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  >  Women in Basho  >  L-02


Power of Women

Basho explores the power within women, the power from women

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

 "I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves."

         Mary Wollstonecraft,  A Vindication of the Rights of Women

 

 

Power of Women

Basho's stanza by itself (in boldface) appears on page 14; here explore it together with another poet' stanza that spawned it:

Her semblance of power
pebbles thrown in vain
Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus

 

ちから に 似せぬ / 礫 かい なき
ゆるされて / 女 の 中 の /音頭 取り

 

Chikara ni nisenu / tsubute kai naki
Yurusarete / onna no naka no / ondō tori

 

His boat has left harbor. She tries to reach the boat with pebbles – i.e. her love -- but her slender arm cannot throw them any distance against the wind. From the weakness of the lone woman, Basho switches to a chorus of women allowing one woman to lead them, so their sound - their power, their truth - goes far. May Basho’s stanza – with or without the previous stanza - become an anthem for women’s choral groups, as well as social and political movements led by women.

 

Natalie Maddix says,

 

"Singing really has this healing property. There is a truth inside of us that maybe

we're not ready to face and sometimes it's not until we sing together that we even

become aware of our feelings."


AMONG WOMEN is a fine example of the four beat rhythm I maintain throughout my translations

because it occurs naturally and easily from the four-beat rhythm in the original Japanese.


3 spoken beats and pause / 4 beats without a pause / 3 beats and pause

     Among women (   )    /    one allowed to lead    /    them in chorus (   )

For a discussion of Basho poetry as music see L-12 Music and Song

 

 

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

 

Everyone of you
in nadeshiko time
Starting to weep
earthenware trembles
in your weakness

 

君はみなみな / なでしこの時
泣き出して / 土器ふるふ /身のよわり

 

Kimi wa minamina / nadeshiko no toki
nakidashite/ kawarake furufu / mi no yowari

 

The flower nadeshiko, a type of carnation, has, since ancient times, been associated with Japanese femininity and youthfulness; because of what men want, the word came to imply submission to patriarchy – but now with Nadeshiko being the name of the Japan Woman’s Soccer (football) team, Basho’s stanza becomes a prophesy: that someday nadeshiko in cooperation (“everyone of you”) will be heroes inspiring all of Japan and women everywhere. That prophesy of 1692 was fulfilled 319 years later (“in nadeshiko time”).

 

The next poet counters with what happens to youth and power: after 50 years: the hands, even of a hero, no longer hold steady.  

 

Two days before he died, Basho wrote a letter to his older brother.

here are the final words before his signature:

 

 Grandma and Oyoshi, their power shall decline
 

“Grandma” is his brother’s wife; Oyoshi their youngest sister.  Tending fires to boil rice, making plant fibers into clothing, washing and cleaning, caring for babies, husbands, and parents, until that “power declines.”

  

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

 

By moonlight washing hair
with lather of rice bran                                     
Lighting lantern
and providing a mallet
to her daughters

 

月夜に髪を /あらう揉み出し
火とばして / 砧あたがう /子供達
 
Tsukiyo ni kami o / arau momidashi
Hi tobashite / kinuta atagau / kodomotachi

 

Mother works from sun up to sun down; finally she takes a break in the evening, to wash her long black locks.  Beside the well, she rubs a cotton bag of wet rice bran powder between her hands; the saponin or soap-like foam that emerges through the permeable fabric has been used for shampoo, as well as face and body wash, since long ago. Rice bran is rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals which moisturize and strengthen hair, protect it from ultraviolet rays, and prevent hair loss. From this image of women’s hair and management of hair, where does Basho go? 

 

A mallet was used for pounding handspun cloth after washing to soften and smooth it, for pounding rice to remove the hulls.  This can  be an individual mother giving her daughters work  to do in the evening, or can be iconic, a symbol for all mothers passing on the torch to their daughters, first the older, then the younger, for as many girls as there are in the household.  She gives them Light – a bit of the Sun emerging from a lantern – and Work, the long tradition of females working day and night without complaint, simply working, generation after generation – only taking time off to care for their hair. ‘Lighting lantern’ represents education, the means for overcoming poverty, and a mallet gives weight and power to slender female arms and hands. 

 

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

 

That clique of

smart-ass co-workers
hates on her
Cinder burns her hem
so she rubs it out

 

才ばりの /傍輩中に / 憎まれて
焼き焦がしたる / 小妻もみ消す

 

Saibari no / houbaichuu ni / nikumarete
Yaki kogashitaru / kozuma momi kesu

 

A group of female servants is working together in the kitchen around the wood-burning stove. Here is the underhand cruelty of teenage girls who think they are so great to one who does not fit in with their clique. She responds to a physical problem – a cinder from the fire burns a hole in the hem of her house robe –

with simple direct action that immediately puts it out. She does not fuss over the bit of burning matter,

or complain about it, or get angry at it. She simply crushes it between her thumb and forefinger; cool and calm, with her attitude, she “rubs it out.”


