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-06


Basho Renku Section 6

Renku from midsummer to the end of 1689 with commentaries and 日本語の原文

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

Volume 6 of the BRZ begins with Basho and Sora just past their visit to the hilltop where the hero Yoshitsune died; here in Obanazawa (now Yamagata-ken) with local followers  they composed a linked verse of 36 stanzas.  Basho’s stanza alludes to mythical stories about local legends, however Ryoban saw the potential in Basho’s stanza for a severe indictment of brothel slavery, and Sora fulfilled that indictment:

 

Mountains are burned                         6: 11
grass painted with blood
Only a few years
in this world, betrayed
by her stepmother
Grief on a pillow of waves
in northern harbor town

 

山 は こがれて / 草 に 血を ぬる
わずかなる / 世 を や 継母も/ 偽られ
秋田酒田 の / 浪 まくら うき


Yama wa kogarete / kusa ni chi o nuru
Wazuka naru / yo o ya keibo mo / itsuwarare
Akita sakata no / nami makura uki

 

Sora’s third stanza portrays the misery of a young girl from a backward village in the Deep North sold to a brothel in a harbor town where she is forced to have sex “on a pillow of waves” with the scum that comes off boats. Ryoban’s second stanza tells us how she got there: her stepmother, while father was away, sold her, an innocent child, to a brothel – although at first only to be a waitress or maid. In the context of the stanzas that followed, Basho’s "mountains burned and grass painted with blood" depicts the aftermath of the violent rape of an innocent virgin who now realizes that such loveless sexual encounters will be her grief every night for the rest of her life.

 

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

 

Basho's most famous haiku, a vision of a frog jumping into an old pond and the sound that comes from the water, along with its following stanza appears in section 4 of Basho Renku.  This single stanza written in Obanazawa can stand alongside that froggy haiku: 

 

Frog asleep,                                      6: 14
you may borrow dreams
from the butterfly

 

 蛙   ねて   /    胡蝶に夢を   / かりぬらん
Kawazu nete / kochō ni yume o / karinuran

 

Frogs can jump from place to place, even jumping into water, but yearn for the unlimited freedom of a butterfly in flight.  Basho is of course thinking of the ancient Chinese sage Chuang Tzu dreaming of being a butterfly and not knowing whether he was dreaming of being a butterfly or a butterfly was dreaming of being Chuang Tzu - but Basho goes even farther, into the dream world of a frog.  He said 


Link verses the way children play. so it is with Chuang Tzu.
When we look, really look at Chuang-tzu                                               
renku resembles the Way of Chuang-tzu


Children in play leap across the boundaries of space and time to change reality however they please – as Chuang Tzu does in shifting between reality and dream, as the renku poet does from one stanza to another.

“Give up your single sold reality; enter another reality, another identity, another location or time, just like that.”

 

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

 

Sunshiny day
celestial maiden caresses
the rock spring
Chant of Lotus Sutra                                   6: 15 
at the window elegantly

 

はるる日は / 石の井なでる / 天おとめ
艶 なる 窓 に / 法華 読む 声


Haruru hi wa / ishi no i naderu /ten otome
En naru mado ni / hokke yomu koe

 

In the Noh play The Feather Mantle a celestial maiden, in praise for the beauty on a sunny day on Earth equal to that in Heaven, caresses the world and the splendor never ceases. Seifu has her caress the rock spring that never stops flowing. Basho hears a female voice chant the Lotus Sutra which for many East Asians contains the ultimate and complete teachings of Buddha. The sutra, beginning with the famous words nam myo renge kyo, declares that a woman need not reincarnate to a man to reach Nirvana; rather she can do so from being a women. She chants not in the monotonic drone of priests, but rather elegantly, musically, as a celestial maiden caresses a spring of clear water. Her path to Enlightenment is not inside a temple, but rather beside the window watching the world in sunshine while she sings the words of Buddha. In both stanzas, the material and spiritual blend through the female.


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

 

Final day of
mourning, sadness speaks
through catalpa bow
Now in a world of grief                                 6: 25
her mirror to sell

 

はての日は / 梓にかたる / あわれさよ
今ぞうき 世に / 鏡 うりける


Hate no hi wa / azusa ni kataru / awaresa yo
Ima zo uki yo ni / kagami urukeru

 

The miko (female shaman) twanged her bow of catalpa wood with one hemp string to, in the words of Carmen Blacker, “emit a resonance which reaches into the world of spirits, enabling the shaman who manipulates it to communicate with that world.” On the 49th and final day of mourning, a widow listens to

a miko channel her husband’s spirit. Never again to make herself beautiful, she will no longer need a mirror.

