Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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  >  Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句  >  K-04


Basho Renku Section 4

From 1685 to 1687 with commentaries and 日本語の原文

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

The renku are selected from the Complete Basho Renku Anthology, and presented in chronological order,

so we travel with Basho through the years from his age 41 to 43.  

 

Peony petals,                                    4: 9

deep within, the bee’s                        
reluctance to part
Morning moon refreshes
your road of shining dew 


牡丹蕊深く / 這い出るはちの / 別れ哉
朝月涼し / 露の玉ぼこ

botan shibe fukaku /hai-deru hachi no /wakare kana
asa-zuki suzushi / tsuyu no tama boko


 

Peonies have a multitude of pistils surrounded by a profusion of petals. These two stanzas are a conversation between Basho and a follower in Nagoya where Basho has stayed for some time as a guest of the Nagoya group. In this sequence written just before he leaves, Basho is saying, “I want to stay here forever.” The follower offers him positive energy for his trip.

 

 

                    ---------------------------------
Her hair gone,
chamberlain’s daughter
grown weary
Storm over Nonomiya                            4: 11
Lady Gio’s temple bell                                 

髪 下す/ 侍従 が 娘 / おとろえて
野々宮 の あらし / 岐王寺 の 鉦


Kami orosu / jijuu no musume / otoroete
Nonomiya no arashi / Gio tera no kane

 

The Grand Chamberlain’s high rank does not prevent his daughter from experiencing the travails of life. She cuts her hair and escapes to Saga, at the foot of Mount Arashi (Storm Mountain). The Ninomiya Shrine is one of the most famous places in Saga, and the temple Gioji is within walking distance; here in the 12th century  four nuns, escaping from the patriarchal world, lived together, prayed together, and all reached enlightenment.  Basho sets up the opposition of storm and bells. The first is wild, violent, uncaring; the second deep, steady, and unifying. The storm represents the arrogance and intimidating behavior of men, the bells are the steady, focused energy of “ladies.”

 

                       -------------------------------------------

 

To follow in the footsteps
of a wandering madwoman
Compassion                                          4: 49
is learned when the gold
has rotted away

 

狂女さまよう/ 跡し たう なる
情 しる / 身 は 黄金の / 朽ちてより


Kyōjo samayou / ato shitau naru
Nasake shiru / mi wa ōkon no / kuchite yori

 

Noh plays contains many madwomen such as the 9th century poetess Ono no Komachi who spent her youth in romance and luxury to lose all, including her sanity, and die as a beggar in rags.

 

                      ------------------------------------

 

Colors of the rainbow
decorate the boulder
Kite string cut,                                 4: 59
soul of the milk-giver
soars to heaven                             

 

立 初める 虹の / 岩をいろどる
きれだこに / 乳人 が 魂 は/ 空 に 飛び


Tachi-someru niji no / iwa o irodoru
Kire dako ni / menoto ga tama wa / sora ni tobi

 

The spectrum – red on the outside, violet inside -- appears when sunlight refracts through moisture in the air so we see colors not really there. The contrast between bright rainbow and dull beige rock is bright and colorful, yet entirely lifeless; Basho counters with an abundance of life. He begins with a vivid physical image of a bond being broken, then reveals that the bond is between mother or nurse and baby, a bond which lasts till one of them dies. At the moment of death, the spirit parts from the body -- as the colorful kite leaves earth. Life, like the bright colors on the dull rock, is only an illusion, soon to disappear – yet breastfeeding continues from generation to generation.

 

                         ------------------------------------

 

Castle guards
asleep on their feet,
morning dawns
Covering her faded                             4: 80
eyebrows as he leaves
殿 守が / ねぶたが立る / あさぼろけ
はげたる 眉を / 隠す きぬぎぬ


Tono-mori ga / nebutagaritsuru / asaboroke
Hagetaru mayu o / kakusu kinuginu

 

The samurai guards for the Imperial palace are supposed to be infallible, but these guys are so sleepy the yawns escape from their mouths. Basho switches to the female. In olden Japan court ladies removed their eyebrow hairs so they could paint their faces white, then painted on fake eyebrows, either high on the forehead or where the original eyebrows were. The paint was made from natural seed oils so could not last long. Here we see a woman whose eyebrow paint has crumbled while she slept with her lover. She does not want splotchy eyebrows to be what he remembers of her when they are apart, so she covers them with her hand.