The girl who is bullied does not give up and submit, nor does she get upset in fighting back. Instead, she remains cool and calm, and with her attitude, she “rubs it out.” She rubs out the power of the bullying to

upset her. Demi Lovato, well-known for her advocacy of victums of bullying, puts it this way:


Confident women don't let anyone — men or other women — trash talk or undermine their dignity.

They make their own choices about self-identity and to be who they are, flaws and all. Don't let anyone tear you down.

 

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

 

Lunch break at a traveler’s rest:

 

Leaving azaleas
in a bucket, behind them
she tears dried cod

 

 

躑躅生けて / その陰に干鱈 / 割く女
Tsutsuji ikete / sono kage ni hidara / saku onna

 

A woman in a roadside rest area has gathered azaleas and brought them inside to arrange in a vase, but a customer (Basho) comes in, so she places the flowers temporarily in a bucket in the center of the room, and goes to tear off some strips of dried cod for him to munch on with his tea. She is the center of the verse. She mediates between delicacy of azaleas and coarseness of her hands’ work.


Willow’s coolness
skewering small sea bream
fisherman’s wife

 

小鯛挿す / 柳涼しや / 海士が妻
Kodai sasu / yanagi suzushi ya / ama ga tsuma

 

A woman pierces fish with metal pins to roast them over the fire in her sunken hearth. The sound of “skewering” contains the feeling of metal pin puncturing the bloody flesh. The verse takes us beyond our ordinary consciousness to enter the reality of a woman who does such work every day so her children or grandchildren get the protein, minerals, vitamins and omega fatty acids in small fish.


I am fascinated by the similarity between this haiku and the one before: both show us delicacy – in azaleas or in willows – reconciling the roughness of hands working with dead fish: the power of women at work.

 

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

Basho gave this greeting verse to a prosperous farmer whose home he visited: an uba is a former wet-nurse who has stayed on with the family to nurse later children, care for them, and do house and garden work.

 

Threshing rice 
the uba's good fortune
chrysanthemums

 

  稲   こきの   /   姥  も    めでたし     /   菊   の    花.

Ine koki no / uba mo medetashi / kiku no hana

 

Throughout Japanese culture, chrysanthemums symbolize longevity and hardiness, standing tall on perfectly straight stalks, the multitude of petals in a large showy ball, their color and fragrance untouched by the cold and frost of autumn ending. After rice is harvested and dried, the grains must be threshed from the stalks by shaking the stalks, or pulling them through a comb-like device with metal teeth. In all farming societies, after-harvest is a time for celebration.

 

In between these two vivid seasonal references is the uba. She is the center of the verse. Basho praises her for maintaining her vigor into old age. The image of chrysanthemums – the Japanese Imperial Crest – ensures that we take the verse as praise. Kon-sensei, as usual, goes right to the heart of the verse in one short, simple sentence: “Implied in the word uba is the prosperity of the whole family.” Every morning, in all kinds of weather, she gets up and works all day with that chrysanthemum-like vigor. Without her labor, they could not be so prosperous.

 

Remember: this is a “greeting verse” delivering a positive, supportive message from Basho to the family. Once again, he makes a breastfeeding woman an Icon, a symbol for something greater than herself.

 

 

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


In Japanese villages, with no sheep so no wool, the only fabric availableas woven from handspun plant fibres; such fabric had a rough texture, and when washed, became all the more coarse. Before the clothing –

especially underwear – dried, the damp fabric had to be pounded with a mallet to soften it and remove wrinkles.


Pounding cloth
let me hear the sound
temple wife

 

砧 打ちて / 我に聞かせよ / 坊が妻
Kinuta uchite / ware ni kikase yo / bou ga tsuma

 

In small neighborhood temples the priest had a wife and kids. Who is this woman hidden in Basho’s words, her life shuttling back and forth between Buddhist rituals and the struggle to clothe and feed her family?

She has washed her family’s winter wear and now pounds it to be soft and smooth. The sound vibrates through the floor and walls of the house. Can I reach her through that sound?


From white wall
the pounding of cloth
starts to sound

 

白壁の /うちより砧 / 打ち染めて
Shiro kabe no / uchi yori kinuta / uchi-somete

 

The sound seems to come from the white wall, though actually it comes through that whiteness from the woman hidden in the next room. Basho is fascinated with the sound made by a woman at work, for in that sound he hears her constancy and power; he is also fascinated by anything white, for in white he sees purity, and purity allows power to shine.