 

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

 

Papa gone, she cries
in bedroom till daybreak --
Never moving
yet covered by clouds
the North Star –
Today too for zazen                                       6: 28
climbing onto the rock

 

父が旅寝を / 泣きあかすねや
うごかずも / 雲の遮る / 北の星
今日も座禅に / 登る石上


Chichi ga tabine o / naki-akasu neya
Ugokazu mo / kumo no seagiru / kita no hoshi
Kyou mo zazen ni / noboru ishi ue

 

Sora offers an image of passionate humanity: a girl missing her father totally loses it to emotion. Seifu counters with an image of eternity without humanity or passion -- an obvious, even blatant Zen message: the Way never changes but sometimes cannot be seen. As the North Star remains constant throughout the night, throughout human life, and throughout time, so must be your discipline in Zen if you are serious about practicing, which Basho was not.

 

Basho follows Seifu with a personal experience of Zen meditation – however he is not merely sitting in zazen; he is climbing onto a large rock to do so; the focus is on activity leading to stillness. Basho does his Zen occasionally, not inside a temple, but rather outside, concentrating on the heavens.

 

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

 

Summer rains                                            6: 33
gathering, rushing
Mogami river
A post on the bank
holds firefly here

 

さみだれを / 集めてはやし / 最上川
きしに蛍を / 繋ぎ鮒杭


Samidare o / atsumete suzushi / mogami-gawa
Kishi ni hotaru o / tsunagi funa kui

 

In his middle segment Basho combines atsumaru, with another action word, hayashi in a single powerful phrase "gathering, rushing." These two dynamic words pile up, “pressing forward” with the intensity of a raging mountain river swollen by day after days of heavy rain.

 

The host to today’s gathering follows Basho’s hokku with a nature scene which contains a personal message to Basho: “you could be flying down the river with the wind, but you stay here in my house, giving us your light for a while, until you too join the flow down river.”

 

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

 

Never snowed on
this pine tree, for itself,
has grown fat
Pressing down bush clover                          6: 55
wife of the wild boar 

 

雪ふかぬ / 松はおのれと / ふとりけり
萩ふみしける / 猪 の 妻


Yuki fukanu / matsu wa onore to / futori keri
Hagi fumi-shikeru / inoshishi no tsuma

 

A pine in the semi-tropics needs no “fat” to keep warm, but has grown fat anyway. The fierce wild boar with sharp tusks tears up taro patches and so forth – but Basho feminizes the testosterone-charged image of the beast. The wild boar's wife, who is a "sow," also is “fat” which means healthy and full of nourishment for her infant boars. Instead of going out to ravage fields or fight typhoons, she presses down the delicate bush clover where she can lie in relative safety and fulfill her evolutionary destiny to nourish and hide her infants until they can care of themselves.

 

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

 

Camp fires on the skirts

of mountain castle
Dedicating                                              6: 59
his final meal, the Lord
forbids fish

 

山 城の / 裾に見ゆる / かがり火
奉る / 供御の肴も / 疎か居て


Yamajiro no suso ni / miyuru kagari bi
Tatematsuru / kugo no sakana mo / oroka nite

 

Enemy camps surround the mountain castle waiting for dawn when they will attack. Inside, the Lord of the castle eats what may be his final meal which he dedicates to the Buddha, so it cannot contain any meat or fish.  Notice the movement from many fires and many unidentified warriors surrounding the castle to one specific Lord within that castle considering the end of the 'fire' which is his life. 

 

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

 

Pulled awake

to see the Full Moon
in her shame
Hair fanned by maids,                            6: 74
her thin robe of dew

 

月見 よと / ひきおこされて / はずかしき
髪あふがする / うすもの の 露


Tsukimi yo to / hiki-okosarete / hazukashiki
Kami augasuru / usumono no tsuyu

 

Pulled from bed by someone enthusiastic to show her the Moon, embarrassed to be seen in her nightgown without any preparation of face, hair, and clothing; she really does not want anyone to see her emerging sexuality in the moonlight.

 

This flustered and ashamed girl grows up into a mature self-assured lady. Her maids wave folding fans at her mass of thick black hair to push away the summer heat. A “robe of dew” would be transparent, revealing her entire body as naked as the moon, yet not at all ashamed.

 

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

 

He stays for two nights

before his enemy’s gate --
Sweeping away
dreams, on the field stands
Jizo statue
Longing for a wife?                             6: 76
call of a mountain dog

 

敵 の 門 に/ ニ夜寝にけり
かき消える / 夢 は 野中 の /地蔵にて
妻 恋 するか / 山 犬 の 声


Kataki no mon ni / futayo ne ni keri
Kaki-kieru / yume wa nonaka no / jizou nite
Tsuma koi suru ka / yama inu no koe

 

Seeking to kill his enemy rather than be killed, he waits all night before the gate, sweeping dreams from his drowsy mind. In the nearby field stands a statue of the bodhisattva Jizo, Buddhist Guardian of the Roads who comforts those in distress and assists those in need. The warrior calls on Jizo for strength to stay awake and stay alive. That lonely cry in the distance, is it real or in a dream? Is the ‘dog’ a real dog or a metaphor for man who seeks a wife to comfort him in distress and assist him in need. Here is the life of a warrior: his struggles against male enemies and against nature (the need to sleep), his use of religion to justify these struggles, then (from Basho) his longing for female love.