I like the movement from yawning to eyebrows. Both stanzas have the same “heart’s connection”:

the constant desire of the Japanese to appear flawless no matter how time passes. Basho renku are anthropology as well as poetry.

 

                           -----------------------------------

 

Waiting to meet,                             4: 85
temple bell has fallen
amidst the grass                               
Toads call to their friends
in tones of deep lament

 

待ち かいの /鐘 は 堕ちたる / 草 の 中
友 よぶ 蟾の / 物 うき の 声


Machi kai no / kane wa ochitaru / kusa no naka
Tomo yobu hiki no / mono uki no koe

 

No temple bell has actually fallen; this is Basho's metephor for the desolate feeling she has waiting for one who does not come.  The next poet, somewhat humorously, continues that desolate feeling with the low, deep croaks of toads in the swamp.

 

                   ------------------------------------------

 

Sister waits for cowherd’s

late returning shadow
Chest conflicted,                          4: 93
crepe fabric of Echigo
she cannot weave                        

 

姉 待 牛 の /おそき 日 の 影
胸 あはぬ / 越 の 縮 を / おりかねて


Ane matsu ushi no / osoki hi no kage
Mune awanu / koshi no chijimi o / orikanete

 

Older sister waits for her boyfriend who takes the herd out in the morning and returns in the evening. He is late coming home, and she worries. The feelings in her chest upset the parts of her brain which make her fingers execute the fine motions to weave the fabric according to the local tradition. Crepe fabric has a crinkled surface, due to strong cross threads, and is popular for summer wear. Echigo crepe was first produced in a village west of Niigata. This is snow country. In his Snow Country Tales, Bokushi Suzuki says, "In places where weaving crepe is customary, a bride is chosen first for her ability to weave crepe,

and second for her demeanor.” These girls were trained from an early age to find their identity in weaving. Thus the loss of her ability to weave tears apart her personhood.

 

On the side, we note that the Weaver and the Cowherd are the two stars (Vega and Altair), lovers in the romantic tale of Tanabata, so maybe this scene takes place in heaven

 

                              -------------------------------------------

 

Basho told Kyorai

 

Only this, apply your heart to what children do

 

只子供のする事に心をつくべし。
Tada, kodomo no suru koto ni kokoro o tsuku beshi


And so he did:

 

 

Knocking on back door                    4: 102
and running away home                    
She cries and cries
with never a conclusion
to her hiccups

 

妻戸たたきて / 逃げて 帰りぬ
泣く泣くて /しゃくりのとまる / 果て も なし


Tsumado tatakite / nigete kaerinu
Naku nakute / shakuri no tomaru / hate mo nashi

 

What?! Kids in Basho’s time played “Ring the doorbell and run” (without door bells) and Basho “applied his heart” to this prank of boys in many societies with many names: Ding dong ditch, Nocky nine doors, Ghost knocking, Chicky melly, Chickenelly, Chap door run away; Knock, knock, ginger; Friend of the family knocking; in modern Japan, pin pon dashu.

 

The tradition of “Ring the Doorbell and Run” can be traced back to the traditional Cornish holiday of Nickanan Night, the first Monday after Lent. The anthropologist Basho records it in 17th century Japan. Kyokusui follows with slapstick sarcasm about the woman inside the house upset by the boys’ mischief.

I like the sound-link from knocking to hiccups.

