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-09


Long Black Hair

The Beauty and Power in Women's Hair

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

"I love my hair because it’s a reflection of my soul - Tracee Ellis Ross -------

Wrapping rice cakes / with one hand she tucks / hair behind ear ---  

 


Here are 11 Basho verses of sensual worship of women's hair. He follows this tanka from the Manyoshu,

a thousand years before Basho: 

                                

Leaving behind
the wife who loves me                                                                  
she spreads out
black hair to sleep on
as long as the night

 

She lies down on her hair, mingling her body with the strands as slender and silky as she is.

 

 

 

 

Long Black Hair       

In her Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon wrote:

 

“A girl’s hair has been cut to shoulder length: the hair falls before her eyes but instead of brushing back, she holds her head to one side to look at something.”

 

Basho wrote:

Wrapping rice cake
with one hand she tucks
hair behind ear

 

 粽ゆう  / 片手にはさむ  /  額髪

Chimaki yuu / katate ni hasamu / hitai-gami

   

A woman in summer preparing sweets for the children bends over a bucket of rice dough, forms into cones, wraps with bamboo grass, and ties with a strip of rush – however “wrapping rice cake” may symbolize any work a woman or girl does with stuff she does not want on her hair: farming, cooking, making pottery, or caring for a baby or a horse. Some long hair has come loose from the band in back and fallen before her face. Fingers and palms coated with residue, without thinking or breaking her stride, she reaches up with the clean surface on the side of her hand above thumb and forefinger to tuck hair behind her ear – with nothing getting on her hair.

 

Women in every land and time where hair is worn long make this precise, delicate, and utterly feminine movement with the side of the hand around the ear. Whether you are female or male, with hair long or short, make the movement with your hand and you will recall exactly what Basho is showing us. The verse strikes a chord of recognition in anyone who reads it with attention. This is Basho’s Mona Lisa, his most graceful hidden woman. Only Basho has the delicacy and precision to draw such a moment out from the flow of a woman’s everyday life.


Izumi Shikibu, in the 11th century, wrote of being alone, without him, the turmoil scattering her hair

     

I know not the
tangles in my black hair
while I lie here
yearning for the one
who used to stroke it
                         
   

Here Basho wrote the first and third stanzas of the next renku:

 

Gradually
helped to sit up, she
combs her hair
Cat fondly caressed
by the one I adore
To stop blossoms
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

 

Recovering from a long illness, with help she rises to a sitting position on the futon. Lying down, she could not properly comb her long black locks, but now as she runs the comb down the full length of smooth strands, she takes in its power. 


Yaba continues to explore the silky texture of hair, but changes to a cat’s fur. The young woman

in Basho's stanza, while lying down, had no lap where her pet cat could lie and be caressed.

But now, sitting up, the cat in her lap, she strokes the silky fur. Watching her cuddle and pet this small living being, so soon after she was near death, makes me love her so much more.


Basho concludes with to keep the young and gentle from growing old and bitter, if only there was a way.

 

This poem from the Manyoshu, a thousand years before Basho, reveals the Japanese worship of long hair                              

 

Leaving behind
the wife who loves me                                                                  
she spreads out
black hair to sleep on
as long as the night
 

Here again Basho begins with a stanza focusing on young woman’s hair, and the following

poets counters with old age.

 

On the young wife’s head
Chinese Rings so gentle
As a keepsake
some fabric from a bag
getting faint

 

妹 が かしら の / からわ やさしき

かたみてふ / 袋 の 切れの / はつ はつ に

 

Imo ga kashira no / karawa yasashiki

Katamite chou / fukuro no kire no / hatsu hatsu ni

 

Basho begins with the karawa or “Chinese rings” hairstyle, four parallel rings of hair rising from the head, elegant style for both courtesans and ordinary women. The elegant and charming hairstyle worn “gently” by the young wife suggests a marriage beginning with hope for the future.

 

The other poet jumps ahead several decades, to some fabric that was part of a bag, something that used to be important, so I kept it, but I can no longer remember, everything getting faint, drifting away –yet those Chinese Rings on my wife's head so long ago remain clear in my mind.  Why do certain images remain in the mind even while so much else is forgotten?   We consider the nature of mind and memory. 

 

The early 20th century woman poet Yosano Akiko wrote

 

That girl at twenty-
her black hair ripples
through the comb
in the pride of spring --
she is so beautiful!