 

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

 

Startled by clappers
a window in the thicket
Sister cries                                      6: 79
for her life married
to a thief

 

 

鳴子 おどろく/ 方 藪 の 窓
盗 人 に /連れ添う妹が / 身をなきて


Naruko odoroku / kata yabu no mado
Nusubito ni / tsuresō imo ga / mi o nakite

 

In this house (or shack) they feel threatened. They startle at ordinary autumn sounds in a rice-growing village: the clatter of noisemakers over fields to scare away hungry birds. Trees and shrubs grow wild around the house, so from the road only one window can be seen. Is that window an eye watching the road, armed and ready, to defend his freedom?

 

Basho clarifies that this is a thief, yet focuses on the woman “married,” probably without a license, to him.

Chosetsu’s stanza is profound social realism, but a masculine reality; Basho looks rather at the female side of the gender coin.  For many more Basho visions of the Oppression of Women, click here

 

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

 

Onto my face
falling and scattering
pear blossoms
“Butterfly” engraved                                  6: 84
beneath sake cup

 

吾 顔に / おちかかりたる / 梨 の 花
銘を 胡蝶 と /つけし さがづき


Waga kao ni / ochikakaritaru / nashi no hana
Mei o kochō to / tsukeshi sakazuki

 

If the blossoms are falling on his face, he must be flat on his back, so we suspect he is drunk or stoned out of his gourd. He has knocked over his ceramic wine cup (or bong) and from his position lying on his back, notices that the underside is engraved with the potter’s artistic signature, the characters for “butterfly”.

The flighty image of butterflies then compares, in his high mind, to the gentle falling and scattering of pear blossoms.

 

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

 

“In from the snow
so fire will warm you,
I remove iron pot.”
Still in her nightgown                                    6: 89
yet make-up beautiful

 

此 雪に/ 先あたれ とや / 釜 揚げて
寝まき ながら の / けはひ 美し


Kono yuki ni / saki atere to ya kama agete
Nemaki nagara no / kehai utsukushi

 

We are at a home which serves as roadside rest area and teahouse. The kamado, or cookstove, has an iron pot fitting into a hole on top. Sora expresses the consideration of the host removing the pot so more heat goes to the guest -- but does not specify the gender of this welcoming person. Basho makes her undoubtedly female. We see her early-morning priorities -- as we see Basho’s appreciation for Japanese women’s skill at applying make-up. Dorothy Britton says, he “betrays an intimate knowledge of how women make themselves beautiful.”

 

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

As moon rises
we borrow a guard’s room
and bring sake
From the earthen stove                 6: 104
smoky autumn wind

 

月出れば / 関やおからん / 酒もって
土ものの竈の / 煙る秋風

 

Tsuki dereba / seki ya okaran / sake motte 
Domono no kamado no / kemuru aki kaze

 

Sora wrote and published a Travel Diary which is notable for the total absence of any search for meaning or interest; he simply writes down what happened.  His stanza here is the same way.  They are at a provincial barrier gate. Basho’s stanza contains Earth, Wind, and Fire, but no Water.

 

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

 

Morning devotions
at a family temple
the bell tolls
One more day of life                                6: 107
beggar on an island

 

あさ勤め / 妻帯 寺 の / かね の 声
今日も 命 と / 嶋 の 乞食


Asa tsutome / saitai-dera no / kane no koe
Kyō mo inochi to / shima no koujiki

 

This is a small neighborhood temple where the priest lives with wife and kids so Buddhism mixes with ordinary home and family life. “Morning devotions” includes both the husband’s religious services and the wife’s every morning chores. The temple gong struck with a wooden log emits its deep long lasting tone which fades away to nothing – as “the bell tolls for thee” who will soon die.

 

Basho jumps from morning devotions to the seclusion men like so much, especially as they grow old. This man knows that his life will not end with the toll of the gong, but he has no work to do, no connections with others, no interest at anything in the world, so he can be a “beggar on an island.”

 

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

Saying something,
the tree spirits respond
in spring breeze
Form of mountain princes
Disperses in the cascade                     6: 109

物 いえば /木魂 にひびく / 春 の 風

姿 は 瀧 に / 消える 山 姫


Mono ieba / kodama ni hibiku / yama no kaze
Sugata wa taki ni / kieru yama hime

 

Etsujin says the tree spirits echo words spoken in the spring breeze. Basho complements this vision with a yama hime dispersing within the rapids.  Japanese folklore contains a variety of yama hime, each from a different region, some beautiful and alluring, some ugly and monstrous, so people will get different impressions from Basho’s stanza. Many yama hime are evil, however the Basho Renku Anthology says that Basho’s stanza is “very charming.”   