 

                   ----------------------------------------

 

The punitive force
already has set forth
in solemn dignity
For one night’s vow                          4: 109
he empties his purse                      

 

Sude ni tatsu / utte no tsukai / ikameshiku
すでに立つ / 討手の使い / いかめしき

 

Ichiya no chigiri / zeni ga kazukeru
一夜 の 契り/ 銭 が かづける

 

The emperor has ordered troops to subjugate the rebels; the samurai gather, and when morning comes, leave camp with strict, solemn military precision. Meanwhile, the commander of the rebels (Han Solo) has spent the night in a brothel, and when morning comes makes a hasty departure so he can prepare his army. Before he leaves, since he is not likely to need cash ever again, he gives all he has to his partner in “one night’s vow.” (Military commanders carry considerable funds). Here we have a play-woman who got lucky. Now she can purchase her freedom, return to her home village, a hero because she saved her family from ruin, marry that boy she loves, and have children. She has endured year after year of degradation in solemn dignity, and from her years of misery we leap to the wonder of her good fortune - yet also her grief as she reealizes why he is giving away all his money.  

 

                   --------------------------------------------

 

Sinking in                                         4: 111
to chill the hot spring,
awesome moon                                  
Of the three deer
one carries an arrow

 

しずみては / 温泉 を 醒す / 月 すごし

三つ ゆく 鹿 の / ひとつ 矢を負う

Shizumite wa / ideyu o samasu / tsuki sugoshi

Mitsu yuku shika no / hitotsu ya o ou

 

The light from the moon above the pool penetrates to the bottom, chilling the hot water. We assume the poet is in the water, and feels the chill from the Moon upon his naked body.

 

A trio of deer come to drink the water. One has an arrow in the flesh which has caused a wound slight enough that the deer can still move about – so there is mystery here. The hot spring contains minerals we hope will help to heal the injury.

 

                        -------------------------------------------

 

Hard of hearing                            4: 114
his wife has told him
“hototogisu”                                           
Through hardship in Mino
they have a tea house

 

耳 うとく/ 妹 が 告げたる / 時鳥

つれなき美濃に茶屋をしている


Mimi utoku / imo ga tsugetaru / hototogisu

Tsurenaki Mino ni / chaya shite iru

Basho portrays the sadness of a man growing old and losing his hearing, no longer able to hear the sounds he enjoyed for so many summers, so his wife has to announce into his ear that the little cuckoo has called its clear distinctive five note tune. Sora says they have a tea house, but since he cannot hear, she does all the work involving other people, while he putters about, doing odd jobs.

 

                             ---------------------------------------

 

Old Pond –
frog jumps in
water-sound
Two young leaves of reed,
suspend a spider’s web

 

古池や / 蛙 飛び込む / 水 の 音
芦 の 若葉 に / かかる 蜘蛛の巣

 

Furuike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto
Ashi no wakaba ni / kakaru kumo no su

 

Basho’s stanza is the most famous of all haiku, but Kikaku’s following stanza is unknown to almost everyone. I found this pair in Ogata Tsutomu’s 900-page  Basho Taisei; oddly it does not appear in the BRZ, however the time of OLD POND is known, and fits into the chronological BRZ in volume 4 soon after 4: 114.

 

Basho blends what is continuous from ancient times with what happens for a second and disappears instantly leaving no trace. Kikaku compares this to a spider’s web which is weightless, transparent, and  hardly seems to exist - although spider silk is five times as strong as the same weight of steel.

 

Hundreds of people discuss every aspect of OLD POND in.hundreds of books and sites, yet not one of these knows the stranza that followed it: this is a remarkable illustration of how the literary community neglects not only this renku but all renku, because the literary critic Shiki, who died in 1902, produced the rule that "renku need not be discussed," and almost everyone in Japan and in the West follows this rule; so as Donald Keene puts it, renku have been "the plaything of antiquarians."   

 

Yet while renku are unknown, they remain as strong as a spider's thread. 

 

                                   ----------------------------------

 

In the cold wind

at sunset, long-drawn-out
cries of hawks
Foretell the heads to fall                   4: 162
in tomorrow’s battle                                 

 

風寒き /夕日に鷹の /声ひきて
軍 に あすの / 首 を 占ふ


Kaze samuki /yuuhi ni tobi no / koe hikite
ikusa ni asu no / kubi o uranau

 

Koeki’s stanza is magnificent by itself, but equally stunning is the way each element – the wind, the sunset, the “long drawn-out cries” – feeds energy into Basho’s ode to Fate. Basho completes and fulfils Koeki’s vision. In the link between the stanzas is the horror and cruelty of war. Each time I read this pair, I am again astonished by the direction Basho chose. He took the elements Koeki provided and blended them into that great question of existence which can never be answered: Are the future and death ordained? Or are they random? FORETELL THE HEADS TO FALL contains no sense that our side is better than theirs, no justification for killing the enemy;  all who die are equal in tragedy.

