Basho's thoughts on...
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• 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
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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-09


Basho Renku Section 9

Late 1693 to the summer of 1694 with commentaries and 日本語の原文

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

"In renku is a realm which cannot be taught. You must pass through it yourself. Some poets make no effort to pass through, merely counting things and trying to remember without passing through."

 

俳諧は教えてならざる処あり。能く通ずるにあり。或る人の俳諧はかって通ぜず。
ただ物をかぞえて覚ゆるようにして、通ずる物なし。

 

Haikai wa oshiete narazaru tokoro ari. Yoku tōzuru ni ari.
Aru hito no haikai wa katte tōzuzu.
Tada mono o kazoete oboyuru you ni shite tōzuru mono nashi.

 

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

 

No stars could be seen
on that fateful night
Empty stomachs     9: 11
especially in battle
are decisive

 

星さえ見えず二十八日
ひだるきは殊に軍の大事也

 

Hoshi sae miezu nijuuhachi nichi
Hidaru ki wa koto ni ikusa no daiji nari

 

The Soga brothers were five and three years old when their father was killed. Their mother trained them to avenge his death, and after years of planning, they finally succeeded. One brother died in the fighting, the other was executed. Something “written in the stars,” is destined to happen – so when the stars are hidden by clouds, we feel no sense of what lies ahead. Who will win tomorrow’s battle? With no wheeled vehicles, no electricity, no refrigeration, no plastics, providing an army with decent food was a logistical nightmare, and the army that didn’t get enough to eat is the army that lost.

 

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

 

Chopping greens
to serve on top of rice,
thoughts elsewhere
Not out with the horse      9: 13
but inside making love
Thread seller
coming after four-o’clock,
a wrong sound

 

上おきの / 干葉刻むも /うはの空
馬に出ぬ日も / 内で恋する
株モフ /七つさがりを / 音づれて

 

Uwa-oki no / hoshiba kizamu mo / uwa no sora
Uma ni denu hi mo / uchi de koi suru
kasekai no / nanatsu sagari no / otozurete

 

A servant girl chops dried vegetable leaves to serve on top of rice, but her mind is “elsewhere” Where is that? With her lover who is a packhorse driver. She wishes for a day both can have off, so they can hang together. She wants not him on the horse and her with mounds of soft white rice, but him on her mounds of soft flesh never exposed to the sun; inside a house (instead of on a field somewhere) and also inside her. The thread-seller buys thread from village girls, and sells it door-to-door. He showed up later than expected, and made a sound the lovers noticed. “Coming” has the usual double meaning, one for the thread-seller and one for the lovers.

 

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


Calculating                                       9: 16 
how to get through life
in the Capital
They send out no notice 
of daughter's joyful birth.

 

算用に / 浮世を立つ / 京ずまい
又沙汰なしに / 娘倦む

 

Sannyo ni / ukiyo o tatsu / kyou zumai
Mata sata nashi ni / musume yorokobu

 

Basho notes that from the villages where life goes on at a natural pace, young folk migrate to the Big City where competition and the high cost of living make life rough (but more fun than in the village) so they must “calculate” to survive.

 

Yaba counters that city people, in their endless calculations, lose their natural feeling toward their young, so for a son they sent out a birth notice, but not for a daughter. In much of Asia, throughout the millennia, only boys were cherished while girls were considered a liability and often strangled at birth or malnouished so they would sicken and die. 

 

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

 

Hustle and bustle                                          9: 19
on wharf for rice shipments
going and returning
On their way to Meguro 
bunch of hot blooded men

 

ちらはらと /米の揚げ場の / 生き戻り
目黒まいりの / つれのねちみやく

 

Chirahara to / kome no ageba no / iki modori

Meguro mairi no / tsure no nechi myaku

 

Enormous shipments of rice from the countryside were shipped to the cities where rice could not be grown. Longshoremen must be large and strong and energetic to unload a boat quickly and efficiently; gentleness and refinement is not required. Basho begins with a sound-word, chira hara, which expresses the tumultuous male energy of "hustle and bustle," and ends with a double verb, "going and returning," furthur expressing activity. 

 

Yaba takes a group of these dockworkers to visit Ryusenji, also known as Meguro Fudo, a Buddhist temple in Meguro walking distance from Edo (Tokyo) Bay.  There is nothing religious or spiritual about this visit; after they finish a hard day of work, still full of low-class, large-male energy, they go, carousing and shouting to eachother, taking over the streets with their "hot-blooded" vigor.  Basho renku are studies of humanity.