 

The specific form of this "mountain princess" -- whether she is a sorceress or a demon or a goddess --

is not so significant, for the point of the verse is Basho's vision of transformation between "the tree spirits echo" through the female to the flowing water.  Her spirit does not disperse to nothing in the rapids, but rather joins the flow to spread ever-changing out to the world

 

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

 

“Tomorrow strangle!”
goose alive and forced
into straw bag
The moon breathtaking                                 6: 110
market for army camp

 

明日しめん / 雁 を 俵 に/ 生け置て
月 さえすごき / 陣中 の 市


Ashita shimen / kari o tawara ni / ike-oite
Tsuki sae-sugoki / jinchuu no ichi

 

The bird fights against containment while farmer does not care what bird wants and is just doing his job.

We hear his annoyed and ungrammatical shout or grumble about tomorrow when the real violence will occur and this bird goes silent. Basho responds with the silent glory of the moon over another scene which could become violent tomorrow: a military encampment, warriors here to do battle, but under a temporary truce, they wait. While they wait, they have to eat, so a market has sprung up to supply their needs. Here the farmer brought the goose in a straw bag. Tomorrow who will die? The bird? The one who kills the bird? The warriors who eat that goose for their final meal? Thousands of warriors? The moon is so bright it takes your breath away.

 

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

 

The Priest sends away
my ordinary clothing
That my face                                            6: 111
resembles my mother’s
fascinates 
小袖 袴 を / 送る 戒 の 師
吾 顏の / 母 に似たるも / ゆかしくて

 

Kosode hakama wo / okuru kai no shi
Waga kao no / haha ni nitaru mo / yukashikute

 

I have been given to a temple to become a monk; the priest in charge sends the clothing I will no longer need to my former home; from now on, I will only wear monk’s robes. As my clothing goes back to my mother, so do my thoughts. Even as I “leave the world,” she continues to be part of me. My face is made from the same genes as her face, so of course they are similiar; this is fascinating – in Japanese, yukashi, “attracting me to it.” As Gregor Mendel studied peas to discover the nature of descent through generations, Basho is attracted to study the human face

 

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

 

Oh so many

disappointments
assail me
The mirror reflects                                6: 138
my laughing face

 

数 々に /恨みの 品の / 指しつぎて
鏡 に 移す / 我が わらいがお


Kazu kazu ni / urami no hin no / sashi-tsugite
Kagami ni utsusu / waga warai-gao

 

In her misery she grimaces into the mirror, laughing with a deliberate and sulky ugliness, in order to mock happiness. The mirror reflects this with perfect accuracy. Unlike men, the mirror cannot lie: it can only reflect what is actually there.

 

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

 

Butterfly mourns for wing
in shadow of candle
Spring rain is                                                6: 140
tears at the tonsure of
a small boy

 

蝶の羽おしむ / 蝋燭 の 影

春 風 は / 髪 剃 児子の / 泪 にて


Chō no ha oshimu / rōsoku no kage

Haru kaze wa/ kami soru chigo no / namida nite

 

The butterfly flew too close to the flame and burned one wing, so fell into the shadow of the candle to die. Unlike the heavy drenching rain of early summer, the wind-whipped rain of autumn, or the freezing rain of winter -- Spring rain falls gently, continuously, soaking into the still barren earth. The tears may be of the child losing his hair, losing his childhood and family life -- or of the mother giving her child to the temple. Such tears, like spring rain, continue on and on.

 

Pulling manure                                6: 145
on a sled is strange
over the snow
That flock of crows
flies close to people

 

糞を 引 / 雪車も おかしき / 雪 の 上
一 むら からす / 人 馴れて 飛ぶ


Koe o hiku / sori mo okashiki / yuki no ue
Ichi mura karasu / hito narete tobu

 

Yes, Basho, pulling brown smelly manure over fresh white snow on a sled is “strange” and so is a single flock of black crows flying close to people for no discernible reason.  The BRZ commentaries contains no references to old poems or sayings. The poets are on their own here, playing with no literary background.

 

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

 

Pines and oaks,
are battered, the storm
makes a ruckus
Child shot by an arrow                              6: 147
bed of the wild boar

 

松 柏 / 荒れて 嵐の /音 す なり
子を 射させたる /猪 の 床


Matsu kashiwa / arete arashi no / oto su nari
Ko o sasasetaru / inoshishi no toko

 

Ransetsu begins with an stanza detached not only from humanity but also from any living things: only the energy and sound of powerful wind.  Basho replies with the vigor and emotions and sound of a mammal mother and infant. The arrow penetrates the flesh and the baby screams in agony while the mother screams, like a storm battering the trees, in grief and rage at her inability to help her child. Basho crams so much life and activity in a stanza.