 

Among pines a low door
closed in by thorns –
His play-woman                               4: 163 
hidden seven miles
from the Capital

 

荊 に 閉じる / 松 の 潜りり戸
都 より / 三里 遊女を / しのばせて


Ibara ni tojiru / matsu no kuguri do
Miyako yori / sanri yuujo o / shinobasete

 

A rich powerful man in the Capital has paid off a play-woman’s loan, so now he owns her. He keeps her in a shack with a low door that can hardly open because of the thorns. He does not want neighbors to know she is here. “Seven miles from the Capital” is close enough so he can visit her without too much trouble, but far enough – in the 17th century - that no rumor of her will reach the City

 

                              ------------------------------------

 

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto                            4: 164
reaches age seven

 

お 針して / 秋 も 命 の/ 緒を繋ぎ
琴 引 娘 / 八ッ に なりける


O-hari shite / aki mo inochi no / o o tsunagi
koto hiki musume yattsu ni narikeru

 

This woman has enough work sewing before winter comes. She may “make ends meet” in autumn, but has to survive the rest of the year. Into this poor struggling home, Basho introduces a daughter and a koto, or 13-string harp, an instrument of refinement played only by women. Notice the link between the form of needlework and the strings and frets on the harp. Both stanzas convey the diligence and constant effort of the female, the action of her hands producing order, rhythm, and beauty.

 

The daughter plays her mother’s koto here and now -- and also plays it through the months, years, decades of practice required to master the instrument. Basho praises the young girl in the early stages of her discipline.  Age seven, in many cultures, is considered the beginning of wisdom and moral understanding.

We imagine the pride the hard-working mother feels hearing her seven-year-old daughter produce such beauty. With utmost subtlety and grace, through the powerful effect music has on the brain, Basho portrays the bond between mother and daughter, the hope for a better future that the growing and learning girl evokes in her mother, hope rising on the lovely notes emerging from her seven-year old fingers on the harp.

 

                            ----------------------------------

 

At the memorial service for the mother of Basho's longtime friend and follower Kikaku, Basho begins, Kikaku follows, and another friend and follower Ransetsu concludes. 

 

White flowers                                           4: 171
without mother at home
seem so chilly
Her fragrance lingering
a brief night’s dream
An assortment
of clouds can be seen,
the moon clear.

 

卯の花も / 母 なき 宿 ぞ /冷じき
香消のこる / みじか夜の 夢
色々の / 雲 を 見に けり /月澄て


Unohana mo / haha naki shuku zo /susamajiki
Kōshō nokoru / mijika ya no yume
Iro iro no / kumo o mi ni keri / tsuki sumite

 

Having lost mother familiar with the many-petaled white deautzia blossoms for so many years, at her memorial service, the flowers seem so meaningless and chilly floating in the evening darkness. From the white desolation of flowers comes the feeling of the person who has lost the warmth (nukumori) of mother.” Kikaku follows with his feeling for his mother’s death, and Ransetsu concludes with an image of the vastness and transience of the sky.

 

                          -------------------------------------------------

 

Rice planting

maidens are lined up
to drink sake --
Holding snow in summer                   4: 194
twin peaks of Tsukuba

 

酒 飲みに /早乙女 達 の / 並び居て
卯月の 雪 を / 握る つくば ね


Sake nomi ni / saotome tachi no/ narabi ite
Uzuki no yuki o / nigiru tsukuba ne

 

Teenage girls and unmarried women, their fertility believed to transfer to the fields. work together planting every field in the village, then comes time to celebrate. This would be one of the very few times in a year a young girl could get a small cup of sake. Mount Tsukuba, 45 minutes by train north of Tokyo, is famous for having two peaks almost the same height. The last bits of snow up there do not melt until early summer. Notice how Basho brings our attention to those “peaks.” The great poet leads us to the "mountains" growing under the robes of those maidens lined up to drink sake lowering their inhibitions.