 

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

 

Pole for drying cloth,
icicles long and short
With one hand                              9: 41
on abacas he records
sales of rice

 

虎落の氷柱長く短き
十露盤を / 片手に米の

 

Mogari no tsurara / nagaku mijikaki
Soroban no / katate ni kome no / shirushi shite

 

At a cloth dyer’s, cloth hangs from a bamboo pole to dry. Now in midwinter icicles have formed from the poles, some long, some short. Such a marvelous mind had Basho: to separate one aspect from the scene of icicles – the row of spires all starting at one height but each going down a different length - and transfer that aspect to the columns of abacus beads below the horizontal bar, each a different number of beads to represent multi-digit numbers.  

 

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

 

Before the sun rises
winter sky tinted red
Boatload of fish                                     9: 51
from the depths spread out
across the beach

 

日の出るまへの / 赤き冬そら
下肴を一舟 / 浜へ打明て

 

Hi no deru mae no/akaki fuyu sora
Ge-zakana o / hito fune hama e / uchi akete

 

Early in the dawn, the boat returns to the harbor with a load of bottom-feeding fish – such as sardines – and the fishermen lay the fish out on the beach to dry. Without modern astronomical knowledge, people believed the sun passed through the sea before it reveals itself on the horizon. So the fish rise from the sea as does the sun, spreading out on the beach as the patches of red tinted clouds spread across the sky.

 

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

With no power
in her skinny arms
she worries -
No reason to mend                           9: 67
his cotton garments

 

力なく / 腕ほそりし / うきおもひ
つくろふかひも / なき木綿もの

 

Chikara naku / kaina mo hosorishi / uki omoi
Tsukurou kai mo / naki momen mono

 

Impoverished peasants (i.e. women) make their family’s clothes from fibers in stalks, vines, or under bark. This family is not quite so poor; he at least has cotton clothes – and when he gets home from wherever he went, he expects them to be mended. She worries the eternal worry of wives everywhere: will he return? Here is the reality of male-female relationships in patriarchal society. We may recall Linda Loman, the wife in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, darning her stockings while her husband bought new ones for his mistress.

 

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

 

Pulling leeches from ox
on a rest from plowing
Dyed black                                   9: 96
male temple servant’s
heart heavy

 

蒜とる牛の/ 方把やすむる
黒染めに / 寺の男の /こころいれ

 

Hiru toru ushi no / makuwa yasumuru
Kuro some ni /tera no otoko no / kokoru ire

 

The farmer takes a break from guiding the ox-drawn plow through thick mud to pull blood-sucking leeches from the animal’s body. Everything in this stanza is dirty, dark, backward, and infested. Basho switches to the perfectly clean environment of a Buddhist temple. This man was given to the temple as a child, but did not have what it takes to become a monk, so he stayed on as a servant. He wears black robes, follows all the rules of a monk, works as hard as any slave, and is at the bottom of the pecking order. When he takes a rest from work, his thoughts are dark, heavy, and grumbling – like leeches draining his energy.

 

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

 

Flawless blue
the large yard
fabric spreads over
Infant crawls about                                      9: 99
getting ‘that place’ dirty

 

広庭に / 青の駄染めを / 引き散らし
這廻る子の /よごす居所

 

Hiro niwa ni / ao no dasome wo / hiki chirashi
Hai mawaru ko no / yogosu i-dokoro

 

Here at the shop of a cloth dyer we see a perfectly woven expanse of indigo blue fabric with no other colors, no designs, no blemishes anywhere. The baby crawls about here and there, sometimes sitting to explore what she finds, sometimes scooting about on his bottom. The “dirt” on “that place” may be poop, or dirt from the earth, or dust from the house, or – especially in this house - the residue of dyestuffs in any color; any or all of these could be there on the derriere. Women who change diapers may enjoy the contrast between immaculate blue fabric spreading over the yard and the haphazard collection of whatever on this soft chubby tush.

 

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

 

Thief of rice plants                     9: 101a
released from the net
Viewing the moon,
the love from his parents
was not enough
Dew which has fallen               9: 101b
where does it go?

 

稲盗人の綱を / 解きやる
月見れて / 親に不足に / 出来心
こぼれて露は / どこへ行き やら

 

Ine nusubito no tsuno wo tokiyaru
Tsuki mirete / oya ni fusoku ni / dekigokoro
Koborete tsuyu wa / doko e iku yaya

 

A rogue tried to steal rice from the field, but the villagers caught him and held him in a net – but then the sight of the moon enlarged their hearts so they decided that the poor guy’s parents did not love him enough and so he can be forgiven. Our lives are as inconsequential as dew disappearing in the warmth of morning, we know not where we came from, nor where we are going, so compassion is appropriate.