 

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

 

Still standing 
he leaves his letter
near the door
Coins held in her hand                                 6: 155
the grandmother cries

 

立 ながら / 文 書て置く/ 見せの 端
銭 持 手 にて / 祖母 の 泣かるる


Tachinagara /bun kaite oku / mise no hashi
Zeni motsu te nite / baba no nakaruru

 

Apparently the husband is deserting his family. He does not sit down with them to explain or say good-bye, he does not even come into the main part of the shop. He just leaves a letter of exclamation and a few coins inside near the door. We feel his shame and his weakness, there in Ensui’s words.

 

Basho focuses on the female: the husband's mother holds the coins in her hand, and cries for her son who is abandoning his responsibility, for her daughter-in-law and grandchildren who now have no one to support them. So smoothly the mind moves from Ensui’s stanza to Basho’s.

 

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

 

Rear figure                                               6: 163
of one seen off, lonely
autumn wind
Until spring has come
falling willow shadows

 

見送りの / うしろや 寂し / 秋 の 風
来る 春 まで と / 柳 ちる 陰


Miokuri no / ushiro ya sabishi / aki no kaze
Kuru haru made to / yanagi chiru kage

 

Before his friend and follower Yasui departs on a journey, the two of them compose a renku stanza-pair.

Basho sketches the scene of Yasui leaving from Basho's point of view, and concludes with the autumn wind penetrating his heart. Not the loneliness of a hermit without friends, but rather the loneliness of watching a friend leave, an affirmation of their friendship.

 

Yasui continus with the “shadows” of falling leaves, which rppresent  the disappearance of life in winter and also the darkening in Basho’s heart as Yasui leaves. Yet Yasui looks ahead, beyond the autumn wind, to the buds left behind by those falling leaves, the buds which, when spring has come, will give birth to new willow leaves – thus he promises to Basho that he, like Spring, will return to fill the loneliness in Basho’s heart.

 

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

 

Neighboring houses

with no plan between them
become related
Whispers can be heard            6: 164
across national borders

 

ふたつ屋は / わりなき中と / 縁組みて
さざめ聞ゆる / 國の境目

 

Futatsu ya wa / warinaki naka to / en kumite
Sazame kikuyuru / koku no sakai-me

 

Issen speaks of how human beings who live next door to each other, without thinking about it, become close in heart. Basho appreciates the connections between human beings without planning, but instead of being next-door neighbors, he imagines lovers in different countries who can whisper and be heard across artificial boundaries.

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


Only in substance
bullfrog has no croak
With one whack                                   6: 179 
of the cane awakened
to moon’s crescent

 

かたち ばかりに/ 蛙 声 なき
一棒に / うたれておがむ / 三日の 月


Katachi bakari ni / kawazu koe naki
Ichibō ni / utarete ogamu / mika no tsuki

 

The subject is meditating on the Zen koan “In the form of a frog there is no voice.” No matter how we dissect a frog, nowhere can we find the croak that fills the night above the pond. The voice exists somewhere outside of flesh and blood. How is this possible? The Zen Master strikes the meditator between shoulder and neck with a thin somewhat flexible wooden cane that stings but does not injure. Return to the physical world: the slender white crescent of moon along with that sharp pain between your neck and shoulders.

 

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

 

On September 18th of 1689, Sora having stomach trouble parted from Basho in Kanazawa; he rented a horse to ride to his uncle’s place in Ise while Basho continued on foot. Before he left, Sora with Basho and a local follower named Hokushi began a renku of 36 stanzas, Renting a Horse; the following six verses are all from this sequence.  Sora departed after he wrote #20. Here is Basho’s #3 and Hokushi’s #4:

 

“So fine a moon!”
for wrestling, we step on
hakama to pull off
Sword drawn in a flash
then held to a stop

 

月よしと/ 相撲に袴 / 踏みぬぎて
鞘ばしりしを / やがてとめけり

 

Tsuki yoshi to / suumo ni hakama o / fumi-nugiru
Saya bashirishi o / yagate tome keri

 

Basho offers another action-filled portrait of humanity, in this verse, two young samurai full of life, vigor,

and enthusiasm. The moon is so awesome they are moved to wrestle with each other. The loose trousers known as hakama are formal wear, so first must be removed – but the way the youths do this is the outstanding element of this portrait. The final word of Basho’s stanza is a double-verb, fumi-nugite, “to remove by stepping on.” This is an action no Japanese woman and no mature man would ever do, but these guys have no inhibitions at all and just want to have fun wrestling. “Step on to pull off” may not sound “poetic” but perfectly describes this action. For 45 year old Basho to portray masculine youth in this way reveals the absurdity of the notion that he was austere, detached, and impersonal.