 

                             ---------------------------------------

 

Drunk on the shoulders
of people he leans 
The party today                             4: 208
was so much fun,
granddad’s dance

 

酔っては 人の / 肩 に とりつく
けふの賀 の / いでおもしろや / 祖父が 舞


Yotte wa hito no / kata ni toritsuku
Kyō no ga no / ide omoshiro ya / jiji ga mai

 

The old guy careens from one person’s shoulder to another person’s shoulder, doing what he calls a “dance”, but is more foolishness than skill. Basho focuses on the young people who enjoy watching grandfather’s drunken excuse for a dance.

 

 

On the young wife’s head                      4: 209
Chinese Rings are gentle
As a keepsake
some fabric from a bag
getting faint

 

妹 が かしら の / からわ やさしき
かたみてふ / 袋 の 切れの / はつ はつ に


Imo ga kashira no / karawa yasashiki
Katamite chou / fukuro no kire no / hatsu hatsu ni

 

The karawa or “Chinese rings” hairstyle –four rings rising from the head – was an elegant style for both courtesans and ordinary women. The elegant and charming hairstyle worn “gently” by the young wife suggests a marriage beginning with hope for the future. We jump ahead several decades, to some fabric that was part of a bag, something that used to be important, so I kept it, but I can no longer remember, everything getting faint, drifting away –yet those Chinese Rings on her head so long ago remain clear in my mind.

                                          ------------------------------

 

Along with his tears
hillbilly’s dumb poem 
He combs his hair                                   4: 230
with bear grease, oh what
a horrible name!

 

なみだをそえて / 鄙 の 腰折れ
髪けずる / 熊 の 油 の/ 名 も つらく

 

Namida o soete / hina no koshiore
Kami kezuru / kuma no abura no / na mo tsuraku

 

This hick from the boonies tries to express the depth of his love in a poem to her, but he is no Shakespeare. Bear's grease was a popular treatment for men with hair loss from at least as early as 1653 until about the First World War. The myth of its effectiveness is based on a belief that as bears are very hairy, their fat would assist hair growth in others. He wants more than just his hair to grow like a bear’s.

 

                            -----------------------------------------

 

After the years

of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen 
Day and night dreams                         
of Father in that battle

 

うき年を / 取りて はたち も / 漸 過ぎぬ
父 の いくさ を / 起きふしの 夢

 

Uki toshi o /torite hatachi mo / yaya suginu
Chichi no ikusa o / oki fusa no yume

 

Father died in war when I was small, and I have grown up under the weight of that grief. Now, in the prime of youthful 18 year old vigor, I look back over those years of dreams, both asleep and awake, reverting to that one moment on a battlefield I have never seen in reality. Miyawaki says,

 

“For a boy, his father is his model to learn from by observation, his goal in life. Having reached the age when now he can go to war, to see a dream of father in battle is the same as being on the battlefield himself. His regrets for his father can never be forgotten. The bond between father and son is well expressed.”

 

                     ----------------------------------------------

 

Basho and Etsujin are guests at the home of another follower.  Etsujin begins with a haiku praising the fire in the hearth which keeps this house somewhat warmer on this cold winter day.  The host continues with 

contrast to the warm feelings of friends being together near the fire: the desolation of a mountain forest late at night with no presence of any human or animal.  Basho then contrasts the inhumanity of this stanza with the humanity and living activity of a young boy: 

 

Coals well-placed,
I feel like I'm not
on a journey --
The pines all night long
cordially receive snow
Fisherman’s child                          4: 269
to announce a whale
blows into a shell

 

置 炭 や / 更に 旅 とも /おもわれず
雪 をもてなす / 夜すがら の 松
海士の子 が / 鯨 を 告げる / 貝吹いて


Oki-zumi ya / sara ni tabi to mo / omowarezu
Yuki o motenasu / yosugara no matsu
Ama no ko ga / kugira o tsugeru / kai fuite

 

Whalers would spot whales from stations along the shore and launch boats to catch them with harpoons and lances. Basho’s single stanza -- a half-dozen words and a few particles -- combines the intriguing trio of child, whale, and shell; we start with medium-size child, then move out to enormous whale, and return to tiny shell in boy’s hand, then spread out to fill the area with sound. That sound carries this child’s life force. Still moving, the mind goes to the villagers rushing to their boats to chase the fleeing whale, waves surging, the boy watching excitedly from his post.

