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  >  Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句  >  K-05


Basho Renku Section 5

Renku of 1688 and half of 1689; with commentaries and 日本語の原文

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

Basho began the lunar year of 1688 in his hometown Iga, traveled through spring, summer and fall; he spent winter and spring in Edo, then left with Sora on their journey to the Deep North. 

 

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


Sadly falcon suffers
his loss of feathers
Only a woman                                       5: 12
in an old mansion with
a torn screen

 

煩う 鷹を / おしむ かなしき
女 のみ /古き 御舘 の 破れ 簾


Wazurau taka o / oshimu kanashiki
Onna nomi /furuki mitachi no / yabure misu

 

The falcon bred for hunting is a masculine image, yet in old age his life force diminishes. Basho leaps to the human female world of widows in old houses they can no longer maintain. I think of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations with her torn stocking.

 

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

 

By moonlight
my poor mother at work
beside the window --
She would hide fingers                5:14
stained with indigo

 

もる月を / 賤しき 母 の / 窓 に 見て
藍 にしみ 付く / 指かくすらん

 

Moru tsuki o / iyashiki haha no / mado ni mite
Ai ni shimi tsuku / yubi kakusuran

 

 

Mother, her family gone to sleep, sews or mends their clothing in that light from above through open window. From this iconic maternal image, Basho zooms in on her fingers stained from years of dyeing cloth with indigo; she feels the need to cover them with fabric to hide that strange inhuman color in the moonlight. The link – the thoughts that take us – from Iugen’s stanza to this astonishingly trivial but intimate human detail shows the vast range of Basho’s genius. Only Basho could conceive of a link such as this, a link so personal and bodily yet so full of heart.

 

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

 

 

Basho visited the home of his follower Ichiyu and his wife, Sonome.

 

Doorway curtain                                     5: 27
behind it, deep within
northside plum                                

Pine needles are falling

in the month of March

 

暖簾 の / 奥 もの ふかし / 北 の 梅
松 ちり なして / ニ月 の 頃


Nōren no / oku mono fukashi / kita no ume
Matsu chiri nashite / kisaragi no koro

 

Doorways curtains are often seen in modern Japan, between a room and a hallway; you pass through the vertical slit with two side flaps.  Visiting a follower, in the guest room, Basho writes a “greeting verse” to his wife, Sonome, hidden in the northside of the house where the kitchen is. Plum blossoms are, in Japanese poetry, the most elegant of images and thousands of poems have been written about their elegance. Basho praises Sonome, saying “Even when you are hidden from me, I ‘see’ the elegance in you.”

 

Sonome, being a refined Japanese woman, her response to his praise must be dull and boring to express humility. Sonome says through her stanza, “I am merely pine needles falling in the season plums are in bloom; no matter how many needles fall, they have absolutely no elegance.”

 

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

 

Basho wrote these two stanzas in succession:

 

 Before my eyes                                      5:39

 the scene just as is

makes a haiku -
As a child turns seven                            5:39
face becomes clear

 

目 前 の / けしき そのまま / 詩 に 作る
八ッ に なる子の / 顔 清げ なり


Me no mae no / keshiki sono mama /shi ni tsukuru
Yattsu ni naru ko no / kao kiyoge naru

 

Not every haiku must be exactly as seen – as many of Basho’s verses were not – however sketching reality is one way he recommends. The two stanzas together say that conceiving a haiku should occur naturally, organically, as one’s face develops. For Basho to see that children’s facial features transform at age seven, changing from a baby face to the “clear” features of a child, then to write a poem about this phenomenon, he must have watched the faces of many children, especially his three younger sisters. Many students of child development note the onset of a new stage at age seven. (The Japanese says "age eight" however 

they counted birth as age 1, so throughout this work, I subtract one from every Japanese age given.)

 

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

In Iga, Basho attends a blossom-viewing party held by the son of his former master Yoshitada who died 20 years ago when the boy was an infant. 