 

How can Hokushi continue this vision of youthful enthusiasm? He portrays a sword “running” (hashiru) from its sheath, as if to strike and kill, but stopped in mid-air; the hormone-driven impulsiveness of youth checked by thought and consideration. Hokushi originally wrote tomo no tomeri keri which would translate to “by a friend stopped.” – but Basho, the poetry master, rejected this phrase. First of all, tomo (“friend”) followed by tome (“to stop”) would sound too much like a tongue twister, but more important, Hiroaki Sato says, “the introduction of a definite human figure either cluttered the overall image or made the action too exclamatory.” I completely agree; the stanza works because it focuses on action, rather than actor. To add the element of friendship, in this case, would lead the reader away from the action.

 

Throughout my translations, I follow The Elements of Style in using active verbs instead of passive, but here feel that passive verbs with no subjects better convey Hokushi’s emphasis on action; no “definite human figures,” not even “they” to make Basho’s wrestlers the subjects; instead Hokushi speaks of young masculine energy in general. Sato notes the advice Basho gave in a letter on May 18th of the next year, to write poetry that is neither heavy nor merely spinning about (See letter 62 in Letters of 1690). Hokushi’s 

original stanza would have been both of these qualities; it would make the reader think too much, “spinning about” to no clarity. Basho aims for “Lightness” -- poetry that goes straight to the point, allowing the reader to enter into the imagery without the heavy distraction of figuring out why and how the words are used.

 

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

 

Four or five play women
wander about the countryside
In these scribbles                               6: 205 
I see ... is the name
of your darling

 

 

遊女 四五 人 / 田舎 わたらひ
落 書 に / 恋しき 君が / 名 も ありて


Yuujo yongo nin / inaka watarai
Rakugaki ni / koishiki kimi ga / na mo arite

 

Here are independent sex-workers who travel together in a group strong enough to handle anyone who gives them trouble. In graffiti written on the wall at an inn, one of them sees a female name written with so deep a love that it is visible in the scribbles. She smiles at this evidence of love in someone she has and never will meet. She speaks to him across the barriers of space, time, and circumstances. In the long pause in the middle segment is Basho's hidden vision of love.

 

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

 

First he wipes off dew
bamboo hunting bow
Autumn wind                                     6: 207
saying not a word
child in tears
White sleeves passing on
in funeral procession

 

 

露 まづ 拂う/ 狩 の 弓 竹
秋 風 は / 物 いはぬ 子 も / 涙 にて
白き たもと の / 續く 葬礼


Tsuyu mazu harau / kari no yume take
Aki kaze wa / mono iwanu ko mo /namida nite
Shiroki tamoto no / tsuzuku sōrei

 

A man has cut a fine stalk of bamboo to make a hunting bow, and wipes off the morning dew. The child weeps because father is going to kill an innocent animal - but can speak no word of this to his imposing patriarch. Basho quietly, subtly, compassionately focuses on another human being, a child who could be any child.

 

Basho's stanza, considered by itself, gives no hint of circumstances, so could be any child in any circumstances.  The previous and following stanzas supply particular circumstances, but any circumstances we choose can make this stanza meaningful to us.  

 

In Japan white is associated with death, and the deceased is wrapped in a white shroud and placed in a coffin in a sitting position. The coffin was carried on a litter to the burial place, accompanied by a procession of mourning relatives and priests intoning sutras. The child in silent tears watches the coffin and corpse continue away from him, as the father’s spirit also departs from the child’s heart.

 

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

 

In a small silver pot
broiled parsley is served
Hand for a pillow,                                    6: 209
brushing bits of dust
from bed cushion

 

銀 の 小鍋 に/ 出す 芹 焼き
手 枕 に /しとね の ほこり / 打ち 拂い


Gin no konabe ni / idasu seri yaki
Ta-makura ni /shitone no hokori / uchi harai

 

Someone - Sato says a “person of refined taste with a certain eccentricity” - in a wealthy mansion is elegantly served a bowl of cooked parsley. This person lives a life of languor, rich and empty, without vigor or liveliness. He lies on his side in bed with his head on his hand and “brushs bits of dust” from his cushions.

 

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

 

Rain clearing to cloudy
the biwa have ripened
As graceful                                              6: 212
as the slender figure
of a goddesss
She wrings out red dye                          6: 212
into the white rapids

 

雨 晴れくもり /枇杷の つはる 也
細 長き/ 仙女 の 姿 / たおやか に
あかねをしぼる /水 の しら 浪


Ame hare kumori / biwa no tsuharu nari
Hoso nagaki / sennyo no sugata /taoyakana ni
Akane o shiboru / mizu no shira nami

 

As the rainy season ends, the sky clears then fills up with gray clouds. Now biwa, or loquats, similar to plums, ripen. “Clouds and rain” suggests sexual intimacy and “biwa have ripened” also is suggestive. Basho responds with a “woman who has acquired magical powers, suggesting the legendary world of ancient China.” The BRZ says “Basho makes the ripening of biwa a symbol for the gracefulness of the goddess’ body.” First he focuses on her slender goddess body, then on her hands gracefully wringing out fabric soaked in the red dye madder into the swift current which carries away all traces of dye. Basho “painted with words a picture of a Chinese goddess that Utamaro – ukiyoe artist famous for sexual imagery -- might have drawn with a brush”