 

Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet

 

声澄みて / 北斗にひびく / 砧かな
Koe sumite / hokuto ni hibiku / kinuta kana

 

So often the moon appears in Japanese poetry, but the moon is, as Juliet  puts it, “inconstant.”

She begs Romeo,


Oh swear not by the moon, ‘th inconstant moon
That monthly changes in her circled orb
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable

 

Basho also wants something more stable in the night sky for these sounds from a woman on Earth. What could be more stable than the Big Dipper, always and forever pointing to the North Star, a fitting symbol for the constancy of women? To produce a sound so clear it reaches the Seven Stars light years away, the heart of the woman doing her work, hour after hour, year after year, must be exceedingly clear.


“Pounding cloth” can be more than merely what our foremothers did generations ago: it can be a symbol for ALL work women do to maintain cloth in wearable condition. In TONE SO CLEAR, Basho offers women at

work on cloth an avenue to a greater Power in the sky, a passageway through the heaviness to the divine.

It may help to remember that the Big Dipper is the ‘Drinking Gourd’ Black slaves followed to freedom in

Canada; to keep on their way North, they chanted over and over again, “Follow the Drinking Gourd” – the very best advice they could give themselves. By blending this power from African-American heritage

with Basho’s haiku TONE SO CLEAR, both women and African-Americans may find inspiration and empowerment.                          

 

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

 

A Rustic Home:

 

Crone waves a fan
over the food she cooked
cool evening ease

 

飯あふぐ / 嬶が馳走や / 夕涼み
Meshi augu / kaka ga chisou ya / yuu suzumi

 

Kaka is a rustic word for “old mother.” The word is “vulgar”, meaning “of the common people” but not derogatory; most Japanese consider it a term of affection. Because feminist authors have defined the “crone” as a positve archetype of a powerful and wise old woman, I use the word here. Chiso is literally ‘a treat’ but every Japanese speaks the word everyday as part of go-chiso sama deshita, the common expression of gratitude to the one who prepared food.  So the point or the verse is an expression of gratitude.


Kon Eizo, preeminent Basho haiku scholar of the late 20th century, tells us the meaning he sees hidden in this verse:


“The crone waves her round paper fan over the hot food to cool it off. This is an impoverished farm house,so we see the codger has returned from the fields, (taken off his sweaty cloths) and sits in his loincloth. Watching his “beloved wife” (aisai, 愛妻) “bestow her heart” (kokoro tsukai 心遣い) on the food, he enjoys the evening cool and waits for the food.”

 

Kon recognizes the psychic energy, the love, the crone bestows on the food as she waves her fan over it. The scholar reveals that this is a love poem, not the love of young people at the beginning of their search, but the love of an old couple near the end. After all the years of poverty and hardship, she still nurtures him with her power.

 

In his Will, Basho sends this message to his old follower Jokushi

 

  May you enjoy till the end your wife’s unchanging kindness.

 

For kindness to continue unchanged, it must be maintained by personal power.

 

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

 

In his travel journal A Narrow Path in the Heartlannds, Basho tells seeing the tombstones of the two women married to two brothers who died in battle to protect the hero Yoshitsune.  

 

Although they were women,
the fame of their heroic bravery
 is heard with awe in the world,

 

Basho says these women were kaigai, a word usually used for the 'gallant, heroic, brave' deeds of men, such as the two brothers who died - but instead of writing it in the masculine Chinese characters 甲斐甲斐し、ordinarily used for this word, he writes in hiraganaかいがいし, the script used by women, which feminizes the word and makes the reader pause to search for how this word can apply to women. 

 

 Basho honors these two widows for gallantly progressing through the lonely years doing the utmost they could for their children and household.  History usually focuses on the male, then when he is gone,

ignores the female to consider another male.  Only Basho would consider this female conduct as brave and heroic as dying in ferocious battle to protect a hero.  This is his feminismand his words apply just as well to women today fighting for power and dignity.

 

In his Will, Basho sends this message to his old friend Jokushi:

May you enjoy till the end your wife’s unchanging kindness. 
 

 

To keep her kindness unchanging through the years requires power.

 

 

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
 






<< Introduction to Women Central: Basho Honors Women and Girls (L-01) (L-03 ) Oppression of Women >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

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

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Quotations from Basho Prose


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



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


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


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



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


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


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


"Link verses the way
children play."


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


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

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


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



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


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


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


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

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


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


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


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



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com