Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story: Basho
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Renku, Haiku, and Tanka
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time for Basho
• Basho Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 370 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 women,
children, and teenagers

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 his
"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 Prose


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  >  Renku, Haiku, and Tanka  >  E-21


Green Dragon's Ears

7 Basho haiku, 4 renku, one prose passage on green, the color of renewal

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

The words for “green,” aoi or midori, appear more frequently than any other color in Basho poetry (although white is also frequent). The green of plants is more than a color to Basho; it is a force of nature which invigorates the human viewer, for example in this very early renku stanza written when he 32. 


From green face
of laughing mountain
Spring is seen

 

Tsura could be the “surface” of the mountain, however “laughing” calls for “face.” To say Basho is “anthropomorphizing” the mountain misses the point; instead he sees the mountain and himself as being connected, and since laughter comes to his face as an expression of winter ending and spring beginning, the green color spreading over the mountain has the same essential nature as laughter.

 

Note that this interpretation does not come entirely from this stanza-pair; rather it comes from knowledge of  his thirty years of exploring the connections between humanity and nature.

 

Basho drew his philosophy from the ancient Chinese sage Chuang Tzu who offered this amazing vision of cosmology.


At first there was no Life, not only no Life, but also no Form;
not only no Form, but no Energy to produce Form,
the element for 10,000 things, the energy of the Sun.
Within chaos: a featureless, indistinguishable state,
from the mixture of disorder came Energy.
Energy changed into Form, and Form changed into Life,
and finally Life returns to Death.
The changes from Chaos to Energy to Form to Life to Death
resemble the orderly cycle of spring, summer, autumn, winter.

 

Chuang Tzu says nothing about Green, however 20 centuries later, his follower Basho added Green to Chuang Tzu’s cosmology in this renku stanza:


Chaos rides
on Green, at play with
The Energy

 

Basho plays with the first two steps in Chuang- Tzu’s vision of creation -- Chaos and Energy– and adds a new element, “Green,” the primal invigorating force of plant life which “Chaos” rides on while playing with “Energy.” Since all Energy comes from the Sun, if “Green” is the vehicle for playing with Energy, we have good reason to see “Green” as chlorophyll, and then we have a spectacular metaphor for the glory of photosynthesis all over Earth.

 

The first photosynthesis occured more than 3 billion years ago in microscopic cyano-bacteria (often called blue-green algae, although not algae at all) which lived in a world without oxygen, getting their energy from sunlight. Too tiny to be seen, and able to reproduce forever without dying. we might say they had no Form and no Life. Millions upon millions of years of photosynthesis by the green substance in these bacteria produced oxygen which accumulated to enable larger, multi-cellular oxygen-breathing forms of life to evolve. Life dependant on oxygen must eventually burn out, so we come to the final stage in Chuang Tzu’s cosmology.


The most famous example of Basho’s love for green is this haiku he wrote at the shrine in Nikko, dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu who brought peace and prosperity to Japan after centuries of war and chaos; the haiku glorifies these positive social conditions along with the sunlight and green leaves.


How glorious
young leaves, green leaves
light of the sun

 

The combination of green and sunlight again deepens our understanding of the glory of photosynthesis.

 

Makoto Ueda translates seven 20th century scholars on this verse

one says “the reference to the sunlight is too obvious;this is not a good poem”

and another that “The poet’s virtuosity here is almost intimidating.”

I would like to know what the biologists think.

 

Both of the poetry names Basho chose for himself and commonly used – Tosei and Basho – contain green. He signed his first few renku stanzas with an alternate pronunciation of his actual name Munafusa, but soon began using ”Tosei,” written with two kanji 桃   tou, the Chinese pronunciation for “Peach,” and sei for “green” meaning not-full-grown, immature. The peach is the sacred tree of Taoism, and suggests Basho’s favorite philosopher Chuang Tzu, and Chuang Tzu’s favorite goddess, the Queen Mother of the West, who had Peaches of Immortality which she gave to her guests. The name also seems to be associated with his family, for there is evidence that his mother came from a family whose name contained the peach kanji 桃、pronounced momo.  Even after he used the name Basho with most people, he signed his letters to his older brother 桃青、Tosei. The “green” suggests that he recognized his immaturity, and his possibilities for the future.

 

”Basho” means the banana plant, which in Japan grows enormous bright green leaves but no bananas. Likewise, the man Basho produced an enormous quantity of poems (leaves) but no children (fruit). When he moved into his first hut in Fukagawa just across the Sumida River from downtown Edo in 1680, one follower planted a basho in the yard,and he poet soon took the name for himself. In the next 12 years, Basho left that hut and went on long journeys. In 1692 his followers built a new hut for him, and planted five banana plants in the garden, He wrote


Their leaves over seven feet tall
large enough to cover a harp or be sewn into a lute case.
The wind flutters the tail feathers of a phoenix
the rain pierces the ears of a green dragon.

.

If you look around in Japanese gardens, including gardens of abandoned houses, here and there you will see a basho plant; may the image of “ears of a green dragon” come to mind.