 

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

 

Scatter of snow
under conical hat
reaches her hood
Wiping hilt of sword                      9:107
kerchief freezes to it

 

雪や散る / 笠のしたなる / 頭巾迄
刀の柄に /こぼる手拭

 

Yuki ya chiru / kasa no shita naru / zukin made
Katana no hei ni / koboru tenugui

 

She wears a wide round hat to ward off the elements, but the wind blows snow under the hat to reach the cloth hood around her head. This cold wet fabric against her skin bothers her. A samurai must always maintain his dignity unaffected by weather. Having snow wet his sword hilt bothers him, but when he tries

to wipe it off with his kerchief, the fabric sticks to the cold metal -- which is even less dignified and samurai-like. Each stanza express, in physical terms, how extreme winter “gets to us.”

 

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

 

She has cut her hair
yet maintains her self -
For such fragrance                            9: 110
the watchtower curtains
are pushed aside

 

髪を切ても / 身を作りけり
焼かおる / 物見るの筵 /おしまくり

 

Kami o kite mo / mi o tsukurikeri
Taki kaoru / mono miru no mushiro / oshi makura

 

When a woman cuts her hair, symbolically she cut off her self, to serve only Buddha – however this nun seems to have retained her selfhood as a woman. Basho focuses on her “fragrance” – not her smell, but the aura of beauty that surrounds her. She most likely is at a picnic held under the tower whose samurai are ready to defend against an attack. So there are dozens or even hundreds of people – nobles, generals, elegant ladies, servants – in this scene, yet Basho has eyes only for the alluring nun. Likewise the warriors who have pushed aside the woven straw curtains to get a glimpse of her.

 

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

 

 

 

Today too their life of
play and giving advice
In father’s time                               9: 117
prosperity, the doctor’s
younger sons

 

今日もあそんで / くらす相談
親の時 / はやりし者の / 若手共

 

Kyou mo asonde / kurasu soudan
Oya no toki / hayarishi isha no / wakate-domo

 

They do no work; all they do is play and offer advice: “Well, you could do this…” and “Maybe so and so will help.” Basho explains their laxness; they are the younger sons of a successful doctor who, while their older brother works hard to continue poppa's practice, live off the family wealth with no gumption of their own, but lots of advice for others.

 

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

 

Moon at daybreak
as meager as his breakfast
of sliced mackerel
His sail set to eight                            9:130
voice of the boatman

 

在明も /すくなき鯖の /きざみ物
帆を八合に/ 船頭の声

 

Ariake mo sukunaki / saba no kizami mono
Ho o hachigo ni / sendou no koe

 

The fisherman gets up and goes to the harbor at dawn to eat his small breakfast on the shore, then he goes at the sea,setting his sails to eight (on a scale of 10) to catch the wind carrying his song out across the waves. Basho uses a specific sailor’s term, then focuses on the voice coming from the mouth which ate the mackerel while watching the moon. Basho both affirms the humanity of this man and also consolidates the previous poet’s vision of dawn on the sea coast and a man who lives as one with that sea and coast.

 

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

 

Company boss
got our chrysanthemums
what a pain!
Strict not to let his                            9: 145
his daughter met people

 

御頭へ / 菊もらはるる / めいわくさ
娘を型う / 人にあわせぬ

 

O-kashira e / kiku morawaruru / meiwakusa
Musume o katau / hito ni awasenu

 

“We carefully cultivated those chrysanthemums in a vase, but the boss come to visit and made such a fuss about how beautiful the flowers were, that father had no choice but to give them to the jerk! Losing the flowers is not a big deal, but I hate the way he lorded over papa. Just because he’s the boss, he thinks everything belongs to him!” Basho continues the theme of patriarch versus teenage girl: “and look how he treats his daughter, keeping her in the house, not letting her go outside and have any fun. He tries to cultivate her the way we did those chrysanthemums, giving her everything she wants but making her grow in a single place where she will be “safe.” Basho speaks out for girls forbidden the same freedoms and opportunities boys receive.