 

Many, many                              

things come to mind,
cherry blossoms 
The spring day quickly
passes into brush strokes

 

さまざまの事おもい出す櫻かな
春の日はやくふでに暮れ行く

 

Sama zama no / koto omoi-dasu / sakura kana
haru no hi hayaku / fude ni kure-yuku

 

Basho’s words are completely, utterly simple. No complications: seven ordinary words with the most basic grammar possible in Japanese and likewise in English. He says absolutely nothing new about cherry blossoms or memories – instead he ‘sums up and conceals’ a thousand years of poetic expression on these flowers and the memories that pass from one cherry blossom season to the next. Basho speaks of memories from the past coming to the present. Tokoku continues with images from today being written down so they go to the future.

 

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

 

The days pile up

getting used to a woman
who floats along
The grass of love weakens                    5: 59
his arm for archery

 

 

浮かれたる / 女 に なれて / 日をつもる
矢 数に 腕の / よわる 恋 草


Ukaretaru / onna ni narete / hi o tsumoru
Ya kazu ni ude no / yowaru koi kusa

 

At the Sanjusangendo in Kyoto samurai competed to shoot the most arrows 120 meters to hit the target in a 24-hour period. A samuraii has given up his responsibilities and spends his days with a play-woman who “floats along” – doing no real work (according to men’s idea of work), just riding the waves of sexual desire and fulfillment. All his manhood poured into her has left him unable to shoot thousands of arrows in 24 hours. He who discharges too many of one sort of arrow cannot shoot so many of the other sort.

 

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

 

Telling the Truth
of Buddhism is sad,
field of graves
Chased, the doe flees,                     5: 63
leaving behind her fawn

 

道心の / とうて悲しき /野邊の墓
追われて鹿の / 子を捨てて行


Doushin no / toute kanashiki / nobe no haka
Owarete shika no / ko o suttee yuku

 

The first poet writes a masculine and literary stanza - philosophical, religious, inanimate - then Basho jumps away from abstractions and lifelessness to the intense activity and the raw life experience of females and their young. Rather than abandoning her child to save her own hide, she is drawing the attacker away from the baby hidden in the bush.

 

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

 

Sister from the Capital
here to have her baby
Weaving folded                                 5:66
at back door she lights
flower incense

 

都の妹が子を / うみに来る
機たたむ / 妻戸に花の / 香を焼きて


Miyako no imo ga / ko o umi ni kuru
Hata tatamu / tsumado ni hana no / ko o yakite

 

She left her home village to work in the City and marry; pregnant, she returns so her mother can help out before, during and after birth. Folding the fabric she has woven, she goes to the back door to light a stick of incense and spread sweet fragrance throughout the kitchen. She moves her body back and forth, up and down, around her swollen belly. In the place she herself was born, through physical work, she prepares her body and spirit for delivery

 

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

 

Missing teeth, Granddad’s                 5: 77
nembutsu sounds strange

 

歯ぬけの 祖父の / 念仏 おかしき
Ha nuke no jiji no / nembutsu okashiki

 

Grandfather chants the nembutsu prayer, Namu Amida Buttsu, calling for salvation from the bodhisattva Amida, for much of his day; the Pure Land sects teach that each repetition brings salvation not only to the chanter but to all beings. An adult would ignore the old man mumbling same words over and over again, however the child’s sharp ears pick up the irregularities in sound, and his clear open mind recognizes the cause. Granddad is old, and the nembutsu ancient, however the child encompasses them both with fresh astute observation, mischievous humor, and no concern at all for salvation.

 

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

 

Giving breast
to baby, something
she must say:
“Leaving thoughts behind,
Papa sent far away”
Strumming lute                              5: 105 
from evening, she cries
past daybreak

 

 

御乳そいて / わかうに物や / いひねらむ
おもい残せる / 遠の國がえ
琵琶弾て / 今宵は泣いて / 明かすべき


Ochi soite / wakau ni mono ya / ii neramu
Omoi nokoseru / tō no kunigae 
Biwa hiite / konya ni naite / akasu beki

 

 

Her husband transferred to a distant place, thoughts of him remain, she speaks her sadness to the infant nursing at her breast. Basho transforms her into a woman holding the pear-shaped instrument on her lap close to her chest, the way she holds a similar shaped baby. He combines the melancholy notes of the lute with her distraught sobbing, from evening through night into day.