 

Two centuries before Yosano Akiko, Basho focused on women’s hair.                   

 

 

Pulled awake
to see the Full Moon
in her shame
Hair fanned by maids,
her thin robe of dew

 

月見 よと / ひきおこされて / はずかしき
髪 あふぐする 薄ものの露

 

Tsukimi yo to / hiki-okosarete / hazukashiki

Kami augasuru / usumono no tsuyu

 

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

sexuality in the moonlight. This flustered and ashamed girl grows up into a mature self-assured lady. Her maids wave folding fans at her mass of thick black hair to push away the summer heat. This image --

like Cleopatra's maids fanning her hair -- suggests the nobility of this woman.  A “robe of dew” would be transparent, revealing her entire body as naked as the moon, yet not at all ashamed.  We see the growth from girl embarrassed by her body to woman drawing confidence from her hair. 

 

Comes a dream
of woman cutting her
jet black hair
Love seen through, moon
over morning glories

 

 

鳥羽玉の / 髪 切る / 夢 に きて

恋 をみやぶる / 朝顔 の 月

 

Ubatama no / kami kiru onna / yume ni kite

Koi o miyaburu / asagao no tsuki

 

The first poet with “a dream comes” suggests that that this dream is a “sending,” a dream sent to the speaker by another person’s spirit. Apparently a man has disappointed her in love, so she cuts off her hair, and  tells him this in her sending. The traditional way to interpret “cutting her hair” is as “becoming a nun” – although Shoko says “not necessarily.” In Japan, women cut a number of strands as a declaration of giving up the past to move into a new future.

 

Basho goes back, before she cut her hair, to examine why she did this: she sees through the false love she thought was real, realizing that this man's  love disappears as surely as the moon fades into the morning sky and gorgeous blue morning glories wilt to become refuse in the rain.

 

 

 

From last year’s battle
bones are bleached white

On her day off

the wife escorted home
in falling rain

The fragrance of mist

as she washes her hair

 

去年の 軍 の / 骨 は 白暴

やぶ入るの / 嫁 や 送らむ / 今日 の 雨

霞む にほひ の / 髪 洗うころ

 

Kozo no ikusa no / hone wa nozarashi

Yabu iru no / yome ya okuramu / kyō no ame

Kasumu nioi no / kami arau koro

 

The first poet begins this trio with a heavy and impersonal stanza: many months since the great battle, bones of warriors picked clean by scavengers and exposed to rain, dew, and sun lay white on the ground.

On a day off from work, a married woman servant walks back to her native home. She could not pass the battlefield alone, especially in the gloomy rain, so someone (her husband?) walks with her. The third poet continues Basho's exploration of female humanity with more physical sensation; the first thing she does upon arriving at her parent’s house is wash the bad vibes from her hair -- the hair which contains her life-force. We breathe in that smell of thick wet hair – as in beauty parlors – like the smell of mist.

 

 

Hibiscus -
a naked little child’s
hair ornament

 

花木槿 / 裸童の / かざし哉
Hana mukuge / hadaki kodomo no / kazashi kana

 

The hibiscus syriacus, also known as Rose of Sharon or rose mallow, is common in Japan as well as in South Korea where it is the national flower. They usually grow wild on an old wall or fence, blooming in early autumn, large trumpet shaped flowers, usually pink with prominent yellow-tipped white stamens, a fine ornament for the hair of a tiny peasant girl naked in August heat.

 

 

The child stands there innocent and charming, the ideal human form: she carries the future of humanity. Shoko, with daughters this age, sees in this haiku “an expression of the warmth in Basho’s heart.” 


 

This morning I found
a strand of white hair
Year after year
lined up under blossoms
number of friends

 

髪 の しらが を /今朝 見付けたり

々 の / 花 に ならびし / 友の数

 

Kami no shiraga o / kesa mitsuketari
Toshi-doshi no / hana ni narabishi / tomo no kazu

 

 

Basho imagines a woman who spends time and energy observing her hair.  She finds one strand of white hair amidst the multitude of black – so she realizes her middle age is past. The next poet goes plural: a number of years, of cherry blossom picnics, of cherry petals, and a number of friends – however while the white strands increase, the friends shall decrease.