 

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

The next ten stanzas, six by Basho and four by Yaba, are #12 to #21 in the renku sequence PLUM BLOSSOM SCENT composed in spring of 1694 by just these two poets.  We notice that Bashochose to compose this 36-stanza  sequence with only Yaba, who was a clerk in a money-exchange shop, so every pair comes from the interaction of their two minds without contribution from any other mind. Basho, at this time in his life, just nine months before his death, is focusing on his poetic ideal of Lightness, which means a focus on ordinary life-experiences of humanity, rather than the heavy classical themes of old Japanese poetry or drama. He seems to have chosen Yaba and his middle-class consciousness to stimulate his own insights in Lightness and humanity.


The 10 stanzas are here given in five pairs, however the second stanza of each pair links to the previous stanza and also to the first stanza of the next pair. Through the commentaries explore the connections between each stanza and the next one, four from Basho’s mind to Yaba’s, four from Yaba to Basho, and one from Basho to Basho. To do this, you have move inside the human reality of each first stanza, then move to the human reality of the second one, seeking to discover the route the second poet followed from the first poet’s mind. The link is nowhere stated, but is there, hidden between the two  stanzas. Go with Basho or Yaba, sharing their insights into human nature and experience.

 

Suddenly speaking out                       9: 146

about my dead mother
All night long
soothing away the nun’s
chronic pain

 

ひたと言い出す / お袋の事

夜もすがら / 尼の持病を / 押しえける

 

Hitasu to iidasu / o-fukuro no koto

 

Yomosugara / ama no jibyou o / oshiekeru

 

The subject has kept silent about mother since she died, but now blurts out thoughts. Such a person is likely to say “I did not do enough for her when she was alive” – which leads to Yaba’s stanza of caring for an older woman, pressing on her pain with sensitivity to soothe away the pain and restore the flow of energy.  The final word, oshiekeru“press to settle,” is an active verb, emphasizing this action of caring for another person.


This spring, Basho wrote a haiku which may draw some of its Touch for Health energy from Yaba’s stanza.

 

 

To caress
a tumor, willow
drooping low

 

 

The slender flexible willow branches caress the earth with the gentleness and sensitivity of a mother, lover, or nurse soothing away the pain. I hope nurses who work with the sick and injured will find in Basho’s haiku, as well as in Yaba’s stanza, prescriptions for gentleness and a healing touch.

 

Only slices of konnyaku                     9: 147

remaining harvest moon
With first geese
I try out a cushion
on my saddle

 

こんいやくばかり / のこる名月
はつ雁に / 乗り懸下地 / 敷いて見る

 

Konnyaku bakari / nokoru meigetsu
Hatsu kari ni / norikake shitaji / shiite miru

 

 

Basho leaps from the sick nun in Yaba’s stanza to konnyaku (or devil’s tongue), a gelatin made from a tuber, popular in Japan, and a favorite of Basho’s. Konnyaku is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for detoxification, tumor alleviation, phlegm liquefaction, improved bowel flora ecology and promoting bowel movements in constipated adults – all of which the sick nun may need.


The word nokoru “remaining” is a 'pivot-word' which applies back to the konnyaku as well as forward to the moon. The konnyaku was one of dishes at a banquet; the guests talked and ate all night long, and now as dawn comes, only a few slices of the gelatin remain on the table, as only a bit of the full moon remains in the sky above the horizon.  The banquest was held to honor a man about to leave on a journey.  He looks to the sky and setting moon, and sees the first wild geese returning from their summer in Siberia to spend winter in Japan, so he feels the presence of autumn. He sets a cushion on his saddle to test whether it will keep his buttocks from getting sore from the horse’s movements.  Yaba again considers the relief of pain.

 

 

 

Dew for his opponent                                9: 148
sword drawn in a flash
Town notables
together getting drunk
under blossoms

 

露を相手に居合ひとねき
町衆のつらりと酔って花の陰

 

Tsuyu o aite ni / iai hito nuki
Machishuu no tsurari to yotte hana ni kage

 

Basho from his own experience knows how one about to leave on a journey can get distracted, worrying

about forgetting something important.  He reminds the traveler of the importance of self-organization at

this time with an image of the martial art of iaidothe art of being aware, quickly drawing the sword,  and 

striking with perfect straightness and resolution. In Basho’s stanza, the swordsman watches the dew

on a blade of grass with all the concentration he has developed through years of practice. The instant the dewdrop parts from the grass, he whips out his sword to cut the air and return to its scabbard between the dew hits the ground. Such is the state of resolution a traveler should have before leaving.


Rather than follow Basho’s iaido stanza with something similar, Yaba goes to the opposite pole. Instead of a single person disciplining himself to spiritual unity and resolution, he presents a group of town government VIPs in a row – as straight as the sword’s strike – at a picnic table getting drunk and stupid under cherry blossoms.