 

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

 

Baby duck seems to be
interested in the water
Lake ripples -                                 5: 119
waiting for lantern light
to end today

 

水おもしろく / 見ゆるかるの子
さざ波や / 今日は火とばす / 暮れ待って


Mizu omoshiroku / miyuru karu no ko
Sazanami ya / kyou ha hi tobasu / kure matte

 

What is the nature of “interest,” how does a phenomenon such as  ever-changing, always-the-same ripples attract human attention?  Does a baby spotted-bill duck have enough brains in that tiny head  to feel “intentness, concern, and curiosity” for ripples. Basho continues observing water, but instead of looking to a different species, he looks to a different time. Apparently tonight will be a lakeside festival. Basho transcends time to see this water sparkle under lantern light – but can a baby duck envision the future?  

 

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

 

Memorial service
in tears she recites
request for alms
A beautiful child                            5:150
asleep on her lap
Far from village
under cherry in bloom
broiling tofu
Crazy butterfly
gets inside her hat

 

談義の場 / 泣くはふじゆ上る / 人そうな
美し子の / 膝にねぶりて
里遠き / 花の木陰に / とうふ焼く
狂う小蝶の / 編み笠に入る

 

Dangi no ba / naku wa fuju agaru / hito sou na
Utsukushii ko no / hiza ni neburite
Sato tōki / hana no kikage / tofu yaku
Kuruu kochō ni / ami kasa ni iru

 

This quartet begins with a stanza by Etsujin about a woman at a memorial service for her husband, but the verse seems poorly written and the Buddhist terminology is confusing. Basho could have tried to clarify things with his stanza, but instead he drops the whole Buddhist death ritual to focus on living humanity: a baby with mind and heart uncluttered by adult considerations, in peace and harmony on mother’s lap, representing newness and hope in contrast with the oldness and death in the previous stanza.

Basho: the poet of positive humanity.

 

Basho says nothing about sadness, crying, or Buddhism, so the third poet is free to put this woman in an entirely different place and mood. Mother with infant on her lap, at a blossom-viewing picnic, she is an icon – a symbol for something greater than herself: mother and child surrounded by nature: under cherry blossoms, the most iconic of Japanese seasonal events; life sleeps on her lap while on a small fire she (or someone else) prepares food to sustain life. The next poet makes the woman under the cherry tree an aristocratic wearing a netted hat, and a butterfly gets inside and cannot find the way out.

 

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

 

From here to 5: 163 is from a sequence of 36 stanzas composed by just two poets, Basho and Etsujin:

 

Not letting on his boots
rain falls at day break
As they part,                                         5: 157
ever so delicate and
fascinating
Beauty of her voice
when she has a cold
Sliding back                                         5: 157
her tray with lunch
untouched

 

足駄 はかせぬ / 雨 の あけぼの
きぬぎぬの /あまり かぼそく / あてやかな
風ひ きたまう / こえの うつくし
手もつかず / 昼 の 御膳も / すべり 来ぬ


Ashida hakasenu / ame no akebono
Kinuginu no / amari kabosoku / ateyaka na
Kaze hikitamau / koe no utsukushi
Te mo tsukazu / hiru no gozen mo / suberi kinu

 

As her lover leaves in the morning to go out into the pouring rain, she stops his hands from pulling on his boots.  Stay, just a little bit longer - Stay!


Basho replies with a focus on her delicacy and fascination which make men feel protective and want to stay with her. The respiratory hoarseness of a cold adds a different sort of delicacy and fascination to her voice.