 

                                  ----------------------------------

 

Cold to the skin,
unused to coin hanging
from his neck
Black hair spilling power                        4: 303
of a baggage carrier

 

肌 寒 / ならわぬ 銭 を/ 襟 に かけ
こぼるる 髪の / 黒き 強力


Hada samuku / narawanu zeni o / eri ni kake
Koboruru kami no / kuroki gōriki

 

Ensui shows us an old wandering beggar usually with no money, but now having a single coin -- with a hole in the center so it hangs on a string round his neck. In the same area, below the neck and around the chest, this strong man’s shaggy black hair spills freely. The power of this hunk who everyday carries heavy baggage for miles and miles, comes from his long shaggy hair – as when the Sun Goddess prepared herself for battle with her brother the Storm God, she unbound her hair -- as Samsom drew power from his hair before Delilah cut it off. Both stanzas are noticeably physical, material, bodily. Basho’s stanza especially highlights raw physical manhood without culture, religion, or philosophy.

 

                     --------------------------------------------

 

As dawn comes
we realize in the night
bell was stolen
Hut of a border guard                              4: 303b 
to a country defeated

 

Akewataru / kane nusumu ya wa / shira jira to
明けわたる / 鐘 ぬすむ夜は / しらじらと

 

Yaburete koku no / sakai mamoru an
やぶれて 國の / 境 守る 庵

 

For the first morning in their lives, the villagers heard no sound from the local temple, so they realized. A temple bell is far too heavy for one or two people to carry; many have no work together. When a nation-state has been defeated, before the conqueror takes control, there is bound to be vandalism. Not only has the border guard disappeared, but also the border itself lost all meaning.

 

                               -------------------------------------

 

Wearing imperial robes
he  is indeed august
Full of sutras,                                             4: 307
is his boat escorted
by a crocodile?

 

勅衣 をまとう/ 身こそ たかけれ
鰐添えて / 経 つむ 船 を / おくるかと

 

Choku-e o matō / mi koso takakere
Wani soete / kyō tsumu fune o / okuru ka to

 

I bet you can hardly wait to find out what is going on here: A VIP on an Imperial mission wears purple robes forbidden to ordinary humans. He is august, inspiring awe and reverence. Basho makes him a monk sent by the Emperor of Japan to China to collect Buddhist scriptures and bring to Japan. And now for the final twist: in Japanese mythology, when “Her Augustness Luxuriant Jewel Princess” was pregnant and leaving the Kingdom of the Sea, her father, the Sea God, sent a crocodile to escort her boat.

 

                          ---------------------------------------

 

Waves cover the rock

then they reveal it
As the pines                                             4: 308
are battered and twisted
such is love
塩 こす岩 の / かくれ あらわれ
打ち やがむ / 松 に も 似たる / 恋をして


Shio kosu iwa no / kakure-araware
Uchi-yagamu / matsu ni mo nitaru / koi o shite

 

Pines prefer soft loose soil, so grow well on seashores. The ‘rock’ is his heart -- one minute clear and trustworthy, the next minute hidden and unreliable. The turmoil in my heart as he keeps on changing signals is what the pines close to the sea endure during storms. This Basho is so passionate!