 

When two poets compose a renku together, to avoid one poet always writing the three-line stanzas and the other poet always writing the two-liners, one poet must write two stanzas in a row.  Here Basho does this:

 

 

Jostled in temple gateway                  9: 148
for nembutsu pantomimes -
An east wind                                        9: 148
the fumes of nightsoil
wafting about

 

門で押さるる / 壬生の念仏
東風に / 糞のいきれを / 吹きまわし

 

Mon de osaruru / Mibu no nembutsu
Kochi kaze ni / koe no ikire o / fuki-mawashi

 

Basho takes the crowd of drunken picnickers and moves them to the gateway of Mibu Temple in Kyoto. Here, since the year 1300, men in elaborate costumes and masks have performed nembutsu kyogen,

pantomimes, accompanied by bells, flutes, and drums to a slow tempo, to introduce Buddhism to the masses who gathered from all over the land and crowd the temple gateway to go watch the show.  (In modern times, these Mibu Kyogen have drifted away from the religious purpose and become comic entertainment.)

 

Basho begins his second stanza with “east wind,” a wind from the east, suggesting the influence of Eastern ideas, such as reincarnation, on Western minds. He then shifts from hordes of people all around to hordes of smelly molecules all around. He uses not the Chinese character 肥which would be manure from animals, but rather 糞, night soil from people. Western books on pre-modern Japan often note disparagingly that human wastes were used as fertilizer, however few mention that the feces were separated from the urine and stored in a koedame, or night soil jar, dug into the ground, for at least one month, producing fermentation at temperatures up to 160 degrees F. (70 degrees C.) in which complex molecules, including germs and parasites, decomposed. So the night soil was sterilized before being put into the rice paddies for young women planters to walk barefoot it. These people were not such idiots that would cause their young women to die from infection. Fermentation destroyed the germs and parasites, however increased the smell.


The Complete Anthology of Japanese Literature says of this link:

 

Because this is a renku composed by only two poets, and here Basho forms a link with his own stanza, we must especially look at the transition he creates. To counter “nembutsu” with ‘night soil’

is truly a joke of great daring.


So what is Basho saying with this link of "great daring"? When Buddhists chant the nembutsu, they call on the boddhisatva Amida to bring them, and all of us, out from the endless cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation, straight to the Pure Land. Reincarnation, from the Latin for “entering the flesh again,” is the spirit of the dead returning to new life. Basho sees night soil as a form of reincarnation: feces containing a person’s spirit part from this body to enter the ground, and that spirit “enters the flesh” of growing plants which humans eat to live. Our shit does not go to the Pure Land; it returns to Earth to give new life, death, and reincarnation.


Reincarnation is not something that occurs at death;
it is something that takes place at every moment.
Death and rebirth are occurring every second.

 

                                                                                               Frederick Lenz


 

All he does is sit there
as elbow gives him pain
News from Edo,                                 9: 149
shopkeeper across street
has returned

 

ただ居るままに / 腕わづらふ
江戸の左右 / 向かいの亭主 / 登られて

 

Tada iru mama ni / kaina wasurau
Edo no sau / mukai no teishu / nobararete

 

Yaba shifts from the farm environment in Basho’s stanza to a farmer who has worked in the fields year after year, but now with arthritis in joints sits around all day doing nothing. (This is probably a man, since a Japanese woman would keep on working no matter how painful her elbow was.)


Basho responds to the boredom and tediousness of the farmer in Yaba’s stanza with a shopkeeper in Kyoto who has just returned from a trip to the Big City, Edo, and has all sorts of interesting stories to tell

to take the rural mind away from inflammatory pain. Basho counters the negative with positive energy.


In ten stanzas, we have seen death of a mother, touching to soothe away pain, devil’s tongue at a banquet, a traveler and his saddle on a horse, a swordsman and his mastery of sword, drunken partying, Buddhist pantomine-plays, crowds of people, fumes of night soil, the Pure Land, reincarnation, old age and inactivity, arthritis, and interesting stories from the Big City: so much humanity in Basho renku.  The seuence of ten stanzas begins as it ends with the activity of a person speaking. 