 

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

 

Strike the bell                                          6: 213
for fun, so blossoms
scatter on us
Crazy drunks and April                           6: 213
each come to an end

 

酔狂人と / 弥生 暮れ 行く
鐘ついて /遊ばん 花 の / ちりかかる


Sukyōnin to / yayoi kure yuku
Kane tsuite / asoban hana no / chirikakaru

 

Basho wrote these two stanzas together to end the sequence Renting a Horse: he portrays the light-hearted, fun-loving feeling of being with good friends in spring time. Even at a temple, they forget about tradition and Buddhist significance, and just have a good time. The poets come to the end of the sequence, as the month also ends.


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

 

Writing a letter
to his first beloved,
his hand falters
Accustomed to the world                           6: 219
the monk makes it risqué
Paper lanterns
intimately entrusted
to a hot spring girl

 

初恋に / 文 書く すべも / たどたどし
世につかわれて / 僧 の たまめく
提灯を / 湯女にあずける / むつましさ


Hatsu koi ni / bun kaku sube mo / tadotadoshi
Yo ni tsukawarete / sō no tamameku
Chōchin o / yujo ni azukeru / mutsumajika

 

Adolescent sexual urges have confused his motor coordination, so he cannot manage to write the elegant phrases and calligraphy that will impress her. Basho has a monk write the letter for the youth, but the monk, being experienced in these matters, writes in sexual allusions that the boy cannot understand -- though the girl might.

 

The next poet Kyoshi says, “Okay, Basho, if you are going to show us a monk with sex on the brain, I’ll really make it risqué.” The monk speaks to a hot spring girl who provides sex to guests at a resort. Paper lanterns are round, white, and have a light inside. Get the point? Intimately?

 

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

 

From last year’s battle
bones bleached white
On her day off                                        6: 222
the wife escorted home
in falling rain
The fragrance of mist
as she washes her hair

 

去年の 軍 の / 骨 は 白暴
やぶ入るの / 嫁 や 送らむ / 今日 の 雨
霞む にほひ の / 髪 洗うころ


Kozo no ikusa no / hone wa nozarashi
Yabu iru no / yome ya okuramu / kyō no ame
Kasumu nioi no / kami arau koro

 

Many months have passed since the great battle, and the bones of warriors picked clean by scavengers and exposed to rain, snow, dew, and wind lay white on the ground. On a day off from work, a married woman servant walks back to her native home. She knew she would have to pass the battlefield, and could not do so alone, especially in the gloomy rain, so someone (her husband?) walks with her to alleviate her fear. The first thing she does upon arrival at her parent’s house is wash the bad vibes from her hair -- the hair which contains her life-force. We breathe in that smell of thick wet hair – as in beauty parlors – like the smell of mist.

 

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

 

Farmers get seedlings                             6: 224
from ancestral house
Morning moon,
leaving baby to rock
in the cradle

 

本家 の 早苗 / もらう 百姓
朝 の 月 /囲車に 赤子 を / ゆすり捨て


Honke no sanae / morau hyakushō

Asa no tsuki /isha ni akago o / yusuri sute

 

Oldest son maintains the ancestral house while younger brothers form branch houses nearby. Instead of each one sprouting their own rice seedlings, the main house does this for all the farmers that sprouted from it long ago. Where can a rice-planting mama put her baby while she works in the mud? The crescent moon in the sky has the perfect shape to hold a baby and rock to sleep.

 

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

 

My beloved
sends me this letter
I rip to shreds!
The face of a demon                               6: 239 
I cry out at the sight

 

 

いとおしき / 人の文さえ / 引きさきて
般若の面を / おもかげに泣く


Ito oshiki / hito no bun sae / hikisakite
Hannya no men o / omokage ni naku

 

Unable to endure the message in the letter, I tear the page up, then in the mirror am shocked to see the demon of my jealousy. It is astonishing how much sensation and body parts and activities Basho crowds into a total of six words: “face” and a “demon” and “I cry out” and “at the sight.”


 

To become a nun?
parting in the night
By moonlight                                     6: 260
she looks deeply at him
in battle gear

 

尼に成るべき / 宵のきぬぎぬ
月 影 に / 鎧 と やら を / 見 透して


Ama ni naru beki / yoi no kinuginu
Tsuki kake ni / yoroi to yara o / mi sukashite

 

He goes to join the troops gathering at night, so early morn they can go into battle. If he dies, she can only survive as a nun. She looks deeply into his eyes in the moonlight, seeing the division in the road tomorrow will bring, either the world with him alive, or dead. And again we see sensation and body consciousness in Basho’s stanza.  The final word, both in the orginal Japanese and in this translation, is the double verb 

mi-sugashite, "looks searching," an emphasis on her activity ("looks") and consciousness "searching.")