Basho makes her silently return the tray with the lunch she has no appetite to eat. Her immune system is weakened by a cold, and food will only make it worse. Teenage girls may tell us the significance of this link.

 

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

 

The shop now is lonely                5: 160
the barley he did ground
No wooden box
only wrapped in silk
sacred mirror
What the miko thinks                                5: 160
is what she speaks

 

みせはさびしき /麦の引き割り
家なくて /ふくさに 包む / 十寸 かがみ
もの おもひ居る / 神子 物 云ひ


Mise wa sabishiki / mugi no hikiwari
Ie nakute / fukusa ni tsutsumu / masu kagami
Mono omoi iru / miko no mono ii

 

A shop owner has died, leaving behind the shop he worked in, and the barley he ground. The “mirror” in Etsujin’s stanza is the soul of the deceased, now a deity; according to Shinto, the soul is originally clear and free of sin, and when the person dies, the soul returns to that clarity. “Without a home” means no box for the mirror, no body for the soul.

 

The miko, or female shaman, goes into a trance to speak for the deceased soul. Etsujin portrays the masculine and dead; Basho the feminine and alive. A miko must be a virgin and therefore pure, so she can communicate with the other world. Her thoughts come from the divine, and in her innocence she does not filter or edit them, so the deity is speaking with her human mouth.

 

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

 

Wretched in her
distress, she gazes at
the evening sky
In those clouds, whose                    5: 161
tears are contained?

 

あやにくに / わずらう妹が / ゆうながあめ
あの雲 はたが / 泪 つつむ ぞ


Ayaniku ni / wazurau imo ga / yuu nagame
Ano kumo wa taga / namida tsutsumu zo

 

“She” could be an adolescent in turmoil, or a married or unmarried woman. Basho’s question really has no meaning, but may somehow console the lovesick or betrayed female.

 

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

 

The Moon passes
way up in the air, soon
to fade away
Pounding cloth far away                      5: 162
dozing off on the saddle

 

行 月の / うはの空にて /きえそうに
砧 も 遠く / 蔵 に いねぶり


Yuku tsuki no / uwa no sora nite / kiesō ni
Kinuta mo tōku / kura ni ineburi

 

Basho compliments the impersonal ephemerality in Etsujin’s stanza with body sensations and an awareness of women at work. The early morning sound enters his drowsy horseback consciousness as a pathway to the source of that sound, a woman pounding cloth to soften and smooth it. We drift back and forth between distant repetitive sound and waves of sleepiness, between physical reality and a dream, between infinite sky and a woman at work hidden but audible.

 

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

 

Majestic Chinese
gables on tile roof
of a herbalist
A child well-treated                             5: 163
should not be skinny

 

いかめしく / 瓦 庇 の / 木薬屋
馳走する 子の / 痩せて かい なき


Ikameshiku / kawara hisashi no / ki-kusuri-ya
Chisō suru ko no / yasete kai naki

 

In our final pair from the sequence by Etsujin and Basho, the former sees a dealer in medicinal herbs so prosperous he has a roof of heavy ceramic tiles (most houses at this time had roofs of thatch). The impressive Chinese gables at the ends make the place look like a temple. Growing up in a rich house, where knowledge of herbal remedies and how to use them is second-nature, why is this child so sickly? Basho creates the question but gives not even a hint of an answer.

 

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

 

On his Chinese-

style hood scatter
cherry blossoms
Drunk from ox falling                         5: 172
in the spring breeze

 

唐の / 頭巾 に 花 の /ちりかかり
酔って 牛より / 落る 春 風


Morokoshi no /zukin ni hana no / chirikakari
Yotte ushi yori / otsuru haru kaze

 

“Chinese-style” suggests elegance. The blossoms scattering on his head suggest his wild, unrestrained consciousness; he must be an eccentric poet-sage, so Basho puts him on an ox which suggests the greatest sage of them all, Lao Tzu, famous for riding an ox - however Basho mixes things up further by having the elegant but crazy sage so drunk he falls from the animal’s back. I like the way the cherry petals fall onto his hood and stop there; then, as he falls, they complete their journey to the ground.