 

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

The following three stanza pairs all appear later in the renku sequence PLUM BLOSSOM SCENT:

 

 

With coins picked up
replacing tatami covers
For the festival                                     9: 151
the missus entertains
her relatives

 

ひろうた金で表かえする
初牛に女房のおやこ振る舞いで

 

Hirouta kane de omote kaesuru
Hatsu ushi ni / nyoubo no oyako /furu maute

 

Who chances upon money lying on the street and uses it on home improvements? A man would more likely spend his lucky find on his own pleasures, so we say this is a woman. Pleased that her floor mats have fresh, sweet-smelling woven-straw covers, she invites her parents and siblings and their kids over for tea and cakes. According to the patriarchal system of Japan, when a woman enters her husband’s family, she gives up involvement with her relatives, and lives only to serve her husband and sons. Both stanzas, in this interpretation, allow the wife to focus on her own concerns and feelings.

 

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

 

Every house
has a window facing
toward the East
Tired of eating fish                              9: 153
this seaside pottage

 

どの家も /東の方に /窓をあけ
魚に食いあく / はまの雑炊

 

Dono ie mo / higashi no kata ni / mado o ake
uo ni kui-aku / hama no zousui

 

 

All the houses in this village were built with a consciousness of the rising sun, so every person wakes up with daybreak, and starts the day with brightness and hope. Basho switches from the village houses and windows to someone tired of having so much fish in his breakfast zosui: a thick stew of rice, soy sauce, whatever vegetables and fish are available. He cannot be a villager who would be accustomed to this much fish. He must be a traveler staying in this village for a while, and finds that the cook at his inn makes a meal to the village taste, which is not his taste.


So what is the link between the two stanzas? Both are more interesting when seen as the perceptions of a traveler. People who were born in this village and lived here their entire lives would not notice the placement of windows in every house, but a traveler (or someone tripping on psychoactive substances) might have such a realization. Basho could have taken the rising sun and bright hopeful feeling from Yaba’s stanza, but instead he took the experience of being on a journey, and fulfilled that experience with his own image of a traveler feeling that the locals overdo the fish eating.

 

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

 

A new bride,

without neighbors knowing,
joins our house
Standing screen shadow                   9: 154
a trayful of sweets

 

隣へも / 知らせず 嫁を / つれて来て
屏風の陰に / みゆるくわし盆

 

Tonari e mo / shirasezu yome o / tsurete kite
Byoubu no kage ni / miyuru kuwashi bon

 

The BRZ says Basho’s stanza is “one which holds secrets,” and both stanzas are full of secrecy attracting interest.  We are in debt, so cannot let our neighbors see us spend money on a wedding. I suspect that “trayful of sweets” in the “standing screen shadow” is sexual – but maybe that’s just me (though now it’s in your mind.) A sexual meaning does fit in with the first stanza.

 

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

 

Everything
for her son’s marriage
mother decides
Buds bursting open                   9: 164
area of cotton fields

 

祝言も /母が見て来て /究めけり

木綿ふきたつ / 高安の里

Shuugen mo / haha ga mite kite / kiwamekeri

Kiwata fukitatsu / takayasu no sato

 

Mother is giving birth to her son a second time, now to form his own life and family – or maybe Mama’s boy is escaping from her domineering influence as the whole area of white cotton balls escapes from their buds.

 

 

Bottle has fragrance                               9:172
going to buy vinegar
Three whole years                                  9:173
on a journey from a journey
to a journey

 

徳利の匂ふて / 酢を買いにゆく
丸三とせ / 旅から旅へ / 旅をして


Tokkuri no niote / su o kai ni yuku

Maru san to / se tabi kara tabi e / tabi o shite

 

Basho is in his hometown where he has not been for many years. He goes to buy vinegar from a shop where he used to go when he was young. He carries an empty bottle, the same bottle he carried the vinegar in before. Of course it has been washed, but still the traces of vinegar fragrance can be smelled. From these vague memories of smell in his hometown,  Basho considers the nature of his life on the road.

 

 

Wings flap in sequence                9: 175
wild geese under moon,
Every mouth                                 9: 175 
shall sample this year’s
new sake

 

はね打ちかはす雁に月影
口々に今年の酒を試むる

 

Hane uchi kawasu kari ni tsukikage
Kuchi guchi ni kotoshi no sake o kokoromuru

 

Geese fly in a V formation so the updraft from one bird lifts the bird behind, enabling the flock as a whole to conserve energy. Watching the ‘V’ of birds fly past the moon, Basho see a wave motion flowing through the two lines of the ‘V,’ a ‘force’ or organizing principle determined by the physics of flight. Rice is polished, steamed, and fermented with mold and yeast for a month to produce raw and rough-tasting ‘new sake.’ This must be aged for a year, again the chemical organizing force of fermentation acting everywhere in the raw alcohol to give a smooth taste Japanese drinkers enjoy. Everyone has gathered to sip the new sake from this year’s rice crop. Miyawaki sees in the stanza, “a moment of happiness in which satisfaction mingles with expectation.”