 

With only a whisper
the hair dresser leaves
In dyer’s shop
all sorts of material
scattered about

 

ただささやいて /出る髪結い

トリドリに / 紺屋の形を /とり散らす

 

Tada sasayaite / deru kami yui

tori dori ni / kouya no kaka o / tori chirasu

 

Japanese women wore their hair in styles difficult to self- arrange, and hair dressing was one of the few

non-sexual professions open to women. A hair dresser has come to the shop hoping to be hired, but sees that this is not a good time. She says nothing, but only whispers “Sorry for intruding” as she walks out. Basho captures the sensitivity of the Japanese woman to social circumstances, how quickly she “gets the picture” and understands without being told.


The next poet tells the kind of shop it is, and what the hair dresser saw so that she decided to leave without offering her services. All those various-colored and different-sized materials scattered about suggests the messy hair that requires a hair dresser.

 

Gary Ebersole, in Hair Sybolism in Japanese Popular Religion, emphasizes the correlation in the Japanese mind between straight orderly hair and a straight orderly mind, between messy hair and an upset heart. 

For exaple he points to this tanka in the Manyoshi (though this translation is mine):

 

Awakening
with my hair disheveled
as my thoughts
longing for the daughter
I saw in a dream

 

The daughter must have died -- but under what circustances?  She appeared in the mother's dream,

as if she were alive.  To see her back the other world has upset the ki, the energy, spreading out

from the mother's brain into her hair.

 

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

 

For the first stanza of the next pair, not by Basho, I am giving you two possible translations. 

Whichever one you use, the second stanza by Basho completes that vision.

 

Not getting up
I recognize his fragrance
And I worry

 

          (or)

 

Not getting up
I recognize his smell
and am afraid

 

Wiping the sweat from
sidelocks in disarray

 

 

起きもせで / きき知る匂ひ / おそろしき

乱れし 髪 の / 汗 ぬぐひ居る

 

Oki mo sede / kiki-shiru nioi /osoroshiki

Midareshi kami no / ase nugui iru

 

The first translation is in accord with the BRZ (Complete Basho Renku Anthology).  Scholars tend to link Basho with the ancient past; they see this stanza as like a scene in the Tale of Genji written nearly seven  

centuries before. A perfumed aristocratic man sneaks into a lady’s chamber to have secret sex. As soon as he enters,  but before she can see him, she senses his perfume, and knows who he is. 

 

The Japanese osoroshii translates to “is afraid” but to Japanese traditionalists this is NOT fear that he will hurt or injure her; in the Tale of Genji, a man “rapes” a woman in the sense of forcing himself on her, but without any assault or injury. My research assistant Shoko was most clear on this point: what this woman is afraid of is the consequences in family and society of this fornication becoming  known. For instance, in the Tale of Genji, The emperor's favorite, Lady Fujitsibo spends the rest of her life worrying

that someone will learn that the baby she bore came not from the Emperor, but from Genji.


The second translation is for a world where men are not perfumed and more violent in sex. As he enters the room, she recognizes his putrid odor, recalling other times he has used her. She does not get up to greet him; rather she cowers on the bed steeling herself for what is to come. We feel the ominous approach of this man she fears.

 

Basho suggests what happened in between the two stanzas: the activity and sweat and sound of

rape in the hot moist Japanese summer without air conditioning, sex aggressive enough to mess up her hair (and the rest of her). She sits there, neither screaming nor weeping, but rather sliding her fingers down the hair beside her face to wipe off sweat and straighten the strands, drawing power from her hair to recover from her ordeal. Whether he is aristocratic and perfumed, or gross and cruel, she is sensitive and dignified. She is stronger than he is: she has more endurance.

 

In the moonlight
among Bon lanterns,
time to weep
Autumn wind more slender
than strands of her hair
 
月影に/ 灯篭張いて / 泣暮し
髪筋よりも / ほそき秋風
 
Tsukiyo ni / tourou haite / naki kurashi
Kami suji yori mo / hosoki aki kaze
 

For O-bon, the Festival of Souls, lanterns shine in windows, on the ground, hanging from ropes, on rafts floating, represent the spirits of the dead, and also light the way for spirits crossing the boundary. A woman cries for one who has died, whose spirit is among those who came back, while the wind penetrates to the depths of her heart.                   

 

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com 






<< A Year of Women (L-08) (L-10 ) Her Face >>


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