” the verse. The horse is not even mentioned, but still makes “the little boy stand out” so we have a masterpiece of haiku art,  a masterpiece of Basho’s poetic ideal of Lightness.


In a letter to his follower Sampu, he said 

Concentrate on Lightness and Interest.

Not what is heavy and interesting to scholars, but what is Light and interesting to ordinary folks.

The presence of the horse makes the scene interesting, and the overall peacefulness leads to Lightness.

 

Roadside
rose mallow, eaten
by the horse

 

The large pink and white flower was peacefully living out its life when suddenly it disappearred into a horse’s mouth. The horse enjoyed this; so should we.

 

                                                  (from a haibun of 1683)

The monk wearing a conical hat and riding a horse,
across what boundaries has he come?
to what cravings does he walk?
He is, I say, an image of myself on a journey,
buttocks like peaches falling from the saddle
as I wander the Three Worlds.

 

Imagine a bag of peaches on the moving horse’s saddle, and imagine peaches coming out and falling off; now imagine that your buttocks are those peaches. Basho’s poetry name at this time is Tosei, “Green Peaches.” The “Three Worlds” are past, present, and future.


Horses’ clip clop
I see myself in a picture
the summer field

 

The haiku begins with a sound-word, boku boku, which,like “clip clop,” mimics the sound of horse hooves on the ground. The sound words ground us in sensory reality, helping us imagine the feeling of being on horse.

 

With her wide
open eyes she can get
a thousand koku

Before he vanishes
she grabs his stirrip

 

She knows how to use her eyes to charm a man. A 1000 koku is a decent income for a samurai, not great, but liveable. Her chance for 1000 koku about to ride off into the distance, she acts boldly and vigorously to keep him here.

 

Not out with the horse
but inside making love

Thread seller
coming after four-o’clock,
a wrong sound

 

Her guy is a packhorse driver, and works everyday, so rarely can they spend leisure time together. She wants him “inside making love” – inside a house, and also inside her. The thread seller collects thread woven by girls as piece-work, and goes around door-to-door selling it. Apparently he showed up later than expected and spied on the lovers, but made a sound which did belong so they noticed. “Coming” has the usual double meaning, one meaning for the thread seller, one for the lovers.

 

One famous in Kyoto
to exorcise my tumor

Base of Fuji
wearing a conical hat
riding a horse

 

The man with the tumor is riding west, past the 25-mile-long base of Mount Fuji to Kyoto (so he has a long way to go) where the well-known healer will wave his hand and say some magical words to remove the tumor. The round conical hats of East Asian farmers, worn to ward of rain and snow as well as sun and wind, have about the same shape as Mount Fuji. Either I or the mountain wears a conical hat, either I or the mountain ride the horse. Either I bounce up and down from the movement of the horse, or the multimillion ton mountain moves up and down from the movement of my eyes on horseback.

 

Even the Dutch
come here to see blossoms
saddle on a horse

 

Dutch traders were restricted to a small island in Nagasaki Bay, but their captain was required to check-in with the shogunate once every five years. He himself is not present; all we see is his foreign saddle on a horse, and surmise that he is off somewhere viewing blossoms. 

 

In his Sarashina Journal, Basho tells of traveling through the Japan Alps with his follower Etsujin, and a horse and servant boy. 

 

Somewhere or another we come upon a pious monk
of about sixty,  a grim sullen man without interest or humor.
As he walks along in mincing steps,doubled over from his load,
his breath in gasps, my travelling companion takes pity on him,
so we bundle the stuff from our shoulders together with what’s on his back, strap everything to the horse, and I am made to ride on top.

 

The Japanese are ruled by their concept of on, pronounced like the English word ‘own,’ obligation or indebtedness,   The dull and stuffy monk feels an on, obligation,  to Basho and Etsujin for helping him, so as they strap his trunk load of Buddhist artifacts to the horse, he begins to repay by insisting that their skimpy backpacks go on too. Still not satisfied, the monk refuses to let Basho walk, because that would suggest that the monk’s luggage was keeping Basho from riding. The reality that Basho was walking before they met the monk, and that he very much wants to continue walking now, does not matter. The monk persists, and so “I am made to ride on top” (sono ue ni nosu) perched on top of everything just to prove to this old fart that he is not imposing -- which he most certainly is.

 

To cross a hanging bridge, Basho had to get down from the horse, then when they had crossed, the monk did not demand that he ride; the on had been repaid. Since no one was riding, the servant decided to get on, and Basho was cool with that.


Nine switchbacks in succession
as if we are trudging through the clouds.
Even those going on foot become so dizzy
our spirits wilt and we cannot steady our feet,
yet the servant showing no fear at all,
on the horse he sleeps asleep,
again and again we think he is going to fall,
from behind watching anxiously without limit.

 

This servant has a sense of balance no adult can believe possible, so he must be a teenager. He is not “sleeping asleep” -- he has closed his eyes so, unlike the old fogies, he will not get dizzy from the view. Showing no expression, no concern, is cool. From the adult point of view, the servant is in danger of falling  - but in reality the kid does not fall;    he and the horse know what they are doing. He should be a symbol for stability, not for transience. In our age, this kid would surf, or skateboard. Can you see him there, now and forever? a lock of hair before one eye, chewing on a stalk of grass, silent and brooding over adolescent problems.