 

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

 

Glaring about,
she orders the children
to “behave!”
While she puffs the ash                      9: 177
from broiled miso

 

行儀能 /せよと子供を /ねめ廻し
やき味噌の 灰 / 吹きはらいつつ

 

Gyougi you /se yo to kodomo o / neme-mawashi
Yaki miso no hai / fuki-harai-tsutsu

 

Children scattered about the room, mother at the sunken hearth in the center has to “glare about” – sweeping her eyes fiercely all around ‐ to address them all, not that they listen. The stanza abounds with human activity in three lively verbs: “glaring about,” “orders” and her spoken command “behave!” and also the activity of the children: crawling, running, climbing, arguing, fighting, breaking or swallowing things, this winter day in 17th century Japan.

 

Meanwhile she is broiling balls of soy bean paste on skewers to make a side dish. A bit of ash from the fire has gotten on the sticky miso. She lifts the skewer close to her mouth, purses her lips, and puffs a short burst of air at the ash to propel it from the miso. The astonishing delicacy of this action even the fingers of elves could not perform is the polar opposite of her glaring and shouting at her kids – yet both ordering and puffing are her breath, her life force which the yogis call prana. The first stanza contains the approach of anger, one of the seven deadly sins. In Shinto, “sins” are dust on a mirror; to restore the original purity, we simply wipe off the dust. Basho’s ash on miso can be a similar metaphor. Mother restores her inner peace by puffing away the ash from her spirit. Because the words are so ordinary and natural, her situation with her kids so common in our own world, we feel her reality. We connect with this mother, and as we breathe, we transcend space and time to be with her, to share prana with her, to puff away our own anger and establish harmony within.

 

Basho does something no other male poet does: he portrays the activity of an ordinary (not royal or in any way special) woman, with no adult male presence, no romance or sex, no suffering or dying, no causing of problems for men to solve. She simply is ALIVE and expresses her life-force as positive, whole, and iconic.

 

 

 

Gradually                                      9: 180a
helped to sit up, she
combs her hair
Cat fondly caressed
by the one I adore
To stop blossoms                     9: 180b
from falling, if only
there was a way

 

漸と / かきおこされて /髪けづり
猫可愛がる /人ぞ恋しき
あの花の / 散らぬ工夫が /有るならば

 

Youyou to / kaki-okosarete / kami kezuri
Neko kawaigaru / hito zo koi shiki
Ano hana no / chiranu kufuu ga / aru naraba

 

She has been sick for some time, and lying down could not properly comb her long hair. Recovering, with my help, she sits up and runs the comb down her hair, power returning to her body. Lying down she also could not hold her pet cat on her lap; now, watching her caress her small furry living pet – a similar tactile experience – soon after she was so close to death makes me love her all the more. To stop the young and gentle from becoming old and bitter, if only there was a way.

 

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

 

Beneath her eyelids
overflow the stars
Forced to stand                                 9: 196
against her will, she dances
so delicately

 

まぶたに星の /こぽれかかれる
引き立て / むりに舞する / たおやかさ

 

Mabuta ni hoshi no / kobore kakareru
Hiki tatete / muri ni mai suru / taoyakana

 

The shogun Yoritomo sent warriors to capture his younger brother Yoshitsune, but unable to find him, they took Yoshitsune’s mistress, the dancer Shizuka, and brought her to Kamakura to dance for the bully-in-command. Starlight shines from Shizuka’s tears as she struggles to hold them back in defiance of Yoritomo. He roughly yanks Shizuka to a stance and demands that she dance, renouncing her love for Yoshitsune. Shizuka mocks him by dancing superbly while singing of her love for Yoshitsune. Shizuka stands up to Yoritomo’s patriarchy, dancing for the dignity of women.

 

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

 

Their engorged
stomachs now subsiding,
morning moon
Sleeping then carousing                9: 202
old friends at O-bon

 

食傷の/ 腹をほしけり / 朝の月
昼寝て遊ぶ / 盆の友達

 

Shokushou no / fuku o hoshi keri / asa no tsuki
Hiru nete asobu / bon no tomodachi

 

Salary men return to their native place for the three-day Bon festival. With their old buddies, they eat and drink all night till their tummies -- like the full moon -- can hold no more. They take a break so they can absorb all that food and drink, their aching stomachs decreasing like the moon fading in the morning sky. They slept all day, then party some more.