 

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

 

Youngest daughter hates
the mole on her face
Robe for dancing                          5: 180
aimlessly she folds it
inside the box


かおのほくろを /くやむ乙の子

舞衣/ むなしくたたむ / 箱の内


Kao no hokuro o / kuyamu oto no ko

Mai koromo / munashiku tatamu / hako no uchi

 

 

The mole does not interfere with her intelligence or body movement, but everyone who meets her sees it, and consciousness of this saps her self-confidence. Having growing up together with her sisters who have no moles, she hates the unfairness of this, but there is nothing she can do about it.  (When my three daughters were this age, they always used "hate" for things they disliked.  I always told them "hate" is too strong a word for this, but they continued using it - and so I use it here for this teenage girl's feeling.)

 

Someone who cares for the daughter’s happiness has given her a gorgeous robe for dancing in the local shrine festival, but she is too ashamed of her mole to show it to the whole town. Both stanzas are rich with physical specifics: “youngest daughter,” “mole,” and “face”; “robe,” “folds it,” and “inside the box.” The emotional kuyamu, “hates” flows nicely into the superb nameshiku, “aimlessly.”

 

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

 

 

For the hell of it
stealing single orchid
Dew heavy                                        5: 182
the monk in silence
opens the door

 

興 じて ぬすむ / 欄 の 一もと
露 ふかき / 無言 の僧の / 戸を 開けて


Kyō jite nusumu / ran no ichimoto
Tsuyu fukaki / mugon no sō no / do o akete

 

Someone immature has stolen a single orchid, thinking it would not be missed. From this human pettiness, Basho chooses a metaphor for Zen Buddhism: the world heavy with dew suggesting impermanence, the monk in utter silence opens the door to go out into the garden, as he opens the door to the Truth. The two stanzas portray two poles in the continuum of humanity, from the self-ignorance of a juvenile delinquent to the total self-awareness of the enlightened monk.

 

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

 

Fuji pilgrim’s                                       5: 192
straw backpack becomes
pillow of grass
For a while the Gods
Mother’s soul to keep

 

不二詣で / おひねだわらを / 草 枕
母 の ほとけを /かりに 預ける


Fuji mōde o / hine tawara o / kusa makura
Haha no hotoke o / kari ni asukeru

 

He climbs the mountain for a spiritual purpose, and travels light, at night resting his head on the straw bag he carried on his back. In the bad was a memento of his mother to dedicate to the gods, something that represented her hotoke, or Buddha nature, after death. He entrusts her soul to the Gods for as long as he stays up here on Mount Fuji. In both stanzas, sleep is the vehicle to the realm of a higher power which cares for the human soul

 

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

 

From emaciated breasts
squeezing tears of dew
In his absence                               5: 210
meal tray placed inside
mosquito net

 

痩せたる 乳 を /しぼる 露 けさ
とわぬ夜に / 膳さしいるる / 蚊やの内


Yasetaru chichi o /shiboru tsuyu kesa
Towanu yo ni / zen sashi iru / kaya no uchi

 

Still sick and weak from a difficult delivery, she provides sustenance for a new life. “Tears of dew” are her tears falling on the baby, the thin watery fluid coming from her malnourished breasts, the summer sweat between two feverish bodies, the utter misery of their existence – while the father is… The net is a small one where she and the baby sleep. Sitting inside to eat and nurse the baby, her world is reduced to the smallest dimensions, as small as her hopes for herself and her baby, as miniscule as his concern for their welfare.

The diaphanous net hangs loosely over her with head tall in the center. Can this represent an emaciated breast with its nipple? The “meal tray” then is the milk-producing glands inside the breast.  Is this image too physical and fleshy for the poet-saint Basho?  No.  Basho frequently, in renku, writes of female body parts and activities. 