Winter sun --
frozen on horseback
shadow figure

 

Basho’s image stands out in our consciousness, the seven words in a two-three-two pattern, the pauses after “sun” and “figure”producing an even regular four-beats to a measure.

 

From Basho’s preface to his travel journal A Narrow Path in the Heartlands:


..those who float through life and boats
or face old age leading the mouth of a horse
make the day-by-day journey their home.

 

From the journal, in Tochigi

 

As light comes we again set off through the fields. A horse has been left out to pasture. Our sighs reach a man cutting weeds,  a husband of the fields but not unkind.

“How can I help? You know, these fields divide one way and another,
and travellers new to the area may find it difficult to stay on the path.
I’m worried, so you take this horse and where he stops let him return,”
he said as he loaned us the horse.

 

Two little ones follow in the footsteps of the horse,
one a tiny princess who says her name is Kasane,
an unfamiliar name yet a gentle one

 

The two children come running after the house, fascinated to see the strange funny man riding daddy’s work horse. We see this is a Time of Peace: small children are not afraid of strangers. The two elements in this portrait — the thoughtful consideration of the fatherand the charm and openness of the daughter — combine to form a vision of peaceful village life. The kind farmer and his wife cared enough about their newborn daughter to give her a unique  and beautiful name.  For the rest of this story, see C-14 BLESSINGS UNTO KASANE.


Later on in the journey

 

The custodian of the castle sends us by horse.
The man leading my horse says,
“Might I receive a vertical poetry cord?”

 

Since ancient times, tanka have been written on rectangular cards. For the shorter haiku, slender vertical cards have come into use. The man’s request shows an awareness of developments in contemporary poetry and of Basho’s role in them, an awareness Basho is pleased to find out here in the boondocks. Nakane Chie notes that, “in China and Korea scholarship was a prerequisite of the upper-class group” but in Tokugawa Japan “the people were stimulated to develop a vigorous popular culture.” So Basho is showing us that in his time literacy and even knowledge of poetry reached the peasants.


For so gentle a request I write,

 

Pull the horse
to the side of the field!
Ho-toto-GI-su

 

The call of the little cuckoo is part of countless Japanese poems, so both the man and the bird -- representing poetry -- pull the horse.

 

 At the end of 1687, Basho and Etsujin were riding horses in the snow along the sandy shore of the peninsula leading to Cape Irago. Etsujin wobbled on his horse, so his master offered this verse:


Snow and sand
so fall from the horse
drunk on sake

 

That’s okay, there’s only snow and sand down there. Boy! Were they ever soused.

 

The mountain border gate where the wife of Japan’s great hero Yoshitsune gave birth is called Babypee Barrier because the newborn first took a leak here. Trapped by a storm, Basho and Sora had to stay for three days in the shed where the border guard kept his horse.


Fleas and lice,
the horse going pee-pee
at pillow-side

 

Fleas and lice – both tiny, wingless, and voracious blood-suckers - feast on sweaty travelers. Ordinarily the pronunciation bari is used for an animal peeing, and shito for a human child. Kon says that Basho’s use of shito here “turns the verse into humor.” We laugh at the image of a huge 700 pound beast peeing like a little child (boy or girl? both images are ridiculous). Basho intended the verse to be funny. Here, in his famous journal, at the apex of his poetry, Basho explores children’s bathroom humor.

 

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 was surprised to find a fly catching up --because the horse took too many breaks – like our Western tortoise and hare. 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 1694, Basho accompanied by his grandnephew Jirobei left Edo on a journey west. Here he writes to Sora and Sampu

 

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.
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.

 

Magobei’s people 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.)

 

I wrote you before that Jirobei got exhausted.
Well, after his three-day rest,
he became robust and really makes an effort.
However when returning horses are discounted,
for four or maybe five miles I let him ride.

 

“Thanks, Uncle!” People on one-way journeys rented horse at one post-station, and left it at another, so it had to be returned anyway.


In my hometown I go to visit the home of Ensui

 

Return of the horse
that carried off brushwood –
sake for the planters

 

A while ago we saw a farmer lead the horse away with a load of brushwood; now, sometime later, they return,  the brushwood replaced by a barrel of sake for those who have worked together planting rice throughout the village.  In a hidden space and time, that  brushwood became a sake barrel.


At about eight months of age, a baby realizes that things happen outside his or her own perception. Before this powerful realization,babies do not notice anything special when someone or something goes into hiding then reappears. After the change they find it most amusing. For years the young child is fascinated by ‘peak-a-boo’ (Japanese inai inai baa).Basho, at age 50, still has that child-like appreciation for what disappears then reappears with a difference.


Asleep on horseback
dreams linger, distant moon,
smoke rises for tea

 

Drowsy impressions in the stream of consciousness: body on horse moving up and down, mind slipping back into sleep to see vague wisps of dream, suddenly awakening before slipping from the saddle, morning moon as far away as a dream, smoke rising from the stovepipes of many villagers boiling water for morning tea.

 

 

 

basho4now@gmail.com

 






<< Cats and Dogs (F-15) (F-17) Other Mammals >>


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