 

                 -----------------------------------------

 

Two nails for clothing
lonely is the night
No one comes                                 4: 325
to make my wife
give me leisure
Boiling rice is a drag
and makes me cry

 

布 杭 二本 / 夜 は 寂しき

隙 くれし / 妹 をあつかう /人 も 来ず
飯 焼く事を / 倦みて 泣 けり


Nuno kui nihon / yoru wa sabishiki
Hima kureshi / imo o atsukau / hito mo kizu
Meshi taku koto o / umite nakakeri

 

Two nails which used to have clothing hanging on them now are empty, so lonely am I. Apparently my wife has left me, so I need someone -- the matchmaker who arranged the marriage, my wife’s father, someone -- to fix things up with her so she comes home and does the housework. Since no one has persuaded her to come back, I have to boil rice over a wood fire in the cook stove, which is really tiring and I cry from smoke in my eyes, and I miss my wife and the work she did.

 

                     ------------------------------------------

 

Not getting up
I recognize his fragrance 
and I worry 
Wiping the sweat from                             4: 359
sidelocks in disarray

 

                   (Or)  

 

Not getting up
I recognize his smell 
and am afraid
Wiping the sweat from                             4: 359
sidelocks in disarray

 

起きもせで / きき知る匂ひ / おそろしき
乱れし 髪 の / 汗 ぬぐひ居る


Oki mo sede / kiki-shiru nioi /osoroshiki
Midareshi kami no / ase nugui iru

 

Top: a romantic scene, as in the Tale of Genji where perfumed aristocratic men sneak into a lady’s bedroom for secret sex. Osoroshii translates to “afraid,” however Shoko says that from a traditional Japanese viewpoint, the woman is not “afraid of him” – in the Tale of Genji when a man “rapes” a woman he forces himself on her, however always without assault or injury to her body – so the speaker in this translation has no fear of him physically hurting her. Shoko –a native Japanese woman and Instructor in Japanese language – explains that what this Japanese woman fears are the consequences in family and society of this romance becoming known. In English we call this “worrying.”


Bottom: Another reality where men are not washed and perfumed, and more violent in sex. As he enters the room, she recognizes his putrid odor, recalling other times he has used her. She does not get up to greet him; rather she cowers on the futon, steeling herself for what is to come. Feel the ominous approach of this man she fears.


Whether we accept the romantic vision or the fearful one, Basho followed with his stanza about female activity with long straight hair.In between the two stanzas is the activity and sweat and sound of sex (or rape?) in the hot moist Japanese summer without air conditioning, sex aggressive enough to mess up her hair (and the rest of her). She sits on the futon, neither screaming nor weeping, but rather sliding her fingers down the hair beside her face to wipe off sweat and straighten the strands -- drawing power from her hair to recover from her ordeal. He is gross and cruel, while she is sensitive and dignified. She is stronger than he is: she has more endurance.

 

                    -----------------------------------------------

 

With face red                                            4: 374
and beard scraggily
Seishi’s papa
White camellia’s long
village road to love

 

赤 顔 に / 西施 が 父の / 髭 むさき
山茶花 長し / 恋 の 里 道


Aka-gao ni / Seishi ga chichi no / hige musaki
Sasanka nagashi / koi no sato michi

 

Seishi,  one of the four great beauties of ancient China, came from a rustic village. Her dad’s face is red from working in the sun, or skin disease, or drinking alcohol. His beard has not been trimmed for some time. Yet the beauty of Seishi came from that ugliness. By some trick of Basho’s art, his portrait of ugliness contains and conceals the beauty of Seishi’s face. By portraying ugliness, Basho suggests the polar opposite, the beauty of the daughter. Ain’t it the truth?

 

                                 ----------------------------------------

 

Fresh and green
the tranquility of a rock
that never moves,
Drinking then sleeping                        4: 384
here on this bridge

 

青々と / 動かぬ 石 の / 長閑 にて
酔ってまた ぬる / 此 橋 のうえ


Aoao to / ukoganu ishi no / nodoka nite
Yotte mata neru / kono hashi no ue

 

The chilly weather of early spring has passed, the day is warm and comfortable, and the plant world green and alive. Basho recognizes that the “tranquility of a rock that never moves” is a drunken or stoned perception, so he gives that perception a location: on a bridge looking down at the stream, focusing on one particular rock that stays still while all that water goes rushing by; he watches for a while, drinks or smokes, falls asleep, wakes up to take another hit and watch some more.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com






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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...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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