 

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

 

I am one person in                           5: 254
a floating world of love
When I try
to speak of this desire,
only stutter

 

我が 物 おもい / 浮世 壱人
この恋を / いわむとすれば / どもり にて


Waga mono omoi / ukiyo ichinin
Kono koi o / iwamu to sureba / domori nite

 

The term "floating world" is very common in Japanese culture and poetry; it suggests the transcience 

of reality: how everything we have disappears.  If only two people could be together in a 'floating world' of love, then the two of them would ride the waves of change together -- however one person alone must go through changes in one direction, while the other goes through different changes.   Basho's stanza is rather abstract, then Ranran goes for the body and physical activity.  "One person" tries to tell the other of the love felt in heart, but the intensity of feeling makes the mouth stutter. (Stuttering occurs mostly in males (although one prominent female, Marilyn Monroe, had this problem). 

 

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

 

Waves make the misty
Mount Fuji move about
Inviting folks                                      5: 267         
to the low-tide beach
for pickled squid

 

なみは曇の / ふじをうごかす
客よびて / 潮干ながらの / いかなます

 

Nami wa kumori no / fuji o ugokasu
Kyaku yobite / shiohi nagara no / ika namasu

 

The vast mountain’s reflection within the water moves about with the coming and going of the waves. Basho gives this perception a location, on a beach at low tide where pools of water remain and also sea creatures lie about waiting to be gathered. The squid is soaked in vinegar – like the mountain in the water - to make ika namasu, pickled squid. Basho invites his friends over to share both the food and the visions of Mount Fuji in both air and water.

 

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

 

Arising to blow on embers,                          5: 268

the wife of a bell ringer
Going and returning
she calls for her lost child
moonlight and stars

 

おきて火をふく/ かねつきがつま
行かえり /まよいごよばる / 星世夜


Okite hi o fuku / kanetsuki ga tsuma
Iki kaeri / mayoi-go yobaru / hoshi tsuki yo

 

Before going to bed, she banked the fire, covering coals with ashes to remain alive till morning when she awakens them with her breath. Her husband wakes up the town, but Basho has eyes only for the wife, getting up in the freezing winter dawn to, like a goddess, wake up the fire. She may be blowing directly onto the coals, or through a bamboo tube. She is eternal, a goddess of fire, proclaimed by bells.

At night she alerts the town to her child being lost. Both stanzas focus attention on the woman, her breath and her activity expressed by an abundance of lively active verbs. The stars in the night sky resemble the glowing embers in the ashes of the fire pit.

 

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

 

 

Blackwood smoldering
shack hidden in a hollow
To whom can she                                5: 269
be given as a bride?
her thoughts of love

 

黒木ほすべき / 谷かげの小屋
たがよめと/ 身 を やまかせむ / 物 おもい


Kuroki hosubeki / tani kage no koya
Taga yome to / mi o yamakasemu / mono omoi

 

Blackwood burns slowly giving off dark heavy smoke that accumulates over the walls and ceiling and inhabitants. Basho then pinpoints the daughter living within this shack in a mountain hollow where the sun never shines; he reaches into her heart. There are no available bachelors in her world, no one to marry a girl so grimy with soot and rickets from vitamin D deficiency. All she can do is long for a love she will never know.

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

 

As I speak                                           5: 281
her face hidden by
folding fan
That sleep-tousled hair
a difficult boat ride

 

ものいえば / 扇子に顔を / かくされて
寝みだす 髪 の /つらき 乗合


Mono ieba / sensu ni kao o / kakusarete
Ne-midasu kami no / tsuraki nori ai

 

Basho creates a woman concealing her face from one who speaks to her – and we recognize the “shame” (or call it “shyness” or “embarrassment” or “discomfort”) which is central to Japanese social consciousness.

The second poet puts her on a boat one morning after a night of seasick sleeplessness.; her long black hair is a mess. She is on her way to the place on the boat where she can wash her face and fix her appearance so people can see her without her feeling uncomfortable, but she has not done so yet.