 

Here is another very early renku stanza-pair in which Basho wrote the second stanza, and this one goes out to the social scientists and especially the economists:


In this world
where there are daimyo
are merchants too

The willow is green: 
credit pulls people in

 

Where there are provincial lords living life expensively, there must also be merchants. Basho notes that merchants have this trick they play on us to get rich: they offer credit, and credit pulls some people in,

so they buy and borrow beyond their earning power, thinking that somehow they will have the money to pay back. And “credit pulls people in” is just as inevitable as “the willows are green.”

 

Fresh and green
The tranquility of a rock
That never moves

Drinking then sleeping
here on this bridge

 

The first word in the Japanese is 青々、aoao, the kanji for “green” with a repeat mark. The chilly weather    of early spring has passed, the day is warm and comfortable, the plant world green and alive. Basho recognizes that the “tranquility of a rock that never moves” is a drunken perception, so he gives that perception a location: on a bridge looking down at the stream, focusing on one particular rock that stays  still while all that water goes rushing by; he watches the lovely green world for a while, drinks and falls asleep, wakes up to drink and watch some more.

 

Rain in June
the green of spike moss
how long to last

 

Iwahiba are a species of spike moss (genus Selaginella) growing in Japan. They are evergreen perennials and bear scale-like, spore-bearing leaves clustered in spikes. In prolonged dry conditions, the leaves curl up into brown balls, but when wet, they open up and return to green, thus in English may be called “resurrection plants.”


Basho’s haiku focuses on a contradiction: the long summer rains  which begin in June are depressing, while the bright green of wet spike moss is refreshing. Basho wonders how long will this miserable

rain will last, and also how long will the spike moss remain green.

 

Being green
is alright, yet peppers
become red

 

Green peppers are only green because they were picked before they turned red. They are altogether fine   to eat, yet are immature fruits, full of chlorophyll for growing. As they turn red they become healthier:

vitamin C content doubles, vitamin A content is eight times higher,and beta carotene nearly triples.          The immature state is “alright” but nature (i.e. DNA) has more in store for this pepper.


Basho opened a renku sequence with this hokku which contains a personal message to his current house guest Shado:“You write good verses, but still you are a ‘green horn.’ Naturally, as time goes by, you will mature.”

 

A bamboo forest is unlike any other forest; instead of blending green leaves with brown trunks and branches, the entire bamboo is green. The bamboos are actually a grass, and the “trunks” are blades as tall as trees. Basho loved to visit Saga, in the west of Kyoto, famous for vast and extensive bamboo groves:


Ho-toto-GI-su
through great bamboo grove
moonlight trickles

 

Towering bamboos form a cathedral of green with moonlight trickling through. Basho scholar Kon Eizo says “through the gaps and crevices in the dense luxuriant bamboo grove, greenish-whitemoonlight passes in countless slender rays.” The clear bright five-note call of the little cuckoo punctuates the feeling of divine

presence.

 

Basho also wrote this haiku in Saga about Mount Arashi just across the river.


Mount Arashi
covered with thick green 
fibers of wind

 

The wind becomes visible as it blows through the green covering the vast mountain. One of the more remarkable features of Japanese is the double sound words such as saya saya, said to be the sound of touching thin fabric" in Kon Eizo’s description of the feeling of this haiku:

 

The refreshing and fragrant breeze blows over the great bamboo grove,

and the leaves flutter saya saya, giving us a refreshing feeling

of being able to see the transparent fibers of the wind.


Into the flowing
pattern of ripples
green willow
reflections as threads 
seem to be woven

 

 

Ki no Tsurayuki in the 10th century wrote this tanka combining green and water. There is no abstraction    or philosophy here; he simply sees the green reflections mingling with the pattern of ripples, and notes

the physical similarity to threads woven into fabric

 

In 1688, Basho wrote a renku stanza praising the woman Sonome, comparing her to a plum blossoms,     the most elegant of images to the Japanese mind. Sonome responded with this stanza


Pine needles are falling
in the month of March

 

The "month of March" is when plum trees are in full bloom, but pine needles have absolutely no elegance. 

Sonome’s verse is not interesting or evocative, and this is intentional. Basho has praised her, so she, a refined Japanese woman, must deny his praise with an expression of humility – and this humility makes

her verse somewhat heavy.

 

Six years later, in a letter to his follower Sampu Basho advised:


Concentrate on Lightness and Interest

 

A few months later, in his final haiku three days before his death, Basho takes the image Sonome provided, and enhances it with the elements of Tsurayuki’s ancient tanka: green and flowing water, thereby giving

lightness and interest to Sonome’s humble image:

 

Clear cascade
into the ripples fall
green pine needles

 

This, his final verse, is truly his death haiku.

 

Basho4Humanity@gmail.com






<< Reply to Shiki (E-20) (F-01) Faces >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

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

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story: Basho
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Renku, Haiku, and Tanka
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time for Basho
• Basho Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• 370 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 women,
children, and teenagers

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 his
"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 Prose


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