 

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

 

All the children                        9: 204

I see have this year’s
smallpox scars
Angel sharks hanging
on old bamboo screen

 

見るほどの子供にことし疱瘡の跡
古きすだれにころさめをつる

 

Miruhodo no / kodomo ni kotoshi / imo no ato
Furuki sudare ni / koro same o tsuru

 

Paying attention to the children, Basho sees smallpox scars still raw and unhealed by time, indicating that earlier this year there was a local epidemic -- but it is over and the children who survived now go around outside where Basho can see them. Another writer would focus on children dying from smallpox; Basho shows us the ones who live through it.

 

Small angel-shaped ray-like sharks with sandpaper skin hanging to dry suggest the shape and rough texture of smallpox scars. The old screen suggests the background for the scene: an impoverished, old-fashioned fishing village in which germs are everywhere yet children survive smallpox.

 

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

 

Quietly peeking
into sake revelry –
In the bedroom                         9: 210
no one is sleeping
evening moon

 

そつとのぞけば / 酒の最中
寝處に /誰も寝て居ぬ / 宵の月

 

Sotto nozokeba / sake no saichuu
Ne-dokoro ni /dare mo nete inu /yoi no tsuki

 

A small child was put to bed, but gets up, sneaks to the party room in pajamas, and opens the door a crack to peer in on the adults carousing. Basho follows with the obvious: the bedroom where the child is not, but instead moonlight quietly peeks in on the empty bed.

 

 

Making preparations
to work in the night
Younger sister
has been requested
by a good family
To the Priest, first of all                        9: 211
Father sends a letter

 

晩の仕事の / 工夫するなり
妹を / よい処から / もらはるる
層部のもとへ / まづ文をやる

 

Ban no shigoto no / kufuu suru nari
Imouto o / yoi tokoro kara / morawaruru
Souzu no moto e / mazu fumi o yaru

 

Various possibilities emerge from this stanza-trio composed in spring of 1694 before Basho left on his final journey. Tasui – of whom little is known – begins with someone preparing to do work late at night

while the rest of the family sleeps. Usually night work is done by the mother, and would be spinning thread, weaving fabric, sewing, or mending – however the Japanese says this person is "preparing" to do night work. The KBZ cites two separate texts which say that this suggests a man: apparently, according to these texts, women simply work, they do not make preparations; Men have the brain power to do so, or the work they do requires preparation. One text says that the man is diligently preparing to do work that will earn money.


Of course, these texts, and the KBZ which quotes them, were all written by men. Women will object, saying women’s night work requires preparation, and women have the brain power to do so, although men do not notice.


The second poet, a shop clerk named Ko’oku, specifies the “younger sister,” however she can be the one preparing to work at night, or the daughter of that person who has inherited diligence, intelligence, and

devotion to her family, so that a wealthy house has requested her to  marry their son. Of course no one says anything about whether she  wants this marriage or not. In any case, we wish her success and happiness.


Basho stanza gives birth to more possibilities. Women in 17th century Japan do not write letters to priests, so this must be a father, either of the younger sister, or of the family that requests her. The letter may be asking the priest whether or not to go through with this marriage, or  may be simply notifying him – however the Japanese says “at first,” so the issue must have been of importance to the writer. Ordinarily

families do not notify priests of a marriage request, and so the BRZ says that the Priest is an uncle, or other relative, of the girl, who has taken the tonsure years ago. Basho continues and enhances the mysteries of this trio: who is this “younger sister”? What has she inherited from her mother or her parents?

What is her importance to her family? None of these questions are answered, so we must look to sociology, anthropology, and our own memories and insights of the roles and the importance of women in family and society.

 

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


Going to see traces
of a house washed away
Dojo loach soup                            9: 212
makes him stronger
than young men
Drop in price of tea
to sell out the stock

 

家のながれたあとを見に行く
どじょうじろ若い者りよくなりて
茶の買置をさげて売り出す

 

Ie no nagareta / ato o mi ni iku
dojou-jiru / wakai sha yori / yoku narite
cha no kai-oki o / sagete urudasu

 

When we see a place where a tidal wave or typhoon has washed away a house with all the possessions of a family, we exclaim, “how weak and vulnerable is man against the forces of nature!” Dojo loach are slender eel-like fish, bottom-feeding scavengers, with some unique strengths: they can stay alive in poor-quality water, or cold water, or even periods of no water. Dojo loach are survivors, and soup made from then is considered an aphrodisiac. So old man, forget about that






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The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

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Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

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


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


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


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com