 

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

 

Even that moon
because of this love
is saddened
With dew will disappear                        5: 283
the pain in my chest

 

あの月も/ 恋ゆえにこそ / 悲しけれ
露とも消えぬ / 胸のいたきに

 

Ano tsuki mo / koe yue ni koso / kanashikere
Tsuyu tomo kienu / mune no itaki ni

 

The subject of the first stanza feels self as one with nature, so the moon takes on my sadness and

disappointment. Basho responds to this abstraction with completely physical bodily experience.

When I first typed this verse in English, I inadvertently wrote “pain in my heart” because that is

what I expected. No! Basho is physical and bodily.

 

The disappearance of dew is the Japanese favorite image of transience: the death poem of the

the character Murasaki in the Tale of Genji is one of countess examples of this:

 

Seen in place
for a fleeting moment
only to be
scattered by the wind
dew on bush clover

 

Thus when we read “With dew will disappear” we expect the next line to be about the ending of a

lifetime. Basho defies our expectations to penetrate deeper into reality, into sensation.

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

 

Today again                                     5: 288
on the Stone to worship
the Rising Sun
Rinsing out the rice,
cascade of white water

 

今日もまた / 朝日を拝む /石のうえ
米 とぎ 散らす / 竜 の 白浪


Kyou mo mata / asahi o ogamu / ishi no ue
Kome togi chirasu /taki no shira nami

 

I climb onto a boulder to get a good view of the sun emerging from the horizon. There I sits quietly, watching, absorbing the clear silent power of the Sun (Goddess). Rice grains after milling are coated with starch; before being cooked, they must be washed by moving the rice about in a bowl of water then pouring out the murky water – like white water in a cascade.

 

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

 

Collective roof thatching
autumn in the village
Lowly women                                            5: 298
serve nembutsu dancers
cups of tea

 

雇にやねふく / 村ぞ秋なる
賤の女が / 上総 念仏 に/ 茶を汲みて


Yui ni yane fuku / mura zo aki naru
Shizu no onna ga / kazuki nembutsu ni / cha o kumite

 

All the village men work together without charge to repair the thatch on each village roof before snow comes; they compete with each other to show how hard they can work, all for the common good. A troupe of missionaries chanting the nembutsu prayer for salvation, accompanied by drums and gongs, dances along the street in front of the house whose roof is being thatched. Women from the house come out to the road to give the dancers cups of tea. Following the altruism in the stanza before, we see that Basho is praising the women for their hospitality which is a form of altruism. Patriarchal society considers them “lowly women,” but this quality places them higher in Basho’s esteem.

 

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

 

There are times
when even a cicadas
enter a dream
Their love is blocked                               5: 299
by twigs of catalpa
How the wife
really hates being called
the farmer’s “field”

 

有る時は / 蝉 にも 夢の / 入ぬらん
楠 の小枝に / 恋を へだてて
恨みては 嫁の畑の名もにくし


Aru toki wa / semi ni mo yume no / iranuran
Kusu no koeda ni / koi o hedatete

Uramite wa / yome no hatake no / na mo nikushi

 

Basho following Chuang Tzu often has a butterfly entering a dream. Sora begins this trio with a variation on that theme: a cicada having a dream. These insects inhabit trees, emitting their constant nerve-reaching “cries.” Basho says that if a cicada can dream, can also desire love, and send out messages of that desire on their cries – like one does today on dating sites – but the countless tiny twigs block the transmission.

Somehow messages of love between a man and woman have been blocked, so he considers her just his “field” where he grows things.

 

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

 

 

Sled pulling
firewood, one path
through the snow
Each house’s warrior                        5: 303
in winter seclusion

 

薪 引 / 雪車一筋の / 跡有て
おのおの武士の / 冬 籠る 宿


Takigi hiku / sori issuji no / ato arite
Ono ono bushi no / fuyu gomoru shuku

 

Prints left in the snow by a man pulling firewood on a sled suggest his hard life in winter. He is a warrior from spring to autumn, but must survive winter so he can back to his real occupation. In this mountain village one member of every house is a warrior, all waiting for spring when, like a vast area of snow melting from the mountains to flood the valleys, they can march to war. All that battle energy frozen and contained in Basho’s stanza, waits to flow freely in the vast waste of humanity that is war.