 

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

 

Young village girls were sold to a brothel for a money loan, then were forced, from age 12 or 13, to have sex, sometimes with brutal or insulting men, every night of the week, and were beaten if they refused or tried to escape - the system set up so she can never pay off the loan, and will remain in slavery till her death which, with no defense against venereal disease, is likely to be soon and painful.

 

Now to this brothel
my body has been sold -
Can I trust you                                                6: 275
with a letter I wrote?
mirror polisher

 

此 ごろ 室に / 身を売られたる
文書いて / たのむ 便よりの / 鏡 とぎ


Kono goro muro ni / mi o uraretaru
Bun kakite / tanomu tayori no / kagami toki

 

Rotsu begins with the tragic situation of these girls. Basho gives one girl  a message she wishes to send in a letter, but has no way to get it past the brothel, so she asks the man polishing her mirror if he will post it outside.  I concur with scholar Masahiko Miyazaki in seeing this letter as being to her boyfriend in her village, the boy she grew up with and was just starting to love when she was taken away. 

 

The mirror Japan has for a thousand years been associated with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, being round and shiny, it was considered a ‘child of the sun.’  In Basho’s day, mirrors were bronze-plated with an amalgam of mercury (as in the dental fillings of my childhood). In time the plating got cloudy. Mirror polishers were craftsmen who grinded the surface on a whetstone, and polished with mildly acidic fruit juice, to restore the original clarity – so the mirror polisher does the work of the Sun Goddess, and can be trusted with a woman’s private message.

 

Every time she looks into the mirror he polished, to do her hair or make-up, she will see him, the carrier of her message; she will see her beloved reading the letter, and she will see the holy Sun shining with Hope. Here is Basho’s genius in all fullness, his deepest penetration into the female heart: “Can I trust you?” – the question women ask silently every day.

 

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

 

Crest on the kimono

shall melt in the dew
Grown children                                  6: 321
squabble over who
will inherit

 

露 に けさ ばや / 着る物 の 紋
子どもらが / 傳える 家を / あらそいて

 

Tsuyu ni kesa baya / kirumono no mon
Kodomora ga / tsutaeru ie o / arasoite

 

The family crest represents the household unit. “To melt in the dew” is a metaphor for the household dissolving. Father has died without deciding a successor, and the adult children argue over who will follow him as head. Usually the oldest son succeeds, however if there is no oldest son, or if the family decides that he will not do a good job, another son may prevail, or someone unrelated may be adopted into the family to inherit. If everyone could simply agree and all support the same one to inherit, everything would work out and the “crest on the kimono” would continue –but no one is willing to give up their position, all their energy goes to squabbling, young people no longer want to live here, and so the family dies out.

 

 

Under the moon                         6: 339
even a frowning face
is beautiful
She pounds the cloth
in argument with love

 

月の 前 / しかみし 顔 も / うつくしく
砧 うち 々 / 恋 の いさかい

 

Tsuki no mae / shikamishi kao mo / utsukushiku
Kinuta uchi uchi / koi no isakai

 

Basho says under the full moon the entire world, even a sour face, takes on beauty from above.  Izen follows with a women taking out her feelings as she pounds the cloth on a block.   

 

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

 

Basho visits Chigetsu in the coldest time of the year, January.   They have a poetic conversation in the form of renku stanza-pairs.   Basho opens with a verse praising her:                                      

 

 

Now I speak                          6: 343
with the nun Shosho
Village snow
You are the pure sand
I am the bitter wind
 
少将の / あまの話や / 志賀の雪
あなたは真砂 /ここはこがらし
 
Shoushou no / ama no hanashi ya / shiga no yuki
Anata wa ma suna / ore wa kogarashi 

 

Since the nun Chigetsu lives near where the nun Shosho lived 400 years ago, Basho says that talking to her is as  speaking to that one long ago.  (In modern Japanese, anata is second-person "you," but in Basho's time it was used for the third person.) We have seen Sonome deny Basho’s praise of her in DOORWAY CURTAIN.  Here Chigetsu responds with similar Japanese female humility, “No! No!  I do not compare to the great Shosho.” 


 

She begins the second exchange with a desolate image of poverty and sweeping the snow from her house with a fragile straw broom. . 

    
A straw broom
only this, in old age
snow on the house
Surrounding the brazier            6:344
robes dyed black

 

草箒 / かばかり 老の/ 家 の 雪
火桶を つつむ 黒染め に きぬ
 
Usa houki / ka bakari oi no / ie no yuki
hioke o tsutsumu / kurosome ni kinu

 

Basho counters with warmth and intimacy.  Both Basho and Chigetsu wear black robes of vivid contrast to the snow.  One person cannot surround a brazier (without getting burned); there have to be two people both moving close to the fire.   Basho thus compliments his hostess for the warmth she provided with her home and brazier.

 

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The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

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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
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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