 

 

Summonned to the palace
ashamed by the gossip
Easing in                                              5: 304
her slender forearm
for his pillow

 

宮 に めされし /うき名はずかし
手枕 に / ほそき 腕 を /さし入れて


Miya ni mesareshi / uki na hazukashi
Ta-makura ni / hosoki kaina o / sashi-irete

 

In The Tale of Genji, Kiritusbo “summoned” by the Emperor becomes his favorite. Other court ladies led by his senior consort spread rumors to shame her so she sickens and dies. Basho, however, aims for life, not death. In spite of the gossip about her and the shame it brings her, lying in bed beside him, she carefully, sensitively maneuvers her arm under his head without waking him, such is the delicacy of her devotion. Basho empowers women to overcome bullying and shame by concentrating on their feminine power.

 

Higashi Akimasa in 芭蕉の愛句, The Love Poetry of Basho, says:

 
This is a truly sensual love-stanza. Looking back over the history of Japanese tanka and renku,

so daring a love verse is unusual, however should we not be a little surprised that the author

was Basho said to be a paragon of wabi and sabi?”

 

まことに官能的な句である。日本の和歌・連歌の歴史を 遡っても、これだけ大胆に読んでいる愛句は珍しいししかも   

 その作者が、「わび」・「さび」の権化のようにいわれて いる 芭蕉であるだけに、ちょっとおどろきではなかろうか。


Makota ni kannouteki na aiku de aru. Nihon no waka, renga no rekishi o sakanobotte mo,

kore dake daitan ni yonde iru aiku wa mezurashii shi, shikamo sono sakusha ga,

“wabi,” “sabi” no gongeno you ni iwarete iru Bashou de aru dake ni、chotto odoroki de wa nakarou ka.

 

Higashi does not answer his rhetorical question, however I will. The notion that Basho is a “paragon of wabi and sabi” is an illusion, based on a narrow selection of impersonal and lonely haiku. Once we broaden our selection to include his linked verses, we find him to be a paragon of romance, passion, and physical sensuality.

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

Water forbidden
black hair’s distress --
At an age
to take care of dolls
she is lovely
Weight of the harp                                  5: 317
she holds on her lap
Even as a dream
in a snooze, no recall
of being at court

 

水ゆるされぬ / 黒髪ぞうき
まだ雛を / いたわる年の / うつくしく
かかえし琴の / 膝 や おもたき
うたたねの / 夢さえうとき/ 御所 の 中


Mizu yurusarenu / kuro kami zo uki
Mada hina o / itawaru toshi no / utsukushiku
Kakaeshi koto no / hiza ya omotaki
Utatane no / yume sae utoki / gosho no naka

 

She is not allowed to wash her hair for fear that wet hair will bring on more sickness. She lavishes her affection on dolls – developing her skills and self-confidence for taking care of babies. This is not the large koto but a smaller harp such as a zither. She hugs it on her lap as she would a doll, as she would a doll or a baby – and so we return to the second stanza. From Sukan’s ideal of loveliness, Basho jumps into body sensation; the words he uses – omotaki, heavy in weight; kakaeru, “hold in hands”; hiza, “lap” – all so physical and intimate.

 

The Japanese does not distinguish between present and past tenses. The next poet took Basho’s stanza about a child who “holds” a harp, and changed to an old woman who “held” the koto when she was a court lady decades ago. She drifts away in a snooze, yet her dreams contain no memories of what she did or said or knew during her years of service to the Empress – all that remains in her addled mind is the body-memory of the harp resting on her lap as she sat on her heels. So the poets play with and transform both music and time.

 

 

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...
• 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